To learn the art of being alone

Its raining outside and I am sitting on the sofa, drinking tea and reading old guardians. This blissful idyll will not last for long as I mean to head out into the rain and visit one of my favourite places- le bibliotheque and recommence my temp job searching. More on that later. However I was prompted to write a blog post in reaction to an article I just read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/30/the-rise-of-solo-living. The article is about the rise of people in the UK living on their own and features Colm Toibin, Zane Lowe and Esther Rantzen amongst others talking about their experiences living on their own. The article is clear that living on your own does not necessitate being lonely and the benefits for those that choose to live this way outweigh living with someone else- ordering take away in the small hours; writing uninterrupted; being surrounded with lots of personal momentoes and so on.

One of my life goals is to understand how to spend time on my own without freaking out quietly in my head. I can spend hours reading happily on my own but when left on my own in the house sometimes find myself twiddling my thumbs with white noise in my head, feeling that I should be doing something but not exactly sure what. I am a true extrovert in that I’m motivated by being around other people- if I have a plan to meet someone or someone comes over I feel normal and the day has not been wasted, but in the absence of those plans, I wander around the house, smoking, snacking and feeling a bit uncomfortable unless I have ample reading or TV to distract me. Don’t get me wrong, occasionally I need some quiet time, sometimes I’m quite happy when I get home and no lights are on- I can chill out and not talk; I sometimes quite like being in my room and hearing the noise of the house around me, knowing that the others are there, it feels quite comforting sometimes.

How much of my discomfort is derived from my upbringing? I was raised as an only child by one grandparent for nine years, and always wondered what it would be like to have siblings; then over the following ten years I lived with four younger siblings where I spent a fair amount of time avoiding them! I lived with friends before coming to university and since then have shared a house with friends. But living on my own? I could do it, but I would not want to. I feel that my life is enriched more by sharing it with other people. Is this a character flaw that I would not want to live alone- ever? I wonder about it sometimes, especially as I have lived with very independent friends that have traveled extensively on their own; in particular I have struggled to understand how certain friends go cycling and camping on their own in the countryside- haha no names! Its not the activities that they peruse that confuses me but that they are equally happy to do these things with or without others. I have holidayed alone but would be much happier to go with someone else!

There is a talk on at the School of Life on exactly this topic: http://www.theschooloflife.com/Classes/How-To-Spend-Time-Alone_3 and I hope to be able to go and gain a new perspective. Part of my motivation for wanting to go to Brazil or somewhere this year is to challenge myself- to learn how to be alone in a foreign country for longer than two weeks. Maybe I should start smaller- maybe with camping on my own which terrifies me but it does not tempt me in the way going somewhere hot does! Nonetheless I mean to learn this year the fine distinction of being alone and not feeling lonely. Any tips or suggestions would be very appreciated!

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A list of places I want to see before I die

As some of you may know I have been thinking about holidays quite a lot recently and I decided that I was going to create my own list of places I wanted to see before I die. After all our motivations for traveling are a composite of  inspiration from books that we have read as children and as adults; the experiences of our parents and our own travel experiences both as children and as adults; exotic ideals of places completely different to home and so on.

This is by no means a complete list- there are cities in Spain, Croatia and the States that I’d like to visit; indeed there are many places I’d like to go if I had the time and money. However to create a definitive list I decided to think ahead to my death bed and think about the places I would regret not having visited. This list is what I came up with and the one that are asterisked are the one’s that I would regret that little bit more as they have greater significance.

Europe
Greece- Athens & Santorini*
Holland -Amsterdam
Italy- Florence, Pisa and Naples
Turkey
Middle East
Syria
Jordan- Petra
Israel
India
Uttar Pradesh*
Goa
Cochin
America
New York
Caribbean
Trinidad & Tobago (Carnival)*
St Lucia (Jazz Festival)*
Jamaica 
South America 
Brazil*
Argentina
Chile
French Guiana*
Africa
Senegal
Kenya
Tanzania*
Other
Thailand
Japan- Cherry Blossom festival*

Seeing the Northern lights*

Why Greece?
When I was a child I was fascinated by the Greek myths and legends, gods and goddesses. As I got older, this developed into a interest in the stories of the Odyssey and Homer. I read and was very impressed by Captain Correlli’s Mandolin which was set in Kefalonia and had a Greek boyfriend for a while, who would text me the glories of the sunset over Athens. And as my degree taught me- Greece is the birthplace of Western civilisation. And I love Greek food!

Why Uttar Pradesh?

Ever been confused by the phrase ‘West Indian Indian’? When slavery was abolished in the Caribbean, the British decided to procure workers from other parts of the colonies to continue the work on  the plantations. More specifically, workers from Uttar Pradesh in India were given indentured worker status and took the long journey over the Atlantic to arrive in Trinidad, a small Caribbean island close to Venezuela. These workers brought with them their Hindu customs such as Diwali and indigenous foods such as roti, dhal, channa which are in the repertoire of many Trinidadian and Guyanese cooks. I have always been fascinated by my Indian roots and would love to travel to where it partially began for me. And of course drink in all the history, food and culture India has to offer.

Why Trinidad?

Well following on from wanting to visit India, I would love to visit the country where my maternal line springs from and where in my mind has the only Carnival that could possibly rival Brazil. Researching Trinidadian food brings me back to my childhood and literally makes my mouth water. Another journey to envisage as my grandmother and uncles crossed the Atlantic with my Aunt to start life here in cold London.