As a med traveler, you probably know who you are and what you want out of life. Being a med traveler really gets to the bottom of who you are. And while traveling can be an amazing experience, one of the things that is a constant battle: Missing out on activities with family and friends, and missing out on someone special to share it with. It can be one of the only downfalls of traveling. We often talk about how to get through travel assignments if you’re alone, but what if it's not about "getting through it" so much as embracing your solitude and learning more about yourself?
Why Being Alone as a Med Traveler is Okay
Getting comfortable with being alone
The rules of society will have you believe that you are not complete unless you find that special someone. Restaurants, movies, TV shows, magazines, social media... everything is built around seats for two. Two servings in a meal; how to find "the one"; whether or not that person will get the rose this week or get voted off the island.
In an article by The Cut, there is a distinct undertone that you should ultimately value your friendships above all. No real argument here. But in a world of couples, friendship is not as hyped up as romance. Even with the ever-popular Galentine’s Day spin on Valentine's Day, the world still sees life in duos.
Several studies show the importance of spending time with friends and how that can ultimately increase your health, but being alone also comes with its own set of perks, like improved concentration and memory, a boost in creativity, increased empathy, and even stronger social relationships.
"It's not that solitude is always good, but it can be good," said Thuy-vy Nguyen to the NY Times, assistant professor in the department of psychology at Durham University who studies solitude. "We have some evidence to show that valuing solitude doesn't really hurt your social life, in fact, it might add to it because solitude helps us regulate our emotions, it can have a calming effect that prepares us to better engage with others."
And yet, we're still terrified to be alone.
The thing is, loneliness is normal. (You’re human, after all!) and it can be a result of so many different things. Maybe you’re traveling and have left family, friends, and significant others back home. Maybe you’re single and happy. Maybe you’re single, and you don’t want to be. Whatever your circumstances, your heart doesn’t have to take the hit. What matters is your comfort level with yourself.
In a world that tells you to never be alone, how do you learn to be by yourself?
Being by yourself is one of the best things you can do to learn more about yourself and grow as a person. Let me clarify-- I’m not talking about shuttering yourself away from the world, going off the grid while eating beans out of cans by firelight, or throwing your phone into the ocean. Just because you learn to enjoy your solitude doesn’t mean you don’t love being with people too, or that you don't want to find a partner to share it with.
Therapy platforms like Better Help can assist you in identifying why you feel uncomfortable being alone and have strategies to help you spend time by yourself. It's also important to keep in mind that being alone isn't the same as being lonely. I have a handful of people that mean the world to me, and I love spending time with them. But it’s those times when there are cancelled dinner plans, taking a trip alone, or just enjoying a meal out by myself, that I learn the most about who I am, what I enjoy and what my insecurities are. If you don’t know what you're insecurities are, try some solo activities and gauge your comfort zone. (You may be surprised!)
Solo activities for the traveling medical professional
Wherever your solo med travel adventures take you comes with the opportunity to experience something you never have before. Listen to your inner voice, get out of your comfort zone and explore a side of yourself you didn't know existed! Who knows, maybe you'll find a friend within this new you.
Need a little jump-start on what to try? Here are some of the things I like to do flyin' solo:
- Yoga or any other exercise: I’m not really a group exerciser. You can find me, ear pods in, focused on my workout. This is definitely a time when it’s okay, and even encouraged, to focus solely on yourself.
- A weekend getaway: A solo spa trip can help you decompress, de-stress, and really gain clarity on something that’s been gnawing away at your brain for a while. Honestly, would you want someone talking to you throughout a massage session when you're trying to zen out? Of course not.
- Lunch: Hey, maybe you’re the only one that wanted burritos today. So, just go. Get your burrito. Sit down. Eat your lunch. Nobody is judging your lack of dining companion. If anything, they’re probably eyeballing you for the lack of guac on your chips.
- Grocery shopping: For me, this is purely self-preservation. I don’t need any of y’all around, judging how much I spend on wine and cheese each week. However, for you, this could be an easy way to spend a quick 15 minutes with yourself while you grab your weekly snacks.
If you're not into my ideas, then check out this list from Woman’s Day magazine on 30 things to do by yourself in your lifetime. (There's great stuff on this list! Like creating art and baking a cake!)
Love yourself first
At the end of the day, being with your people is all fine and good, but you don’t need to feel that pressure. Learn to love yourself first.
Don’t worry about passing up on the pressure and participation. Don't send yourself flowers “anonymously” on a certain day of the year or when those looming red-wrapped chocolate boxes haunt you around every corner. Take back the (date) night! Treat yourself to… yourself. (I hear you’re pretty cool.) Do something solo. When you start to enjoy being alone, you’re starting to really love yourself.
Most people think they need someone to be happy, but the truth is, happiness is a choice. Really in the end, love has everything to do with it. Loving yourself is a choice... and sometimes, not only are you enough, but you can become so much more.