Solitude and the City

A couple of weeks ago for the May long weekend, I attempted something I had never done before.

I went camping alone.

Now, in retrospect, it was a stupid idea. Not the part about being alone for a few days, but rather being alone with a flimsy sleeping bag I bought at Wal-Mart 10 years ago. There is perhaps nothing worse than freezing, alone, in a tent at -5 degrees celsius in the middle of the mountains. The experience really amplified my sense of aloneness.

My intention to do this solo trip was to rediscover a sense of solitude. I have written before about the importance of human connection – I believe solitude to be equally as important. Solitude provides a much needed break for reflection and an opportunity to reset. It’s important to recognize that you don’t necessarily need a 3 day long weekend to find solitude. It can be as easy as going for a walk alone in the mornings or finding a sunny spot to sit by yourself during your lunch break.

After my weekend getaway, despite my backache and mild cold, I did feel renewed. I told myself that I would do it again (with a better sleeping bag). I’ve already booked a few more trips over the course of the summer.

I have often struggled with discerning the difference between loneliness and solitude. Some would argue both are undesirable. The more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that solitude is a chosen state of being whereas loneliness isn’t. To me, solitude provides an opportunity to hang out with and get to know one of the most important people in your life – YOU.

I think that now, more than ever (considering the rampant intrusion of social media and technology), we need to seek out solitude when and where we can. Especially if you live in an urban centre. We are constantly surrounded by others and have a million and one ways to get in touch with people – but are we really that connected? I can remember how overwhelmed I felt when I lived in Toronto, until I discovered High Park. I actually found about 5 square feet of space I could sit and not see or hear anyone. It was brief, but magical nonetheless.

Just as much as urban design and planning can facilitate social connection, I believe it can also function to promote solitude. And both are extremely valuable and important to our wellness. Interestingly, a few moments of alone time can add value to the time we spend with others. Solitude and connection work hand in hand.

For my solo trip, I carted myself off to Jasper. But – I would love to learn about places you go to find solitude in the city.

Please comment below or tweet your favourite places to find #yegsolitude. I know there are many places in Edmonton.

Thanks for reading!

(I took the picture used for the header. It’s from my (solo) hike to the top of Sulphur Ridge in Jasper)

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