5 Things Introverts Are Perfectly Happy Doing Alone

So really, don't bother feeling sorry for us.

Posted Mar 12, 2019

Photo by Sophia Dembling
Hiking alone? Yes please. I notice things--colors and textures, sights and smells--I might not if I were with another person.
Source: Photo by Sophia Dembling

Did you ever see a woman sitting and eating alone in a restaurant and think “Oh, that poor lonely woman, eating all alone like that.”

Yeah, me neither.

Usually, when I see someone dining alone, I think, “Oh, how lovely. They’re enjoying a little me time.”

Of course, this is my bias. I imagine some people who eat alone do so out of necessity and are unhappy about it. I have read about the epidemic of loneliness many nations are suffering and I don’t doubt that to be true. I think every restaurant should have a communal table or a friendly bar where people desiring company over dinner can find it. (And I don’t suggest a bar for drinking necessarily; most restaurants will serve food at the bar and these setups are often conducive to conversation, especially if it’s a neighborhood hangout.)

But that aside, I’m here to talk about people like me and other introverts who relish solitude. This post is for introverts to enjoy some validation, and it’s especially for extroverts who might see us out there on our own and make the mistake of feeling sorry for us.

Really—don't bother. Here are five things many introverts are perfectly happy to do alone. And I'm sure there are others.

Dinner for one: No kidding, dining alone is no big deal—and it would be even less of a big deal without pitying looks from other diners. It’s actually quite pleasant. Granted, I prefer to dine early if I’m solo so that I don’t get the fisheye from servers who resent my occupying a two-top with my singular self when the restaurant is hopping. But what’s so bad about sitting quietly in a nice place, perhaps with a good book, and having a well-prepared meal (in a perfect world) brought to me by someone whose purpose is to make sure I have a pleasant experience? And then, bonus, not having to wash dishes afterward.

So don’t feel sorry for me. Or if you do, just send me a consolation drink and then leave me alone to enjoy it.

Solo movies: I consider going to movies alone a tremendous luxury, especially if I am so indulgent as to do it in the afternoon. Double luxury. I love to sit in the cossetting dark in a comfy theater seat, perhaps with an unhealthy and overpriced sweet or salty something from the candy counter, watching a movie I picked for myself without the slightest consideration of what anyone else might want to see. I must confess that when I go to a movie with my husband or a friend, I often get so wrapped up in worrying about whether the other person is enjoying the movie, I forget to enjoy it myself. (One of my many nobody-suffers-but-me quirks.) Sometimes I’m sorry not to have anyone to discuss the film with afterward, but only sometimes. Usually, I’m happy to just discuss it with myself, and it’s nice because I almost always agree with me

Hiking in solitude: For me, hiking is meditation. Listening to the rhythm of my footsteps on the path, pausing to look for birds and note miscellaneous rustling in the trees and undergrowth, taking in the sight of branches making lace against the sky or the path unspooling before me—all these pleasures are best absorbed in solitude. While I like to do my urban walking workouts hooked up to music that keeps me on a pace, hiking is for quiet contemplation and mindfully experiencing nature. I even try to choose times and places where I am likely to encounter a minimal number of other hikers. I don’t want to hear their conversations either. (Yes, I always let someone know where I am going, to be safe.)

Traveling unaccompanied: This is perhaps an acquired taste because it requires a certain level of confidence and courage that not everyone has. But for many of us, solo travel is a soul-nourishing delight. (In fact, an essay about being an introverted traveler launched my career as a professional introvert many years ago; you can read it here.)  

I am addicted to that untethered feeling, the experience of being one hundred percent present in a new place without even the touchstone of companionship from home; the feeling of being just one small piece of a very large world; the ability to use my precious time exactly as I choose, with no negotiation. Maybe that means going to a museum and sitting for 30 minutes in front of an artwork that particularly attracts me. Maybe it means eating strawberries and pretzels in a park for dinner. Maybe it means skipping the sight everyone says you must see because it just doesn’t interest me all that much.

I love road tripping alone, singing along to music nobody else likes. I love hotels alone, watching sitcom reruns late into the night and sprawling across the bed like it’s all mine because it is. I love going back to the same restaurant three nights in a row because I like it there and nobody can stop me.

While not specifically about traveling solo, you can read some of my tips for introverted travelers here.

Staying home alone: For heaven’s sake, don’t for a minute imagine I’m sad and lonely when I’m sitting home alone while everyone else is at the parteeeeee. Actually, I think even extroverts crave uninterrupted, absolutely solitary time at home. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people about the stress of a spouse who is always home. I am fortunate to have the house to myself during the workday, and even so, I kinda wish my husband traveled sometimes so I could have uninterrupted days and nights occasionally. For some reason, it isn’t the same if the person is home but in another room. There is something about being aware that there is another person in the house that changes the experience. It is semi-solitude at best.

Time at home alone on nobody’s schedule, considering nobody’s needs, listening to nobody, and feeling nobody’s energy bump up against ours is not only delicious to introverts—it is absolutely essential to our well being. It is when our busy brains have a chance to quiet, it provides mental space for creativity, it dejangles our often-jangled nerves. It is absolutely nothing against our loved ones. We love them very much. It has nothing to do with anyone else, actually. It’s just what we need. And I bet if even the most extroverted extroverts were honest with themselves, they would admit they need it too.

Now, let me be clear: Just because we are happy doing these things alone, that doesn’t mean we don’t like doing them with people. We like that too, with the right people. It’s just that we don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression when they see us at a table for one, or hiking without company, or all alone at the movie theater. You really don’t have to feel sorry for us unless we ask you to. Chances are very good we’re alone because we want to be.

Introverts, what other activities are you perfectly happy doing solo? (Keep it clean, please. : ) )