The one thing a person must have is time alone. When we decided to travel together as a family, we didn’t consider how much time each of us would require. Some people can get by on very little and others need a much larger dose on a more regular basis. We did not really discuss this requirement as a family, which is probably a miss.

Early on in the trip, my son was doing a project which required the completion of a personality test. We all took the opportunity to learn about ourselves and test the assumptions we might have had. Or in the case of my daughter, the results revealed some unique traits which surprised the rest of us.

We learned that my daughter is a big time introvert. Which explains a great deal about her, which we had not consciously realized before. She suffers without having enough time alone, she craves her own space to retreat to. Before the test results we had thought she was being anti-social and maybe even a little bit rude.

She needs far more alone time than the three other extroverts she is travelling with. Knowing this has informed our expectations of her and we are much better able to accommodate her needs. When my daughter is happy, we are all happy. Let’s just say the opposite is not a pretty scene for any of us.

“The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit.”  — Marya Mannes, author and critic

Everyone, even an extrovert need time to be alone. I agree with Marya, this opportunity is often overlooked. We must cultivate, schedule and protect this habit for ourselves. We truly know ourselves best, if we take a beat to listen to what our wisdom is telling us.

When you are travelling, everything is a bit off kilter. Schedules are up, down and sideways. Sleeping in different beds and eating strange, (or wonderful), food at unusual times of the day. This can be trying on even the most experienced people. We all do best with keeping up good habits that we can count on.

Having time to be alone is something I have always craved, even as a child. I remember my Mother wanting me to go play, always outside with the other kids in the neighbourhood. All I wanted to do was stay in my room and be inside, by myself. That was considered an unhealthy thing for a child to do, be cooped up inside on a beautiful, sunny day. Even now, if I am inside, in my room, maybe even still in bed, on a sunny morning, my husband will ask me why I don’t go outside and do something?

Turns out, experts in human psychology agree, we need time for solitude and in our modern world that is becoming increasingly difficult to get. We are scheduled and on task from the moment we wake up to the last minutes of the day as we shut our eyes and drift off to sleep. People who can’t keep this pace are singled out as being ‘distracted’, as if they are the ones with the problem. 

However maybe this detour from the common path is the right thing to do at that moment. The mind cannot be engaged in the task of social connection and collaboration all the time. There must be time for contemplation or other forms of stillness. The mind needs a place of rest and stillness, during waking hours, just as the body cannot be in motion continuously. 

It is in the downtime where important work is being done. In our bodies, muscles have a chance to rebuild and grow stronger. In our minds, we enable deep thinking, day dreaming and other random thoughts to flourish. I truly believe this special and sacred time is necessary, even when some people might view it as a an unproductive waste. 

As a family we have agreed on language which we all understand so there are no hard feelings. Each person needs their space to be alone and do whatever they want. Some of us need more of this than others. There is no one size fits all solution. When we meet up, after recharging, we have lots to talk about and share with each other.

Ironically, by spending more time together we have learned how to respect and support each others boundaries. We were guilty of not understanding this before. Since we each lead a full life with lots of other people we often wanted to be alone when we returned home. That was hurtful to the other family members as we had so little time together. But now we communicate our needs in a more loving manner, most of the time.

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Christine Westermark

I am a world traveller, lucky enough to have a loving family who support my dreams to learn, create and give back by designing creative content which enables a lifestyle we don't need a vacation from.

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Family travel, essential alone time

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