“I wondered why it was that places are so much lovelier when one is alone. How commonplace and stupid it would be if I had a friend now, sitting beside me, someone I had known at school, who would say: “By-the-way, I saw old Hilda the other day…”
Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca
Someone told me a few weeks ago after my wife and I didn’t join a large group on a cruise ship excursion for dinner at a loud
tourist dive that I was obviously a “loner”. Well said. He pegged that one perfectly, although probably not in the insulting manner he intended. Years ago the company I worked for had a fascination with Myers-Briggs tests. I always tested the same way “INTP” (Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, and Perceptive). I was such a strong “I” that I remember an organizational effectiveness consultant telling me I was the last person the group ought to think of posting in the hallway as a greeter. What gets missed by people who make value judgements about whether someone is “well adjusted” and therefore extroverted, or maladjusted, and therefore introverted, is that neither has anything to do with being “antisocial”. Despite being “introverted” I love people, and greatly enjoy speaking and teaching to large groups. What the terms really mean is that the introvert gets his/her energy from inward reflection and quiet, where the extrovert gets their energy by interacting with others. The night we turned down the group’s restaurant choice was because we found a nice, non-touristy, quiet place, off the beaten path. We enjoyed a nice meal, and glass of wine, and could hear each other speak.
My recent trip with my wife to Devon for a week of walking on the Southwest Coastal path was an introvert’s dream. We walked every day, covering almost 60 miles that week, and 8000 feet of elevation change (thankyou fitbit). On most of those walks we saw almost no one, and those we saw were the typical British outdoor ramblers. Friendly, soft-spoken, and unobtrusive. The English also have a wonderful respect for the outdoors. They tend to leave it as they found it, with little trash. Wonderful people. Not once in England did I get cut off in traffic, or have to fight my way through lines coming out of a theater….loved it. I returned home thoroughly refreshed with a positive outlook on the world once again. Of course it may have helped that we didn’t watch any TV, and knew nothing about what was going on in the rest of the world.
Now, the one exception to this solitude business that I would make is that I was with my wife of 46 years during this week. She enriches my moments of wonder and solitude by giving me an outlet to share everything I see and feel. She also listens patiently to my rants, and ideas, like no one else could or would. No other person in the world would put up with what she puts up with.