Holiday Solitude and Gratitude

  Above: the view from the toilet in the AirBnb I stayed at over Christmas (seriously), because, hey, when else are you more alone?

Above: the view from the toilet in the AirBnb I stayed at over Christmas (seriously), because, hey, when else are you more alone?

Spending the holidays alone and away from home is absolutely, completely… cathartic. Yes. I said it. It feels… good.

There are no gifts to give, nor gifts to receive (although my mom and dad were quite generous in the giving department before I left – thanks, love y’all!); no interstates to travel, nor road rage to suppress; no meals to prepare, nor stress deciding where meals will be had. In short, spending the holidays away from home is no muss, no fuss.

This year is only the second time I recall being away from home and/or loved ones for Christmas and New Year’s, since I was in the Marine Corps. This time, though, it was by choice; and, instead of Christmas dinner in a chow hall, it was in the home of a generous and kind Ecuadorian family. (If you ever have to make the choice, I very much recommend the latter.)

For months prior to setting out on this adventure, when telling friends and acquaintances I was leaving on December 23rd, they subjected me to the same line of interrogatories: “You’re leaving right before Christmas!? Won’t you miss your family? Isn’t your mom going to be upset? Won’t you be lonely?”

“Yes. Yes. Initially, yes, without doubt. And, probably,” I would reply.

So, why would anyone intentionally cause grief to their family and be voluntarily subjected to unnecessary loneliness during what is supposed to be a friends-and-family time of year? I cannot speak for anyone else, but I did it because my lease was up and my landlord kept hounding me for past due rent.

I’m kidding about the past due rent (or am I?), but I’m not positive why I picked the date that I did, except my lease really is up on the 31st, and I found a good deal on a one-way ticket into Quito for the 23rd. So, there you have it: high-level decision making at its finest.

If I’m being honest with you, and perhaps more so with myself, I think I wanted to miss the holidays in order to miss the routine. I love my family and friends as much those of you who are reading this. However, when I booked my flight back in the summer, I felt a little spark of excitement at the idea of being a loner for the holidays.

Next year, someone will ask me, “What did you do for the holidays last year?” (Because people totally go around asking one another such things.)

“I took a one-way flight into South America; wondered around; met new people; and saw exotic places,” I will reply.

That may seem selfish, but we all deserve to be selfish sometimes.

Within reason, i.e., with individual responsibilities to family in mind, there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting yourself first occasionally. Hell, if it keeps you sane and out of prison, be as selfish as you need to be, and tell the rest of the world to take a flying leap, from time to time.

I’m not the first person to make this argument (as people smarter than I have already noted); but, I assert that each and every one of us has a responsibility to spend some time alone, and get away from the people, places, and things that support us, as well as those that we support.

Now, before you delete and forever block my blog from your browser (or throw this book in the fireplace after it’s been made into a New York Times Bestseller), hear me out, because I can hear eyes rolling out of heads as you think to yourselves, “Easy for you to say, ginger. You’re not married and you have no kids.”

Yes, I fully acknowledge these facts. It was probably much, much easier for me to pull up my stakes, pack my bags, and bid “the real world” adieu, vis-á-vis anyone who has a family for which to care. I’m not suggesting, however, that everyone should do what I’m doing; and, for god sake, I hope most of you don’t, because the world would be a real shit show if we all just decided to turn into vagabonds.

I also acknowledge how completely, totally, insanely fortunate I am to be able to do what I'm doing, be what I am (see infra, re: privileged, white, male), and to be where I'm from. For these things, I am ever, ever grateful. 

I am only suggesting that, without regular doses of relative solitude and introspection, we easily become overly dependent on routine and being comfortable, and that can be a dangerous thing.

For me, routine and comfort had become a crutch and an excuse to avoid confronting some inner demons. The more comfortable I became, the less happy I was. I know that is a privileged, white, US-born, male thing to say (although I absolutely do not come from privilege), but it’s the truth. It may not be your truth; but it certainly was mine. I knew that, if I didn’t get out of my comfort zone and do some serious life reevaluation, something irreplaceable would break. It took much longer than it should have, but I finally had the sense to decide that that something will not be me, ever.

Not long after I announced my sabbatical, a friend told me, via text message (which is the only reason I can quote him here exactly), “We all have our breaking points. Wisdom is knowing what that point is and what to do to avoid hitting it.”

How right you are, my friend.

With sob story and soapbox complete, for the time being, I promise I'm writing about more fun and exciting things, and will post again soon. Below is a sneak peak.

From Chugchilán, with Love,


  Baloo, the proprietor of Hostal Llullu Lama, Insinliví, Ecuador. 

Baloo, the proprietor of Hostal Llullu Lama, Insinliví, Ecuador.