Jennifer Egan on what is lost when we lose solitude

“When I finally did have enough money, I got a backpack and went to Europe and bought a Eurail pass. I was eighteen. I would recommend that to anybody. Although it would be different now because no one is really ever cut off from anybody anymore. To do that then was really to be severed from your ties. To make a phone call I had to wait in line at a phone place and it was not easy. …It is very uncomfortable to be alone, and I think that is why we, as a globe, have fetishized connection the way that we have. But I think that we are losing a lot by losing the experience of solitude. Many people have said that, but I feel that very viscerally. That was not the only time that I traveled that way. I went to China later, the former Soviet Union. I remember my birthday in China, I couldn’t make a phone call. I couldn’t speak to a single person I knew on my birthday. I will always remember those times because they were so extreme. I was lucky to have had those experiences. They made me know myself in certain ways that I might not have otherwise.”
–Jennifer Egan, interviewed in The Days of Yore, Apr. 19, 2011

Posted by | Comments (3)  | May 28, 2012
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

3 Responses to “Jennifer Egan on what is lost when we lose solitude”

  1. DEK Says:

    Solitude is not loneliness. Like prayer and fasting, it is a spiritual discipline, a discomfort that moves you beyond the here and now into a different place where you may learn things that were hidden from you in your fat, busy, familiar, socially-involved life.

    The gift of independent travel into unfamiliar places surrounded by people who do not know you or speak your language has been the opportunity for solitude, the opportunity to see yourself differently. To see who you are, and not who you are in the constant presence and responding to the constant feedback of your friends.

    The internet and iPhone have not taken solitude away from us, they merely give us the choice to avoid it, to avoid immersing ourselves in solitude as we experience the wonder around us.

    Consider it an experiment: find out when you travel what it is like to be in the company of your own mind and perhaps you may find it a habit you would like to continue when you are returned.

  2. Dale Says:

    There’s a new concept in resort travel: “black hole resorts.” They’re basically places (“resorts”) that is far from or even blocks internet access and even phone and television access. It’s one thing to turn the phone off, but have it always sitting there in your pocket, tempting you. It’s always on your mind…check email? texts? Facebook? whatever… These resorts offer freedom from that constant tug.