This is part of my Summer Reads 2018 series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
As soon as I saw Stephanie Rosenbloom‘s Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities and the Pleasures of Solitude described as a “wise, passionate account of the pleasures of traveling solo” I knew I must have it on my Kindle for this summer’s solo trip – my first truly solo trip since 1997.
From the publisher:
In our increasingly frantic daily lives, many people are genuinely fearful of the prospect of solitude, but time alone can be both rich and restorative, especially when travelling. Through on-the-ground reporting and recounting the experiences of artists, writers, and innovators who cherished solitude, Stephanie Rosenbloom considers how being alone as a traveller–and even in one’s own city–is conducive to becoming acutely aware of the sensual details of the world–patterns, textures, colors, tastes, sounds–in ways that are difficult to do in the company of others.
Alone Time is divided into four parts, each set in a different city, in a different season, in a single year. The destinations–Paris, Istanbul, Florence, New York–are all pedestrian-friendly, allowing travelers to slow down and appreciate casual pleasures instead of hurtling through museums and posting photos to Instagram. Each section spotlights a different theme associated with the joys and benefits of time alone and how it can enable people to enrich their lives–facilitating creativity, learning, self-reliance, as well as the ability to experiment and change. Rosenbloom incorporates insights from psychologists and sociologists who have studied solitude and happiness, and explores such topics as dining alone, learning to savor, discovering interests and passions, and finding or creating silent spaces. Her engaging and elegant prose makes Alone Time as warmly intimate an account as the details of a trip shared by a beloved friend–and will have its many readers eager to set off on their own solo adventures.
Now, when I say “my first solo trip since 1997″ of course it’s not the first time I’ve travelled alone since then. I travel on my own a lot but to places where I have friends or family – Australia, France, England. So I don’t count those as solo trips. When I was planning this year’s stage of the Camino, I asked around to see if any of my friends wanted to do the 190km walk in what’s known as “the boring bit” (it’s true, the scenery is a little monotonous) so I set out on my own at the end of June to do it on my own (with a couple of extra days in Burgos and Madrid at either end of the walk).
Rosenbloom’s book was the perfect companion for my big solo trip – I’d loaded a bunch of books onto my Kindle for this trip – it’s the one thing I’m rarely without. Even just wandering around a small town, sitting having a drink I’ve always got “my books” with me – it’s like my security blanket 😉 Reading Alone Time as I was, well, alone was a perfect choice as I spent a lot of time pondering solo travel (walking 20+ kilometres a day will afford you that time!) and Rosenbloom’s thoughts and suggestions really spoke to me.
Each section of the book takes place in a different city in a different season (Paris, New York, Florence and Istanbul) and Rosenbloom aims to embrace her solo status by savouring moments – places, people, experiences, food. Her travel experience is slow, unplanned; a deliberate effort to escape today’s busy world where “it didn’t happen unless you shared it on social media” Overall, she succeeds wonderfully, though there are moments of discomfort. For example, she talks about a visit to a hammam in Istanbul where she finds herself vulnerable because she doesn’t know the routine, doesn’t know what is expected of her – as someone who very much dislikes looking like she doesn’t know what she’s doing in a foreign country, especially one where she doesn’t speak the language, this hit home as I was reading it right before I spent a good long while figuring out how a particular tapas bar worked – what the dishes were, how to order (madly Word Referencing menu items), who to order from, where I could sit etc… I definitely related to her feelings of vulnerability. Rosenbloom writes with a sense of humour; she’s obviously got the ability to not necessarily take herself too seriously and in parts it’s a very funny read that anyone who has travelled in a foreign country alone will appreciate.
As well as exploring her own feelings, Rosenbloom shares thought from literature and history on being alone which I found a nice interlude from the memoir-style passages. And, of course, we visit a few different sites with her in each city, learning about those along with her. She’s also written a really helpful “Tips and Tools for Going it Alone” section covering everything from the basics (Google Maps is your friend) to ideas for helping you “chill” on your solo travels. There’s also an extensive bibliography section in the back which I really appreciated and which will allow you to dive deep into the idea of alone time.
Whether you’re alone or not, travelling or at home, this is a fascinating read and will make you think but also want to book a solo trip. Even if the idea doesn’t initially appeal, Rosenbloom makes an excellent case for getting back to basics, noticing things, living in the moment and truly savouring your time alone discovering a new (or maybe familiar) place.
Please note: This post contains product links from Amazon and The Book Depository which are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of Alone Time for myself. I was not asked to review this book, nor am I receiving compensation for doing do. All opinions my own.
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids releases July 31, 2018! Click here for pre-order details!