The Earth rotates at 1,000 miles per hour, and around the sun at about 67,000 miles per hour, so we are all travelers on this big beautiful planet. Our lives, too are a journey. And sometimes it is lonely. If you want to be in a relationship, or even if most of the time you don’t, being constantly bombarded by images of romantic love for weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day can be excruciatingly lonely and painful. As if all of the commercials for diamonds, flowers, candy, happy couples and marriage proposals aren’t enough, you can’t even go to the grocery without being surrounded—candy, balloons and stuffed animals everywhere you turn.
However, I think there’s a distinct possibility that the Beatles were mistaken—two can be much worse than one, and one does not have to be a lonely number at all.
In fact, if you are alone on Valentine’s Day, I’d like to remind you of a powerful and important fact that you might have forgotten in the midst of all the romance propaganda. You are, in fact, in a relationship—the most important relationship you will ever have, your relationship with yourself. You are the one who will always be there for you. You are the one who will never ever leave you. Please don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing this relationship.
If you find yourself alone on Valentine’s Day, through choice or circumstance, do something wonderful for your own heart—and travel is just about always a good idea. Solo journeys can be pretty terrific. You get to decide what to do with your time. You get to decide what you want to see, and how long you spend doing any one thing. You don’t have to wonder if someone else is bored, you don’t have to compromise, or share dessert, or go places that don’t interest you. Besides, you are great company, right?
You don’t have to go far. Go on vacation, or just go to dinner, or a movie, or a museum, aquarium, library, play. I know our society often looks askance at those who do things alone, so let me just assure you that going places by yourself does not make you a loser. In fact, it can be an act of deep courage, especially if you are shy. If you are shy or not used to going places alone, bring something to read or a journal or sketchbook.
Go someplace that you really want to go. Do something life-affirming. Go horseback riding, or skydiving, or kayaking. Take a road trip. Only you know what your heart really longs to experience—maybe you have always wanted to go to Turkey to see the whirling dervishes. Maybe you have always wanted to go to Alaska or Norway and see the Northern Lights dance across the winter sky. Maybe you deeply want to visit the Taj Mahal to see someone else’s love made manifest.
There is a whole beautiful world to explore, and as Henry David Thoreau said, “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.”
If you can't drop everything and make it to your dream destination by this Valentine’s Day, at the very least, take some time and start planning your dream trip, read about the places you want to visit, and/or open a free savings account online and start funding it.
If you can't travel for Valentine’s Day, at least do something kind for yourself or someone you care about. Here are some suggestions:
- Plant a tree. Because, like travel, planting trees is always a good idea. It will make the world more beautiful and create a home for birds and maybe other critters. And winter is the best time to plant trees in many places.
- Read a good book. I’m not saying it has to be great literature—by “good” I mean, a book you love. When I think about reading, writing, or being alone, I hear Danny DeVito’s voice narrating the wonderful movie Matilda: “So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had set their books out into the world like ships onto the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: you are not alone.” Try Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert or Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon for great stories about solo travels brought on by broken hearts.
- Take a hike. It’s good for your heart, and if you are able to hike someplace beautiful, it will be good for your mental health, too.
- Call someone you love, or meet up with friends or family.