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How long could you live alone?

 
gardener
Posts: 493
Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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A long running daydream of mine is to hole up in a remote cabin in the woods of northern ontario with a dog, a bunch of books, art supplies, lots of food, cross country skis and snowshoes, and lots of firewood. And... stay there for the winter, with zero human contact, or internet. Maybe November to March, around 6 months. (Introvert? Who, me?)

With the pandemic... i am beginning to suspect i might actually miss people. I think i could cheerfully manage 2-3 weeks. But... longer than that? Not sure.

How long have you been alone for? How long do you think you could stand to be alone?  How often do you prefer to interact with people?
 
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bored and lonely or rejuvenating enlightening isolation.
I think we are mostly social beings until you have such disagreement or disgust with negative or bad experiences that isolation seems it can be a redeeming enterprise.
 
gardener
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What do you mean by human contact?  Do you mean a big ole bear hug?  Seeing a human from 100 meters away?  video chat? a phone call?

From a certain viewpoint, reading a book is human contact.  A human wrote it to have an interaction with you.

I routinely go a week without physically talking to another person, but for work I am on video chat with my team 8 hours straight.  Then there's after work virtual meetups.  

When my son arrives every other week, we hug and that is my first human contact, and it's a relief.  And I do talk to him throughout the week, but we don't touch.  Then hug again when he leaves. So basically I have physical human contact for about five seconds once per week.  

Personally I don't feel that is enough.  My friends and I (who I trust, and who are more wiggy than I am about virus safety) have started having get togethers just so we can hug or shake hands, and its weird but also it is like a pressure valve has been released.

I'm not saying I couldn't go awhile without human contact, because I could.  But sooner than you'd think, trees and rocks start looking like faces and you might talk to them.  In lieu of a kiss, your own tongue starts to feel good in your mouth. You start having more vivid dreams about people.

 
gardener
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I think I could probably be alone until the day I die. I've never had a longing to be around people. Person, yes, but not people. With a dog, I could definitely be alone as long as the dog lived. The sadness of losing the dog one day might change that. At least long enough to find a new dog. Dogs contain all the good traits of humanity and none of the bad. I do not like what I have seen of humanity. In the end, people will betray you, leave you, or hurt you enough that you have to leave them. A dog, never.
 
master steward & author
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without internet, I need to come up for air in about 3 weeks to change my library books.
with internet and library delivery?  don't know.  probably months
 
pollinator
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Bring a volleyball, just in case.
 
gardener
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Living alone and being alone are not the same. Living alone, I could do. In fact, if anything ever takes John from me (we're bikers - that is high risk, and has a lot of heart troubles), I'll probably live alone, for the rest of my life. Being alone - like a hermit, never seeing people - I could probably go a month at a time, maybe longer.
 
Jordan Holland
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Carla Burke wrote:Living alone and being alone are not the same. Living alone, I could do. In fact, if anything ever takes John from me (we're bikers - that is high risk, and has a lot of heart troubles), I'll probably be alone, for the rest of my life. Being alone - like a hermit, never seeing people - I could probably go a month at a time, maybe longer.


Maybe so. I've always been alone, so maybe the ability to or tendency of living alone is just a logical progression of that. There's no state of being worse that being alone when you are surrounded by people.
 
Catie George
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Bruce - I think an enlightening or rejuvenating period is exactly what I am thinking of.

Jordan - I somewhat agreed with you at one point;  I have just noticed in the last few months that after a certain point - a few months, maybe? - I craved even peripheral human contact, lIke going to the grocery store. It's probably a first in my life for me craving human contact, which is interesting to me.. Dogs are pretty great though mine would likely prefer there be TWO dogs as she is a far more social creature than I am.

Carla - good point, I may change the thread title if I can think of a better one... I have lived alone for much of my adult life, so living alone as a normal state. Isolation or hermitage (good word) is not.

hink the longest I have ever been completely isolated from face to face human contact was maybe 2 weeks, while quaranting with adult chickenpox. Without internet and other people and a phone? Maybe 3 days.

I am suspecting I would be most comfortable going into town once a week or so, if without internet. I get library books online, so withat internet? Maybe monthly, but i thinK the no internet solution would be healthier. I also wonder if it's something that stamina could be built for - perhaps initially a weekly trip would be needed, eventually it would decrease.

Rob - your 8 hr video chat sounds like my personal version of hell, I have a daily 1 hr conference call, and I would like to murder the person who originally suggested it. I definitely suspect there are some folks who need more contact, and yeah, the craving for physical touch is an interesting consideration. I've alone for years, far from family, and a colleague accidentally brushing bY or tapping a shoulder after weeks without contact was jolting. And yes, no internet in this imaginary cabin :)

Douglass - My dog is far more personable than a volleyball, and would pop one in about 30s. Dog balls, however, would need to be on the list for bother our sanity. Without the dog? Yeah, I might turn a volleyball into a friend.
 
pollinator
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I spent about 6 years living off grid from about mid April until the snow came in mid November. Usually there were other people somewhat regularly around. And I always had to go to town at least every 2 weeks for luxuries like ice and dairy.

I could also always hike to a place will cell service to call out to friends if need be. Maybe a max of 4 or 5 days without actually interacting with another human. During those times I would definitely crave human interaction, like you said - even just peripherally, and would get giddy about town days.

I think that several months of genuine isolation (no phone, no internet, no store trips, or town) would be fairly intense.
 
gardener
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To me, being able to talk about what you're doing or thinking about doing, or saw while walking to the field, adds enjoyment to my day, but I also need my 'alone time'. I could live alone if there was a situation requiring it, but I'd still make friends with those around me. I'm not such an introvert that I would see going camping by myself for a week is something desirable. I'd rather go with a small, not too rowdy group.
 
pollinator
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About a week I think of no human interaction. Contact I don't care about I HATE being hugged If I am alone for a few days I tend to talk to people on the phone or online, so I really don't think I would enjoy any longer than a week without being able to do that. That's also about the time it would take me to read everything I had brought and get bored of sowing/painting whatever else was there.
 
master steward
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I am not alone since I live with my husband.

We went to the grocery store on 3/6/2020 to stock up on staple items like flour, sugar salt, etc.

Our next planned trip was to be a farmers market on 6/22 though dear hubby decided to not risk the crowds that might be there so we went to the grocery store on 6/23 instead. Filled up with diesel in the truck and gas cans for my car, the mule, and tractor.

I drive 7 miles to our lonely mailbox on the ranch road about every two weeks, mainly to keep my car running.  I never see anyone so dear hubby times my trip to make sure I don't get stranded if the car breaks down.

We have deer friends, 3 baby raccoons, two squirrels, a roadrunner, and lots of colorful birds that drop by every morning and afternoon to visit with us.

Due to covid, we are not planning any other trips until who knows when?
 
gardener
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The devil is in the details. I have been alone with zero human contact of any kind for 2 weeks on more than one occasion.  It took over a week to get into the groove that I really didn't mind.  I could probably do it for a more extended period. But I say this without full confidence.

In normal situations my wife and I get off the property every couple of weeks. I only began socializing on the net since March. I imagine I could walk away with few withdraw issues.  I have never been a social butterfly. In fact, I see social face to face contact as more of a negative.
 
Rob Lineberger
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Catie George wrote:

Rob - your 8 hr video chat sounds like my personal version of hell, I have a daily 1 hr conference call, and I would like to murder the person who originally suggested it. I definitely suspect there are some folks who need more contact, and yeah, the craving for physical touch is an interesting consideration. I've alone for years, far from family, and a colleague accidentally brushing bY or tapping a shoulder after weeks without contact was jolting. And yes, no internet in this imaginary cabin :)



Well, I'm the team lead for two software development projects so if I didn't talk to my team the software wouldn't get written. :)  It's less of a formal video chat and more that my coworkers and I talk virtually since we aren't sitting next to each other anymore. It's not eight straight hours of talking.
 
pollinator
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Lived alone but never isolated for any extended period. In a city you can never truly be alone, though one can tune out all else at times and exist alone-together.

Just finished a book. “The Stranger in the Woods” By Michael Finkel about a central Maine “Hermit”, quotes as many object to him being portrayed as a hermit since he stole from the many empty camps around him to survive. Quite a yarn, but also a lot of pages on hermits generally and examples of human isolation and it’s effects on us.

From chapter 21:

A thousand poets sing of solitude-“let me live, unseen, unknown,” yearned Alexander Pope- but far more people people curse it. The difference between bliss and distress generally seems to be whether solitude is chosen or involuntary. Forced isolation is one of the oldest punishments. Banishment was widely used during the Roman Empire (the poet Ovid was exiled from Rome in A. D. 8, possibly for writing obscene verse), and for centuries a severed penalty on the high seas was marooning, in which the offending sailor was deposited on an uninhabited island, sometimes with a Bible and a bottle of rum. Most such men were never heard from again. Even now, when a Jehovahs Witness is disfellowshipped for breaking church doctrine, every single member of the religion is forbidden from speaking to the sinner.



As I have time I’ll post a few more interesting tidbits in the discussion from the book.
 
Posts: 386
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When you're crazy imaginative, there's no such thing as isolation.  

Isolating my brain, from being able to talk to my brain?  Now that would be torture, I wouldn't last a minute.

Example.    






 
John F Dean
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I have done remote solo hiking in Maine, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Grand Canyon, and the Canyonlands of Utah.  In the last one, I remember, after being out over a week , and spotting a couple of hikers from a distance.... I actually altered my path so I would not have to speak to them.  For me, there is a special solitude in desert hiking.
 
pollinator
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I could be physically alone, no problem; but take away other forms of communication and even the dogs would not be enough...

Chatting on the phone, texting, interacting with an online resource like Permies...I would need that, personally. I think one needs SOME sense of community - perhaps in person, perhaps virtual, but some sense of knowing you are a part of something larger...
Not daily, or even weekly, but the need to know you "matter" can not always, just be provided, by yourself, alone.

Of note: some of my closest friends, I have never met in person; our interaction is primarily by phone, and in part texting or online.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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John F Dean wrote:I have done remote solo hiking in Maine, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Grand Canyon, and the Canyonlands of Utah.  In the last one, I remember, after being out over a week , and spotting a couple of hikers from a distance.... I actually altered my path so I would not have to speak to them.  For me, there is a special solitude in desert hiking.


Wow. I am hearing massive echoes of Colin Fletcher's mini-essays on walking and solitude in The Complete Walker. (Mine is TCW-III, very well thumbed, which I rebound many years ago with a drill and a speedy stitcher sewing awl. Damn, that man can write.)
 
John F Dean
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Hi Douglas,

A book I have never read. It is now on my list for my next order from Amazon. Thanks for the heads up.
 
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You are hardly alone with a dog and a good book.  Get yourself a satellite internet link just in case and give it a try.  Life is short.
 
master pollinator
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I know I can stay all by myself (with or without doggie) for a few days at least. And even without being online or reading anything. As long as I have something to do; gardening, hand crafts or bicycle riding.
 
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Jordan Holland wrote:I think I could probably be alone until the day I die. I've never had a longing to be around people. Person, yes, but not people. With a dog, I could definitely be alone as long as the dog lived. The sadness of losing the dog one day might change that. At least long enough to find a new dog. Dogs contain all the good traits of humanity and none of the bad. I do not like what I have seen of humanity. In the end, people will betray you, leave you, or hurt you enough that you have to leave them. A dog, never.



I've been alone on my beautiful acreage for 15 years, having face-to-face contact but once a week at the most. I've gone for several weeks without seeing anyone, especially in Winter. As I'm surrounded in my rural perifery by non-permies, conversation can be somewhat challenging. But it's a choice, as I'm somewhat inclined to no longer engage in close relationships....friends are safer. Just having opened a belltent to AirBnB guests, it's a bit of a shock to walk into my woodland and find someone there staring at the nearby fells (low mountains in the northern England, UK). I have to say that I'd never advise anyone to totally isolate for really long periods, as conversation and brainstorming ideas is what I find will keep our minds young and dialogue vibrant. We're communal beasts after all. 'Betrayals' seem to be more inherent in close, emotionally tied relationships rather than friendships, and whilst I love dogs and wish I could afford to keep one, a wagging tail won't make up for the lack of conversation in front of a log fire with a glass of sloe gin.
 
pollinator
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I can't believe no one's mentioned Chekhov's "The Bet":  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bet_(short_story) , online at many sites for which I cannot vouch.

We read it in high school and, as an unpopular introvert, being isolated sounded like heaven.  Then I went to college and discovered a social life.  (Also, I think what was really appealing to me in the story was all the time to read with no competing responsibilities.  That still sounds pretty awesome, tbh.)

My BF and I have been WFH since the end of February.  I have been pretty happy with him, semi-constant chat/email/video with coworkers, regular phone calls with my mom, and weekly video cooking together with my friend.  But I would have been miserable without another human here, and I was more than ready to be around other people as things opened up.  We're still just seeing a few friends every few weeks, but being able to be around (around! not in!) crowds makes me relax in places I didn't realize were tense.
 
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75 now, female, single.  I am not anti-social in the least, I like people, I interact a lot when I do see them.  I have chosen to live alone ever since I had the choice (18).  I lived in the Unita Wilderness (Utah) for a long time when I was young. Back then, although it was not really legal, no one ever hassled you as long as you kept your site clean and paid the back country fees.  Just my dog and I and that was legal too.  At some point I decided to move back to California and I have a cabin in a rural part of the High Desert.  Since I've had this particular piece of property (2006), less than five people have ever stepped on this property, and only for a few hours at most.

I go to town when I absolutely have to - probably twice a month maximum, to shop and pick up mail/packages. I may talk to the cashiers, or someone standing in line. Doesn't always happen, but I will often make the effort to strike up a short conversation because people in general seem lonely, agitated, distressed or angry and I feel they could use a little pep talk, something to give them more of a proper perspective of what life CAN be like, if they'd just cease with the tunnel vision. I don't preach, just mention something that might make them smile or mull over.  If its really hot for instance, I might mention how Blessed we are that we aren't freezing to death in Minnesota right now.  It gets them talking a little, gets them out of their shell, even if for only a few minutes.  There is always something to be Grateful for, we might have to dig a little sometimes to find it, but it is always there to find if we care to stop feeling sorry for ourselves.

Why have I chosen this way of life?  Well, first of all, I am very spiritually oriented. I can honestly say I've never felt lonely, not in my whole life, even as a kid. When I was very young I began to notice that on the whole society in general takes a negative view of life.  A lot of people aren't happy people...a lot of people are always looking at the glass half empty instead of looking at it as half full and concentrating on filling it ALL full. I didn't find that negation productive. I felt they weren't adding to my life in any way, so why be around them?

Since the advent of the internet, I've talked to a lot of people. I might strike up a conversation on YouTube, mention something in the comments.  I don't really do this for me....it isn't something I need for me.....I do it when I see an Opportunity to talk about something, show a new way at looking at a particular situation.  Most times, it doesn't work, but I feel it my Responsibility to at least try. People seem lost, especially since the COVID situation.  They strike out at others because they lack any emotional stability on their own part. I wasn't taught how to be like this....it is just something I've always been.  

Those who would do well in this kind of living situation, those are the ones who feel comfortable in their own skin.  They look to themselves for answers; not others.  They feel confident in their abilities to tackle challenging situations....EVEN if they don't have the knowledge needed at the moment, they stay calm enough to wait, be Patient.....the answers always come if we care to approach this properly.  The more we do this, the more confident we become.  I can honestly say there isn't much I can't do here on this farm....there is always a way to get the job done.  I think people who might want to try this way of life need to be honest with themselves.....if they in any appreciable amount feel like they need others to make them whole, then this way isn't probably for them.  If you get scared easy, or are an anxious kind of personality, again...no.

I read a lot. Probably 4 books a week. But most of my time is spent in growing my food, taking care of maintenance, building something new.I cook all my food from scratch, so that takes a bit of time each day. Haven't had a TV in 25 years. I have chickens, ducks, goats, outside cats, a Pyrenees who is just as independent as me....she isn't an inside dog and when I go outside, she runs up, smiling and jumping, wants a pat or two and then departs.  She is perfect for me.....and I am perfect for her. She wouldn't take well to baby talk and hugging.

Knowledge and Wisdom come with the years passing by. Being Peaceful is more important to me than listening to constant chattering about things that I don't think matter, or are not my business to be talking about.

 
John F Dean
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Hi Purity,

You say this is the life you chose.  Being somewhat introspective, I am not completely sure if maybe this life didn't choose me.  By any means, I am here, and it seems to have taken remarkably little effort on my part in hindsight.  Yes, there is physical labor, but it seems to be something other than work.  It is a normal flow.  Yesterday eve I thought about my life if I were to move to an efficiency apartment.  I figured I would be dead in a year.
 
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