When we envision where it is we feel most at home, it is often in the company of other people: be it sitting around the dinner table with our family, at a local bar with our friends, or simply walking around our neighbourhood, passing familiar faces as we go.
But as this video from School of Life points out, sometimes the places we feel most drawn to are places with no one around at all. Places that are stark, isolated, or even downbeat.
Despite this, “we nevertheless experience a deep pull, coming to feel perhaps that we belong here far more than in the gaiety, elegance and color of familiar vistas,” says philosopher Alain de Botton—but where does this pull come from?
The appeal of lonely places
Many of us seek refuge from the busyness of daily life at some point. It’s the reason we go camping far out in the woods, take long drives to nowhere in particular, or sit down to dinner alone in a empty restaurant far from home.
“In these lonely, isolated places, we have an opportunity to meet with bits of ourselves, with which the routines of daily life don’t allow us to commune,” de Botton says.
“In these lonely, isolated places, we have an opportunity to meet with bits of ourselves, with which the routines of daily life don’t allow us to commune.”
Being alone with ourselves—and without the familiarity of the routines, places and faces we know best—we can hold internal conversations that are often drowned out by the chatter of our everyday lives.
“We are recovering a sense of who we are, turning over memories and plans, regrets and excitements, without any pressure to be reassuring, purposeful or just so-called normal,” de Botton says.
The chance to be on our own
A change of environment can be especially beneficial for those who are dealing with a rough patch or internal sadness, as it provides them with an opportunity to stop pretending, and finally feel however it is they really feel.
“The bleakness all around is a relief from the false comforts of home. We don’t have to pretend any longer,” de Botton says. “The environment supports us in our wish to own up to a sadness we have had to hide from for too long.”
Ultimately, while lonely places may not be what we think of when we consider home, they provide us with the opportunity to feel most at home in ourselves.
Video from School of Life.