Out in the Open

Desperately seeking solitude: The upside of being alone

Spending time in solitude makes Robert Kull feel closer to himself, the universe and other people.
Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula — Robert Kull seeks complete solitude for weeks at a time. (Courtesy of Robert Kull)

Robert Kull feels a call toward solitude.

So much so, he once spent a whole year living alone in the wilderness of southern Chile and at least once a year, he is flown out to a remote lake to spend a month "not having to be constantly engaged in listening and speaking" to other people.

While being alone for months on end might sound lonely, Kull notes there is a real difference between loneliness and solitude.
Robert Kull is the author of Solitude: Seeking Wisdom In Extremes. (Courtesy of Robert Kull)

"I find that when I'm feeling lonely or alienated it's not usually because I'm feeling lonely and alienated from other people, but rather because I'm cut off from...the deeper aspects of myself. So when I spent a year alone in the wilderness there were times I felt completely woven into the universe and other times I felt really alienated and lonely. Nothing had changed in my external world...but my own relationship with myself had changed."

Humans are social creatures, but Kull thinks that relationships extend beyond other people — and that our relationship with ourselves is just as important as our relationships with others.

Kull acknowledges living in solitude isn't easy. He thinks it requires real courage.

"If we truly want to experience all aspects of life we have to be willing to experience the joys and the wonder as well as the darkness and the fear and the pain and the loneliness."