It’s an experience that hosts many others
Your 20s are your experimentation decade.
You should take risks, accept every challenge, take in as much of the world as you can. Every time you say yes to something new, you are one step closer to figuring out who you are and who you want to be.
But there is one experience that hosts many others. Something that provides countless opportunities for experimentation, and will show you who you are, more than anything else.
The Case Against It
Some people hate the idea and claim they would feel lonely. Others do it just to escape a flat shared with strangers who refuse to clean more than once every six months. Some others, like me, have tried it and refuse to go back to any other living scenario at any time soon.
Sure, the way you feel about living alone depends on your personality and past experiences. The case against it is valid: it might get lonely, you will probably be alone if there is an emergency, and you will have all the responsibility on you. But are these reasons so strong that they should demotivate you?
Living alone doesn’t mean being lonely. It means that you have more control over who you spend your time with. You can still invite friends and family over, and you can spend most of your free time out and about in the city. Yet, you keep the freedom to choose to spend time in your own company. And how important that is!
Having lived alone for the past few years, I assure you: the emergency situation is, by far, the trickiest one. It is scary to feel unwell and not have anybody around you. But let’s be honest: even if you live with someone, that person will not be there 24/7. More importantly, living alone doesn’t mean you don’t have a social circle to rely on. Ideally, your family and friends are only a phone call away and can get to you quickly if you need their support.
The Serious Case for Trying It
The responsibility con we mentioned above is also one of the strongest pro’s for why you should live alone.
It’s hard to have everything rely on you when it comes to household decisions. Grocery shopping? It’s on you. Cleaning? On you. Paying the bills, calling the plumber, fixing the broken drawer, dealing with noisy neighbors? It’s all on you.
While this might feel like a constant struggle at first, it will also teach you invaluable lessons.
My mother tongue, Portuguese, has a word that describes this perfectly: you become “desenrascado”. It literally means “unscrewed”.
Basically, if you are screwed, for any reason, you learn how to undo it and fix it for yourself. You learn to find your way through the situations and make them work for you. You learn to navigate life. You learn all the lessons that they could have taught you at school but never did: how to change a light bulb or how to unstuck the vacuum cleaner, for example.
You learn to be responsible, for yourself and your own life. Can you think of a more valuable skill?
The Fun Case for Trying It
By now, you are probably thinking: “a lot of responsibility? I will pass on that, thanks”. But that is not the only perk of living alone. Here comes the best part: it is fun!
You probably grew up with your parents telling you that you should do as they say. Their house, their rules. Guess what… your house, your rules!
Everything is entirely up to you. You get to decide what’s for dinner, at what time, and where: the kitchen table, the sofa, or even the bed. You decide where is everything’s place in the house, even if that means you leave everything on the floor. You decide whether to put on clothes or to walk around naked all day.
You can listen to loud music while dancing in your underwear, have conversations with yourself out loud, and spend an entire weekend marathoning on that lousy tv show without any judgment from anyone.
You are free!
Why You Should Do It in Your 20s
Of course, you can live alone in your 30s too. Or in your 40s, or whenever you want.
But the 20s are formative years, they shape who you are and how you respond to life’s challenges. The earliest you go through this experience, the sooner you will feel it shaping your personality — for the better!
Also, regardless of your life goals, the older you get, the more likely you are to end up moving in with your significant other. If you haven’t experienced living alone yet when that time comes, what are you going to do? Feel the urge to move in with your sweetheart but postpone it because you want to go through this experience first? Sure, you can do it. But let’s be real… most of us would not be that strict when we are in love.
So, if you don’t plan this living alone period, you might end up going from living with your parents to living with roommates, to moving in with your partner. Where would be the room for living with yourself?
But It’s So Expensive…
Just because you would like to live alone, it doesn’t mean you can afford it. Rent prices in many big cities have skyrocketed in the past few years. Salaries not so much…
And it’s probably not the most interesting experience if you try to live alone in a remote village in the middle of nowhere, where rents are lower.
But maybe this is the perfect reason to do something else that should be in your 20s list: move!
Not every big city in the world has prohibitive prices. Take my example: I am Portuguese and there is no way I could rent an apartment for myself in Lisbon, earning a mid-range salary. I’ve lived in London, the same happened there.
But then I moved to Budapest, Hungary, and I found the best quality of life I could have hoped for. With the same relative level of salary that I would earn in Lisbon or London, I can afford to rent a small apartment just for myself right in the center of the capital.
I am not saying you should move away from everyone and everything you know just to be able to afford your own apartment. But if you would like to move anyway, take this into consideration when choosing your next destination. Some of the coolest cities in the world have surprisingly affordable rent prices.
“And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head.”
— Primo Levi
Living alone is not for everybody, but experimenting should be. You never know if something is right for you until you try it, no matter how strong your preconceived ideas are.
Living on your own is one of the ultimate freedom experiences. And freedom can be paralyzing and empowering at the same time. It can be scary, exciting, and fun, all together. But you will never know until you try it.
What are you waiting for?