Here We Are, Traveling Solo To The Mind Under Matter Campout Festival

SOLO 125 | Traveling Solo


The regular listener of the podcast knows Shane Mauss—a comedian, science communicator, and expert of psychedelics. He has a new project called Mind Under Matter, a comedy, and philosophy podcast, with the talented Ramin Nazer. Shane and Ramin are planning their first Mind Under Matter Campout Festival, which will feature comedy, music, live podcasts, art, talks, mysticism, nature, community, games, and a talk about single living by Peter McGraw. In this episode, Shane interviews Peter for the Here We Are Podcast to talk about solo travel and single living. This is an edited version of the conversation, but you can find the full one wherever you can find the Here We Are Podcast. The Mind Under Matter Campout Festival will be Sep 8-12 at the Lakeside Retreats (20 minutes from downtown Raleigh, NC).

Listen to Episode #125 here


Here We Are, Traveling Solo To The Mind Under Matter Campout Festival

The frequent readers know my good friend, Shane Mauss, a comedian, science communicator, and expert on psychedelics. He was a special contributor to my book, Shtick To Business, and has appeared on a few previous episodes. He has a new project called Mind Under Matter, a comedy and philosophy podcast with the talented Ramin Nazer. Shane and Ramin are planning their first Mind Under Matter Campout Festival, which will feature comedy, music, live podcasts, art, science talks, book signings, mysticism, nature, community, games, camping, and talk about single living by me.

As I think about it, we may even have a Solo Salon while I’m there. Let me know via the private Solo community. If you’d want to do that, you can sign up for that at PeterMcGraw.org/solo. The Mind Under Matter Campout Festival will be September 9th through the 12th of 2022 at the gorgeous Lakeside Retreats, which is twenty minutes from Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

In this episode, Shane interviews me for his podcast, Here We Are. We talk about solo travel, and I do a little bit of myth-busting about single living. I’m going to bring you an edited version of the conversation, but you can find the full one wherever you can find the Here We Are podcast. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Let’s get started.

Return guest coming, one of my very best friends in the whole wide world, please welcome Peter McGraw, everybody.

For the readers, Shane was a special contributor to my second book, Shtick To Business. The book is worth reading just for the passages that he prepared. It’s the only laugh-out-loud funny part of the book.

You live a remarkable life, and you take advantage of flying solo. I wanted to get you on this show because I was like, “We’re putting together this Campout Festival in Raleigh, September 8th through 12th of 2022.” I’ve never been so excited about anything, or at least in a while.

You are so excited, and I’m worried you are having a manic episode.

You’re not the only one. I know all the signs and other signs haven’t happened yet. That’s the thing that lots of people monitor. It’s a thing that I’ve been building toward and trying to figure out how to do from traveling around with stand-up science, with projectors in my car, trying to set up multimedia things, doing my psychedelic tour, trying to curate an audience and invite other artists into the show to show off of their stuff. Now I have a place where I can pull all of this together in one thing that isn’t practical to be traveling from city to city doing.

You bring them to you versus you go to them.

I can create a whole world, which is the world that I want to build, but I can’t because I’m trying to build it out of my car and not pulling projectors in and running. You’ve seen me set up stand-up science.

It’s a fantastic show. You’ve been building to this for a long time. It’s very exciting.

We put it out there. This is the Mind Under Matter Campout Festival of me and my co-host, Ramin Nazer. We’re excited about it. Immediately, because we have a philosophical show, a lot of our listeners are artsy, introverted, and in their heads a little bit. A lot of them lead atypical lives, but some of them will have social anxiety issues, and which is a concern you’re good at addressing is, “How to go to a place alone and not feel weird?”One of the things was all of these people wanted to fly from Europe and all around the country to attend this by themselves.

They’re like, “Will I find people to talk with? I don’t want to build it up too much. I don’t know if I’ll be awkward.” I wanted to have you on and reached out to you to do it. You were flying solo on a trip to Portugal. You’re truly living the life. This project, the Solo, The Single Person’s Guide To Remarkable Life, I’ve seen you live for many years now. You’ve given me a lot of good advice and everything else.

I went to Lisbon on a one-way ticket, which is something that the average partner person can’t do. Imagine telling your wife, “I’m going to Lisbon. I bought a one-way ticket.” I was inspired by Bill Murray, who I wrote about in Shtick To Business. He travels on one-way tickets because he doesn’t know when he’s going to want to come home. I’ve been experimenting with that.

It was nice because I came home earlier than I would have if I had bought a round-trip ticket because I was excited to get back home, work on the book and do all these things. One of the things I talk about single living is the optionality that it gives people. They can take chances. They can pivot their career, try new skills, and take off to a weekend festival and not worry about leaving someone behind or dragging someone along. It’s there.

This is an example of this. We started in March 2022. We were like, “It would be fun to have a festival with all our artist followers. We have many amazing, talented people that are always posting their art on our Discord. What if we got them all together and festival?” We are talking about various festivals that we’ve been to, and then we got talking about how much we like yurts. This guy who’s been a Patreon supporter since the beginning of the show is like, “I have a yurt retreat, and I’ve been doing festivals your size.”

He had things here in Raleigh, and I was like, “I better go and check those out for us to take.” I was able to be like, “I’m going to go to this festival,” and then at the last minute, I was like, “I’m going to go a week earlier than I thought, pack up my stuff, and was gone in two days.” I drove to Raleigh, got here, checked out the place, and I was like, “This is bigger than I realized. I have all of this space to create what I want. There are a bunch of free to cheap things that can be done, but I need to be here to do it. I want to go around and do spots around this area. I’m moving to Raleigh right now. I’m going to stay here through the summer and build this thing.” That’s the thing that you cannot do. I’m having a blast doing it already. It’s an incredible opportunity.

I am very excited for you. If I could do a couple of quick comments, one is, I want to be clear for your escalator rider readers that I’m not anti-marriage or partnership. I just think it’s over-prescribed. Even people who partner up spend a large portion of their life single, and I don’t want to see it as less than in any way. The partnerships have advantages and disadvantages. Single living has advantages and disadvantages. What I want to do is help my single brothers and sisters deal with the disadvantages and recognize the advantages. There are “one zillion” resources out there for partnered people. There’s almost nothing for unpartnered people. I want to be clear.

No one does. People will crack jokes about marriage or babies. They might feel embarrassed for having married the psycho or the wrong person, but no one feels embarrassed for being married itself. People feel embarrassed for being single like, “Why am I alone? There’s something wrong with me,” like what you were setting up.

I’ll give you an example of this. I’m working on a book. The first chapter is called An Image Problem. It’s about the biases and the stereotypes and so on about single people. Married people have no problem putting in their social media bios or even their professional bios that they’re a husband, a wife, a mother, or a father. No one puts that they’re single, a bachelor, a spinster, or a cat lady.

I hope someone starts.

I ran a study where I gave people a whole bunch of terms connected to a partner living and single living. It’s polarized. All the partners’ stuff is up at the top of the scale. Some of the single stuff is in the middle, like bachelor and solo, then there’s a bunch of stuff at the bottom, like divorced, widowed, separated, old maid cat lady. Single people have it harder than single female people have it even harder on top of it. Before we get into some of that stuff, I have some ideas to help your solo readers who are contemplating going to this festival and may never have taken a solo trip before.

It’s foreign to me because I’m just like, “You go out to eat by yourself. It’s great. You people watch, travel around, get Airbnbs to take chances and do things.”

First of all, what I want to do is normalize doing things alone. I ran a study on this. It’s unfortunate that single people don’t do the things they want to do because they don’t always have someone to do them with. Do you know how bad it is? In Japan, there’s a guy that you hire to join you as you do regular everyday activities. He’s a prop.

That shows you how strong the stigma can be about doing things alone in public. There are a few things that stood out from this survey. One is single people do a lot of things alone. For example, 58% of single people have gone to a movie alone, either on occasion or regularly, 49% of the bar alone, 58% of the museum alone, and 42% of single people have gone to a concert alone. I point this out. Half or more than half of single people have done these things alone.

There’s research that shows that people think that it’s not going to be as enjoyable, but it ends up being as enjoyable as doing it with someone else. What’s amazing is in all of those activities, married people do much less alone. Only 25% of married people go to the movies alone. The reason is not because they don’t want to. It’s just because they can’t. When you go to the movies with your partner, 1/3 of the time, you’re seeing a movie you don’t want to see. It’s very hard for a married couple to go to a movie theater, one goes to theater 9, the other one goes to theater 6, and watch different movies. You have to do it together.

Sixteen percent of married people have gone to concerts alone. Essentially, what I want to point out is that married people are not doing all the things they want to do because their partner doesn’t always want to do them or feel like they have to have their partner, so they wait until they’re available. Half of the single people are out there moving out in the world, doing things alone. What I want to say to the other half of single people who aren’t doing those things is that it’s completely normal to do those things. No one notices. No one judges you. If they do, they’re a little bit jealous.

I just don’t even think it happens.

It doesn’t happen. Everybody’s paying attention to themselves.

I can’t even imagine a scenario of someone will be like, “Look at that person.” It’s the spotlight effect.

I want to normalize doing things alone. I have data on 78% of single people who have traveled domestically alone on a flight. That’s essentially what you’re teeing up here. People are to climb on a plane. In international travel, 52% of single people have done it alone. You’re looking at 1/2 to 3/4 of the population has done some solo travel alone, and it’s booming. That’s the first thing that I want to normalize all of this.

There are pros and cons to all of it. Let’s say a museum, which I got to be in the right mood to enjoy a museum depending on the museum. Sometimes it can be amazing on a date or whatever, and then sometimes you go with friends or family or something like that, and it’s like, “I wanted to spend more time in this area. I didn’t want to spend as much time in this area.” It’s nice to move at your own pace. I like hiking with other people more than hiking alone, but I’m still in the mood to hike alone from time to time. There are certain activities that when I find myself doing them alone, I’m like, “I’m glad I’m not asking what everyone else wants to be doing.”

In our event, there’s a science section and a wellness area for different kinds of peninsulas around this lake, and then there’s a comedy area and a music area. I wanted to get float around things because the original idea was like, “Let’s get 50, 100, or maybe even 200 of us together,” but then it was going to be like one event and then the next event and like, “Everybody, we all do this together.” It’s pressure for everyone to do. You might not be interested in a certain thing. I want to eliminate that and give people the opportunity to float around, which is what floating around solo allows for you.

I do something called group solo trips where I get a group of like-minded people together. Maybe we all get hotel rooms in the same hotel, or we get a big Airbnb. There are 1 or 2 touchstone events per day. At 2:00, we’re going to the museum. At seven 7:00, we have dinner, but for everything else, you’re free to do whatever you want. I have a friend who wants to go shopping. Another person wants to see all the tourist sites. I want to sit in a cafe and then go to the gym. No one ever feels like they’re compromising their vacation, yet you still have this group of people to check in with and have fun with, then everybody leads something different along the way.

What I like about your festival is its a cafeteria-style. You get to pick from the menu, ala carte, what it is that you want to do, and then you can have someone join you if you want, or you can meet people at this thing. I have some advice for some of your readers who are thinking about going because your festival is such a great little experiment for someone who might be contemplating their first-ever solo trip because it’s the perfect first solo trip. It’s a couple of three nights, so it’s not too long. It’s going to be filled with super friendly people who have something in common.

We all know each other inside jokes and stuff from the show.

There’s going to be a lot of entertainment that’s there. It’s a great test case for the average person who’s never done this and wants to stretch themselves and put themselves on their edge. The other one is you have this wonderful community on Discord that people can join. They can start to get to know people beforehand and even make plans, “Let’s meet at noon on the first day for lunch.” What ends up happening is right from jump street, you already have familiar names. Now you have friendly faces, and you can start to figure out who you want to spend more time with from some event that’s happening right at the very beginning.

I would want people to bring a bunch of their friends or whatever else. That would be a blast, especially since there’s a big population within a four-hour radius of Raleigh with Asheville and Charleston. Anyhow, I know from doing virtual board game nights and everything else that there’s like of these solo people that are nervous. It’s like when you do a comedy show, and afterward, the person that wants to come up and talk your ear off is never the person that you want to be talking to, and the person that doesn’t want to approach you, bother you, or come up is exactly the person that’s interesting and that you want to talk with. That’s why I want those people to be able to experience it.

You are being very nice. This is a bigger problem and a greater opportunity than you’re letting on. Here it is, we went through two years of terribleness where we were not allowed to do many things we wanted to do. If we were allowed, we might have been scared to do them on top of it. I don’t know about you, but I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to do all the things. It’s part of the reason why I close the chapter and start something else. For someone who is intrigued by this festival has some affection for you and for Ramin not to go because you’re scared to go alone is tragic.

I feel like we’re laying it on this.

This is not a sales pitch.

I believe it too. Of the times in my life were the five years that went by from the time that I told myself that I was going to get on stage, do stand up and like, “Let stage fright,” or whatever hold me back until the time I did it, and then like, “I should have done that.” That little bit of anxiety kept me from doing something I would love, enjoy, and everything else.

I have a lot of sayings. One of them is, “What are you waiting for?” No one’s going to walk up to you, tap you on the shoulder, and go, “It’s your time to start enjoying yourself. It’s your time to start taking some risks in life.” The world doesn’t want you to behave the way you want to behave. We’re running on old software. We’re running in a world where everybody used to couple up, go on vacations together, do family road trips, and all that stuff.

Half of the adults in the United States are single, and a whole bunch of them are going to remain single because they want to, and some are going to remain single temporarily. The idea that you’re going to wait to have that person to go with you is precious time you’re losing. What we went through is a nice reminder that nothing is guaranteed. It’s a tragedy. It’s a sad thing if someone who wants to do it doesn’t stretch themselves and give it a try. Worst case, they go, “I don’t want to do that again in the future.”

It’s a big gamble for me. I don’t feel bad for anyone’s risk. I’m taking all of it. Can you talk about the four different types of singles? I love anything that you’re interested in. You’re like, “I’m going to study that. I’m going to look into that.” The Humor Code that if someone asked you a question one day about why people laughed at a certain example during a presentation you’re giving, that you use to get a laugh and you didn’t know the answer, and then you became a humor researcher. You’re doing this with the Solo thing. It’s a good time for this because more people are talking about living single lives to their fullest and stuff, but not a lot of people are saying, “Sixty-four percent of people are gathering the hard evidence.” What’s intriguing about learning that is knowing that you aren’t alone in being solo.

It’s difficult because there are people who live in places. I joked, “When I grew up, the only bachelor I knew was this guy, George, a late 30-something, who lived in my neighborhood and grew weed in his backyard and drove a Trans-Am. My sister and I thought he was a weirdo. Now I think I would be friends with George. Everybody else in the neighborhood was coupled up or a single mom. They had done this. He’s the only person I knew in my entire life who was a bachelor.”

That remains the case in some places in America and in a lot of places in the world. There are lots of single people. I’ve already alluded to one of the statistics that there are 128 million single adults in the United States. More than 1 in 4 households have a single occupant, which is the most common household in the United States. The most common household in the United States is a single household followed by two partner people with no kids, followed by the nuclear family. It’s flipped in the last years.

That’s surprising to me. I’ve talked to you about how many phone calls we had over the years.

One of the things I have done is to highlight the diversity of single people. This is a big group of 18-year-old college kids, 88-year-old widows, and everything in between. These people have different goals. Our tendency to think of singlehood as a liminal state is misguided in part because not everybody who’s single we’ll partner up, and not everybody who was partnered and become single again will do it again. This has largely been done qualitatively, talking to people and paying attention to the world.

The biggest group of singles is what I call the someday group. These are people who hold traditional values. They want to ride the relationship escalator. They are what we might call hopeless romantics who are going to find their person, their ride or die, their partner in crime. When they do that, life will be good. That is the thing with Jane Austen novels, romcoms, and love songs. That is the Hallmark holiday card thing. We see it on Instagram all the time. People are getting engaged, having big weddings, and doing all those things there. We can talk about some of the mythology around that if you want.

I do want to. You steer the ship.

The next group is three different groups of what I call solos. There’s a difference between being single and being solo. A person who is solo thinks of themselves as a complete person, as a whole person, not half of a whole. That is that they’re not walking around wanting someone to complete them. That’s the major element that differentiates singles from solos. They also tend to be a little more self-reliant and autonomous because they’re not looking for that other person to solve their problems. They tend to be a little bit more unconventional. That’s not necessary or sufficient.

By virtue of recognizing the escalators, the norms not right for them suggests that they also recognize that a lot of other things in the world are not right for them either. That group is broken down into three sub-categories. There is the just may group. These are people who would like to ride the escalator. They would like to make a partner. They may want to have a family, but they don’t feel incomplete until that happens. They are what I would call hopeful romantics. They would like it to happen, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not tragic because they like their life as it is, but they would be happy to walk this other path.

The next group is the no-way group. People might call them single by choice or single at heart. These are people who are not interested in a dating or romantic relationship either for now or forever. This is a big group. Of all American singles, half at the moment are not interested in dating or relationships. For people who are reading, if you are one of these people, you have to understand how normal you are.

It’s surprising even to me to know those numbers.

This is a Pew Center study, and it’s been replicated every fifteen years. It’s the real deal. Why is that the case? There are a whole bunch of reasons why people might be in the no-way group. Maybe they’re spending the summer creating a festival and it’s taking all of their time and energy. Maybe they’re finishing a PhD, trying to get through college, building a business, or doing something that crowds out romantic relationships in their life. Maybe they’re loners, they just like their solitude, or they’re asexual or aromantic, and having a relationship at the moment is not satisfying their needs or desires.

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Maybe they’ve gone through a hellacious divorce. Maybe they have been a victim of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Maybe they’ve raised a family, sent their kids to college, divorced their life partner, and been there and done that, “I want to do other things with my time.” We could go on and on. There’s a whole list of reasons why someone’s like, “No, thanks. I’m not interested.”

A last group is a group I belong to. I didn’t even know I belonged to it until I started this project. I called it the new way group. This is a group of people who are interested in dating or relationships but doing it traditionally doesn’t work for them. There’s an infinite number of ways that it might not work.

In my case, for example, I don’t want to live with a partner. I don’t want to merge my life with a partner. I’m not thrilled about the idea of monogamy. I might have multiple partners at any one time versus the typical monogamous relationship, but that’s just me. I want to have relationships romantic and/or sexual, but I have some limits as to how they look compared to the traditional ones. This includes people who are polyamorous, who have platonic partnerships, who will have open relationships or swing, or are ethically non-monogamous more generally, etc.

There are lots of ways to have meaningful connections but are ones that are not the connections of Disney, romcoms, and Austen novels that are there. To recap, someday group is hopeless romantics. The just may group is hopeful romantics. The no way group is not interested in dating or relationships at the moment or forever. The new way group are people who are open to dating and relationships, but they’re going to be unconventional in some way. Any single person can put themselves in one of those categories or might be like, “I could go either way on this.”

We’ve brought this up in the past. I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating because it still holds true that it’s as important to me as it was when I first talked about it. Opposite-sex friendships are something that I value a lot. I do not even like dating or anything. You know that I was in a three-year monogamous relationship.

You would ride the escalator to a certain point, then it would break down, then you’d be single for a while, then you’d get back on the escalator, and your escalator was super steep

There weren’t many spaces in between them either. My life tends to go. I study enough of the evolution of various desires, this and that, and where jealousy comes from. I understand on an intellectual level, but it still sucks to have the person you like, love, and care about nagging you because they saw you talking to a girl or a female guest of mine would be attractive. Now that’s a thing that I have to deal with. I didn’t even know that when I booked the guest. It so happens that there is a physically attractive female, and now there’s a whole talk that I have to have.

It’s absurd. I have so many fantastic female friends. Some of them I am attracted to. Some of them were attracted to each other, but it wouldn’t be a good fit in that way. Others, I’m not attracted to it. We’re just friends or whatever else. I was a little bit like, “Do I want a girl for a while?” I don’t want to have a girlfriend when I go to this festival because I want to talk to everybody. I don’t want to worry about like, “Is this girl coming up to me right now?” It’s going to lead to a two-hour-long fight later over the most innocent nothing. That stuff drove me crazy. I wish opposite-sex friendships were just way more normalized.

The irony in all of this is men invented monogamy. In my opinion, there’s no good evidence evolutionarily or biologically for monogamy. It is completely a social construction and a relatively new one in human history. The whole idea of marriage and partnerships was essentially created in order to create alliances. Monogamy is to make sure your kids are your kids. It’s a pretty terrible way to make sure that your kids are your kids on top of it. If I can give you a personal anecdote to contrast with yours, and in many ways, this shows my very quick evolution.

I have a friend who you know. We dated for quite a long time. She’s super important to me. We are now friends. We’re not romantically involved, except we will hold hands. When I see her, we’ll cuddle. We do this thing that she calls testicle nesticle, where she lays her head on my chest, and that’s it. I feel very close to her. I adore this woman. If I started dating someone and the woman who I was dating said, “I don’t want you holding hands with her anymore. I don’t want you doing testicle nesticle anymore,” I would say, “I’m not going to stop doing that. I have love in my heart for this woman.”

It in no way diminishes the affection, love, and connection I have for someone else. The idea that could become a problem in many ways is like a canary in a coal mine, more generally for what the expectations of that relationship are going to be. I’m not dating the someday, or even the just may group anymore because I’m going to disappoint them. I thought there was something wrong with me because I would disappoint them all the time. To me, it’s no different than some people like Italian food and some people like Indian food. There’s nothing wrong with wanting one or the other. It’s an arbitrary thing. 

Can you talk about some of the myths about being single?

The big one is getting married will make you happy. This idea is that single people are sad, and if we could get them coupled up, they would be happy. This is work that’s been spearheaded by Bella DePaulo. She was very early in this as a behavioral scientist. She’s done incredible work reinterpreting a lot of bad science, especially around this question of happiness.

The first thing about it is this is a difficult question to answer because, and your readers know this, they know about the random assignment and experiments because they listened to here we are. You’re familiar with a drug trial where people are randomly assigned to a placebo or a treatment condition, and then you compare the two groups.

They’re the same in every other way because of the random assignment. You can’t randomly assign people to marriages. You can’t get that past human subjects. The problem is that doesn’t stop the pro-marriage people from looking at the data and interpreting it in a way that suggests that getting married makes you happy. The reason is if you compare happiness, we’ll call it life satisfaction. In general, the question is, “On balance, how satisfied are you with your life from 1 to 10?” If you compare married people’s responses to single people’s responses to divorce people’s responses, you find the following pattern.

Married people judge their life to be most satisfactory. Single people are slightly below that, but significantly according to statistics and then the divorce people are much below both of them. The first thing I want to point out is how convenient the pro-marriage people are in their interpretation of the data because they remove the divorce people from the marriage group. What you have to say is if you’re going to interpret this causally, which you can’t, you have to get married and then stay married in order to be happy.

What Bella and other economists have done is go, “We can hack a solution by looking at the data longitudinally because there are some data sets that exist in the world that ask people on a regular basis on balance, ‘How satisfied are you with your life?’” This allows you to compare a person’s happiness before getting married to after they get married and see if there’s a change. There should be a stepwise function if indeed marriage makes you happy and you don’t find that.

What you find essentially is, and this is fascinating, that married people who stay married are already happier before they get married. Single people, since there’s no change, stay at their level of pretty high happiness. Divorce people are already less happy before they get married. If anything is the case, it’s that if you are a less happy person, it makes the marriage harder.

There is one effect that is very real. If you look at the group of people who get married about one year before their wedding, their life satisfaction climbs a tiny bit. It peaks on their wedding day, and then another year, it comes back down to baseline. There’s a honeymoon effect that exists, but no marriage effect. That’s the first thing that’s there.

The second one is that life satisfaction is a pretty blunt instrument to study and understand how good someone’s life is. The work that I’ve been doing thinking about well-being suggests that there are many ways to live a good life by way of achievement, doing meaningful work, doing creative, engaging work, having a pleasurable life, etc.

To assume that someone getting married will make their life better ignores the fact that their life might already be good because they’re already pursuing scientific achievement, making art, or doing something that resonates within them that this traditional marriage will get in the way of. It’s going to get in the way of what it is that makes their life remarkable. It’s naive to believe that someone goes along unhappy, then they meet someone, their life is blissful, and that kind of treatment works, especially knowing what we know about set point theory and genetics. Let’s be honest.

Relationships are difficult. It ignores the fact that you might marry an alcoholic or someone who’s emotionally abusive, gambles or cheats, someone whose job takes them to the middle of nowhere, and now you have to live in this town that doesn’t have museums, the fine dining or the things that you like to do. All the compromise that ends up happening. This is not to say that there aren’t sad single people, but the idea that getting married makes you happy has no evidence for it. I don’t think that we could ever truly do the study that’s going to find that effect.

I know plenty of very happy married people, and I’m so happy for them. My parents have had all rough patches that they’ve never shared because they’re not big sharers in that way. They’re like, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” They’re happy and living a conventional life overall. They like a structured lifestyle and everything. I know tons of happy, married people. When you talk about that, that makes so much sense like, “A lot of these people were happy.”

“They’re happy, easy people that are good at relationships.” They’re also using a different metric. This idea is that you’re highly motivated to make your marriage work when the statistic to judge its goodness is its longevity. We live in a world where long relationships are more valued than short relationships, regardless of how healthy and happy those relationships are.

When you don’t see a situation where you can remove yourself from it, it does lead to a lot of problem-solving, coping, and acceptance. I believe that entering into this profound relationship takes work, and when done well, it creates a lot of personal growth in terms of this. I’m not anti-marriage. I just think it’s overprescribed. I’ll be honest, guys like you and me should not get married.

I always thought I was going to find like, “The one and be with her forever.” I’m in that category of people where I’m like, “I feel whole, and I’ll be perfectly fine.”

You are a solo.

If I met someone, I’d be happy with that as well, but I never was on board with marriage and children. There was always something about that I had a strong aversion to, but I thought early on that I did want to like have a life partner, and now I’m like, “I’m not so sure.” That could happen, but it will be a surprise to me if it does.

I don’t want to say never. I don’t like that term. I’ll never have children, but I don’t want to say never for many other things because I know a lot can change in life. I’m not banking on any of these things. My guess is that if I had a life partner, it’s still would be non-traditional in any number of ways. The point of saying this to people is regardless of our own personal situation, it’s not wrong to want this thing, but know that it’s not going to solve your problems in the way that it’s promised to solve your problems.

It may still be very fulfilling. It’s going to create a new set of challenges. There’s going to be personal growth. There’s going to be a lot of excitement. Adding new people to your life who are healthy, happy, supportive, high integrity, and valuable people, whether they’re lovers, friends, or business associates, are incredibly important. That’s one path. I’m not trying to deter anyone. I want them to recognize some of the myths associated with it.

You’re solo, but you are very busy. Scientists are busybodies generally, so they’re always like, “I was supposed to have some person come out to this property and check it out.” It’s always one zillion things and schedule. You keep that, but it’s without the attachment of family. You’re so scheduled, and you are very type A in getting work done, but you also type A in scheduling adventures for yourself. You make sure you’re traveling somewhere, going off and having an adventure or something like that. Even though you got the one-way ticket, you still roll up your sleeves about it in a way that you won’t let an amount of time go by where you don’t have some little bit of planned adventure in your life.

Shane and I have this freaky Friday joke, which is I’m becoming more like him, and he’s becoming more like me. I’m in this weird transition in my life. I don’t want to sound immodest, but I took care of business. I’m a tenured professor. I have a good salary. I don’t want anything anymore. I have security. I’m healthy. I have a lot more control over my life than I used to, in many ways. My default is to work, produce, and overachieve because I did that for many years in order to get to where I am. I’m starting to rethink a lot of these things and try to live a little bit more improvisationally.

It’s not easy for me to turn off the 30 years of training. One of the things that I have done is thought about what is my ideal day. I’m living my ideal day now. To be honest, I have so much more control over my own schedule than the average partnered person does because no one’s putting anything on my calendar except for me. It’s why I’ll never be a dean, among other reasons, because I value my autonomy as a result of that.

As a result, I’m unhealthy and happy. I’m doing the best work of my life and the most meaningful work of my life. I’m able to enjoy myself in the way that the average person struggles. They’re storing it all up for Friday night and Saturday, and then on Sunday night, they have got the Sunday scaries. For me, every day of the week is like this. There’s no difference between Monday and Sunday. It works for me. I’m not prescribing this to anyone else.

Thanks for sharing all of this. If you go to PeterMcGraw.org, one of the first things that come up is the science of solos. If you want some of those statistics and stuff that Peter shared, some of that is on his site as well as you can check out his Solo Podcast. What else do you want to plug, or what do you want to direct people towards?

I have a Solo community where people can sign up for like-minded folks. You should listen to the podcast first. If you’re still reading now, You probably can handle the podcast if you’re not sick of me. The podcast is a great place to start. It’s a podcast designed not just to talk about single living but also about what makes life good, the opportunities that single living presents, and its unique challenges. Shane, I love you. I appreciate your support, and I’m looking forward.

It’s going to be great. You’re going to be there and give a Solo talk. Is this going to be your first time camping like ever, or you’ve camped before?

I used to camp a lot. If I get to tee up my talk, we will only talk about one of the myths of single living, but I will be talking about the other two myths. That is the single people are selfish and the single people are alone.

This has been great. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend and guest. It’s Peter McGraw. Go to PeterMcGraw.org. Thank you all for being such wonderful, curious people. We’ll see you again next episode.


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About Shane Mauss

SOLO 125 | Traveling SoloOriginally from La Crosse, Wisconsin this former factory worker skipped college to become a stand-up comedian. He has had five appearances on Conan, several on Comedy Central, and many other spots on Kimmel, Showtime, Epix, and more.

Compelled to talk about bigger ideas, he now travels to universities around the world to interview researchers on a journey to learn as much about life as possible on the Here We Are Podcast.

In the age of podcasting, more people might be familiar with Shane as a regular guest on Duncan Trussell’s Family Hour, Pete Holmes ‘You Made It Weird’. He’s had appearances on other huge podcasts like Bertcast, WTF, Wisky Ginger, and This Past Weekend.

Favorite topics include: psychology, biology, evolution, cognitive biases, behavioral economics, mating, animal behavior, neuroscience, psychedelics and consciousness.

Shane’s newest project Mind Under Matter combines passions for comedy, science, philosophy, and art into one show.