Some get it jogging; others by reading. A few say they can only experience it when hang-gliding. Nearly everyone has it in the bathtub.
"Privacy is an individual thing," says author William Noble who, with his wife June, probed the private worlds of 100 people of diverse ages, interests and backgrounds.
"Everyone has their own personal way of seeking privacy. One man relished his morning shower as the only time during the day where he's alone and private. Many people like the anonymous privacy of commuting.
"Some people find it doing solitary chores like ironing, or having a hobby like stamp collecting. And some people hide in a hot tub."
But where you find privacy isn't important, says June Noble, "just so long as you take some time each day to nourish the inner part of you that's so vital to your identity."
The Nobles only recently became interested in this elusive matter (termed "personal space" by Californians).
"It started as a fight in our living room one night," admits William, 48, who 11 years ago married June, 55. It was the second marriage for both.
"June always tells me that I'm too private and wants me to tell her more," says William. "But I've always been a very private person. I feel most comfortable that way. June likes to open up more. We started wondering if there was an intrinsic difference in men's and women's needs for privacy."
As free-lance writers -- he's a former attorney and she's a ex-public-relations consultant -- they brought the question to their editor. The result is "The Private Me" (Delacorte, 303 pages, $9.95) a loose, but thought-provoking examination of the human need for solitude.
The Nobles challenge the current vogue to "let it all hang out," and instead advise people to take a tip from Greta Garbo. At least once a day, they maintain, everyone should declare, "I want to be alone."
"Everyone needs private time," says William. "It's necessary to rejuvenate yourself and get in touch with your feelings. Each person has a private self, that if divulged, would make you feel naked.
"When you say you want privacy, what you're really saying is you want to be selfish. And most of us think being selfish is bad.
"So we become ambivalent about privacy. We want it, but we're afraid to seek it because it's seen as selfish. But in this case being selfish isn't wrong because privacy is a universal human need."
"I used to feel very guilty about taking off to read by myself," confesses June. "I think it came from my childhood when my mother wanted me around all the time in case she needed me.
"But I've learned to enjoy my privacy and actively seek time alone. I have to do something constructive in my private time, though, or I'm uncomfortable. So I go out and cut wood by myself or cook, alone, in the kitchen."
William, however, says he's always relished his "private hour," jogging or walking through the woods around the couple's Vermont home.
"I take an hour to go off alone with my dogs. Then, when I come back home, my juices are flowing. To me, privacy is essential for creativity."
William's ease and June's relative discomfort with the need to be alone, they say, is typical of the way men and women relate differently to privacy.
"Privacy is the flip side of power," says William, stressing that the difference is culturally, not biologically, based. "Women historically have been in a serving capacity, lacking power. Because of this they are more willing to talk about themselves and their inner feelings.
"Men, however, are the product of a competitive society where privacy is vital. In competitive situations you don't tell too much about yourself so the other fellow can't use it against you. Macy's doesn't tell Gimble's its innermost thoughts. It makes you too vulnerable."
But privacy should not be confused with secrecy, June is quick to note. "A woman called us when we were doing a radio talk show, and asked us if she should tell her fiance certain things about her past.
"That's secrecy. We're not advocating that, or dishonesty. We do feel, though, that there are some things you don't have to tell your spouse. I've never asked (William) about his sexual fantasies."
Privacy is as important for children as for adults, says June, who has two daughters from her first marriage.
"Parents still think they have the right to invade their children's rooms and search them. How can we respect our own right to privacy if we don't respect theirs?
"And we overstimulate and hover over our children too much. We assume responsibility for filling children's lives so they have something going on all the time: skating lessons or guitar lessons.
"Then TV fills in the rest of the time. Children don't have time to be bored, but they don't have time to be private -- to go off and read or create something -- either.
"If the TV was off, the child might begin to read and enjoy the rejuvenation and creativity that comes of privacy."