Around the age of 25, I got it into my head that going to a bar or restaurant alone would be the ultimate adventure. It was surprisingly hard to do. I would gear myself up for a solo night on the town, only to cave in to my anxieties about doing such a thing, and time and again I found myself calling a friend while sitting outside of a bar to invite someone along for the ride.
One night, I couldn't find a single soul who was free for the night. As I ran through my list of friends, it finally occurred to me that it was the perfect night for a solitary adventure. I headed out to a local pub that was warm, cozy, and had all of my favorites on tap. I settled myself into a seat and waited for the feelings of independence and accomplishment to hit me.
It took a while. At first I felt like everyone's eyes were on me, judging me for being that loser who couldn't find one single friend to invite out. All around me were groups of friends; there wasn't a single person to be seen. I refused to let myself leave until I gave it a fair shot. Gulping my drink down, I quickly ordered another.
The warm glow of alcohol slowly began to calm my nerves and helped me to feel a bit more at ease in my environment. I drifted into my own thoughts and zoned out for a while, until a woman asked if the seat next to me was being saved for a friend. No, I answered, I was here alone. She apologized and gave me a quizzical look.
"I've always wanted to go to a bar by myself," I explained. "So tonight I decided to do it."
"Wow, that's so brave!" she replied. She nudged her male companion. "This girl came here all by herself, on purpose!"
"That is so cool. I'm buying you a drink!" He flagged down the bartender and ordered a round.
By the end of the night, I had made a group of new friends, and left the bar feeling as if I had accomplished some obscure ritual of adulthood. I felt so empowered!
I continued to go to bars and restaurants alone, marveling at how horrified my friends and family were at the thought of my solitary adventures. To them, doing social things without anyone by my side was akin to torture. I, on the other hand, felt such a sense of freedom. My social life was no longer at the mercy of others; now I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was divine.
As the years went on, I progressed to solo travel. Friends, family, patients...everyone treats these vacations alone as something that is courageous and admirable. In my mind, true courage is skydiving, offering one's self up as a hostage, or taking a bullet for someone. It isn't sitting in a lovely Irish pub amongst strangers, or having an incredible meal alone in a restaurant overlooking Big Sur.
For those of you who have never traveled alone, I encourage you to do so at least once. It has changed me more than anything else I've done. I know that many people view this as something to be intimidated by, but there are so many perks:
- If you're a "yes" person, it will feel SO GOOD to be able to finally do every single thing you want to do without being overruled. I'm a laid-back soul, and most of the time I don't mind being agreeable. However, there are times when I'm so sick of being the one who has to be flexible. There's no arguing when you're alone!
- We all have our own schedules. My vacations vary. Sometimes I want to laze about, and other times I'm up for packing as much as possible into my day. When I'm alone, there's no one to worry about irritating with my schedule.
- You're so much more approachable when you are alone. True, we all need to be careful, but every place I've visited has been filled with memories of interesting people and great conversations that I never would have had if I had been surrounded by friends.
- You can soak things in in a way that you can't when you are distracted by other people. I still vividly remember going to New Orleans several years ago and sitting outside eating beignets and drinking chicory coffee. As I sat there, a young girl picked up a violin and began playing a haunting melody that gave me the chills. It was one of those moments in time that was so perfect, it resonated with me on every level of my being. Each part of me was at peace with every other part, and for that snapshot in time, I was fully engaged in life with all of my senses.
Have YOU traveled alone? If so, how did you feel about it?