They say that everyone should travel alone at some point in their life. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but ‘they’ seems to get everywhere and produce great wisdom about a variety of subjects, so ‘they’ are probably worth trusting.
I’ve met people who would never dream of going out alone to, say, a restaurant or the cinema or on a trip abroad. It’s a curious thing. We never question why those things seem to be purely 2+ people activities. I mean, it’s not like they’re activities that would fail without at least two people, like a tug-of-war or carrying a large piece of furniture. I think people are afraid to do things alone is for a few reasons;
- The worry that others will think they are ‘sad’ or ‘lonely’. Self-consciousness, primarily.
- A lack of self-worth e.g. they don’t think they are worthy of treating themselves to something without the excuse of another person being there. For example, alone= ‘I’ll go to McDonalds’. 2+ people = ‘Let’s go to that really nice Italian place.’ It’s partly a lack of self-worth that stops people from saying, alone, ‘I’ll go to that really nice Italian place.’
- The awkwardness of it, for example, what do I do with my hands? What should I look at? Do I seem bored? Do I seem lonely?
I have had these worries, and years ago, they would have stopped me from doing things alone. But as I’ve grown more confident, that’s not the case anymore. I am lucky enough that I usually have somebody else to do things with. But that’s not always to case, and in those situations, I would rather do something solo than not do it at all.
Besides, I’ve seen people out together who look thoroughly miserable and awkward to be in each other’s company. A few weeks ago, I saw a young couple in a bar who were sharing a bottle of wine, and I honestly could count on one hand how many words they said to each other the whole evening. They just sat, staring at their phones or into the distance, sombrely sipping their wine. I don’t know what was keeping them together, but it definitely wasn’t their banter.
I personally find going solo occasionally quite liberating. I’ve been to the theatre, a cocktail bar and a few restaurants on my own. I was nervous initially, but I ended up really enjoying it. Travelling alone is especially brave and offers a sense of true adventure. You don’t have to make compromises. You can just sit, and contemplate the moment, without having to talk. And when you’re travelling, you can do exactly what you want. Want to see the Sock Museum? Go ahead and see it. Want to eat dinner in the hotel room in just your underwear and with a beer from the mini-bar? Go and do just that. Wondering what’s down that dark alley? Go and take a look (but have the police on speed-dial).
Soon, I will be going on a small, week-long trip abroad on my own (right now, I won’t say where I’m going, for privacy reasons, but will undoubtedly do a photo-blog about it when I return). It’s the first time I’ve properly travelled solo. True, I have done an internship to South Africa on my own, but I never felt like I was alone as I was constantly with other people on my internship and at the hostel.
This will be different because I won’t be staying at a hostel where you can meet lots of people. I will be staying in a nice hotel, and going to nice restaurants, and nice music concerts. And I refuse to feel guilty or awkward about that.
I am nervous, though. But I’ve written myself out a few techniques to combat the awkwardness, sort of like a solo-traveller survival guide. You guys might find it useful too.
Take a look;
- Have incredibly long phone conversions to a non-existent person. And if you don’t want to the hassle of thinking of things to say, pretend you’re Lithuanian and talk in a made-up language (doesn’t work if you’re holidaying in Lithuania).
- Befriend random people on tours, and make them your companions, whether they like it or not.
- When going to the theatre, occasionally shout out ‘That’s my Peter’. People will think you’re a relative of an actor, and therefore, not ‘truly’ alone.
- Take a laptop and important looking notes for restaurants, and people might think you’re a business person. The only con would be having to wear suits the whole week, which could weigh your luggage down.
- Another technique for restaurants is to adopt the critic guise. This simply involves eating your food, making the occasional ‘hmm’ noise or distasteful expression, and jotting down some notes.
What about you? Do you like to fly solo, or do you avoid it?