On Doing Things Alone

Some people are shocked when they here that I go out to dinner by myself.  “Oh – I could never do that,” they say.

I’m not sure why it’s never really bothered me.  As the oldest of five children, I did cherish the times I got to be alone.  Maybe I got used to it when, as a painfully shy eighth grader in a new school, I sat by myself at lunch for the first few months.

Either way, I try not to let the excuse of “not having anyone to go with” get in my way too much.  After all, I come up with a million ideas of new adventures I’d like to try each day.  Some are too good to pass up just because I can’t find someone to go with.

Don’t get me wrong.  Most of the times I “go it alone” I would much prefer to have someone with me instead.  However, it’s a very different experience on your own – and one I recommend you try sometime.

Here are some things I’ve learned about going out on your own:

1 – Where to Start – If it’s your first time, start with some place where you won’t be the only loner.  You’ll often find people roaming museums on their own.  Also, any sort of shopping experience – craft fairs, festivals, etc. – are good as people won’t know you’re alone – they may just think your partner is over at the next booth.

2 – Timing – If it’s eating you’re going to do alone for the first time, pick a day or time of day that’s slower.  Go to a cafe around 1:30 – after the lunch crowd has gone.  Go to a restaurant for dinner early – 4ish – before the dinner rush starts.

3 – Motive – You can go alone and stay alone, or you can show up a alone and find yourself with others in no time.  If I want to stay alone, I’ll bring a book or a journal to a restaurant – and sit at a table.  I have no problem sitting, reading or writing while waiting for my order.  However, if you want to get involved in a conversation, sit at the bar where you can meet all sorts of salty folks.

4 – Location – Sometimes, you’ll find certain places you prefer to do alone.  I have yet to find someone that enjoys national parks as much as I do.   By that I mean someone who wants to stay at one for hours, talking to park rangers, asking questions, etc.  Ever been to Alcatraz?  You probably took the boat over, spent a few hours, then went back.  I, on the other hand, took the first boat of the day over and the last possible boat of the day back.

5 – Perks – I talked to most every park ranger and volunteer on Alcatraz island.  In so doing, I got offered a personal tour of the infirmary wing – closed to the general public.  Then, they took me up to the guard lookout area.  While everyone else was down looking into the cells, I was up above looking down on all the activity.

6 – The Next Step – If you’ve done a few things by yourself, up the ante a little.  I took a three week trip to Europe alone.  The interesting thing is that each day I had the option to spend with or without other travelers.  The reason?  I stayed in a hostel.  I was shocked at the number of solo travelers.  At breakfast, someone would join me and we’d discuss our plans for the day.  If I was going someplace he wanted to go or vice versa, we’d go together.  If I didn’t want anyone to join me, I’ll tell them my plans but tell them that I was looking forward to having a day to myself. I toured Versailles with an Australian couple, an American who was on vacation from teaching English in China, and a couple of girls from California studying abroad.  After our tour, we bought a roasted chicken, some bread, and some cheese and picnicked together.

7 – Invitations – A lot of us who dine alone would love to get asked to join someone.  If you see a loner, ask them to join you.  Or, if you’re the loner, strike up a conversation.  On the self-guided tour of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, I was behind an English speaking father and son.  I found their commentary on what we were seeing quite amusing.  At the end of the tour, I casually thanked them for the entertainment.  After a little bit of small talk, we became quick friends.  I ended up climbing to the top of St. Mark’s with the son, and then enjoying lunch with the two of them (and the father even treated!)

8 – You’re turn. So try it sometime.  All by yourself.  Or if you’ve done it already, tell me your tales:)

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4 thoughts on “On Doing Things Alone

  1. Rebecca, I just wrote you a long comment and I think it was lost. I’ll just say, I agree with you about eating alone and doing other things alone. I am finding it an opportunity to make new friends, spend time with myself, write, and enjoy the freedom of staying all day if I want or leaving after ten minutes, if I want.

  2. My best memory of eating with a stranger happened while on a business trip about 20 years ago. As I entered the hotel dining room, the hostess asked if I was alone and when I said yes, she indicated a row of tables for two lined up against the far wall and smilingly said, “feel free to dine alone or pick a companion.” There were 5 such tables and two of them had one person each sitting at them. As I approached an older gentleman pointed to the empty chair at his table and invited me to join him. (The other lone woman was reading a book.) I can’t describe what an experience that dinner was for me. He had retired at age 60 as the publisher/editor of a small town newspaper in West Virginia and was now traveling the country to see “what I’ve been missing all these years.” I still have the journal pages where I wrote down all his stories and tales and have visited some of his favorites in the Mid-Atlantic area. We laughed and chatted and stayed late to share an after-dinner drink. He inspired me to travel and talk to people and to write stories – all of which I do today! PS – love to see you writing a blog!

  3. Pingback: Free-Spirited Spinster? | RenaissanceRebecca

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