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:)