Doing things alone are often one of the quickest ways I learn about myself. I have no one to hide behind, no one to distract me, no one to make decisions. There is no one to lean on when I get lost or lonely. Just myself.
I’ve traveled alone and gone to the movies, dinner, concerts, the bar, social events and parties, and weddings alone. Most of the time I do not let my lack of a date stand in the way of doing what I want. I could be waiting forever if I always waited for a guy or a friend to agree to what I want to do (and have the time!). For a long time it was empowering to do what I wanted to do without asking anyone, it’s definitely freeing to not be relying on anyone else.
And now I’ve been doing it for so long, I take for granted how cool it is. Until I went on vacation alone in San Francisco.
I had an amazing time exploring this city that felt new and exciting. I loved just about everything in this city, most especially because it was a lot like Baltimore, my hometown. I liked that it was accepting of everyone’s individuality. I stayed in an Airbnb in the Mission District, which is felt so hip and funky I was a little bit of an outsider.
When I go out alone I rely heavily on Yelp to find places that the locals go to. And when I am feeling particularly adventurous I like to do drinks and an appetizer at one place, dinner somewhere else and then dessert in another different place. I did this twice in San Fransisco, and how could I not with so much delicious food everywhere?
On one night that I went restaurant hopping, I found myself in this funky bar that reminded me of one of my favorite dives in Baltimore. I loved chatting with the bartender who seemed charmed by my willingness to not only go to a bar alone (without any intentions of picking up a man) but to also travel alone. But one can only talk to a bartender for so long because, as enchanting as I am, eventually he gets busy.
I had a phenomenal time, and I went home at the late hour of 9:30pm, before the night’s festivities of Wheel-of-Death karaoke even got started. I was tired, and didn’t want to have anymore to drink. Plus, as a solo woman traveler that walked to the bar in an unfamiliar place I wanted to have my wits about me when I walked home.
I went to my gorgeous Airbnb and watched a few episodes of Girls and went to sleep completely happy. But I had a conflicting feeling that I was missing out on the nightlife of this great city. I justified it as I was making the safe decision. And it’s hard to meet people at a club or even pick the right club when you don’t have friends with you to make it fun. Plus I like to go to bed early, so I would be sleepy if I went out.
Isn’t it funny the way we want things we can’t have? I don’t even like nightlife. When I am home, I prefer spending a Friday night with Netflix and a glass of wine compared to a night out on the town. And when I am traveling I would much rather spend an entire day walking and exploring neighborhoods and local charm and be completely tired when 9pm rolls around.
So it is strange to me that the only regret I hold is that I didn’t go out more. EVEN THOUGH I DON’T LIKE IT.
I don’t pretend to make sense. It’s just how I feel. Conflicted.
I am working through letting go of expectations. Somewhere there is an expectation that when I travel I need to hit all the important experiences: walk local neighborhoods, eat like the locals, check out the bar/nightlife scene, do the quintessential experiences for that city. And somewhere I think I should play into the stereotype that as a young, single woman I should be out partying and making tons of friends and dancing in a nightclub until 1am. But that’s just not who I am.
I like being up early. I like not being hungover on vacation. Maybe I find a yoga class or going for a run. And I just have to let go of this expectation in my head that I have to be and do all the things and be someone that I’m really not.
I’m about to do another solo trip to the Berkshires in Massachusetts this weekend. I have a friend working there for the summer and I will get to see her a little bit, but I am mostly alone. Which is exciting. There is really no nightlife to speak of in the Berkshires, so that inner conflict won’t be a problem. But I can still practice letting go of my inner expectations of who I am supposed to be when I am traveling on vacation and I can just enjoy my time doing exactly the things that I want to do.