Learning to travel solo? Good for you! A little nervous? That’s okay! Practice solo travel to build your confidence.
For many people–especially women–the thought of doing things alone can be daunting. But that thought can also be liberating. If you’re getting ready to explore the world as a solo traveler, start by practicing at home. You are going to be pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s much, much easier than you imagined.
Here are three simple ways to practice for your future adventures. Do these, and your confidence will grow. The world will become your oyster!
1. Eat dinner alone in a restaurant.
You will notice that I have skipped straight past breakfast and lunch. Anyone–male or female–could have a perfectly good reason to eat alone during those meals: business travel, spouse at a meeting, just a quick bite. But dinner? Dinner these days is probably the only remaining meal intended to be shared. Look around: couples or groups are everywhere, whether business or personal. Suddenly, you feel diminished. Exposed.
What makes it even worse: The hostess says, “Just one?” as if your inability to have a dinner partner–any partner–is an obvious character flaw. You feel as if a spotlight is on you: “ATTENTION! She is ALONE! No one wants to eat with her!”
Get over it. Do as I do, be proactive: “One for dinner, please.” “By the window would be perfect.”
In the beginning, I encourage you to do something that will make you comfortable. Bring your Kindle. Pretend you are a food critic and have a notebook. Or that your spouse is an esteemed surgeon, suddenly paged for a heart transplant. Anything that could explain the reason for eating alone and making it okay. Fake it till you make it.
As you gain confidence, you won’t care. You’re hungry, you have the money, and this is a great place–five circles on Trip Advisor–and No! You won’t sit at a table near the kitchen doors. It’s a process…and a growth experience. Embrace it.
2. Go to a movie alone.
I will never forget the first time I got up my courage to go to a movie by myself. On a Saturday night! It was an independent film whose title I have forgotten–something about an Eskimo and an ice floe–but it got great reviews and I really wanted to see it. Having no date potential, I decided to go solo. To this day, I consider it one of my bravest actions.
Here’s the good news: lots and lots of people go to films by themselves. Even on that Saturday night, there were dozens of us. Some with popcorn, some without. It didn’t matter. As I looked around…and I grinned. After that, I never looked back. I prefer matinees: fewer folks, reduced prices–and every time, there are as many singles as couples. I love to sit alone. Then I am free to laugh, bawl, or feel whatever, without judgement. I feel as if I’m in a private screening, like a film critic.
Warning: Once you get used to going to movies alone, it can get tricky to share your experience. You get selfish and hesitate to be congenial…because it’s so much finer by yourself.
3. Sit at a bar alone.
I give full credit to a past boyfriend for this skill. He taught me to plop myself on a barstool and claim my space. Before, I had been intimidated about the bar thing. Where to sit? Would I look weird? Would anyone think I was on the make? A floozy? Could I eat there? Was I supposed to talk to my barmates? Perhaps you have asked yourself these same questions.
Here is all you need to know: It’s like going to Starbucks, only with adult beverages. Pick a bar stool. Say hello to the bartender. He or she is an instant connection…and if you tip well, your best friend. As you begin to learn to do this, choose a familiar resturant with a bar: Cheesecake Factory, Bone Fish Grill, Applebees. Go in mid-afternoon or during Happy Hour. Do NOT start out at places with names such as Billy-Bob’s Dive and Strip Bar.
Do NOT sit at a tall table in the bar area. Sorry, that doesn’t count. Order one drink–nothing pink or frothy, please. Pull out your journal or iPhone. A magazine. Or stare at the TV screen, which will always be turned to a sports station. Your only task is to realize that you are an independent woman and that you OWN that bar stool. When you walk out, you will feel totally empowered.
Bonus: If the bar has a food menu, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Please let the TravelSmart Woman community know how you’re doing. We are here to support you!