It’s November of 2009; I’m 18 years old and living in Paris.
One chilly night, around 10 or 11 o’clock, I take the metro into the city center to meet friends at a typical Parisian bar someone has recommended.
But as I come up the stairs, the text messages arrive in a flurry.
“Can’t make it.” “Might bail.” “Coming later. Maybe.”
My first instinct is to escape back the way I came. I’m not going in there. Not alone!
Then I glance at the bar—warmly lit wood and brass, clientele dressed in the ultra-chic black uniform of the city—and my natural stubborn streak takes over.
So what if no one else is coming? It took me a long time to get here, and it’s Friday night. I should at least check things out inside.
I open the door. Step into the warm light. Rest an elbow on the narrow wooden bar. Order a glass of wine—white.
Before long, someone strikes up a conversation with me. From there, I somehow find myself pulling up a chair at a table with a dozen young people from the south of France. They’re celebrating a birthday.
The evening flows, and many hours pass before I leave for home. I’m glowing as I take the metro back. I went out alone, and it didn’t suck.
That night in Paris was, in a way, a pivotal moment in my solo travel career. It’s one thing to hop on a train alone, sightsee alone, or even eat at a restaurant alone. We might do all of these things with ease, yet panic at the thought of entering a bar or club without backup.
Why? Why is this an impassable outer limit of our comfort zone?
To begin with, we’ve had it drilled into our heads that this simply is not done. That old fear rhetoric strikes again. Creepy guys, lechy guys, drunk guys; social stigma, weird looks, pitying stares; feeling lonely, awkward, unpopular, uncomfortable…
Forget it! We’re already convinced, right?
I say let’s go out alone. Because life isn’t as scary as everyone tells us.
I went to bed that November night in Paris feeling empowered, and in the years since I’ve often repeated the experiment. Pubs, live shows, festivals—you name it, I’ve probably tried it alone.
Conversations about safety aside, I wish more people would do the same. There’s an extraordinary openness that comes with stepping so far outside our comfort zone that we have nothing to hide behind.
If I had to break this whole going out alone thing down into simple steps, I’d offer something like this:
5 Suggestions for How to Go Out Alone (& Not Hate It)
1. No expectations. Or low expectations. If I could happily go home disappointed, a nice evening out becomes a pleasant surprise. In this way, I can be delighted that the bar “didn’t suck” rather than upset that I didn’t dance until sunrise.
2. Stay sober. Or at least sober-ish. Especially for women trying the solo adventure thing, but really for anyone, self-control makes for safer adventures and happier stories.
3. Stay open. To possibility. To people. To anything. There’s potential in every situation, every meeting, every cancelled plan. When I am open to engaging with my surroundings, I often drop into much more interesting experiences than anticipated.
4. But be prepared. I have come into contact with all kinds of creepy on some of these solo adventures. And so I’ve learned that books make for excellent shields. So do crazy dance moves.
5. Just open the damn door. Go in. Worst case scenario? It’s terrible. Best case scenario? You learn that you truly can do anything, because you’re a badass, and the world isn’t all bad.
Do you go out alone? Please share your wisdom with me in the comments!
Author: Toby Israel
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Erin Lawson