Fourth of July weekend Marcus and I went to Louisville, Kentucky. He was going to take some karate seminars and I wanted to tag along to a new city. I really wanted to go but there was still a part of me that was intimidated by it. This seems maybe odd, being intimidated by a new place but I would be left to my own devices for a majority of a few days as everyone else went to the classes. Again, not really something scary unless you really know me. I am incredibly scared of going places by myself. This weekend would be my chance to overcome that and hopefully prove myself wrong about all of my lonely misconceptions.
I read several solo female travel blogs and it’s kind of a romantic way of looking at their adventures. You see the beautiful pictures and hear about the wonderful people and food and culture. What you may not hear are the stories of being sick and lonely, ignored or lost. Having someone else to lean on for support makes a huge difference to some people, myself included. I’ve never been one who felt comfortable doing things alone. Even going to a movie by myself frightened me. Before this trip to Louisville I thought a lot about why being alone even at lunch was such a scary thing, and I figured more people had to feel the same as I do about it. Deep down though, why is it intimidating?
I had to go back, back to my childhood. Kids who ate lunch alone were the losers and the loaners. Kids who never got picked for teams at recess were weird. If you went off and played by yourself you were obviously a satanic blight who was plotting the end of the world. I’m pretty sure that’s where it started for me. I tended to be that kid, who ate alone, played alone and basically was, well, alone. I got made fun of, but let’s face it, most kids got made fun of for something. It settles insecurities into us at such a young age and then those feelings become stronger as we get older and the stereotypes become more aggressive.
I remember freaking out when my lunch mates in high school couldn’t make it for some reason and I was forced to eat alone. I’d go park somewhere just so I could leave school and not have to sit in the cafeteria by myself for fear of being judged. It really is awful that we allow ourselves to be boxed in emotionally like that. I’m sure everyone isn’t the same and I’m sure many people are clueless as to what I’m going on about. Point is, I’d taught myself that doing anything alone was negative and people would judge me based solely on my lack of a friend at what ever task.
Insert Louisville again. Day one was spent with the group. We had a fabulous dinner, watched fireworks by the river front and went out for drinks afterwards. It was 100% social and 100% fun. I dreaded the next day though. I knew my companions would leave and I’d be stuck making a decision: sit at the hotel and watch TV or gather my wits and set out to explore the city. I’m beyond happy to say that I did the latter and it was awesome. At first I felt shy about it, walking quickly with my head down, knowing the direction I was going because I was stalking it on my phone. I was standing at a stop light waiting to cross when I noticed a statue down a tree-lined walkway leading to the river. I made a choice and left my intended path. The statue looked interesting and maybe there was a view up there worthy of a picture.
I stared at this guy for quite some time. I read all the placards at his feet and watched the tumultuous river down below. It felt so quiet sitting there on that Sunday morning with no one around but me and George Clark. I put my phone away and told myself I was just going to wander and see the streets I was walking down. I had originally intended to go to the Louisville Slugger Museum but soon, I found several interesting things I never would have noticed had I been staring at a map on my phone the whole time. I visited the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts. I saw the giant gold David statue. I did end up at the Slugger Factory eventually, but not before I started to feel more confident and comfortable. There’s just something about actually sightseeing alone that I had never considered. I hadn’t planned on the Art Museum and had I been with Marcus we never would have stopped. Alone, I could go where I wanted for as long as I wanted. Sure I missed having someone to talk to about what I was seeing but it was also possible to have an inner dialogue about it too.
After the Slugger Museum I began to fret again. It was lunch time and that meant the most dreaded of the alone activities: eating. We had walked past this amazingly cool building that housed the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant the night before. I really wanted to see the inside, so I hunted it down, breathed deeply, and got a table for one. Lunch was not spectacular in taste but for maybe the first time I actually watched the people near me. I paid attention to my meal, I talked to the waitress, and I relaxed and recouped from my long walk earlier. I had thought I’d feel like a wallflower, left out of the conversation. Instead it seemed more like i was part of the flow and even though I didn’t have someone to talk to about my lunch or the days’s activities, I pondered them to myself and there was nothing lonely about that.
After lunch I went back to the hotel intending to maybe take a nap. I thought I had done enough things by myself for the day, but I was wrong. At the front desk i saw a sign for a street fair going on about a mile away. I would have to drive there, park, and navigate vendors all alone. And I did. I had fantastic ice cream, I bought some earrings, it was great! Again, though, another thing I may not have done had I been with someone. Not everyone gets excited about a flea market like I do. I even sat amongst other random people as I ate my ice cream and we all listened to the folk band. For dinner that night I had to drive across town and meet the group. Driving in a new city with no bearings, but it was fine. I was fine, and the rest of the weekend went fine.
I had made judgements about myself before even trying a solo adventure. I feel like so many people do the same, either about their own experiences or the ones others may have. I haven’t been alone in my personal life for almost 15 years and I think I had gotten way too reliant on being half of a pair. Who knows if I’ll ever go on a true adventure with just myself but maybe one day it will happen. I faced down a small fear and overcame it, so I wonder if I could get on a plane by myself and cross the globe. Could you, dear reader? Would you meet me on a mountaintop in Nepal and celebrate our independence and our worthiness as singular beings? Ah, perhaps you’d prefer a beach somewhere though, but in that case it might not be me you meet, but someone else who also needs to embrace their own potential.