I kind of feel like an expert on the subject of doing things alone because I’ve been doing things by myself since I was about maybe 15 or 16 and I’ve learnt to love it. At first doing things alone was a little daunting but you quickly get used to it and then it suddenly doesn’t feel strange anymore. In fact if I couldn’t do things on my own I don’t know what I’d do.
I’m writing this because the amount of times I’ve told people I’m doing this, that or whatever by myself and they’ve looked bemused or shocked it astounding. I’ve heard it all from “I could never do that by myself” to “You’re so brave” to “Don’t you get lonely though?” I’m here for those who want to try doing things alone and for those who don’t understand why I’d want to go out and do things by myself rather than with friends or family.
I want to confirm that when I say ‘do things on your own’ I mean things that until a certain age I’d assumed you shouldn’t do alone. For example going out for a meal, going to the cinema, going on a day trip somewhere, going abroad, things like that. It can range from something quite simple like a meal or something quite big like exploring a new country.
It’s interesting because there are certain things that people find sort of ‘acceptable’ to do on your own – for example I like to go shopping by myself occasionally. I have more fun with friends but if I know what I want and I want to get it quickly then shopping alone is more convenient. But this isn’t strange. People go shopping by themselves all the time and apparently that’s the time that it’s almost ‘acceptable’ to be alone.
I think there are two reasons why I learnt to do things alone. The first being that my Mom had complete confidence in me to do whatever what I wanted within reason. As a teenager I would ask her permission to do things, for example going shopping in Birmingham or going to a concert to which she always responded “Yes, as long as a friend goes with you”. But I found that whenever I asked my friends it was always “My Mom said we can’t go without an adult, sorry.” My Mom became increasingly frustrated because when she gave me permission to go to a concert she would also give me permission to get the train home with a friend whereas my friends Moms would not give them permission. So a lot of times my Mom ended up driving us to and from concerts, much to her irritation. When the time came to do something by myself my Mom didn’t freak out, she just shrugged her shoulders and let me get on with it – I got a few safety warnings of course but she didn’t forbid me.
The second is that by the time I reached 15 my best friend had gotten herself a new boyfriend and I suddenly found that the weekends were coming around and I had no one to hang out with. It’s not like I didn’t have any other friends but I realised no one was asking me to meet up anymore and soon I was spending every weekend alone. I’m a big fan of Harry Potter so when ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One’ came out at the cinema I wanted to go and see it. No one asked me so I decided to go by myself.
It’s funny now because I’ve been to the cinema alone tons of times since then but that first time I was so nervous. I was convinced that everyone from the man who sold me my ticket to the people also going to watch the movie were judging me for being alone. I thought I’d feel lonely. I thought it’d feel strange. And it did at first. But ultimately once the lights were down and the film had started it was easy to forget I was there alone.
It was a relatively easy starting point because you don’t particularly go to the cinema to socialise, do you? You go to watch the movie and that’s exactly what I did.
I can’t remember some transitions. For example I don’t have an issue with going out to eat on my own but I imagine the first time it was a bit nerve-wracking. That’s normal! For the first few times I did things alone I was worried I was being judged or people were looking at me and wondering whether I had any friends or not. Trust me when I say that no one cares. No one is looking at you. No one cares that you’re on your own.
A couple of years later in my first year of college I decided to step it up a little bit – I took my first day trip to London by myself. It’s very stupid, I had a day off work one Thursday and I accidentally opened the weather app on my phone. Bare in my mind my weather app is always incorrect but I didn’t know that at the time. I noticed in Telford there was a little thunder storm sign. I am terrified of thunder storms. But when I flicked to the next location, London, I saw there was a little sun sign. I didn’t want to be around when the storm hit and I loved spending time in London. It seemed like a win-win.
Since then I’ve gone on so many solo trips to London that I don’t even bat an eyelid anymore but at the time I was terrified! What was I thinking? Going off by myself meant I was vulnerable and anything could happen. My hands were shaking as I booked the train tickets. On my first trip I just went for the day and all I did was see ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ at the theatre.
It’s important to mention that I’d had experience in London without my parents being there before that – me and Jess had been down a couple of times for concerts so I had experience on London public transport etc. If I had never been to London before and I’d just gone for it I might’ve been a bit overwhelmed.
What I like about doing things by yourself is that you learn not to be dependent on other people and you sort of learn what to do if you’re ever in an emergency situation. Obviously that doesn’t apply if I go to the cinema alone but there have been times I’ve been in London by myself and I’ve been left in a couple of dodgy situations. One of them being a tube strike that started in the evening. I made it back to Hammersmith but I was still a few stops away from my hotel in Turnham Green. The tube stopped running and I had to walk back to my hotel in the dark in an unfamiliar area by myself. But because I knew what to do I didn’t get lost once. I followed the signs for the tube stations I’d have stopped at and soon found ‘Turnham Green’ so I knew my way back to the hotel.
I can apply that logic to a lot of different situations so if I was ever separated from my friends on a trip I’d be able to make it back to somewhere familiar. On my first trip to London I remember Jess looking at the tube map and being like “We’ve gotta go here, change there, change there and then we’re there.” And I was like “What, how do you know?” I don’t like being 100% dependant on other people, I want to understand how it works so I got her to explain it to me and now I can read the tube map as easily as if I was reading the back of a cereal box.
I felt nervous all over again the first time I stayed in a hotel by myself. I chose a relatively cheap one with good reviews that was a bit of a journey away from Central London but it was a good hotel. That night I slept with the light on and every time I heard the slightest bump I was alert and wondering if someone was going to break into the room to murder me. Now I switch the light off and just go to sleep.
Just over a month ago I stepped up the game by quite a lot and went on my first trip abroad by myself. I went to Poland for three nights. I don’t speak any Polish and I’m terrified of flying but I decided to do it. Partly because I had some annual leave left at work and partly because I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. My friend Becca went on a solo trip to Sweden last year and I think hearing about the amazing time she had made me want to try a solo trip abroad for myself.
This was strange because last year I went on four trips abroad so by that point I was used to going through airport security but the moment I had to do it alone I was suddenly terrified. What helped me was talking through what I needed to do in my head and also remembering being there with my friends. What doesn’t help is the moment people know you’re going abroad by yourself it’s all “Oh my, you’re so brave!” and “I could never do that by myself” and “There’s safety in numbers, how can you go alone?” So you’ll find yourself doing something relatively simple but your head is screaming ‘danger!’ the entire time. But you’re not in danger and it’s fine.
I went and there were times where I felt a bit overwhelmed or homesick but ultimately I had a great time and I never once felt unsafe. I never felt unsafe because I wasn’t in any danger. It’s 2018, solo travelling is a lot bigger now than it has ever been. As long as you have some common sense you’ll be absolutely fine.
For anyone hoping to try doing things alone let me break some advice down into bullet points for you –
– Start with something small the way I started with going to the cinema alone. Try going to the cinema, going to the theatre or going for a meal on your own and you’ll soon find it’s not that scary.
– Always make sure your phone is charged, this especially applies to any trips you decide to go on. If you get lost or you need to urgently get in touch with someone only you and your fully-charged phone can fix that.
– If I go for a meal or on a trip alone I take enough to keep me entertained. There’s no one to talk to so I generally take a book to read. I’ve also taken notebooks, my laptop, my DS or even just looking at my phone.
– Remember that no one’s judging you. Honestly. No one cares that you’re by yourself.
– When I travel alone I always make a travel sheet before I go that I save on my phone. My most common trips are to London to go to the theatre so this sheet usually contains my train times, the hotel I’m staying at, where the theatre is and any other important information. It just saves me having to hastily google things.
– You are going to have to spend time with yourself for the rest of your life so might as well learn to enjoy it. Doing things alone is good because if there’s a film on that no one you know wants to see you can just go! Somewhere you wanna visit but your friends aren’t interested? Who cares, just go! Life becomes so much easier, trust me.
– If you’re thinking of doing something alone don’t over-analyse it, just do it. You do things by yourself more often than you think.
I hope this advice is helpful! If anyone else has any advice feel free to leave it in the comments or let me know the first thing you did by yourself, I’d be interested to hear!