AKA this introvert’s guide to solo travel.
I had such a good time on my trip to Florida and New York, a fact that surprises me. I thought my social anxiety would be a barrier and put me on edge all the time, but being without anyone I knew actually helped in a way.
My trip started with a 9 hour flight, and it was easy to be alone for that. Headphones on, films playing. Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have a lot of choice if you’re up to date with recent releases, so I had an iPad full of TV shows as a back up. My main gripe was the lack of space in standard economy – when travelling with Husband, he always pays for extra leg room for us both as he’s a giant but who knew how cramped economy actually is!
My stopover was in Detroit, and I did experience a bit of fuss getting through immigration. I’ve done American immigration many times before, but wasn’t prepared for them to ask me why there was a Green Card on my file (no idea whatsoever – something has gone wrong somewhere!) and then start questioning me about why I was on my own. I did succumb to a bit of panic at that point. Fortunately, after a bit of questioning, I was let through and could spend an hour and half wandering around the airport. I had a coffee, got a bit of a manicure at the Be Relax spa, and stretched my legs before the next flight.
A flight that I wasn’t actually booked on. I’ve asked Expedia to look into what happened as I very nearly didn’t get on the plane – it was only because one of the other passengers didn’t turn up that I was given a seat. It was almost better that I was alone as I didn’t need to worry about keeping Husband chilled out. I figured that considering I’d paid for a flight, they’d have to get me to Tampa so ultimately it wasn’t worth worrying about.
I’ve done conferences alone on many occasions, and I’ve tended to keep myself to myself, sneaking back for some room service, or out into town for a bit of shopping. I wanted to do this conference differently, and it was definitely easier because of the Americans. As soon as anyone heard me or the other two Brits talk, they instantly gravitated towards us and I met so many fun people that it was impossible to be introverted. I even stayed until the very end of the party which I never do.
I remember saying to one of the other attendees that I didn’t recognise the American version of me – I got used to sitting down in a seminar, just talking to the person next to me, and not worrying about whether they thought I was odd. Of course I was odd – I was from an entirely different country! I just had to make sure I had space for a few restorative niches for my own sanity – there is only so much chit-chat I can take sometimes.
Outside of the conference, I walked on the beach, I sat by the pool – no one stared and pointed because I was on my own. I was in my own little world and so relaxed.
My final three days were spent in New York which is an amazing city to visit alone. I have been there twice with Husband – if this was my first trip I would have done things very differently but I didn’t feel like I had to do any of the touristy things because I’ve done them. I had my own schedule – I’d wake up naturally, watch Good Day New York (mainly because of the inimitable Greg Kelly), stop at one of the many Starbucks for some coffee, and then just wander around.
I’ll blog seperately about where I wandered (or more specifically, where I shopped), but I didn’t mind being alone at all. A lot of the advice I got before going away was “just chat to random strangers!” but being an introvert, this wasn’t always what I wanted to do. Fortunately as an introvert, I don’t mind my own company. In fact, I positively love it. Yes, I did miss having Husband with me and I was very chatty on Hangouts with him as there was so much I wanted to share but I had the freedom to spend an hour in Sephora without feeling bad.
Once I’d mastered solo travel, there was only one hurdle left – eating alone. Starbucks and Lenwich were easy, but despite reading loads about how New York is the best place for dining-for-one, it still felt really difficult. I avoided it for a couple of days (those Lenwich lunches were really filling) but on my final morning, I armed myself with my Kindle, took a deep breath, and went to Friedmans. I sat down and immediately saw two other people dining on their own. I really had nothing to worry about, and ended up with a plate of the most amazing eggs.
I don’t know whether I’ll get the opportunity for solo travel again, but I know that I won’t need to worry if I do.