I recently went to Portland, OR for a conference, and to visit my best friend and her family. I was looking forward to some time to myself, as Jack stayed home with the dogs and for work. I was NOT looking forward to the flying-alone part, but the alone-time at the hotel and exploring the city was speaking to me.
The first day, I was very happy. I awoke way too early since I was on East Coast time, but I got up and went for a long walk. I wanted to map out my route to the conference the next day, to get a feel for where I was staying and what downtown Portland was like. I came back and spent some time in the hot tub with a mimosa, before walking over to my best friend’s home. I love that pretty much everything is about two miles from where you are in Portland! Atlanta is such a pedestrian-unfriendly city. I spent the afternoon with my friend and her kids before heading to the convention for registration and a super-awkward networking reception.
It was about this time, about 24 hours after I’d landed, that I started to feel uncomfortable. I knew I didn’t love all the fake networking stuff, so I just chalked it up to that and to being tired. I took a cab back to my hotel and ate dinner at the hotel bar. SO not like me! I love going out to eat and exploring new places. I also love solitude, and get very little, so I was looking forward to dinners alone.
I slept horribly was up before 4am local time again. The walk across the Steel Bridge, that I’d loved so much the day before was nerve-racking. People were very stiff and didn’t seem open to casual chatting at the opening session, which made me even more uncomfortable. I mean, I’m not the smoothest operator, but I can have a meaningless conversation with just about anyone, so I was weirded out that no one seemed to want to make idle chit-chat.
The weather was amazing that day, so I’m pretty sure everyone in town was out on their bikes or laying in the grass by the river. Walking back to my hotel, I was again nervous about all the bike traffic and felt completely out of sorts. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and order room service! Instead, I forced myself to walk over to a nearby restaurant (which turned out to be amazing and a lucky guess on my part) and ate alone at the bar. Again, I felt really uncomfortable.
I spent some time that night and the next day with friends, but was mostly at the convention. I didn’t go to the evening events at the convention, since I was worn out and wanted to spend time with friends, and maybe that would have helped to get to know the other attendants. But I was so tired from feeling out of sorts each day that the last thing I wanted to do was be around more people I didn’t know and who didn’t seem open to meeting me!
I’ve been thinking about my anxiety and discomfort since I got back a week ago. I was so surprised that I felt that way! I thought I was such a great loner and pretty adventurous. But I think I really really prefer traveling with my husband and/or friends and family. I need that crutch so much more than I realized! I always thought I should have taken some cross-country drive by myself or backpacked through Europe alone, but turns out, I’m not as bad-ass as I thought I was 😦 Forever humbled!
What about you? Do you like to travel alone? Do you have any tips to feel more comfortable in a new city?