It was a fairly last minute decision to go to Dublin. I went to Ljubljana for a week in May with a friend (also a gorgeous and wonderful city!), and am lucky enough to have a sabbatical from mid-October, some of which I'll be spending in the US. With all that going on, I hadn't really planned in much other time away - but it turns out that almost a whole year with only 1 week of actual holiday isn't really enough! So, to stop myself from losing the plot entirely I squeezed in this almost-a-week away.
I have a lovely friend with whom I go on holiday fairly often - generally once a year for the past several years. We like pretty much the same things, holiday-wise, so it works well, and we've got a good system going now! I also occasionally go away with my best friend's family, or I go to stay with friends around the country. That's all good.
There are times, however, when I want to go away, but either there's no one available to go away with, or we don't want to go to the same place, or we're not free at the same time, or whatever. It's the single person's holiday curse! In the not-at-all scientific survey I did of some single friends while I was writing my book, I asked them to rate various 'issues' faced by single people. 'Lack of touch' came out at the top of the list of things people struggled with, and 'holidays' came in second.
Whenever I share this list with groups of people when I'm speaking about singleness, married people are generally surprised by holidays being on the list, and certainly it isn't usually something they would guess. (The single people, of course, TOTALLY get it!).
It's a dilemma, especially for me as an extrovert. When I told some people that I was going away on my own, they sort of went quiet, and looked at me in that certain special way and asked "er, are you going to be... ok?" I tended to grin and cheerfully announce "well, there's only one way to find out...!"
I have been away on my own before, for a couple of days to London, and for a few days to Morpeth. However this time was my first holiday "abroad" (I know, it's Dublin not the Far East - but still!). It was only for 5 days and 4 nights, but that's a long time to not know whether I'd have any sort of meaningful conversation with another human person!
Anyway, the good news is that it was fabulous, almost all of the time. It helped that the Olympics was on, so when I got back to my hotel room each evening I could catch up on the day's events. It helped that the hotel had wifi so that I could spend time on social media when I was there - in fact that and a central location were my only 2 real requirements hotel-wise.
Often when I speak about singleness I have conversations with people who are too scared to go on holiday on their own. Sometimes they're too scared to go out for a meal or to the cinema or theatre on their own. I get that, I really do. But the thing is this - how much are you willing to miss out on? All those places you won't have visited, all those restaurants you won't have eaten in, all those films and plays and shows you won't have seen. So be brave! If I can do it, you can (and actually if you're more of an introvert than me, you might jump at the chance!).
So below (in no particular order) I offer you a few plus points of holidaying alone, a few suggestions of things which might help, as well as a few light-hearted grumbles and warnings...
- The first and most obvious positive is that you get to make all the decisions! Where to go, what to do, what time to eat, what time to sleep, etc etc. You can entirely please yourself, and it's marvellous!
- There is, though, a direct flipside to this, which is - you have to make all the decisions! Sometimes it would be nice to just have someone else make a suggestion, or a decision.
- Do take a book with you everywhere you go. It is a million times easier to sit in a cafe, restaurant, pub or bar while reading, than simply doing nothing. I tend to take my tablet and then I can read the newspaper or my kindle app or whatever. Without that I would get bored more quickly and also feel more awkward.
- Vary the things you do each day between things where you're on your own, or things where you'll be mixing with other people. I make a bit of a plan each evening about what I might do the next day.
- Sign up for some trips, or tours, where you'll mix with other people. All the tours I've ever done on holidays have included some people travelling alone. It's great, as you get to spend a bit of time within a group, and to share the experience with others. The walking tours and literary tours I did in Dublin were great for this, and on the literary pub crawl in particular I got chatting to some other girls travelling alone or in pairs.
- One annoying thing is there's no one else with you, so they can't go and reserve a table while you order or pay. The number of times I've missed out on a cafe table because someone behind me in the queue has had a friend to go and bagsy a table for them...!
- If you're going to the theatre and there's an interval, my suggestion is to buy a programme. I know they're ridiculously overpriced and are 80% adverts, but it really helps in the interval to have something to do! I never quite feel I can get out my book, but flicking through a programme helps me to feel less of a spare part!
- The last night was tricky. It was a Friday and I simply hadn't bargained for how busy everywhere would be. I wanted to find a pub with traditional music but everywhere was rammed. I wandered around for ages getting more and more hungry (hangry, if I'm totally honest!). I ended up in one pub where there were no tables, but you could sit at the bar and order snacks. I did so, and for 15 minutes was ignored by the bar and waiting staff. RUDE! I left...
- Do be brave - do the things you feel like doing, and don't worry about what anyone else thinks! I know it's a cliche to say you'll never have to see these people again - but it's a cliche because it's true! This was especially true for me on the last night. After my slightly trying evening, when I eventually did find a pub to eat in, I wanted a last-night treat. I ordered the special - lobster salad. The waiter genuinely paused, looked me up and down, and said "for one?" I thought "how many do you flipping well think it's for?" It's not as if it was a sharing platter - it was a single meal, for one, and I was on my own. So what if it was a fancy meal - I fancied it! I love lobster, I was near the coast, the seafood was amazing. Out loud, I said "yes, please." In my head, I said "DO AS I ASK AND BRING ME A LOBSTER AT ONCE, MY MAN."
- In a similar vein, eat ice cream, or chips, or order Prosecco, or whatever the heck you feel like doing, regardless of whether you're on your own. Why shouldn't you?!
- The one thing that did drive me a bit mad while I was in Dublin, and prompted me to start mulling over this blog post, and was the inspiration for the title, was the number of times I went in somewhere and was asked "just one...?" Restaurants, cafes, bars, even, bizarrely, a bus... I have reached the point where I have no shame about this. Yes, I am only one, and I may well occupy a table that could take 2 or even 4. So what? I will spend money that is as good as theirs - and if you'd seen me eat, you'd realise I may even spend as much as they would! If people are rude about this, I leave. Whatevs. If they're friendly and accommodating, it scores them many points - I will return. I'm not deliberately difficult - if I start off at a big table and a smaller one becomes available I'll happily move, but I have as much right as anyone else to a table in the first place!
- I was on the open-topped bus one time and someone on their own got up to get off. The driver (who fancied himself as a bit of a "comedian" started to chat (into the mic which the whole bus could hear) - "where's the rest of your gang then? What - you're on your own? Billy-no-mates are you?" How flipping cheeky is that? When I got off I raced down the aisle and straight off, because if he'd said something like that to me then I can't guarantee I'd have been polite!
- I wonder what's in people's heads, sometimes, with this "just one...?" business. Is it that they could never conceive of going out, or away, on their own? Is it that they think you must have temporarily mislaid your partner or friend, and they're pointing it out in case you go "oh flip, I knew I'd forgotten something!" I mean, I realise it could just be a request for information - "what is the size of your party so that I know what facilities you require?" - but 9 times out of 10 it doesn't feel like that. And the question "table for one?" is perfectly reasonable, and generally I say it myself as I walk in. But it's the "*just...*?" that gets me - the unspoken feeling of "good gracious what on earth is wrong with you?" But maybe I'm just over sensitive...
And to end, the final downside of holidaying alone - you end up with lots of photos of where you've been, but hardly any of you! (I know, I know, selfies, but I feel so daft!). And so here is the only photographic evidence I have that I was actually in Dublin at all - from the Irish Whiskey Museum, no less!