Two and a half hours, country back roads lined with tobacco and cotton, and a half a tank of gas later…I was in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. The last time I was in the city, I was in middle school and my Girl Scout troop sold enough Girl Scout cookies to make a weeklong trip one summer. Coming back as an adult was a real treat…I mean who could enjoy River Street at night as an eleven year old? I checked into my hotel downtown and went on my unaccompanied adventure.
I walked miles on miles just exploring downtown and taking in all the sights. I had a list on my phone of places recommended by friends and of course…Pinterest. Then I realized it was time for lunch and I thought to myself, “Do I go back to the hotel or do I go to a restaurant and eat alone?” I sat off an edge along the river shamelessly day drinking Wet Willies and decided “Nobody knows me here, I’ll go to a restaurant alone.” I decided to go to a casual, low-key place and the anxiety rushed through my body. This might sound like an exaggeration for some people, but I used to be the type of person who would beg everyone at work to simply walk to the convenience store with me because my level of social anxiety would go through the roof. I couldn’t go anywhere by myself because I felt like I was being watched or judged and now I just decided to eat alone in a restaurant.
As I anxiously approached the host, he looked at me and asked, “Hello! How many ma’am?”
“Table for one, please.” *as my heart was beating out of my chest*
The host walked me over and asked if I wanted to sit at the bar or at a small table near a window. I opted for the window and immediately took my phone out. The restaurant wasn’t too busy because it just opened for lunch but I felt like there were hundreds of eyes looking at me. My inner self kept screaming “You’re alone and everyone is looking at you because you’re about to eat alone.” The server came by and asked what I wanted to drink. I could drown my anxiety in a pitcher of margarita or I could face my anxiety and drink water. I replied, “Water please.” Then the server came back to ask me what I wanted to order. While I waited for my food, I looked around and realized everyone was too involved in their conversations to realize I was even alone. I looked at the bar and saw that a lot of people were eating alone too. Suddenly, I didn’t feel weird and I ate my first meal in a restaurant by myself.
Once my anxiety subsided, I rewarded myself with a shopping trip downtown and was proud of myself for being confident and not feeling awkward. After my shopping trip, I dropped my stuff off to my hotel and ventured back out to River Street. I even made random friends while I was out that night. We met because we were all watching a street performer and a lady in the group asked what flavor my Wet Willies was (popular daiquiri spot in the South. Thanks to Gabrielle, my best friend for introducing me). We talked and I found out they were from Fort Stewart (an Army base near Savannah). I mentioned I was in the area because I was at Fort Gordon. Instant friends!
I quickly loved traveling by myself because I was on my own itinerary. I did everything I wanted to do on my travel to do list without having to worry about fitting other people into my schedule. I always thought that traveling in large groups was a pain because everyone wanted to do something different, and it always felt chaotic to me. My introverted side felt at peace when I spent the next day soaking in the sun and reading a book at Tybee Island. I loved Savannah so much I went back again five days later with my dad and brother when they came to Georgia to visit me.
Later in the summer, I was fortunate enough to have my brother and friends accompany me on my laundry list of cities I wanted to visit. Then my very last trip before heading back to Virginia was to Hilton Head lsland, South Carolina where I decided to travel to by myself. It felt like my life that summer was coming to a full circle. I survived my first and last trips on my own with a renewed sense of confidence and much less anxiety.
Moral of the story:
Nobody cares that you’re sitting a table or at the bar by yourself.
If you want to take a trip by yourself, don’t be scared.
Use good judgment and stay in a safe location.
Let you family and friends know where you are staying.
Bring a phone charger, cash, and your ID wherever you go.
Feed your wanderlust. It could be the next state over, or the next continent. Go for it!