It is arguably one of the most disappointing feelings when someone bails on you — especially for plans you were really looking forward to. As someone who grew up on books and movies proclaiming the “power of friendship” and adventuring with companions, I’ve always felt pressured to do something with someone.
It was a perfect summer day and I was continuously checking the time, waiting to get off from work. Two friends and I had plans to visit a local art exhibit hosted once a year, and I was thrilled to attend. I had an adorable outfit picked out for the occasion and after a long, rough day at work, I was ready to do something fun. This was during a gap year before college, and I wanted to thoroughly enjoy it.
But then my phone lit up with some disappointing news: Both friends had canceled on me only an hour before we had planned to go. I called everyone who could possibly be available, but no one was. I remember sitting in my car for a couple of minutes, thinking about watching a movie at home and moping about missing the exhibit.
But then another thought occurred to me: Why not go alone? I guess I was feeling brave that day and maybe a little spiteful at my friends for canceling; maybe I was just romanticizing the thought of being the solitary artsy girl with killer style (because yes, my outfit was that cute).
I think in reality, I simply wanted to go to that art exhibit and have fun like I had wanted to on so many other occasions. I was tired of missing out just because I wouldn’t go alone. That day, my desire to have fun finally superseded my need to be accompanied.
I entered rush-hour traffic, got lost (I had been counting on my friend to navigate), and finally made it to the exhibit only an hour before it ended. The experience was entirely different than what it would’ve been had I been with my two friends. I took my time observing the watercolor paintings and glass-blown statuettes. I looked people in the eyes and smiled, asked the questions my friends would ask, and even told another girl her outfit was adorable (I kind of lurked behind her until I got the courage to say it).
Whether I had gone alone or with others, I would have had a great time. But because I didn’t have anyone to go with, I almost missed out on the experience entirely.
This event has led to me doing what I call “adventuring alone.” When a friend canceled our weekly morning walks, I went for a walk anyway, asking strangers about their days and saying “good morning” to people passing by. When another friend was unavailable to go out for lunch at one of our favorite spots, I went by myself. I learned that if I depended on the company of others to determine whether I went to an event or on an adventure, I would miss out on so many experiences I would have enjoyed regardless.
Everyone gets busy, and stuff happens — I know I’ve had to cancel plenty of times for a variety of valid reasons, and there’s no shame in being unavailable. However, “adventuring alone” has shown me that, while it’s great to spend time with others, not having someone to hang out with shouldn’t prevent you from having fun and going out. Of course, it’s important to be smart and safe when going alone — I typically avoid extremely remote places. I recommend taking a self-defense class and being aware and familiar with the area you’re in.
You might feel awkward, weird, and nervous — I definitely did — and I can’t pretend the solo experience will be exactly the same as the communal one. But the important thing is that it will still be an experience, a new piece of adventure to add to your collage of a fulfilling life.
With farmers markets, festivals, and fairs happening year-round, I’m constantly thinking about who I’m going to go with. But if no one is available, I have no qualms about going alone. There’s a sort of freedom to it — knowing that what I’m going to do that day doesn’t depend on the availability of someone else. Maybe “adventuring alone” will help you truly live to the best of your ability with no canceled plans to stop you.