THE BARCE-LONER

THE RUMOURS ARE TRUE: I AM A FAN OF MY OWN COMPANY. Not wanting to blow my own trumpet or anything but…… here we are. Toot toot.

Really, though. I make myself laugh. I give A+ pep talks to the mirror. I write good stuff sometimes and then sit there clutching my own arms as I read it back because I’m so feverishly excited about what I’m doing or how it sounds. I don’t know. Most of the time I like me, and that means I like spending time with me.

One time I was off work with a plan-free day ahead and I ended up at a Mexican restaurant, where I sat in a booth and wrote a poem about Dudley Dursley (as ya do) until my food arrived. I ate my main course plus a side plus a sharer dessert and the waiter was like “lol you won’t finish that” and I was all “WATCH ME ROBERT.” Robert did watch me and was proven wrong as I ate everything in sight like a female Augustus Gloop.

Sometimes I go to the cinema alone. Years ago, one of the later Twilight movies was a solo-Sophie-date (it was the best of a bad bunch of offerings okay) and I would be lying if I said I had not had a blast, largely due to spending two hours stifling my laughter re: the CGI baby. OH RENESMEE! YOU STILL HAUNT MY DREAMS YOU CREEPY THING.

“I could NOT do it. I literally could not walk into the cinema on my own,” one friend admitted as we had dinner together. I asked her why and she said she would hear a voice in her head that just screamed: EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT YOU. I get that. Sometimes anxiety is a pain in the ass and you feel like certain things are impossible. But if that isn’t what’s holding you back and it’s just a little twinge of discomfort or embarrassment, then here is a hot tip 4 ya: give it a go.

Because what is the alternative, really? What if your friends aren’t available? What if you just fancy taking yourself out for dinner? What if nobody wants to see The Muppets live in concert or eat churros with you right now?? What if the other option is sitting in your house all evening or NEVER GETTING TO WATCH THE TWILIGHT SAGA*, in case a few people you’ll never see again happen to glance in your direction???

*Team Jasper. Clearly the hottest.

At the start of June, the Sophie’s Solo Adventures tour bus decided to head outside of the UK — I took a four-day trip to Barcelona, because I had a week off work and a very strong urge not to waste it. It was great! The flights were cheap! I ate a lot! I only got lost once! Nobody stared! Nobody died! And ya know what? I would do it again. So, as per the norm when I have a Slightly Eventful Life Experience, I have written a blog post nobody asked for, which is part ‘here’s why YOU should consider jumping on the bandwagon, even if you’re a bit scared’, part ‘therapy for me’. HERE WE GO:

You deserve a holiday, even if there’s no-one around to come with you

For the eight years that I was part of a couple, weeks off meant days out or plane tickets. Shared time. Relationship roadtrips. Now I am single it’s a different kettle of fish, and to be honest YES, left to my own devices I probably COULD easily spend an entire week watching Netflix, making vegetarian enchiladas and wearing my Harry Potter jogging bottoms. I mean, it’s weird. I am only just realising how weird it is. You might have a few days off or a holiday booked with friends or family, but you’re probably not going to use up your entire annual leave year at the same time as other people. Hence the Netflix. And the Hufflepuff clothing. I DON’T MAKE THE RULES, said Sophie, pulling up a badger sock.

I have a point here (I think) and my point is: DON’T BE THE NETFLIX GIRL. Or rather: be her for a bit. Be her if you want to be. But don’t forgo fun stuff for Riverdale just because no-one you know is available and you don’t want to look like Loner McLonerson or his dad, ol’ NoFriends McGee. You deserve days out and weekends away and happy holidays, regardless of who is or isn’t with you.

NOBODY CARES!

In the words of Anne T. Donahue (my fave), NOBODY CARES. I don’t mean that in a bad way, like EVERYONE HATES YOU AND SECRETLY HOPES YOUR PLANE FAILS. What I mean is: nobody really gives a rat’s ass who you go on holiday with.

I am being serious. None of the Barcelona natives sat there on the bench with a newspaper thinking “GOD, look at that woman on her own.” None of the tourists in the Sagrada Familia were like “WTF, A SOLO TRAVELLER??” There were a lot of us! Nobody cared! I had a phone and a book to keep me company, and I walked around with a moody American man who I mentally named HERB, which is what all 60+ year-old American men are called in my head.

Some people will have something to say. I had a few “poor you” comments (SINGLE AND READY TO MINGLE DIE) and a couple of “will that be…….. SAFE?”s, from people who winced hard, as if they could foresee me fighting off an angry pickpocketer on La Rambla (GIVE ME BACK MY EUROS, THIEF! OH MY GOD IS THAT A KN-). But generally, nobody cared — and, I guess, if you’re being super-mature-and-emotionally-astute you will know that the people who do seem to care largely mean well. They just WANT TO SEE YOU SAFE AND MARRIED ALRIGHT.

Long story short: it really doesn’t matter. You don’t owe anyone — at home or elsewhere — an explanation. There is something quite nicely neatly liberating about booking something alone, paying for it yourself, and knowing that you are ~AN ADULT WHO CANNOT BE STOPPED~.

If you can be alone with your thoughts, you’re doing pretty well

I don’t know about you, but I tend to fare better when I’m busy, because when I’m busy I don’t have time to think. But when I’m alone and takin’ some downtime, it’s harder.

Like… do you remember when we had really bad snow earlier this year? THE BEAST FROM THE EAST! I tried to slay it. I could not. No-one could drive anywhere and I spent three days alone in my flat, stewing and feeling claustrophobic because the world had turned white and the sky had disappeared. (I have a weird thing about looking up and only seeing clouds, with no blue at all. It frightens me if it lasts too long because it feels like a big man – possibly God – has put a blanket over our birdcage.) But I cried several times and wrote in my journal and drank a lot of wine and by the time the three days were over I actually felt better, because I’d been forced to lie in the bath like Juliet Capulet and deal with some of the stuff that had been stored in an old box at the back of my brain.

Being alone and unbusy (and almost-literally trapped with my thoughts) had helped, even though I’d wanted a weekend of anything but that. Barcelona was similar in some ways — productive and difficult — but a lot more cheerful. I would recommend it. You’re probably not going to come back A CHANGED PERSON, because we don’t live in a movie, but you’ll come back having allowed yourself some time and space to process or think or mourn or recharge or whatever else you might need to do.

I have a lot of respect and back-pats for people who make time to hang out alone with very few planned activities, because it isn’t easy for everyone. Whether you struggle with that or not, if you can take yourself on a solo holiday and come back feeling brighter or lighter — or just plain old NOT WORSE THAN BEFORE — it’s an achievement.

It’s not depressing, I promise

A few weeks after booking my Barcelona extravaganza, I called my mom in a panic and was like “IS IT DEPRESSING? JUST BE STRAIGHT WITH ME, IS IT LAME AND DEPRESSING TO GO ON HOLIDAY ALONE??” And you know what she said? “I don’t think so. Going on holiday on your own is fine – what’s depressing is if you come home and have nobody in your life who missed you and wants to hear about it.” I was calm after that, and I felt kind of dumb for calling. I thought that was a pretty good way to think about the whole thing.

Being there, on your own, can be what you make of it. You can sit in your hotel room all week if you really want. You can stay in a hostel and have dinner with other people every night and go on enthusiastic walking tours with a man holding a red umbrella. Or you can do something sort-of-in-the-middle and have a little mooch on your own and chat to people you happen to come across. It’s your holiday, so do what you want. But LET ME TELL YA: none of it is depressing. It’s exciting.

It’s exciting!

ISN’T IT?! Just think of all the things you will do.

I met a girl in the queue for the plane and we talked for hours about her ex (scumbag). I bumped into a skateboarder by the sea who told me my sunglasses were cute and that he wanted to marry me. I waved at happy tourists from my open-top bus. I sat on the beach and drank freshly-squeezed orange juice and felt the sun on my face. I bought fruit salad from the food market and cried because it looked so pretty. I read I Am Legend from start to finish and took pictures of all of the lines that stood out to me. I felt like I was a broken leg that was close to healing. And when the cast comes off I will smell repulsive and look even worse and there’ll probably be a load of crumbs or a paperclip stuck to me……. but long term, I know I’ll be better.

Here you are in a brand new place, ON YOUR OWN. Who are you going to see? What are you going to think about? What will you remember from this in 10 years? What is going to inspire you or test you?

We are lucky lucky lucky lucky. What is going to happen next?

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