There was a time when I didn’t do very much alone. Growing up with siblings and a large group of friends, I always had someone to accompany me to the mall, movies and restaurants. The more the merrier, I believed. Besides, things like shopping and dining seemed like social activities.
When I turned 30, I decided to go on a solo backpacking trip around Europe for two months. Many of my friends had done this sort of thing a lot earlier, and I suppose I was a bit of a late bloomer. While I wasn’t too concerned about language barriers, staying in hostels or getting lost, the thing that worried me most was doing everything alone.
Would I be lonely and sad? Would I get homesick for my friends and family? Would I miss sushi? I certainly felt all these things at times during the trip, but for the most part, I loved being by myself.
I never had to consult anyone before deciding whether to go to a museum, park or café. If I was bored at an art gallery, I could just leave, and I could spend as many hours as I wished in a bookstore. When I went out for meals, in some ways, I felt like I was dating myself. I got to know who I was very well and felt my confidence grow.
All this prepared me for when I moved across the country a few months later. In Toronto, I stayed with my sister and knew two people from high school who lived here. But for the most part, I was alone. Unemployed at first, I spent most of my days exploring the city in solitude. I’d heard Terroni was good so I’d take myself for a big bowl of pasta for lunch. I watched movies at TIFF Bell Lightbox and sat in the sun at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Yes, I was alone, but I was never lonely.
Eventually I made new friends, but I continue to make it a point to spend time by myself. Some of my favourite activities are ones done in solitude, and when I surveyed NOW staff, we all had things we preferred doing solo – plus tips on how to best enjoy them.
If you’ve hesitated taking yourself out for dinner, going to a concert or seeing a movie solo, read on and be inspired to spend some quality time all by yourself.
Go to a restaurant:
Forgo bringing a book or the urge to scroll aimlessly on your phone, and instead take a seat at the bar. This is the best spot in any restaurant for solo diners because you can chat with the bartender and your neighbours, and take in all the action.
Go to the theatre:
There’s no longer any stigma around seeing a play by yourself. As a bonus, you’re likely to score a better seat solo than you would as a couple. Some tips: sitting in the middle of the centre row means you can avoid folks with busy bladders passing you constantly.
Go to the cinema:
For movies, avoid seeing blockbusters on opening weekend Saturday nights. That’s usually date night, and you might feel self-conscious as you munch your small popcorn and rack up Time Play points. Matinees and weekday evening screenings are best for the solo cineaste.
Go to the art gallery:
An art gallery or museum can be a good social destination with friends. But let’s face it: if you want to linger and your gallery companion doesn’t, you’re not seeing each other again until the gift shop. Joining a tour at a big museum – especially if you’re travelling – is an excellent way to not feel lonely when alone.
Go to a concert:
Depending on the artist, concerts can range from rowdy to lover’s lane (seriously, how many couples got engaged during Daniel Caesar’s 2017 tour). Avoid the dread of feeling super single and opt for shows with upbeat tunes instead. Electronic music is a great genre for heading to the club solo because everyone is dancing and you can’t talk over the music anyway.
With files from Glenn Sumi and Kevin Ritchie.