When I look back to some of the greatest experiences of my life, many of them have one thing in common… they happened because I was alone. I wasn’t surrounded by a big group of people.
To most people, the thought of going out to eat alone, going to a theme park alone, traveling and exploring new places alone, etc. doesn’t sound very appealing. Believe me, I used to be the same way. But, over time, I learned that going solo allows you to experience things you likely would not get to experience if you were with a large group. When you decide to experience life by yourself, you are giving yourself freedom. You have freedom to do whatever you want to do. You have freedom to go wherever you want to go. You have freedom to eat and drink whatever and wherever you choose, without having to worry about anybody else’s preferences. You have the freedom to suddenly make a split-second decision and completely change your plans, and you don’t have to worry about upsetting or inconveniencing anybody else.
My life today is very different from the way I grew up and the way I lived most of my life. When I look back to the turning point in my life, Chicago stands out for me. For those of you who have read my previous posts, this is repetitive, but for those who haven’t read my previous posts, I traveled with a band for six incredible years. It was a dream come true, and I got to spend about 180 days a year on the road. During that time, places like Cincinnati and Chicago became almost like a second home for us. I remember a few times in Chicago when we had a day off, or even just a few hours to kill before a show, and the rest of the guys either had other plans or just wanted to rest, so I started going out on my own and explored downtown Chicago by myself. I spent hours wandering around Grant Park. I found random, small restaurants and decided to stop in and eat by myself. These experiences taught me to live in the moment and just enjoy everything going on around me. People watching quickly became a favorite hobby for me. You can learn a lot about the world around you when you sit by yourself at a table that is out of the way of the crowd around you and just watch people interact with each other.
I specifically remember randomly running across a small NY style pizzeria in downtown Chicago. It was the kind of place that you could easily pass by and never notice it. The sign happened to catch my eye, so I decided to check it out. I ordered two slices and a beer, then grabbed a corner table that was as far out of the way as possible. After my first couple of bites, the owner walked up to my table and introduced himself. He asked if I was enjoying the pizza (it was amazing!!), and then asked how I found the place. I told him I was in town for the weekend, and just happened to be passing by. I told him it was my first time eating there, and would definitely not be my last. He told me to wait for a minute, and walked away. When he returned, he brought me an additional slice and another beer, on the house. I thanked him, shook his hand, and told him I couldn’t wait to come back to Chicago and eat there again. This was definitely an experience that never would have happened if I had been with a large group. Years later, I still haven’t forgotten that experience, and I can’t wait to get back to Chicago again someday and eat there again. I have only eaten there twice, but both times were fantastic!!
Another perfect example of benefitting from being alone was last October at a Garth Brooks concert here in Orlando. Ticketmaster sold me a seat that was supposed to be in a wheelchair accessible section. The seat they sold me was actually in the middle of the floor at the Amway Center. When the usher showed me to my seat, he said, “Obviously, people will be standing in front of you during the entire concert, and you won’t be able to see anything. You should not have been sold this seat. Please wait here, and I will be back to help you.” About 45 minutes later, the usher came back and said, “I spoke with Garth’s people and told them about your seat. I explained that you are in a wheelchair and are here by yourself. They have given me permission to fix this situation. Please come with me.” The usher proceeded to bring me to a spot on the side of the floor next to the fifth row!!!! It was one of the most incredible concert experiences of my life, and I got to see my idol, Garth Brooks, from five rows away!!
Experiencing things solo puts you in a position to meet new people more easily. When you are by yourself, strangers are more likely to approach you and introduce themselves than if you are with a group of people. I find this to be true everywhere I go. You can meet some of the most incredible people just by simply being there. You don’t have to put in any effort at all. If you are in a busy place by yourself, people tend to notice.
Back in May, I went to the Jimmy Buffett concert in Orlando by myself. The guy sitting next to me introduced himself and said he had been to over 20 Jimmy Buffett shows. He asked where I’m from and how I became a Parrothead (there will likely be another post about that in the near future… stay tuned!!). The guy was a jazz musician in New York City for many years, before he got sick of the cold winters and decided to move to a warmer climate. This guy had a lot of great stories to tell, and it seems he has lived a pretty amazing life. Once again, he said he noticed that I was by myself, and he wanted to keep me company. That conversation was one of many great memories from that night.
Earlier tonight, I met some really wonderful people while waiting for the fireworks to start at Magic Kingdom. I was there and was by myself. They introduced themselves and joined me. This happens to me all of the time at Disney World. Last time I was there, I met a nice family from Ireland. The time before that, I met people from Connecticut and New York. The people I met tonight were from New Jersey and Australia. In all of those situations, if I had been surrounded by a big group of friends or family, I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t have met any of these people I have met. When you’re with a group of people, you tend to focus more on your group and less on the people around you.
While you should never ask for it or expect it, people are more likely to go out of their way to do something special for you if they see that you’re by yourself. Just by being by yourself in the right place at the right time, you can have an experience that most people only dream of having. The difference between you and them is that you dare to step out of your comfort zone and experience life by yourself. You don’t need a group with you to have a good time. You can always create your own fun and your own memories. As a result, you will have stories to tell to people who say they just can’t imagine going out without a group surrounding them. Life is too short to waste time waiting for others to make up their minds. If your friends or family can’t agree on somewhere to go or something to do, don’t be afraid to make your own plans and go solo. You just might end up having an experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life.