In a group discussion at the MyDomaine offices regarding editor challenges, a recent debate ensued over the joys of dining solo in restaurants. Was there an art to the lone-diner eatery-selection process? For sure. Is it rude to decline an invite to join another table if you’re genuinely stoked to be on your own? Nope. And ultimately, when out on the town as a party of one, do you bring your cell phone? No. Adventuring with technology is hardly an exercise in solitude. A strong proponent for life in airplane mode (in general), I gleefully shot my hand in the air to volunteer for a night out on the town: just me, myself, and I (sans iPhone).
For me, an identical twin, alone time was something I discovered outside the womb. Being as such, my comfort threshold for going stag is pretty high. Total solitude is to be celebrated. I’ve made frequent trips to museums, amusement parks, and multiple foreign countries on my own. This weekend (challenge accepted), I treated myself to a string of one-on-one dates without the crutch of a smartphone. If spending a weekend solo is a prospect you do not find wildly appealing, I’m here to change your mind. Allow me to walk you through what’s waiting on the other side of companionship. I’ll even offer up some baby steps for beginners looking to take the plunge. If you're a bantamweight in the going-it-alone department, here’s your play by play for faking it like a pro.
The selection process is key when curating a solo adventure. As a female especially, be safe about it. Arguably, the greatest advantage to the ubiquity of cell phone use is personal safety. If you plan on going off the grid, choose well-lit, well-frequented places. It’s common sense but worth noting.
If you’re of the mind that venturing out in public alone feels intimidating, I offer you the simple beginners joy of the matinee movie. This is the ultimate baby step solo experience (and also happens to be my favorite mode to take in cinema: alone in the middle of the day.) Try a 2 p.m. screening. Duck in after they’ve dimmed the lights. If the theater is near-empty, it will feel like a private screening. With a full house, you’ll be acutely attuned to the communal catharsis of film as a medium. Emoting in the dark with strangers is an oddly human experience. It’s different if you’re on a date (just is).
Ready for more advanced moves? Dine alone. Not all venues are created equal for singletons, particularly when it comes to dining. The most comfortable seat in the house for solo patrons is usually at the bar. Personally, I’m more than cool with waiting for a formal table. That said, one really can’t go wrong with a corner barstool perch. This coveted roost comes complete with a bird’s-eye view of the best people-watching in the establishment, persistent attention from the staff, and minimal hassle.
There’s one golden rule when selecting a location to dine out to solo: Make sure it’s not the sort of place that’s made by the company. You won’t have any. When you travel sans plus one, what’s missing from an experience becomes hyper-obvious. Go to a place you frequent with your crew sans crew and you may well discover the atmosphere, food, or service is not the primary drawcard.
My favorite haunts to post up alone in are upscale eateries with a stylish bar scene. The pomp of hipster culture will offer you an embarrassment of riches, including but not limited to sartorial peacocks a plenty and the flattering mystique of good lighting. Also, unless you’re blocking a mirror, you’re pretty invisible solo. The more people are there to “be seen,” the less they’ll notice you. Due to this phenomena, you’ll be sure to overhear some choice conversations.
If you’re living in the city, getting total alone time in can be a tall order. Even the remote hiking trails can be packed during the weekends in L.A. Going off-grid, technology-wise, is the ideal time to for a mind-body detox, in my book. I recommend two health trends to that end: sensory deprivation chambers and infrared detox wraps.
I opted to kick-start my weekend with a Shape House infrared sweat session. An hour of detoxing at Shape House is ideal for when you feel like working out and also watching television. Your body feels like it’s singing when you finish a detox session, and if you want total solitude, Roku and the wait staff are your sole companions.
Sensory deprivation floats are also surreally awesome. At Pause Float Studio in Venice, once suspended in an Epsom salt tank, you can opt for total blackout lighting and zero sound, or you can vibe out to a soothing soundtrack. It’s like climbing into a womb for an hour. My personal belief is a one-hour nap in one of these pods equates to a full night’s rest. That ratio is unproven by science and likely to remain as such. Nevertheless, floating is without contest one of the most relaxing experiences in isolation one can encounter.
We live in an age where if you do not respond to a text within a certain time frame (despite what said communication might be interrupting), you could be reasonably presumed dead and/or in immediate danger by your peers. In my experience, toggling to airplane mode will offset this reaction. When a significant other gets an undeliverable iMessage response, they’ll assume you’re just someplace with bad reception. If you want total peace going off-grid, inform your key crew you’ll be unavailable. Coming back online to 75 missed texts and a group chain asking if you made it home alive will kill your well-earned chill buzz.
The only moment of helplessness I experienced all day without my phone was asking myself around dusk: How am I supposed to know when the movie is playing at the local cinema without a cellular phone?! It then occurred to me that, though I live in a burgeoning metropolis, I could not remember the last time I made it through a full day without an agenda. My days off tend to take on a timetable of coordinated rendezvous points punctuated by multiple rounds of text messages and app checks.
Enamored with the idea of an improvised afternoon, my revised plan involved popping into the record shop next door to browse indefinitely for whatever wait time presented itself. If I had had my phone on me, I would have made a call or returned emails with a glass of wine for a half hour waiting for my allotted movie time. Why explore the physical world when you have a digital fish bowl in the palm of your hand?
Recounting just how many treks I had made to this exact theater wherein I saw fit to chill outside waiting for a friend, looking at my phone, instead of walking 50 feet to look at records, proved an exercise in embarrassment. I became increasingly self-satisfied with my cellular freedom walkabout contingency plan. So much so that when I breezed into the lobby at 5:55 p.m., I was genuinely bummed to find out that Café Society started at 6 p.m.
Here's what you'll get out of going places on your own: Being alone and being lonely are disparate thoughts. There’s zero need for alone time to occur to anyone as “lonely.” Solitude is meditative, cathartic, and in today’s modern times of over-connectivity, I dare say it’s decadent. One killer experience being completely comfortable alone in public and you’ll be hooked.
Being comfortable on your own (yes, even at a hipster bar) breeds a sense of inner resilience and self-sufficiency. To enjoy the pure accompaniment of one’s own mind is to never be bored. Never being bored in a culture that thrives on constant outside stimulation is practically a superpower.
When you’re in public alone, you’ll be aware of just how “on” you are around others. There is no performance in rolling solo. Stillness is the move. In a loner phase, you’ll be forced to speak less and listen more. Ditch your cell, and bring a pen. You may want to write some overheard quotes down. You can always group-text them in the morning.
Is there anything you wouldn’t do solo? Tell us about your travels and adventures, and shop loner reads below. What’s the best date you’ve ever taken yourself on?
This post was originally published on July 20, 2016, and has been updated by Sacha Strebe.