Concerts, Confidence and Courage
I have a confession to make.
I love solo travel. (That’s not the confession…stick around a minute, I’m getting to it.) When I’m traveling alone, I feel fearless about being alone. I have no qualms about wandering museums, hiking trails, restaurants, and pubs by myself. I am content with my own company, not shy about striking up conversations with others or tacking myself onto tour groups.
When I’m in my hometown, however, it’s a different story. (This is the confession part, for those playing along.) I get nervous and self conscious when I eat alone in my hometown, or see a play, or a movie, or a museum, without having a friend or two along. Why? Maybe because, when I’m traveling solo, I’m the daring one, the interesting one, the trailblazer, who is grabbing life by the horns and enjoying the ride. In my hometown, in contrast, I know a lot of people. I should be able to find a companion, and if I don’t have one — even if I intended to be solo — I feel self-conscious and judged by others.
I admit this is silly. No one knows if I’m traveling or not. I’m the only one who knows the difference. And so, last Friday, I decided to try something new: act like a traveler in my own hometown.
It all started innocently enough. I found out, a little late, that two of my current favorite bands were coming to town and performing in the same concert (Spoon and Phoenix, if anyone’s interested). Since I nearly missed this, the event was sold out. The after-market brokers did have some pairs of tickets available, but at an astronomical price, and since most of my friends don’t share my music taste, a pair of tickets wasn’t really an option. On the other hand, the single tickets were much cheaper. And so I faced a dilemma.
Should I buy the single ticket, and see these bands I have been dying to see in person, or do I let my weird hometown insecurity prevail, and chicken out about going to a concert solo? Put that way, my choice was clear. I bought the ticket.
Friday night arrived. I had dinner with a friend near the venue. She thought my nervousness was ridiculous — after all, I’m the same person who drove around the U.S. for six weeks alone, went to a dude ranch by myself, spent a week in Paris wandering solo (where I went to my first opera — solo). That’s when I decided to pretend I was traveling.
Suddenly, I wasn’t self-conscious. Suddenly, I was daring. I was a mystery. No one around me knew who I was, where I came from, or what I was doing there. I was magically freed from any concerns about what others were thinking about me — if they knew me, they’d be awed and inspired, naturally. Alone, I maneuvered easily through the crowded lobby and flirted my way to the front of the beer line. Alone, I found my seat and kicked the young girl wearing too much makeup out of it, sending her to the back of the orchestra where she belonged. Alone, I chatted with the usher, a very nice woman who was so excited to see Phoenix I thought she was going to faint.
There was a minor down point when the young boy next to me (seriously, this guy couldn’t have been older than twenty — I’d say twenty-one, but he and his friends weren’t drinking) called me ma’am, but at least he was polite.
Then the lights went down, Phoenix took the stage, and I was transported by the music. Again, being alone was perfect; there was no one I knew watching me make an uncoordinated fool of myself, so I was free to dance and jig to my heart’s content, sing along and cheer and jump up and down.
At the end of the night, I walked out, smiling, and fully intending to be a solo traveler in my own hometown as often as possible.