Today I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts. I hadn’t been there since I went on a field trip in elementary school or middle school, I’ve lived in the city for a little over three months, so I thought it was time.
A brief tangent if you’d permit me. The DIA is awesome. I have been to my fair share of noteworthy museums, and art museums in particular. From the National Gallery in London, to the Vatican Museums in Rome, to Museum Island in Berlin, to the Louvre, to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam–and more.
Though they may differ in scale, I would say confidently that the DIA can hold its own against the great museums of European capitals. I look forward to exploring the other museums that Detroit has to offer.
Alright back to the point. In my experience, people tend to shy away from flying solo for recreational activities. By which I mean non-work, gym, dog walking, errands, etc. Aside from the lonely drinker at the end of the dive bar, most people tend to only do things with other people. Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But like I’ve written about and alluded to in other pieces, it’s to your benefit to attempt to make every action or non-action in your life the result of conscious decisions. Always be at the helm of your own ship.
To that end, I would say that if you shy away from doing things on your own, try to understand if that is because you genuinely don’t enjoy it, or because you feel awkward or like a loser for doing it.
If it’s the latter I would suggest forcing yourself to try it out. Learn how to do fun things alone, learn how to be brave the world solo. It can be incredibly gratifying. Do things alone not because you have to due to lack of friends, but because you are making a choice to. People around you will only think it’s odd if they themselves don’t have the confidence to do it.
I have traveled quite a bit and lived abroad several times. And though I made friends and often traveled and did things with friends, ultimately I learned that to get the most out of my experience or time somewhere meant striking out on my own. It meant chilling and reading in a cafe I thought was cool while others went and did their own thing. It meant sometimes traveling to a city or country on my own because I wanted to visit it but I couldn’t find anyone else who did. Or it meant staying on an extra day or two somewhere when everyone else had gone home.
But the thing I learned is almost a must-do-alone activity is visiting museums. Have you been to museums with a group, or even just a few people? It sucks. If you haven’t yet mastered the art of parting ways then someone will invariably end up sitting bored in the lobby, complaining that their feet hurt, or want to visit every exhibit for an hour and half after you were ready to get the hell out of there.
I’ve been on all of those ends.
So when it came to visiting the British Museum in October of 2015, I made sure there would be no one with me. I had wanted to visit this museum since I was a kid. All those treasures–stolen, bought, traded, collected from all corners of the globe all gathered in one place. Amazing.
So I took the extra effort. I traveled to the UK alone, made sure I went on a weekday so the friend I was staying with was at work–all the stops. And I saw every corner of that place. Over the course of hours and probably much longer than any potential companion would have enjoyed.
The same trip I went to the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the National Maritime Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (reconstructed), The Tower of London–all alone, and all more or less spontaneously. And it was one of my favorite trips I’ve taken (full disclosure though, my immense anglophilia may have also had something to do with that).
Now, ever since my travels, I love doing things on my own sometimes. And today is just the latest and best example. I woke up, made myself breakfast, rode a bike up to Midtown, wandered around the museum for a bit, walked down Woodward to a cool coffee shop, and started writing about it. Spontaneity can be a lot easier when you are flying solo.
It’s just another way to enjoy life. I think you owe it to yourself to develop as many ways as possible.
Can you walk alone?