The Spotted Cat Music Club on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.

New Orleans. Alone.

Going to New Orleans alone wasn't hard. Finding things to do in New Orleans alone wasn't hard. Still, traveling to New Orleans by myself was lonely. Is New Orleans really as fun by yourself?

I love traveling alone. By myself. Solo. I mean, I’ve traveled all around the world by myself. Traveling alone, I can be on my own schedule. I can do what I want to do. And only what I want to do. I can go where I want to go, eat where I want to eat, drink where I want to drink, see what I want to see. (Side note: feel free to read that last line to the tune of Addams Groove, because I totally just did.) I can be as ambitious or as lazy as I want. I have no one to answer to and no one answering to me. I don’t have to compromise.

But, sometimes, it would be nice to have someone there, someone to travel with. I’m not even talking about a boyfriend/husband/lover here. I’m just talking about a person. A companion. A friend. Because, sometimes, a place feels like it might be a little more enjoyable, if I wasn’t alone.

New Orleans was one of those places.

Going to New Orleans alone wasn’t hard. Finding things to do in New Orleans alone wasn’t hard. Still, traveling to New Orleans by myself was lonely.

I was fine going to New Orleans alone.

I loved New Orleans, don’t get me wrong. I loved that everywhere I went music was filling the bars and restaurants and streets. I loved that I could duck in for a beer and a show at any moment. I loved the art and the culture. I loved just walking around people watching and building watching. I loved the food. And I had no problem traveling to New Orleans alone because that just meant I could do all those things I wanted to do, on my schedule, and not have to compromise.

I had no problem finding things to do in New Orleans alone.

I had no problems going on a solo crawl through Frenchmen Street (a stretch of bars that always had live music) and hopping between bars as each musician finished a set. And I had no problems going to restaurants, requesting a spot for one, and downing oysters and po’ boys and gumbo. And I loved walking through the Frenchmen Art Market alone, talking to the artists, buying myself a bracelet made from used guitar strings (because, you know, I take three-weeks of guitar lessons and all of a sudden it’s my life…). I had no problem dancing by myself to a show at Preservation Hall (even if no one else was dancing along…). I had no problem peeking into a voodoo shop to get my tarot cards read by myself. And I had no problem sitting by myself and stuffing my face with Café Du Monde beignets.

But there were other things I didn’t really get to experience. I didn’t get to try all the appetizers or desserts I could have shared with a travel companion (though thank you to the lovely waitress at Jacques-Imo’s who brought me a spoonful of bread pudding with my check, just so I could taste). I didn’t go to any fancy bars for fancy cocktails because I had no one to sit with (it’s not that I wouldn’t do such a thing, it’s just that I wasn’t in the mood.) I didn’t go to any museums or on any ghost tours because there was no one to encourage me to stop being so lazy. There was no one there to whisper to, while walking down Bourbon Street, “do you think I could make a living standing around naked with ‘tips for pics’ body painted on me?”

And I didn’t really get to experience Bourbon Street.

Now, Bourbon Street, the infamous, debaucherous, Bourbon Street. A street lined with seedy bars and frozen hurricanes in cups taller than me and boobs for beads and packed with drunk as people, normally isn’t really my scene. I prefer to keep my top on in public and to sip my drinks at a quiet table and to deal with only moderate amounts of moderate drunks. But Bourbon Street seems like one of those places you should just experience once in your lifetime. And it’s probably one of those places you shouldn’t experience alone.

I stayed in a hostel for three of the nights I was in New Orleans. Partly because I couldn’t actually afford the vacation after taking two others this summer. And, partly, because I was hoping to meet a few people to go out with.

And, I did. My first night I stayed around the hostel for their “free keg night,” and waited until everyone else went out so I could tag along. We first stopped at one bar on Frenchmen Street because one of the girls there wanted to go. But no one else seemed to want to be there and they wouldn’t let in another girl who was underage. So we ended up standing outside for forever until the first girl was ready to go. And then we went to another bar where we were able to sneak in the underager. But no one wanted to stay there for long either. And then we went to Bourbon Street and stood outside until finally someone just chose a bar. And then one of the guys disappeared with one of the girls. And one of the girls that was left seemed way too upset about it. And then we went to stand outside another bar. And one of the guys who was left kept asking me why I “don’t talk more” and started demanding that I talk to him and complaining that I didn’t look like I was having a good time. And, about the last point, he was right. So I left and I got myself a catfish po’ boy and I walked back to the hostel. Alone.

The next two days I spent exploring. Alone. I spent eating. Alone. I spent shopping. Alone. I spent getting my tarot read. Alone. I spent wandering around. Alone. I spent going to bars. Alone. Because I just couldn’t deal with being on someone else’s schedule.

Still, it would be fun to experience Bourbon Street someday, with someone. And it would be nice to return and share an alligator cheesecake, with someone. And it would be nice to sit at a Carousel Bar and sip on a Sazerac, whispering to someone, “do you think I could make a living standing around naked with ‘tips for pics’ body painted on me?” Someone, preferably, who wouldn’t yell at me to talk more.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

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