“I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for.” – 84 Charing Cross Road
Is it D.C. gays generally, or just gays of a certain age? We do tend to travel in packs. You know what I’m talking about. Twenty-person brunches, 12 or so gays crammed into a beach house here, a mountain cabin there. In the absence of children or family, we round up our boys and off we go, like little bands of cute, sassy gypsies. And don’t get me wrong, I love group travel. Lots of fun, gay times to be had for sure. But have we forgotten about the glories of gay solo travel?
Recently, I took my first solo trip, and a trip abroad no less, to London and Iceland. I have to admit, I was fairly nervous going into the whole experience. There is a risk wrapped up in solo travel. But I did choose London, not exactly the end of the earth. My chief concern going into the whole experience? Will I be lonely? Happily, for various reasons, that never panned out. And I am now completely sold on solo travel. Here are but a few reasons why.
The Good in the Gay. I do think solo travel is easier for gay men, or at least very different of course. We have the gay bar after all. These are easily recognized in practically any country, and it only takes a few seconds of Googling to figure out where to go on what nights and at what times. The gay bar has been called a haven by some. And though that might be a bit of a stretch, certainly depending on the bar, there is a real value in walking into a space and knowing that you have one thing in common with everyone there. Maybe it’s being fresh meat, maybe it’s people practicing the biblical principal of showing kindness to weary travelers. But I was often greeted with a smile and, ‘hey, why don’t you join me and my friends.’
Free from Compromise. As someone who grew up with two older brothers that very much played the part, I’m somewhat used to never really getting my way. Even when you travel with a group, you can really only offer suggestions on what to do. And while you can always break away from the pack at some point, traveling solo you never have to worry about any of that. Your time is completely your own.
The Confidence in Having Nothing to Lose. Washington is a tough town to date in. But that’s a topic for another column. But it seems that gays are too often not willing to take a risk. Perhaps fearing rejection, we won’t approach a guy in a bar or ask someone out for dinner. What was completely refreshing about traveling by myself was the freedom of having nothing to lose. Not connecting with someone? You tried. Now, on to the next.
And again, during this whole experience at no time was I ever lonely. After all, there are at least half a dozen apps out there to find you someone. And staying in a hotel means that these guys are vertically up and down, just mere feet from you. Aside from that, being alone does not necessarily make you lonely. Sitting in a cafe or bar, you have the excitement of the experience to feast on.
As for me in London, I met a boy on the street my second day there. On Shaftesbury Avenue, not at all far from Charing Cross Road, we both did backward glances as we walked past each other. He, French. Me, American. We ended up having one of those three-day relationships you see in movies. He told me I smiled all the time. But with his English, it came out, ‘you have all the time to smile.’
Try solo travel. Treat yourself, be selfish. Enjoy every minute of it. And smile, all the time. You never know where it might lead.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.