The drive from Klamath Falls to Roseburg took around three hours and winded through the tree-filled mountains. There were barely any cars on the road so I was able to drive in peace, not worrying that I was driving too slow around the corners and hills.
I stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and a guy came running out to pump my gas. This was the strangest thing to experience in Oregon. It’s against the law to pump your own gas. I felt so awkward handing him my credit card and just hanging out while he started to pump my gas so I ran to the restroom.
I arrived in Roseburg, OR (population 22,000) around 4:00pm. I was staying at an Airbnb in a historic house built in 1890. The hosts were a lesbian couple in their 50’s-60’s and they rent the two bedrooms on the top floor. There was a bathroom upstairs between the two rooms but the shower was downstairs. I arrived and met Victoria, who was a cheerful woman with short grey curly hair. She was friendly and showed me around a little. We had to walk through the living room to get to the stairs, which was closed off by a wooden sliding door. We walked up the old, creaky stairs and down the hallway with a railing overlooking the stairs. My room was on the left and had slanted ceilings since it was more like the attic. The room was large and I helped Victoria put on clean sheets. There was a coffee pot, an AC unit in the window, two closets, and a little table with two chairs.
As I brought in my largest suitcase first, Victoria’s partner said “Wow, that’s a large suitcase”. Embarrassed, I tried my best to carry it up the narrow stairway without bumping into the walls. I still hadn’t sorted through my luggage, so it took around four trips again to carry it all up.
I turned on the AC since all the luggage had made me sweat and I opened up my Coffee Meets Bagel dating app. I had been on the app the year before for a few months but deactivated my account 6 months prior because it was making me feel bad about myself. Guys would connect with me and either not communicate at all or would chit-chat through the app for a couple of days and disappear. Now that I was traveling and feeling lonely, I decided that maybe I could meet someone along my travels. At the very least, it could be an adventure. I had set my location to Portland, OR hoping that there would be more people there and I’d be there in about a week.
I was pleasantly surprised by the matches and the number of guys who had “liked” me. I was always told dating in Los Angeles is terrible and it’s true. You see, guys are surrounded by beautiful models and actresses. Their standards for perfection are ridiculous and they always think there must be someone even better out there. Last year, Coffee Meets Bagel listed four cities with top awards, like ‘’the chattiest city” and “the friendliest city”. Los Angeles received the “pickiest city” award. Literally. More people passed on profiles than any other city. The city of models got passed on the most. The perception that “there’s always someone better” is strong and alive in Los Angeles.
Back to my Portland picks. I connected with a few guys and was hopeful that maybe I could meet someone. Then it was time to get dinner. Victoria gave me a few recommendations and I chose a Greek restaurant. I was seated near the kitchen and noticed a large family group of about 15 people in the middle of the restaurant. To the sides of the room were two males, sitting alone. Once again, I get strange looks since I’m always the only female eating alone.
It’s funny because when I was in college, I once went to a Denny’s alone late at night. This was in a small town in Missouri in 1999. I was terrified going in alone but I wanted somewhere to journal and get a quick bit to eat. I had to give myself a pep talk before convincing myself it was ok to go in alone. It went something like this, “You can do this. Nobody will even notice you. Why do we live in a society that makes it socially unacceptable to eat alone at a restaurant? We need to break this perception. It’s fine. You can do this.” No joke, I literally pumped myself up in the car and finally worked up the courage to go inside.
When I was 23 and had just moved to California, I wanted to go see a movie but I had nobody to go with me. I had to do a similar pump-up conversation about how it’s ridiculous that we can’t feel comfortable going to a movie alone. I sat in the theater, waiting for it to begin, desperately hoping the movie would start soon because I felt so exposed sitting alone with the lights on. This was before smart phones, so there was nothing to distract me. I was so embarrassed that I would keep looking at my phone to “see if I got a message from my friend about where I was sitting” and would look at people coming in the theater. You know, to “see if my friend would see where I’m sitting”. It was very hard to sit there, alone, as groups of friends filled the theater. Then the movie started and the theater got dark, which made me forget I was alone.
Last year I traveled to Scandinavia by myself and felt completely comfortable eating alone, doing tours alone, and discovering new things alone. I actually came to love it. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t feel embarrassed most of the time (no need for pep talks) but that was partly because it was overseas. For some reason, it felt easier since obviously I would never see those people again. And Scandinavia felt more cosmopolitan and open to things like women traveling alone.
In the United States, I still sometimes struggle being alone. I don’t need pep talks because I focus more on the enjoyment of what I’m partaking in. But sometimes I feel like people are staring at me, or I get bored not being able to have a conversation with someone. But overall, it’s freeing to do things on your own. If you’re on the fence, I encourage you to try it. Even if you need to give yourself a pep talk.