Fact about me: When I was younger I was painfully shy. So shy that I hated talking to anyone new (remember this blog post? Yeah, picture that everyday in person) and would completely avoid it at all costs – and when there was no escape, I’d blush so hard that I’d worry my head would actually explode. Not particularly helpful to the situation. Stemming from this, as you can imagine, I’ve never really been much of a conversationalist, and even now I still get that little pit of nausea in my stomach when faced with meeting new people or approaching a particularly nerve-racking social situation. Which again isn’t very helpful in the career that I’m trying to carve for myself, as it’s pretty darn difficult to conduct an interview with a musician through the power of mime. You’d think that I’d be pretty good at this talking thing by now, being a fully grown adult and all, but I’ve always said that I can communicate through the written word a gazillion times better than with my voice, so I guess we just can’t have it all.
So when I picture what Past Annie’s face would’ve looked like if I were to tell her that I was going away on a solo trip, I imagine it would’ve been a mixture of terror and extreme social awkwardness. But that’s exactly what I did (go on a solo trip I mean, not travel back in time and terrorise my younger self) on my recent visit to Nashville, and I am SO glad that I went at it alone, as it was probably the most helpful thing I’ve ever done to boost my own self-confidence. For a start, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for a cheesy TV series and ABC’s Nashville just happens to be near the top of my list, and secondly it turned out to be one of the friendliest and most welcoming cities that I’ve visited to date. Okay, I may have started having some second thoughts at the airport when the time came to wave goodbye to my friends for a few days, but once that feeling had subsided after take-off I was hit with an overwhelming sense of excitement and independence. I’ve always admired those who are comfortable enough to just jet off to exotic new destinations by themselves, confident in the knowledge that they’ll use the opportunity to meet new friends and tackle new experiences head on, and here I was – one of them! BOO-YAH.
My biggest worries about riding solo were that I’d get lonely, that I’d have nobody to talk to, or be too afraid to go out and do things alone for fear of looking like that girl that everyone pities while they hurriedly eat alone in a restaurant. But those fears were quickly eradicated as soon as I jumped on my first bus and engaged in effortless conversation with a friendly stranger. Admittedly, I quickly discovered that the guy had questionable motives, after he’d asked if I’d ever been with an older man and if I’d like to do my best cat impression while he cut his album at the recording studio the next day… and that was the last time I took the bus.
The four days that I spent in the city were perfect, doing what I wanted when I wanted and generally marvelling at the fact that I was actually IN Nashville, having obsessed over it for so long. I strolled leisurely down 12th Avenue South, stopping in to browse the rails of Reese Witherspoon’s clothing line in Draper James, lust over the homeware in Cadeau and White’s Mercantile, and gulp down a couple of gallons of sweet tea over a few hours work in Portman Brew.
Revelling in what Music City is most famous for, I spent a wonderful evening at The Bluebird Cafe with some insanely talented songwriters, wound through cheerful basketball fans flooding out of honky tonk bars on Broadway, and had a fangirl moment outside RCA Studio B – only the spot where Elvis recorded some of his greats. No biggie.
And yes, I took full advantage of the whole eating by myself thing, chowing down on possibly the best burger of my life at The Pharmacy (seriously), delicious maple glaze and bacon doughnuts from Five Daughters Bakery, and an extra-naughty brunch at Biscuit Love consisting of fried chicken, gravy and melted cheese. Because you know what? Ain’t nobody there to judge. None of those discerning “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” looks from across the table as I pack it all in. Solo travel is the bomb.
But the best part of it all? The people. You heard it here first, little old me actually got out there and met people! From musicians to pizza flippers in empty restaurants, everyone greeted me with a healthy dose of Southern hospitality, warm conversation and a charming country twang – and were genuinely interested in what I was up to. Who knew that outside of London, the land of averted eye contact and mumbled apologies, there were people who actually WANTED to take the time out of their lives to learn a little more about yours! It’s crazy how much you can let your guard down and relax into a conversation with a stranger over such a short period of time when you open yourself up to the opportunity, and the people that I met were so diverse. From Uber drivers who were making some cash on the side whilst playing in some pretty notable bands, friends and family of musicians turning out to support them, and people passing through the hostel I was staying at daily, I barely felt like I was there alone thanks to their welcoming ways.
All in all, solo trip numero uno was a success. So much so that I don’t even feel soppy saying that I feel it actually changed me for the better, and those four days are going to stick with me for a long time. My first solo trip taught me that I CAN hold my own and forge my own path, that I can do whatever I choose to do with my life, and that maybe I’m not such a bumbling fool when it comes to putting myself out there and meeting people. It also taught me to be open to saying yes where I said no, and grab opportunities with both hands – because life’s short and being a wimp isn’t worth the regret.
But the most important lesson? If I guy on a bus asks you if you want to come and hear his song about a sexy cat being recorded at the studio, just say no.
Like this? Keep up to date with my American adventures over on: