Sometimes in life, for the solo traveller or the single person, things don’t seem to be made for them. Restaurant tables are set up for couples and groups, cinemas replace seats for sofas, vouchers offer two for one, and the media portrays the social winner and the loner loser. Society stares, and even when it doesn’t, the stigma feels real.
Many folk, when faced with time alone, do nothing instead. Too uncomfortable to go out friendless, too awkward to be seen unaccompanied. Much easier to stay in, watch Netflix and chill, but with no danger of that becoming innuendo. And whilst a quiet night in can indeed do us good, the fear of going out by yourself is, of course, codswallop.
Get past the anxiety and self-consciousness and embrace it! Enjoy the ability to do as you choose and be as you feel. There is no need to cower in a corner or whisper as you enter; proudly proclaim your TABLE FOR ONE, cheerfully cherish your total control, and smugly settle into your endless peace. Now that you’ve broken that barrier, here are some super places to do it yourself in Leeds…
In the daytime, it is perhaps easier for the individual to join in. Indeed, the social vacuums of morning public transport, with eyes firmly fixed on phones, or else closed entirely, are proving the desire to avoid interaction at this time. Whilst the wish to remain within our own thoughts may change as the hours roll on, there is less weirdness associated with being out and about alone in the day, shopping or whatnot.
So, a trip to the Corn Exchange or Kirkgate Market are as comfortable for one as they are for any other number. At the latter, a peruse of the fresh food stalls will be met with friendly chatter from the traders. At the former, hours can be enjoyed exploring the speciality shops selling clothing, music, jewellery, cameras, plants, beer and more. Both have great casual eats too, with Humpit and Primo making any lone eater feel welcome, and the market’s street food court a relaxed environment to sample solo the likes of Manjit’s Kitchen and Banh & Mee.
Similarly, Trinity Kitchen, the food area in Trinity shopping centre, offers a pleasingly bustling vibe which doesn’t feel awkward to experience by oneself. In fact, you’ll likely be surrounded by others doing exactly the same thing, whilst enjoying the worldly delights of Rola Wala and Pho. This is a place that can ease you into the evening too, not only accepting at lunchtimes, but also opening until 9pm.
For it is when darkness descends that the single can struggle. Swanky restaurants and lively bars often isolate and emphasise the lack of company, although having the confidence to challenge this may find that to be a misconception. But it is a chilled-out atmosphere that feels more approachable alone, which doesn’t mean compromising on quality. Assembly Underground is a mix of all this, as a cool social hub filled with communal benches, but one which is unintimidating to join in and tuck into a Holy Ramen and a Vocation Brew.
So, now that eating and drinking out alone have been accomplished, what about other activities? Well, how about naturally solo sports, like walking, running and cycling that will get you out to Leeds’ glorious surroundings? On the Meanwood Valley Trail, Eccup Reservoir and the Leeds-Liverpool canal, or further out to the Dales and the Moors, there are miles and miles to explore, and no reason not to do it by yourself whilst getting healthy.
Back in the city, Leeds’ strong cultural offerings needn’t be avoided either. Thinking about it, it’s rather odd that we insist on bringing others along to sit in silence whilst being entertained. Surely a cinema or a gallery is the perfect place to experience uninterrupted. You can get immersed in film at Hyde Park Picture House and Cottage Road Cinema, or take in art at the Henry Moor Institute and Leeds Art Gallery. Even a gig needn’t be off limits, from Brudenell Social Club to Leeds Arena, where far from looking on lonely, you’ll be around hundreds or thousands of like-minded fans.
And it is that which is important. At cafes and pubs, streets and countrysides, venues and events and beyond, whether through choice or situation, the single visitor is always welcome in Leeds. Standing alone doesn’t mean standing out. And sitting alone certainly doesn’t mean sitting it out.