How to be an under-achiever without really trying: Flying solo

A few months ago, I booked a trip to Las Vegas, scheduled for when I finished the winter semester at University. I’ve wanted to check out their open mic comedy scene and I figured I had enough time to a) save up a decent amount of money and b) recruit some friends to come along. As the date drew closer, I realized that not only was I in a less than ideal financial situation, but so were my friends.

I thought about cancelling my trip. I don’t have a tonne of travel experience, and you never hear of someone heading to Las Vegas by themselves and with a strict budget. This is the kind of town where people do jello shots off each other with celebrities and bungee jump off of sky scrapers! Going alone without being able to “make it rain” on some stripper seemed so thoroughly un-Vegas.

I went anyway, and here I sit with the spotty wifi in my cheap hotel room writing about it. You may wonder why I’d choose to write about this for a column where I take baby steps toward being a “grown up”; I mean, this trip isn’t the most responsible thing to do…

But it is the first time in my life when I planned and executed something completely by myself. I did all the preliminary networking with the comedy crowd, I found a decently priced hotel, and I found people to hang out with on Most importantly, I didn’t let other people’s concerns worry me out of taking flight. I may have to take a mind-numbing job for a few months to pay this trip off, but isn’t that part of growing up as well? You make a decision, however crazy, and you make it fit.

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As a child, I was familiar with the notion that travelling and taking risks were things meant for other people, and that those experiences just weren’t available to me. I remember feeling restless at the time, but it took me until my mid-twenties to realize that the only thing separating my family from the families that went on big crazy adventures was mindset.

Debt and uncertainty can be frightening, but as long as you aren’t flying off to Vegas every other weekend, everything is manageable when you break it down into little bite sized chunks.

As far as being alone in Las Vegas goes, there is no traveller that this city isn’t built for. In one week I: made new friends from around the world, went hiking, took a thorough tour of some local dive bars and hole in the wall restaurants, hit up some tourist spots, and danced in the street at a monthly arts festival that spanned several blocks across downtown Vegas.

And most importantly, I networked with the local comedy scene and was offered paid work when I return; challenging my small minded assumption that I can’t truly “make it” as a comedian, that I would always need a “back-up plan” and a boring day job to sustain myself.

My grown-up life may not look the same as anyone else’s and it may seem risky to most, but the beauty of growing older and more mature is knowing that these decisions are mine to make, and I don’t have to base them off of anything outside my own desires.

Melanie Dahling is a stand-up comedian, actor and freelance writer.