I was fortunate enough to have a good friend come to Europe with me three years ago. We arrived in London a few days before the rest of our tour group. Because we both could be socially awkward and anxious, we decided to try one thing outside of our comfort zone while we were on our own.
We were both old enough to legally drink in England but not in the United States, and we wanted to see what kind of bars there were in London, so we decided to do a pub crawl.
We did the Camden Pub Crawl. We paid £12 online because it was cheaper than what it cost the day of.
We landed in London in the morning and did the pub crawl that night. We arrived to the first bar late because we decided to nap. I think Jen tried to wake me up but I just went back to sleep.
We went to five bars in Camden, and included in the pub crawl price were entry to the bars, tickets for a free shot at each bar, and a wristband for discounted drinks.
The first was just the meeting place. It was very small, and we didn’t spend much time there.
The next bar was more of a sports bar. We were in Europe during the World Cup, so the bar was full of people watching the game. Jen and I hadn’t had a chance to eat yet, so we ordered food and didn’t drink any alcohol.
The following bar is the only one whose name I remember: The Blues Kitchen. They had a cool setup. The front area had booths, and the back had a stage with live blues music from local bands. The bar connected both areas and the stairs to the bathroom below were across from it.
Jen and I finally decided to use our tickets for a free shot. Boy oh boy, that one was rough. It was a buffalo whiskey, and it burned worse than any other alcohol I have ever had. I managed to keep it down (and I chugged a lot of water afterward), but Jen did not have as easy a time as I did. It threatened to make a second appearance, but thankfully she toughed it out.
We were pretty tired and still hadn’t spoken to anyone, and with our distaste for the alcohol, Jen and I kind of wanted to go back to our hostel and go to sleep. We told our guide and asked how to get “home,” and he told us we’d leave soon and the bus stop was right by the next bar. He said he would show us the bus stop and tell us the route to take if we stayed with the group, so we agreed.
We watched two awesome blues groups perform. The music was amazing, and the live area was much calmer than the other part of the bar. After hanging out for a bit, we found the group again and walked to the next bar. Our guide showed us where the bus stop was, but we decided to go to the next bar just to see what it was like.
The bar after that was once a horse stable. When we first walked in, there was a huge room with a projector screen and a big couch. It was weirdly empty. We walked through it and saw the most interesting bar. The stalls had been turned into private rooms, most with TVs and a few with stripper poles. Two stalls were opened up for the bar itself, and the back rooms had a karaoke room and a tiny arcade.
I took the shot there, but my friend didn’t want one. I also ordered a rum (or was it Jack?) and Coke and found out I did not like that drink. Neither of us had drunk alcohol until this trip, so I chose something I was used to hearing. We mostly stood around and did nothing until we saw that the back door, which we didn’t think we could go through, was open.
We went outside to find a beautiful outdoor area with picnic tables, plants, and twinkly lights. The view of Camden was lovely, and it was such a relief to have a wide, open space. We sat out there until our guide appeared to tell us we were moving on to the next place.
The last was a Cuban bar. We were both fairly excited about this and again decided to stay. We got our shot at the door, which was strawberry lemonade Malibu. Each TV inside was playing soccer, and the music was extremely loud. Tons of people were dancing and laughing, and out of all the places we had gone, this one had the best energy.
After hanging out for a bit, we were approached by two guys who wanted to dance. We were unsure at first but agreed. I set our purses in an open booth, covered them with my jacket, and danced a very close and personal Latin dance with a stranger.
And I had an incredible time.
We didn’t talk; we just danced for a few songs, and it was so much fun. After a bit, Jen and I found each other again, and the two of us danced for a while. We lost track of our group, but our guide found us and said goodbye. He seemed pleased that we were finally having a good time and made sure we knew where to go when we left. We stayed there much longer than the other places, and when we finally left, we were sweaty, exhausted, and happy.
In the end, Jen and I didn’t talk to anyone else in our group except one of our guides, who was really cool. Even though we danced with men at the last bar, we didn’t actually have conversations with anyone. We were still a bit too shy for that.
I definitely recommend doing something outside your comfort zone on a trip.
Nothing too crazy, of course, but you should do something fun, something you want to do but may be too nervous or anxious to do.
That pub crawl is something I will always remember, and it was one of the highlights of my trip. I’m so grateful that Jen came with me and that we were both willing to branch out for a night.
Thanks again, Jen.