Only Irish magic could have moved the chess pieces of fate and adventure and brought me a stag party of seventeen to escort me between the pubs and bars of Galway’s narrow cobbled streets on a cold Irish night in March 2015 on my first solo travel trip abroad.
That evening, I walked into the King’s Head, a pub, alone with the hope that I would have some kind of adventure or at least an interesting conversation with someone to add to my memories of my first solo trip.
With a pint of Bulmer’s (Irish cider), I sat at a table near two other women and tried to look interested in the Gaelic soccer match on TV. I’d never been to a bar alone but in American bars it never took longer than ten minutes standing with a friend for someone to walk up and talk to me. I was determined to push myself beyond my comfort zone which was the entire point of my trip, so I sat there and waited, not once thinking that I could start a conversation with someone.
Ten minutes passed and nothing. At thirty minutes, I was still sitting alone with a half-pint of cider and a blow to my self-esteem. I was a lone, attractive woman surrounded by men. I texted my mom: What’s wrong with me?
I made up my mind to leave after I finished my pint. I was the only “lone” customer in the pub and I was too nervous to start a conversation with a group of people. This social experiment of trying to meet new people at a bar in a foreign country was a failure. Around the forty-minute mark, I took a sad-faced selfie and was photobombed by a guy. Lo and behold, someone was finally talking to me!
He was a nice enough guy who had the misfortune of being known as “Pecker.” It was hard to understand him with his thick accent and love of using a lot of Irish slang. I did manage to understand that he was from Wexford and was visiting Galway with friends. He pointed to a group of men that he was with and said something about one of the guys. I thought I heard the word “stag.” As we continued talking he pointed out the same guy again and said he was getting married. Suddenly, it clicked.
“Wait, is this a bachelor party?” I asked.
“Yes, a stag party.”
I had come across a stag party and it seemed there was 17 of them.
“American bachelor parties usually involve a strip club,” I said.
He replied, “We went to a strip bar last night. I spent 35 euros and I didn’t even see anything!”
To which I replied, “It’s too cold to take your top off in Ireland.”
Next we were joined by a rambunctious pair of middle-aged women at our table, Mary and Jane. Yes, those were their names. They were a riot with a penchant for dirty sexual jokes (from what I could understand) and they engaged Pecker in a bout of Irish banter.
Soon after, Pecker introduced me to all 17 of the stag party. They were from Wexford and were a mix of late 20’s and early 30’s men who worked as farmers, welders, builders, bus drivers, car salesman, and other forms of public servitude.
I planned on returning to my B&B by 10:00 pm because I had to drive back to Dublin early the next morning. When Pecker asked if I wanted to join the guys, I was quite hesitant and said no. One girl in a group of guys — 17, no less. I had never had the fortune of having many guy friends in the U.S. and wasn’t sure how to act around them. And it was a bachelor party — how would they act toward me?
But eventually, I allowed Jane, Mary, and Pecker to convince me to bar hop with the stag party. and before I realized it, I, a single, lone traveling female, had joined a bachelor party. (A perfect premise for a Hollywood Hangover spin-off?)
I figured if anything “bad” happened, I could leave. I also didn’t plan on drinking that much and the bachelor party didn’t seem rowdy, drunk, or crazy like I was used to in the States. If anything, they reminded me of wholesome country boys who seemed just as afraid to speak to me as I was to them.
Hanging out with the stag party was a little awkward. Like I said, I hadn’t had a lot of experience being a lone female in a group of guys so I was intrigued with the social experience that I found myself in.
At the bar we went to next, I got to know a few of the guys a little bit more and they asked me about myself and why I was in Ireland. Most were surprised that I was traveling alone and when they found out I was there for my birthday, they all sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Seventeen Irish accents singing just for me! Talk about a dream come true.
At the third bar, one guy asked me what I was most surprised about in Ireland and I had to admit that it was how men and women of dating age interacted. He told me that Irish guys are quite a bit shier than American men hence the forty minute wait at the King’s Head. However, the men did seem to gain liquid courage as the night wore on and it was funny to watch them talk to girls from the vantage point of being “in” the bachelor party and not on the other side as the girl being hit on. They even confided in me about their pick-up line failures—had I become one of the boys?
I laughed when they jokingly blew me kisses during the night or danced horribly off-beat. Most of the night involved good conversation, dancing, pints, and a lot of laughter. At 1 a.m., I walked back to my B&B under the calm skies of a cold Irish night and I was happy with the outcome of my evening.
The evening hadn’t gone exactly as planned, but how can you plan to meet a large bachelor party in Ireland and have a good time? Still, I had pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, met 17 super fun guys from Ireland, and had an exciting experience that wasn’t impeded by our different genders or where we lived in the world.
As a solo female traveler, I discovered that, whether traveling abroad or at home, I could have positive, fun, and affable experiences with men which is a comforting thought since most women are taught to fear men and the prospect of traveling alone. If I had allowed my fears to overrun me that evening I would never have had this epic experience.