I spent the last week of January gloriously alone on a solo trip to New York.
I went to New York for a conference, which ended up being fairly disappointing, but the trip itself was wonderful and five days alone was restorative in so many ways. It was the first time I’d been away for any longer than a quick overnight work trip since my son was born almost two years ago, and my first truly solo excursion since I went to Fiji for a week on my way home from a year as an au pair in New Zealand, almost 20 years ago.
I’ve been to New York before, so I felt fairly comfortable and oriented wandering around the city by myself. It turns out, though, that I’m not all that good at going into restaurants and bars alone.
My first night in New York I walked to Union Square and hit up Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to fill the fridge in my tiny AirBnB apartment in the East Village. On my walk home I kept passing cool-looking spots, but came up with a litany of excuses to not go in to any of them.They were too busy. My bags were too heavy. The crowd looked too young. The crowd looked too old. The crowd looked too cool, too hip, not hip enough.
In the end I took my groceries home and made a dinner picnic in bed from the Whole Foods salad bar while watching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on my laptop. You know, as one does on their first night in NYC.
At the conference, too, I felt like a fish out of water. The first night was a mingling event, and although I knew that this couldn’t be the case, it seemed as if every other person (out of the hundreds of people there) knew someone there and it was just lonely old me who was all alone.
Had I been presenting at the conference? No problem. Teaching a class or workshop? No big deal. But weaving my way through a mingler event with a glass of cheap prosecco in my hand trying desperately to catch someone’s eye and strike up a conversation? Yeah, I suck at that.
I finished Brené Brown’s book Braving The Wilderness on the flight home, and highlighted this passage from it:
Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal.
True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.
Damn, Brené! I wish I had read that passage on the way there. I don’t know whether or not it would have made a difference, but I’ll certainly take this forward with me to other trips and other events: no one belongs here more than you.
Although I found it difficult to be alone in crowds of people, I really relished the alone time on this trip. The conference was an excuse to go away, but really, the trip was about self-care.
The apartment I rented was blissfully quiet, and I’d spend my mornings sipping tea and getting work done on my own schedule. I took a yoga mat with me – one I was prepared to leave behind if my bags filled up too much – and carved out a bit of time each day to carry on with my 30-day yoga challenge.
My to-do list in New York was really more of a to-eat list. Since pizza is something that Sweden really doesn’t get right, I ate pizza (by the slice ????) almost every day I was there. My favourites were Bakers Pizza (Avenue A at East 12th Street) and Best Pizza (Williamsburg). On my last day I walked into NoLita and stood in line for 30 minutes for the infamous SoHo Square (pictured below) at Prince Street Pizza, and was frankly underwhelmed by it.
Momofuku was on my list, both the Milk Bar, where I bought one of every kind of cookie and a bottle of corn powder so I can try making their infamous corn cookies at home, and the noodle bar. At Momofuku Noodle Bar there was a short wait for a spot at the bar, and I ended up seated next to another solo traveller.
Since she was on her last night after three months in the city, she indulged in a $50 bowl of ramen topped with truffles, which she generously gave me a taste of. I stuck with a regular old bowl of ramen topped with crispy chickpeas, which was also wonderful. After dinner we decided to get a drink together (see dummy, you can do this stuff) and wandered to a nearby speakeasy that you enter through a secret phone booth in the back of a hotdog shop. I love New York!
Other food-related wanderings took me on a march across town to one of the Doughnut Plant locations, where I asked for a selection of their best doughnuts (omg, their creme brûlée doughnut…). In the interest of time I took them with me, so checked into my health conference with a box of doughnuts stuffed into my purse ????????♀️
From there I walked to Chelsea Market to pick up some Suite One Studio mugs (not an affiliate link) I’ve been coveting from Anthropologie, and then through the West Village to Murray’s Cheese Shop where my friends insisted I must have a grilled cheese sandwich. I did, and it was cheesey and gooey and good.
On my last evening in New York, after a looooong day at the conference, I met a friend for wine and a bite to eat at Terroir Wine Bar in Tribeca. Cork Dork was one of my favourite reads of 2017, and Terroir was featured prominently in the book. I sat at the bar all fan-girl gushing over the infamous binder of wines, met the eccentric owner, and let them take me on a journey, as they’re known for. It was a really great last evening in New York.
It really was a lovely trip, even if I found parts of travelling alone challenging. I learned that perhaps I’m a bit more introverted than I realized, and that I have work to do on my sense of belonging. The time to myself, the break from being a mother and wife and business lady was restorative, and I’ve decided that I want to make it an annual thing.
Now I’m back home, working on getting my pizza-to-vegetable ratio back in check, and will be back to the regular programming shortly!