Thursday, 15 December 2016

Things to do in NYC (or any major city) alone


As I write this post, I'm sitting on a cheap chair in Barnes & Noble's Bookstore Cafe, sipping on a too-hot Starbucks coffee and patiently tapping my finger as I wait for the 'complimentary' wifi to load my Spotify. Sounds ~artsy~ right? Wrong - It's so very far from artsy. What it is, despite my perhaps-too-honest description, is kind of pleasant.

New York city's Lexington Avenue Barnes & Nobles is filled - I mean, every seat at every table - with people either reading, writing or typing. There is no talking [or no noise, really, save for the faint Christmas carols that blur in the background], but there is an air of peacefulness and respect: every one of us has come here to be with people, without being with people. To be alone in company. It's amazing. And as thrilled as I am to be back in New York [I haven't complained about the cold nearly as much as usual], I've found myself returned back into the position of solo travel.

As someone that really enjoys personal space, and honestly craves 'alone time' a lot at college, this isn't a bad thing. Enjoying a city in solely my own company is not something I've ever really feared or struggled with. However, I know that for a lot of people, being solo in a city, regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar it may be, can be daunting.

Below are my favorite go-to things to do in New York when I'm alone, although you can really do these in any city at all, I'm sure!

  1. Find a cosy cafe, order a warm drink, and read/write/watch Netflix. There's a huge difference between reading or watching TV in your bedroom and watching it in a public space - you're no longer 'cooped up' and alone, although you're not forcing awkward small talk with the woman beside you on the bus, either. It's the perfect balance. [If the city you're in is unfamiliar to you, I'd recommend searching for the top quiet cafes, or best cafes to study in - that normally gives you the right kind of results without a buzzing aura of Instagram Foodies]
  2. Go for a run and/or walk. For me, these are two different things, although they don't have to be. Going for a run is, I find, a great time-killer if you're not sure what to do with yourself, as well as a really nice way of seeing the city. Here in New York, I love running through Central Park, taking whatever little pathway I come across, people-watching as I do so. I feel both within and outside of the city at once, which is everything I want in a bustling metropolis. Walking, although offering the same things, is a different experience. Your heart rate isn't amped, yet your eyes are wide open, and you're discovering the city in a similar yet completely different manner. Going for a walk through the streets for a few hours is an amazing way to window shop and familiarize yourself with what the city has to offer, as well as to find a hidden place for late lunch that you'd never been to before!
  3. Take photos. Going around your city, or another city, with a camera can seem touristy-y and foolish [and I suppose to a degree it is], however it gives you a purpose. When you're wandering the city aimlessly, I would argue that you're still doing something, although perhaps you simply aren't aware of it. For those of you who like to feel like there's a method to the madness, and that there's a specific thing that you can point to as to what got you out of bed, then something as simple as taking photos for an album or portfolio is a great idea. Plus, just as with walking around, looking for 'original' photos of a city you either know, or the world has perhaps seen at every angle, can take you to new parts of the city that you'd never venture out to otherwise. Take the opportunity!
  4. Sign up for some classes. I'm not talking about beginner pottery classes [unless you're into pottery, in which case, go for it!] - I'm talking about classes that spark your interest. For me, this includes everything from spin classes to yoga classes, or even creative writing classes. Most major cities have everything on offer, if you're willing to look for it!
  5. Treat Yourself. It's rare that you get the time to really be by yourself, for yourself, so take the chance! Go and spend four hours in a hair salon, coloring, cutting and blowing your hair out, if that's something you've been wanting to do for a while! Or take yourself off to a day spa for a massage or facial - do something that you haven't had time for, and that you mightn't get time for in a while, once you're surrounded by friends, family and commitments.
  6. Stay In. I don't mean the whole time, because this post is aimed at avoiding exactly that state of hermitage - however, a night in with a bottle of wine and some cheap and delicious pizza, in front of the TV [or perhaps in the bath? Weird or cool, you tell me?] does sound pretty incredible, doesn't it? 
  7. Go to a show, film or performance. Your retired grandmother isn't the only person that goes to the cinema at 3pm on a Sunday, alone, and sobs shamelessly the whole way through Nicholas Sparks' predictable-yet-still-somehow-gut-wrenching new film. You can, and should, follow in those footsteps! Go and see a film that you either want to see [but know nobody is going to want to see it with you], or know will make you sob [because this way nobody sees you sobbing] and just enjoy it! The reality is that once you're in the cinema, it's dark and nobody notices or cares, because at 3pm on a Sunday everyone is alone, realistically. Although this doesn't only apply to cinemas - go to free concerts, stand up comedy, art exhibitions, inspirational speeches, book readings... whatever takes your fancy! You don't need someone by your side holding your hand like it's the first day of school again, you do you!
  8. Stop procrastinating. If you have some paper, article or piece of work that you're supposed to be doing over this 'time off' period, just do it. You'll feel a lot more as though you actually have time off if you don't have a huge deadline lingering above you for weeks! [I personally recommend going back to number one to tackle this one... doing your work in a coffee shop rather than your office is that much more freeing]
  9. Foster your newest companion! I have to say that one of the best parts of being alone in NYC during the day at the moment is my puppy... you all know I'm in love with my little caramel-colored shitzu-poodle pup [or "shitpoo" for short], and having her around is honestly like a little bundle of joy. Over the holiday period, lots of pet shelters and even pet stores close down, at least for a few days, and you may find that you have the chance to foster a little kitten or puppy for a few days, to give it a home and some loving over the holiday period! 
  10. Volunteer. Most major cities, even minor ones, have a ton of volunteering opportunities that offer you as much as they offer those that rely upon their services [perhaps more]. Whether you volunteer in a soup kitchen, as a dog walker, in a day care or simply in a local store, your hours of freedom are put to productive use without the looming pressures of 'real work' - plus, if this is a place where you're settling in or will be for a while, volunteering is an amazing way to meet new people and establish connections.


Don't fear your own company, and don't settle for boredom - the city around you is only as exciting as you allow it to be, so just find something to do [make something to do] and you'll notice colors, people, places and atmospheres that you never knew existed.

Love,
Annabel

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