Helloooo, helloo! Yes you read that title right, I’m going to talk about New York a bit more. I’m in the process of planning my next solo adventure (stay tuned), which got me thinking back to the first and I figured, why not share my experience of solo travel? I did write about New York which you can read here, however in that post, I never really wrote about why I travelled alone or my experience of being in a brand new place, half way around the world by myself- by myself at CHRISTMAS, yknow the time of year where you should be everything but by yourself.
So in this post I bring to you why I travelled alone, the pros and cons of solo travel, my verdict and why you should travel alone!
Why did I travel alone?
Initially, this was not the plan. I had the idea of visiting New York for years, literally a childhood dream. This became a lot more of a reality as I got older and it got to the point where I figured my first trip to the States might as well wait until I turn 21. One of my childhood friends had her birthday the day before mine, so I extended the idea that I was looking at going and would she be interested. We spoke for months planning and brainstorming ideas of where to stay and what to see then when it came down to booking, she started to ignore my messages. Now if you know me, I really don’t care about a couple of messages being ignored, like I’m a busy gal but this was important. It got to the point where I’d heard nothing for a few weeks so I just went ahead and booked it. The only thing that bothers me about that entire situation is in those few weeks I waited, flights went up £300 odd and that was beyond annoying! I just wish she’d have said she didn’t want to go or whatever then I would have had £300 more for the adventure but OH WELL. So that’s how I ended up going alone, cos you better know this gal was still going to New York for her birthday.
[All around the Rock is teeming, be warned]
The Ups: the highlights of solo travel
If you couldn’t grasp from my first New York post, I LOVE New York. Seriously, I love it. I still dream about it, I still get those Big Apple feels when I watch a film set there, or someone else talks about going, UGH I just love New York! New York is everything my childhood heart dreamt it would be and more. I’m getting poetry inspo right here, right now just thinking about it…. ‘A Love Letter to New York’…. stay tuned. I digress.
1) I did what I wanted, when I wanted
Woah hello, obvious but it’s true. I woke up super early and explored til late. I ate when I wanted, I went to the museums and galleries I wanted to go to, I stopped to look at all the mad architecture, when I wanted. Are you catching my drift? There was no compromise on my trip. Everything I wanted to get done and see, I got done. I didn’t have to choose between the Empire State, the Rockefeller or the One World Trade Center- I could go up all three, I could go up none etc.
This is arguably the biggest pro for solo travel. With more people comes the sacrifice of individual wants. Having said that, even when I’m in groups, I’m a very ‘you do you and I’ll do me’ sorta gal- it can be kind of annoying for those friends who can’t be on their own when I’m there like oh hey this is where I’m going, don’t go if you don’t want to and they’re all like no it’s fine. I get it’s annoying but I’m at the point now where I don’t do things I don’t want to do, and I don’t think that’s a bad way to be. Like seriously gal, cut the chord, be independent! So there’s point numero uno.
[View from the Empire State Building]
[Views from the One World Trade Center aka the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere]
[One World Trade Center with lil Lady Liberty on the right]
[Empire State Building as seen from the Rockefeller]
[Central Park as seen from the Rockefeller]
I know this is a huge concern for a lot of people when it comes to solo travel, especially solo females but never once in New York did I feel unsafe. Hey Mum, if you’re reading this, just skip ahead a bit. I didn’t even feel unsafe when I found myself slightly lost, walking down a sketchy street with only a handful of interesting behaving characters way, way after dark. I didn’t exactly stick around but I didn’t feel unsafe either. The key to safety, like anywhere is common sense.
3) Comfortable with my own company
Not really new for me because as much as I love spending time with family and friends, I’m actually really good at being on my own and really do value being in my own company. The big tester of this, I’m giving it’s own full point next because it was certainly a highlight. But yeah anyway, I guess it goes without saying, but you really do need to be okay on your own, if you’re going to travel alone. Of course you’ll meet people, but there’s always going to be a time where you’ll be stuck with your own devices. It’ll help you in other aspects of life as well- you don’t want to be that adult who can’t be on their own (see that not so great film but easy to watch ‘How to Be Single’ and learn from Alice. Oh, it’s based in New York too).
I actually had a lot of human contact considering I wasn’t in a hostel, which is where you would probably meet the bulk of people. I met people on the Hop On Hop Off, I met people in my hotel. Yknow me being me, I said hi to people and got chatting here and there and to be honest, it was my accent that received the most comments.
4) I sat in a bar by myself!!!
A strange point but this was certainly a highlight. Prior to this trip, I’d go anywhere and do anything by myself with zero problemo. Everything that is, except sit in a bar by myself. I mean, I’d go sit in a bar or pub by myself, if I was expecting a friend like that was no big deal but sit in a bar and drink alone? Am I suddenly your local elderly man sat on his jack jones at the end of the bar?! I was in a dilemma because I wanted a drink on my 21st birthday, I wanted a nice bit of dark rum to celebrate the milestone but I was travelling alone. My hotel had a rum house attached to it so that was a good place to start, and in the evening of December 22nd, I waltzed in there, ID at the ready and ordered my $14 rum and coke. I didn’t get ID’d by the way, which was hugely annoying- I could have been in there every night drinking rum and listening to jazz! In retrospect, being on my own probably gave the game away because even now back in England, I don’t get ID’d when I go in a bar alone.
Anyway, this was a highlight because I finally did the dreaded ordeal of being sat in a bar by myself and it wasn’t even that traumatic. It was actually fine. My accent told the barman that I was not local and when he wasn’t serving, he stopped to chat to me, which was nice. Plus there was a backdrop of live jazz, which really added to the feels of my 1920s inspired hotel.
5) I can rely on myself
This I have learnt through uni, but being on the other side of the world all by myself, I now realise this more than ever. If things went wrong, or I got lost- I had no one to fix it other than myself. Now I don’t know if I’ve ever been this person because I am quite confident and very go with the flow, but sometimes you can rely on others without realising. I’m talking mostly about navigation because I can’t really think of anything else but sometimes you go somewhere with a friend and if they’ve been there before, or they have internet, they’re the tour guide. In New York, I only had internet in wifi spots but I also do have the ability to read a real life paper map so I wasn’t particularly bothered about getting around. The streets are primarily a grid system so that wasn’t too difficult either. I did get lost in Central Park at one point but that’s only because I was trying to find the route out that would lead me closest towards the MoMA. So, travelling alone, I can rely on myself. Having said that, I was in another English speaking country and I am aware that this would be more difficult if I wasn’t familiar with the language- but that’s a challenge for another day.
[The fountain backdrop from Blair and Chuck’s wedding. If u know, u know]
[Vincent van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art]
Aw god, is this another cliche? New York was so much more than I ever imagined it to be. I’ve always felt so inspired by it and now I’ve actually been, the Big Apple has fully reeled me right in. I am so encaptured and engrossed with New York. I really want to go back and I’d like to live there one day (for a period of time at least). It has everything and more! I find it strange hearing of people who don’t like New York, but at the same time I do completely understand that- whilst still thinking it utterly mental. To each their own, ey! I’m so in awe of the concrete jungle.
Other than the fact I am apparently infatuated with a city, my time in New York has inspired my wandering heart and the growing need to explore! Although I have had a couple of trips since NYC, I’m excited to go solo once again. Like I said, stay tuned for the next one I have planned as it’s not your usual solo trip, let’s say.
[Cathedral of St John the Divine]
[The Flat Iron building aka one of my favourite pieces of architecture ever]
The Lows: the not so great parts of solo travel
Okay actually, I didn’t hate any part of exploring NYC on my own. Actually, I hated having to leave. So cliche I know but hello, did you read how much I love New York?!
I did have one relatively concerning moment in the airport having just landed in JFK. As I flew from Dublin, all of the security was their end so I landed as a domestic in JFK. This means that I literaly got off the plane, went to get my bags and then went to my hotel. Hahaha except the bags, that bit did not flow too smoothly. I’m stood waiting at the conveyor and the bags did take a while to arrive considering we didn’t have to factor in passport control or anything but a while they did take. The bags started to come out, and all the people around me started to leave with their bags and I’ve been waiting well over an hour with still no sign of my bag. I could count on one hand the amount of people from my flight still waiting for their bags. I was waiting for at least an hour and a half by the time my bag finally showed up and in that time I was mildly freaking out that it had been lost and what was I going to do, I’ve only just got here! I say mildly because I was using the airport wifi to ring home and let all the worries of my mother know that I had landed and was fine. Other than that, there were no other mishaps and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip.
So it wasn’t a very balanced argument as such, but I truly have nothing negative to say about my solo experience in New York- other than the minor luggage mishap, but even that wasn’t a big deal and now I look back and laugh at it. Overall, I had a very positive experience exploring NYC solo and I would recommend it to anyone- especially around the Christmas period, it truly is an experience.
Why you should travel solo!
Other than the fact you’ll love it, you’ll become more confident, comfortable on your own and you’ll awaken the nomad within you! If you’re already these things, it’s still tons of fun- you get to do what you want, when you want and you’ll meet some crazy people! Who cares if it’s only a mini break in Europe, a week or so in the States, a full year in South East Asia, anything is a start and you’ll do them all at some point! You really can’t judge solo travel and how you’ll cope until you just dive in and do it.
I’m planning trips for SEA, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Hawaii, Cuba- you name it, I have some sort of itinerary and bucket list for sooo many places. Half the fun is the planning, you just have to get past that initial nerves/fear/what ifs. Book it and don’t look back!
I hope you found this a useful insight, and at the very least enjoyed the snaps I took! I’ve also posted this at a good time of year to get on the NYC at Christmas bangwagon, start looking and book your flights becaue you won’t regret it!