How to Enjoy Cities Solo
I’ve just got back from a great two weeks in L.A, a place that’s rapidly becoming something of a new home in my heart… I’ll be doing a diary post soon with lots of the places I was discovering and favourite spots I was revisiting, but in the meantime I wanted to write a post on enjoying places solo as it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
I was in L.A with my boyfriend for his work, and while I’m not living alone, I was spending plenty of time during the days by myself. Now, I’m not a natural fan of alone time while travelling. I love ‘me’ time at home, in my house but truth be told, having dinner alone out in a restaurant still brings me out in hives aged 30. However over the years thanks to my job mostly, I’ve spent lots of time in cities by myself and slowly learnt how to embrace it… From a disastrous work trip to Italy six years ago, my first proper experience of travelling solo, to spending multiple trips in Paris, New York and L.A by myself, I’ve learnt a few things along the way to get the most out of a city if you find yourself spending some time alone in a city that isn’t home.
Whether it’s 24 hours before heading home from a work trip, or you’ve just moved to a new city for 6 months or forever, I hope this might help a little.
Ok this isn’t always possible in L.A that’s for sure (beware of those hills in East L.A is all I can say after almost fainting at the top of some surprise death stairs), but I still walked around my neighbourhood (Venice) as much as possible. Instead of seeking out a Pilates class (I mean, I don’t anyway but you might), take time walking from A to B instead. It’s the best way to get the lay of the land, discover streets or cafes you might not otherwise and beat jet lag at the same time. Pretty much the only cardio I get is making sure I get at leat 10K steps in a day (my phone has a pedometer) and in L.A I would walk down to Santa Monica and back every other day pretty much. Obviously stay safe, don’t walk through places that might not be safe or at night alone. But during the day, it’s my favourite mode of transport. Plus in Venice, you can walk around the canals or the head down the beach, both great for pictures and peaceful alone time. In New York and central London, you can spend a whole day wandering, getting food and drink on the go and popping into stores along the way. Also in L.A, hikes like Griffith Park Observatory and Runyon Canyon are pretty well populated, it’s easy to do them alone in the comfort of strangers and make pals with dogs (and people) along the way.
I’m never very good at this but it is a great way to feel more a part of a city whilst still working. Take your laptop (or a book or magazine if you’re switching off) and set up camp in a brunch spot/cafe you’ve been wanting to go to. It’s a nice way to get some emails done while working and in somewhere like L.A you’re likely to meet people to chat to too. Much more of an American thing than Europe (you won’t see this in Paris pretty much anywhere), but it’s definitely a great way to get breakfast or juice somewhere you’ve been wanting to try if you’re flying solo. I even get geeky about it and google something like ‘best cafes to work remotely in xxx’ and use resources like Timeout or L.A eater to narrow it down.
Head to the Beach
Ok this is L.A specific I concede, but it’s a pretty easy way to enjoy the weather, get some rays and people watch all at once if you happen to find yourself somewhere sunny. It’s not that crazily expensive to Uber out to Malibu too and get a takeaway sandwich from the end of Malibu Pier at Malibu Farm to sit of neighbouring Surf Rider beach for a few hours. Take a hat, a book or a phone loaded up with podcasts and soak up some sun by yourself for the afternoon.
Set Up Girl Dates
Don’t be afraid to look up those long lost friends or the new ‘only on instagram’ pals in the real world. I’ve met some real life friends of friends after they reached out online and have done it myself if I’m in a new place and have time to kill. Just don’t take it personally if not everyone has the time; you’re a visitor whereas they’re going about their real, daily life and chores. It might come to nothing, or it might lead to a new lifelong friend in a new city. Worst comes to worst, you have someone to chat to over coffee or lunch. I always ask local friends for their favourite spots too so I can add them to my list.
To Market, To Market
Shopping is of course an easy solo activity and can easily take up a whole day if you have the time and credit card limit (note, never endorsing spending beyond your means but you get me). But flea markets or farmers markets are a great way to get to know a city better and the good one’s are often on ‘must-do’ lists too. From Rosebowl and Santa Monica farmer’s markets in L.A, to Portobello in London and Sunday bric-a-brac markets in Paris along the Seine or in Pigalle. I love doing stuff like this by myself even out of choice sometimes. Plus farmer’s markets really make you get a feel for living in a place and buying fruit and vegetables for your Airbnb is like playing make believe for a morning.
If In Doubt, Takeaway
If you want to eat somewhere and you really can’t stomach sitting alone, get it to takeaway. I love the idea of being empowered and sitting alone outside for lunch or dinner (I did it all of two times in L.A), but I just haven’t reached that point of mature enlightenment just yet. Instead, try ordering food to takeaway or better yet, get it delivered to your hotel or Air bnb. If I’m away for work somewhere and have zero dinner plans or am jet lagged on the first night, we’ll fall back on this plan if we’re are in an apartment. Equally, taking an Acai bowl or a breakfast smoothie to the beach in L.A is a great way to feel like you’re in holiday mode all by yourself. In the states, Chowhound and Uber Eats have tonnes of good places while in London and Paris, there’s Deliveroo.
The first time I ever went to New York, not that long ago either, I had a raging cold, it was minus 100 but I was determined to see the city. Me and my enormous parka took ourselves uptown and I walked around the entire MET while dosing myself up on day nurse. The first time I ever went to Paris too, my friend who I was staying with had to work so I went to the Louvre by myself followed by Shakespeare & Co and walking down the Seine. Galleries and exhibitions are a great way to get a culture fix, get inspired and not have to talk to anyone, especially on a rainy, cold day. And yes, even L.A has the latter….
Go Easy on Yourself
Lastly, don’t feel the pressure to cram everything in or seek out company 24/7. Enjoy those little moments having room service in your hotel room, or doing emails in a different environment and just getting wander around a new city. It’s cool to just chill in your hotel and have a bath with Netflix rather than hitting up an amazing restaurant. It’s moments like these I’m sure our mothers and friend’s with kids would tell us they wish they had more of from time to time so relish it rather than race for it to be over. I try and remind myself of this when I start putting pressure on myself to do, do, do in new places rather than just enjoying what I want to do in that moment and sometimes, that’s sweet FA.
If you have any key travelling alone stories or tips, pop them in the comments for everyone else….
Grey jeans | Citizens of Humanity
Tee | The Great
Woven bag | Vintage Balenciaga via Vestiaire Collective
Shoes | Mari Giudcelli
Woven leather flats | St Agni
Shades | Folk and Frame
Polka dot silk shirt | Realisation Par
Flip flops | Havaianas
Blue jeans with embroidery | Sandy Liang
Stripy top | Bec & Bridge
Multi coloured bag | vintage Chanel
Striped bikini | Faithfull the Brand
Beige shorts | Zulu and Zephr
Black top with holes on sleeves | Chloe
Woven basket box bag | Wood Grey
Grey cashmere track top | Zoe Jordan
Black denim skirt | ReDone
Trainers | Veja
Ph. by myself and Scott Leon