Back in May, when I started telling people that I was about to fly to New York, by myself, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. And fair enough. I'm a mostly-stay-at-home parent with 2 small children, 2 part-time jobs and a husband who works a lot. Oh, and we're not independently wealthy. Taking off on overseas holidays by myself isn't exactly an everyday occurrence.
The idea took hold when our friend mentioned that she was going to New York for her sister's wedding, and my husband said casually, "You should go with her." I'm pretty sure my response was something along the lines of: "Are you insane?" He started looking up flights and Airbnb's and he insisted, "I really think you should go. The kids will be fine."
Once my initial shock wore off, I came around pretty quickly and spent the next day trying to find someone to go with me. My friend Sam was intrigued (cheap flights! Brooklyn in June! girls trip!), and by the next night we had booked our flights and accommodation.
The whole flight there I was anxious and worried, and a bit morbid to be honest. I’ve never left my daughters for more than one night and I couldn’t help but worry about them. But I have to admit that a long haul flight plus a domestic flight by myself felt positively luxurious compared to all the flights I’ve taken in the last 5 years with 1 or 2 babies/toddlers in tow.
I spent 4 nights in Manhattan by myself before Sam arrived. I slept when I wanted, ate whatever/whenever I wanted and got in the habit of asking myself often, “What would I like to do right now?” I visited museums, walked at least 8 hours a day, shopped at my favourite stores, practiced at two of the yoga studios I had been dying to visit for years now, and treated myself to amazing food. I felt like myself again.
One of the highlights of my whole trip was the first night I arrived. I was exhausted from traveling for 24 hours but I was also starving. I got settled at my Airbnb, had a quick shower, threw on clothes and headed out to grab supplies at the local grocery store. It was about 8:30pm on a beautiful June evening and all the nearby restaurants were bustling. I walked by Aria, and something in me said, “Go treat yourself!!” So I did. I sat up at the bar, alone, and ordered pasta and a glass of wine. I must have looked like a crazy person because you could not wipe the smile off my face. In that moment, I felt myself bursting with happiness and gratitude. I also discovered one of the perks of solo travel: people take care of you! Everywhere I went by myself, I could always get a table for one and people would offer me free drinks, tips, advice etc.
When I first booked the 4 nights for myself in Manhattan, I thought that I might be lonely, ha! I realised that when you’re a mom, and you’re used to zero personal space and having small people bombard you with needs, requests and questions 24/7, being alone feels like heaven. It was like pressing reset on my brain and nervous system.
While this trip was a no brainer for my husband, I struggled with guilt and worry that my daughters would feel abandoned. I had to reframe it in my mind to realise that when my kids see me taking care of myself - whether it’s getting to a yoga class, going out with friends or something bigger, like traveling alone - they’re growing up with the example of a mother who doesn’t always put herself last. They’re seeing self-care in action, and hopefully it will give them permission when they are busy adults, and possibly mothers themselves, to nurture themselves, their interests and their gifts.
When Sam arrived, I moved to Brooklyn and we spent 9 nights staying in the bottom floor of a cosy brownstone. My cup felt so full after a few days on my own and I then had the best time exploring New York with a good friend. Neither of us was interested in doing all of the touristy things so we mostly enjoyed wandering all over Brooklyn and Manhattan on foot. We got some great recommendations from locals and enjoyed so many great meals while we were there. It was truly a dream trip in every way!
Some of the highlights of my trip included:
walking the entire Highline
wandering Chelsea Market (the doughnuttery, yum!)
practising yoga at Jivamukti
exploring the West Village (probably my favourite area)
visiting The Whitney
eating the best grilled cheese sandwich ever at The Spotted Pig
shopping at Anthropologie, Madewell and Sézane
practising yoga at Laughing Lotus (especially the live music class)
eating too many cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery
finally going to the world’s most famous knitting store: Purl Soho
having solo lunch at Tacombi
grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s (love that place)
enjoying brunch at The Wild Son
walking around Dumbo
eating at Shake Shack way too many times!
going to The Commodore for fried chicken and beer after yoga, I’m all about balance
walking all over Brooklyn
going to the Top of the Rock
walking through Central Park
visiting The Met (especially the exhibit Heavenly Bodies)
seeing the Carrie Bradshaw stoop
eating lunch at The Butcher’s Daughter
stopping at By Chloe for treats
eating pizza and beer on our Brooklyn stoop on a sunny evening
walking around Williamsburg (Catbird is swoon worthy)
being able to find good bagels and cream cheese! (E.A.T. was my fave)
eating all the food at Smorgasburg
eating all the pizza at Best Pizza in Williamsburg
having a drink at The Met rooftop bar
dancing at The Jane Ballroom
celebrating Sam’s birthday
laughing our faces off at the Asssscat Show (with Kim Cattrall as the special guest)
stopping at Van Leeuwen for ice cream in Brooklyn
seeing The Woman in Gold in person at The Neue Gallery
finally understanding the subway by the end of our trip