Riding Solo: How to Live Fearlessly in Your Own Company

When was the last time you went out into the world and did something totally alone? For many of us, just contemplating the idea sounds daunting, perhaps even a little bit embarrassing. Somehow, over the years, the solo outing has become something thought to be only for the lonesome. Enter, visions of Bridget Jones crying to “All By Myself” with a bottle of wine as a makeshift microphone.

But today we’re starting a new narrative. Embarking on a solo excursion isn’t anything to be ashamed of. It’s liberating, rejuvenating, and often extremely therapeutic. In the words of Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein, “You can venture out into experiences without the crutch of other people, not because you feel lonely or isolated, but because it generates a new kind of experience.”

But where to start? Here you’ll find stories from real women learning to explore the world as their own plus-one. From the top of a mountain in upstate New York to the bottom of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, their experiences are unfiltered, honest, and above all, inspiring. You’ll even find some advice along the way to help you muster up the courage to follow suit. Just remember to use the hashtag #RidingSolo to share your adventures with us!

Well, what are you waiting for, ladies? There’s a whole world to see!

Dining Solo
Socializing Solo
Traveling Solo
Moving Solo
Your Solo Stories

How to Dine Solo

We all do it every now and again. Lunch on a park bench. A croissant and coffee in a cafe on a lazy Sunday. In these instances, dining solo is easy. So why is it that once a menu and a waiter get involved, the experience becomes so much more intimidating?

We challenged three women to take themselves out for a meal and report back. The only rule: no social media allowed! Diving into Facebook and Instagram during those initial, uncomfortable moments prevents you from truly learning to be by yourself. See how these ladies fared when reserving their very own table for one.

Where did you go?

I went to La Note in Berkeley. I felt like eating warm comfort food!

Have you ever dined solo before?

Only once during my freshman year of college in the dining hall.

Describe how you felt at the beginning of the meal.

I decided to treat it like I was taking myself out on a date. I got dressed up and brought a journal and a book with me in case I needed it.

And how did you feel at the end of the meal?

I felt great! The best part of dining solo was that I felt like I didn't have to rush through anything. I felt like I could take my time and not be on anyone's schedule but mine.

What did you learn from the experience?

No one looked at me weird for eating by myself! I don't know why I thought people would, but no one did.

Would you dine solo again?

Potentially! I think everyone should take herself out on a date once in a while! It's really nice to slow down and reflect.

Where did you go?

I went to Maru Sushi in San Francisco. I usually see people dining alone at sushi so I thought it would be more of the norm.

Have you ever dined solo before?

No! Dining alone in public has actually been a big, irrational fear of mine.

Describe how you felt at the beginning of the meal.

So nervous! I didn't know what to expect. What do I do? Where do I look? Will it be awkward? I really wanted to throw myself into social media or text my friends to tame the awkwardness of just sitting there.

What about at the end of the meal?

It's like I did a 180. I was so calm. It was really nice to just zone out and enjoy my food without being stimulated by conversation the whole time.

What did you learn from this experience?

It’s not scary, and people do it all the time. It was an hour where I was not distracted by my phone, chores at home, social media, etc. I felt refreshed and noticed so many things I don't when I'm dining with another person.

What was the best part about the experience?

Honestly, avocados! My boyfriend is allergic so whenever we go to sushi we can never get avo in our rolls. It’s a small thing, but it was awesome to order whatever I want!

Where did you go and why?

I had dinner at Le P’tit Laurent, a cozy little French restaurant in my neighborhood in San Francisco. I hadn’t given it a real shot yet, and I love French food.

Have you ever dined solo before?

Sure, but it’s been a lot of years. I’ve been married for over 10 and have two kids. When I was single and broke and new to San Francisco, I did a lot of eating alone that first few months before I made a lot of friends. But that feels like another lifetime ago.

How often do you do things by yourself?

These days? Pretty much never. I always either have to take my family places or eat with them or would actually feel guilty that I am alone. Doing things alone can be almost a luxury for a mom.

Describe how you felt at the beginning of the meal.

Super apprehensive! Having family dinner around the table is such a destress moment for me at the end of the work day. I love talking with them about their days at school. It almost felt too indulgent to have a meal alone. I now realize it’s sort of sad that I don’t think I alone am worth that time.

What about at the end of the meal?

I got a nice table by the window, in a nice corner overlooking the restaurant. It allowed me to hide away a little bit and also watch everyone walking by. By the end, I was so much more relaxed and happy that I’d done it. I even finished up early enough that I still got to spend time with the kids, even if it wasn’t over food.

What did you learn from this experience?

I felt as though the waitstaff rushed food out at a faster pace than normal, because they probably thought I didn’t *really* want to be eating alone. More importantly, I couldn’t help noticing how fast I was drinking. I have a habit of needing a drink or two to help feel more comfortable in awkward situations. Usually that kicks in with social situations, but it really kicked in here, too. Once I realized I was doing it, I slowed everything down, and had a much more relaxed time as a result.

Would you dine solo again?

Maybe? It did feel a little bit like a treat. In some ways, it brought me back to my younger, single days a bit, and that was really refreshing. It was a nice mental cleanse moment for me, and that might be nice to do again.

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How to Socialize Solo

When blogger Katie Sturino was invited to go on an organized, Saturday morning group hike, she couldn’t get any friends to commit to coming with her. Instead of bailing, she decided to take her dog as her plus-one and headed for the mountain on her own. What awaited her was an adventure she won’t soon forget.

"I was really nervous that I was going to head up the mountain and be sweaty and panting and get to the top, and it's a field of Instagram models doing headstands and the splits."

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How to Travel Solo

Brit + Co’s creative content producer Maddie Bachelder decided to kick off 2018 by facing one of her biggest fears: traveling alone. For her first foray into the intimidating, but ultimately rewarding world of solo travel, she jetted down to New Orleans for a weekend of jazz, donuts, and a few self-revelations.

"This was such a wonderful trip. I got to see New Orleans on its 300th birthday and I proved to myself that I could have fun on my own and be adventurous."

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How to Move Solo

As a native Californian, Brit + Co’s senior writer Cortney Clift always dreamed of a life in New York City. Last year, she finally made the 3,000-mile leap and started a new chapter in Brooklyn. As she celebrates her one-year anniversary in the city she now calls home, she reflects on what she’s learned from the solo move.

When I was in high school, my family and I traveled to New York City during Christmas vacation. As we boarded the flight back to our Southern California home, I remember telling my mom, “I’ll be back,” in that angsty tone reserved for teenagers.

For as long as I can remember, New York City was the big dream. First, I was going to be a Broadway star. I practiced by singing Sinatra’s “New York, New York” into our at-home karaoke machine for months. Then, after I realized I didn’t really like show tunes and wasn’t great at choreographed dance, I decided to change my career aspirations to becoming a journalist instead.

Fast forward to January 2017. My career in media was off to a promising start as an editor at Brit + Co. Our main office is in San Francisco, but we also happen to have another office in Manhattan. I’d been living in the Bay Area for almost seven years and was ready for a change. I figured, why not make the move now? I’m a born-and-bred Californian and I knew next to no one in New York, but I was sure I’d always regret it if I didn’t at least give it a shot.

"I felt an unshakeable sense of pride in the fact that I had finally made it happen."

Leaving my home state wasn’t easy. The moment I decided to go I already missed the charming Victorian architecture of San Francisco and the redwood forest just across the Golden Gate Bridge. But most of all, I was sad and anxious about leaving my friends behind. In the months leading up to my departure, I created a “Bay Area bucket list” and got a lot of quality time in with my besties by having them help me check things off my list (brunch at Brenda’s, a day in Bolinas, etc.). I knew I wasn’t saying goodbye to them forever, but the bucket list really helped me close a chapter and move onto the next.

On my first full day in my Brooklyn apartment, I walked around my neighborhood in a snowstorm, wearing a smile so fixed, it made my teeth hurt from the cold. I felt an unshakeable sense of pride in the fact that I had finally made it happen. I had successfully moved to New York City – totally by myself.

My first year in the city was daunting, exhilarating, and one of my most impactful life experiences to date. I learned that building a new life takes a tremendous amount of time and care, and that optimism and learning to enjoy your own company are key.

My initial transition east was softened by the magic of the city, but after the set-up period was over, it was time to focus on something that I knew was going to be the hardest part about the move: making new friends. Forming new, adult friendships is often frustrating and somewhat awkward. You probably won’t meet the Rachel to your Monica by chance in a cafe. If you do, let me know the cross streets.

In reality, making new friends as an adult feels strangely similar to dating. Should you send the first text? What should you suggest the two of you do? (The answers, by the way, are “yes, and drinks or a bite to eat is usually a winning invite.”)

The key to forming new, platonic relationships is in the follow-through. Do your friends back home have friends here they’ve offered to set you up with? Take time to actually make those connections happen, and be prepared to do a lot of the organizing up front. You may have to initiate the first few hangs, but if there’s a genuine connection, you’ll start getting invites from the other end soon enough. Establishing a new social circle will take time. Patience is key.

In the interim, there will be bouts of loneliness. Sometimes it will be subtle (“Man, I wish my bestie could go to this event with me.”), and sometimes it might cause a mild panic (“What if I choke on this slice of pizza and my roommate doesn’t come home and I die alone in this apartment?!”). I allow myself to feel those feelings, but I always try to remember that those moments are opportunities for growth and a unique chance to get to know myself better. At the risk of sounding like a Pinterest quote, you've got to "grow through what you go through.”

When I asked a friend who made a similar move before me what she does when she finds herself without plans, she told me, “Be a tourist.” The beauty of living in a new city is that there’s always something you haven’t seen yet. When my weekends were totally empty, I’d often go out and do some of the things people come to New York to experience.

Sometimes I’d pop in a podcast and aimlessly wander the always-changing scenery of Central Park. On colder days, I’d bring a book on the subway and make the long journey to the Upper East Side to explore the halls of the Met Museum. And on one particularly scorching summer day, I spontaneously rode the F train all the way out to Coney Island just to dip my toes in the sand and watch the sunset.

It’s been more than a year now since I left chilled-out San Francisco for the bustling beast that is New York City. More than anything else, my first year here has taught me not to fear time alone, but cherish it  instead. I may never again have the chance to spend so much uninterrupted time with me.

These days, it’s rare that I have a planless weekend. But sometimes on a Sunday, I’ll still hop on the subway, head uptown, and end up alone at the Met. Just me, myself, and maybe a little bit of Van Gogh.

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Your Solo Stories

After Riding Solo’s launch, we asked you to share your own stories about a time when you did something alone. It comes as no surprise to learn that many of you ladies are already killing it on the solo front. From cross-country travels to opening up businesses, here are some of the stories the community has shared with us so far. 

Have any stories or solo adventures you’d like to share? Tag us us in your posts (@britandco) and use #RidingSolo.

"I opened a dance studio with zero loans, furniture, mirrors, dance floor or even a sound system. My local SBA [Small Business Administration] told me to consider other types of dance instruction because no one would be interested in 'my type' of dancing. Took $500 cash that I had and worked feverishly. Will celebrate fifteen years as a dance company and studio owner on March 12, 2018." – @bfmlidaho

"I go to the movies alone all the time. It’s so freeing!! You’re not worried about overreacting and embarrassing yourself in front of others. Your reaction and experience is also not influenced by how your friend next to you is experiencing the same movie. I’ve learned a lot about myself this way." – @littlemadds

"When I was studying abroad I went to England and Ireland completely alone. I flew up from Rome where I was living and stayed in hostels alone along the way. I sometimes forget to acknowledge what it truly took to throw myself out there and just go for it." – @lbraudtx

"I took a 'me trip' to Los Angeles. Saw dear friends, went to life-changing Coldplay concert, spent afternoons in secluded beaches in Malibu, and took long photography walks.'' – @mariterecr

"I’m from New York and wanted to see something different. So in December I went to Omaha, NE by myself. It was great! Went to the diner, ate candy, [went to] the Durham museum and the zoo and stayed in the hotel and watched hallmark Christmas movies. Amazing time!” – @emmali18

"My first through hike was 150 miles solo through some remote terrain. I went 48 hours at a time without seeing another human. It was amazing. I have been trying to recreate that experience since.” – Christina Ortschaft

"For my first solo trip, I drove 10,046 miles over three months across the US and Canada with just my dog and I loved every bit of it! No negotiating what to do, where to go, what to eat. It took all of the stress out of the experiences I had. And being alone with myself and my thoughts forced personal growth that I might never have achieved otherwise.” – Sarah Gentileschi

"I'm a born and raised Californian and I have an opportunity to move to New York by the end of this year to perform in a musical at an off Broadway Theater that my friend wrote. :) This [series] really helped me with my confidence in making my decision.” – Diandra Griego

"This summer I took my first-ever solo vacation to DC! I’d always wanted to try traveling alone, and decided pretty last minute to fly across the country on a whim. I cannot even explain how happy I was that I took the leap, alone. I was able to spend hours meandering through museums without being rushed by anyone. I made dinner reservations at the best restaurants because I wasn’t worried about someone else’s budget. I’m planning another solo trip, this time to Boston, in the spring!” – @lindseyblue

All illustrations by Meryl Rowin