Dates for One: Solo Excursions for Your Next ‘Me Day’

When I first moved to New York City as a single woman in my 20s, I didn’t know very many people and found myself excited, but also apprehensive about exploring on my own. I soon discovered that having the freedom to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted gave me a sense of empowerment. I didn’t realize how rewarding it would be to go places solo. With each new excursion, I felt my self-confidence grow. I discovered that I could navigate just about anywhere on my own — and find joy and a sense of accomplishment in doing it. 

No matter where you live or what you’re interested in, there are plentiful opportunities for solo entertainment, adventure, and discovery. Many activities are free or budget-friendly, so being low on cash doesn’t have to stop you from having fun or learning something new. Here are a few ideas for “dates for one” that engage both the senses and the spirit. 

See through new eyes

Whether you’re a recent transplant or have lived in your hometown all of your life, it’s always possible to “see” through new eyes. I recently took a drive past my childhood elementary school, and while I was surprised to see what was different, it was oddly comforting to see that teachers were still displaying their students’ artwork on the windows. The construction paper butterflies taped to the glass gave me a sense of perspective about my own life and the passage of time.

Many communities have at least one gallery or museum, but if there are none close by, create your own art. Use a cell phone, digital camera, or even a disposable camera and take yourself on a photography adventure. One of my friends photographed a series of interesting doorways to public buildings. It was surprising to see how much variety existed in something I usually just pass through. 

Savor what’s in front of you

It wasn’t until I lived on my own that I discovered how relaxing it could be to dine alone, whether at home or in a local restaurant. Trying out new recipes helped me cultivate my cooking skills—and savor the results. If you feel shy about dining out by yourself, bring along a good book or simply “people watch.”

Pet your furry friends

Cuddling or playing with a furry friend is a great way to relax and boost your mood. My cat plays “fetch,” and no matter how many times she retrieves her favorite toy, it always makes me happy. And I can’t help but smile every time I see my neighbor taking her small white dog Rainbow out for a walk. Rainbow takes joy in investigating everything that seems new to her on the way to the park. 

If you don’t have a pet, many animal shelters are in need of volunteers to help socialize stray or abandoned animals to help make them more adoptable.

Turn it up

For an instant boost, listen to your favorite songs while going for a walk or run. Go to a concert, attend a book reading, or listen to a book on tape. Most libraries offer digital media like e-books or audiobooks you can borrow for free. 

Regardless of where you are, something as simple as spending time out in nature and listening to the sounds—whether in a forest, near a body of water, or in a city park—can be soothing and reinvigorating. Being outside always has helped me to get out of my own head—and back into my heart.

Taking myself on “dates for one” has taught me that however you cultivate more joy in your life is time well spent. I don’t have to wait until a friend is available to hang out or feel shy or awkward because I’m solo. By learning to enjoy whatever opportunities the day brings, I’ve discovered that time by myself is rewarding. 

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Lauren Jonik is a writer and photographer in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in 12th Street, The Manifest-Station, Two Cities Review, The Establishment, The Oleander Review, Bustle and Ravishly. She is working on a memoir about coming of age with a chronic illness.