Flying Solo | New York, allow me to reintroduce myself

The year was 2005. The San Antonio Spurs were NBA champions. The New England Patriots were kings of the NFL. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the world lost the comic genius of Richard Pryor.

It short, 2005 was a very bad year.

It was personally a very bad year also. I was in an unhappy relationship. I was unhappy with my job. I was generally not happy with anything. Three years after graduating from business school, all the hope and optimism was gone. I needed to press the reset button and reboot my life. But how do you do that? How do you turn things around and change directions?

I did what any card-carrying introvert would do…

I went on a trip by myself.

“The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself. “ Thales

I took the train from Toronto to New York, spent 3 days in Manhattan, then took the train to Washington where I hung out with my Mom for 3 days as she attended a conference in DC. Then, I hopped back on the train and returned to Manhattan for a couple more days, before going home.

That trip changed my life. I returned with a plan, a purpose and a goal. I was going to change all the things that I didn’t like about my self and my life. I would do it by setting goals for the year. To ensure that I met my goals, I planned to set monthly and weekly goals for myself.

The end result was so positive and so successful that the person I was between the years 2002 to 2005 is a complete stranger to me now.

You would think that after having such a successful experience that I would get away for a trip on my own more often. Well, until last month, I hadn’t… I let life take over and did not afford myself the time I needed to get away and reflect on my own. Last month, I stepped it up and returned to New York for a weekend by myself.

“The only journey is the journey within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

First, I’d like to thank my wife for holding down the fort while I was away. She understands how important this is for my mental health.

So much brain power is wasted every day on putting out fires or rushing from one appointment to another. There is rarely time to just think and plan for the future. There isn’t time to just be alone with my thoughts.

You would think that New York is a strange place to go if you are seeking solitude. I find it the one place where you can be totally alone and have millions of people around you. You can go to great restaurants by yourself without people feeling obliged to talk to you or looking at you funny for being by yourself. New Yorkers can be really friendly, but they can also mind their own business. I appreciate both.

“A man who finds no satisfaction in himself will seek for it in vain elsewhere.” – La Rochefoucauld

Any way, the results of this trip will be less dramatic than the last. This wasn’t a trip to contemplate changing my life. I really like my life. This was about recharging and enjoying my own company. The introverts will know what I’m talking about.

Getting away is therapeutic. I feel a lot better and I really need to do this more often. The challenge is finding the time. As H.W. Shaw said “It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself, but the most inconvenient one, too.”

Some day I’ll blog about my favorite places to eat, drink and stay in Manhattan. But for now here is my September 2012 NYC recommended list. Places that stood out on this trip:

  1. Where to stay:  Wyndham Garden Hotel Chelsea West 24th Street – The rooms were small. Great for this solo trip. There were a lot of great restaurants and bars around. It’s also, very close to subway for easy access to the rest of the city. (Tip: choose a room in the back of the hotel. The view may not be great, but it’s super quiet.)
  2. Where to eat: Hill Country Barbecue Market, 30 West 26th Street – The plan was to have dinner at The Breslin in the Ace Hotel. It’s just a short walk from my hotel. But the smell of BBQ stopped me in my tracks. Hill Country has its own meat-smoking room. The aroma was intoxicating and you can smell it from down the street. Given my love of southern cooking, how could I eat anywhere else? The pork spare ribs were great, along with the collard greens and sweet potato bourbon mash. I also really enjoyed the live country music. But hey, I may have been drunk from the smoked meat smell in the air. Barbecue can do funny things to a person.
  3. Where to shop: Fat Witch Bakery @ the Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue – My boss is always good for an interesting food or wine recommendation. On this trip he directed me to the Fat Witch Bakery in the Chelsea Market, home of NYC’s legendary brownie. It’s worth the trip just to walk through the Chelsea Market. There are lots of interesting food and shops to explore. But the brownies are extraordinary at the Fat Witch Bakery. I picked up a bag of Witch Ends for my boss. He loves them and I recommend trying it out.

If you get a chance to try out any of my recommendations, I would love to hear your thoughts.

“All wonders you seek are within yourself.” – Sir Thomas Browne


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