The misshapen soles of my olive–green converse whisper the stories of dozens of streets between San Francisco and Philadelphia. My father always says the best way to know a city is to walk its streets.
Before I bid farewell to beautiful San Francisco, I dip my toe in taking solo excursions. A city that once belonged to my grandparents and parents becomes my own as I explore its streets through my own eyes. Months later, Philadelphia is my opportunity to explore a vibrant community while fostering my sense of self.
Knowing a city is comfort and familiarity. You know the places you love, and the grooves on the sidewalk know you, too. I naively want to believe that a new city brings the same experience, ready for you to dive in head–first. But as transplants from every state in the United States and countries abroad, this city is not our claim. When community spaces beckon you to enter, know that awareness is your best companion.
With mindful exploration, Philadelphia becomes my reprieve from dreadful Friday mornings spent grueling over math quizzes and long evenings hunkered over the Moelis Family Grand Reading Room table. While many of my excursions are brief escapes, my roadmap to a perfect day would include caffeine, reading, art, and good food—always good food.
While I’ve never been an early riser by choice, the prospect of a killer smooth latte (iced and paired with a treat when I’m feeling frisky) and a well–loved, second–hand book is enough to wake me from the dead of sleep. A brisk walk to Ultimo Coffee near Rittenhouse Square is a surefire way to jump start your morning.
Their latte and flourless chocolate cake are otherworldly and the perfect pick–me–up on a wet, dreary February morning. Once your drink of choice is secured and your brain hums along with the city’s early risers, it's only right to make your way to House of Our Own Books.
This unsuspecting bookstore sits at 3920 Spruce St., sleepily observing riotous students meandering home after nights crammed into its neighboring Greek homes.
Its minimal square–footage takes on qualities not unlike Mary Poppins’ never–ending carpet bag—engulfing all who enter, defying all rules of space and time. Visitors may be pleasantly surprised to find treasures to fulfill their desires. Enter armed with your latte and baked goods, and exit with a new book to accompany you.
If you’re lucky enough, you might have the opportunity to share in the radically beautiful arts and culture hub that is The Rotunda. Nestled at 4014 Walnut St., just a stone’s throw from campus, this space takes on many identities and transforms to fit the needs of its people. If you plan ahead, you might schedule yourself a visit for one of their exhibits or even a community discourse. Art is visually interactive, beckoning observers to ponder an artist's meaning. Simultaneously, our relationship to art and how we observe can be an introspective act, telling us far more about ourselves than we might realize.
After my feet carry me through the city, there is only one thing on my mind—a warm meal.
On a day when the sun breaks through the February chill, I can't help but feel hung out to dry. I crave sleep, a warm hug—even a home–cooked meal would do. But I am a woman on a mission. Determined to conquer the final frontier of solo excursions, I set out toward 40th Street for dinner at U–Town, a cozy Korean restaurant nestled on a corner behind New College House West.
I find myself seated solo at the counter, warm spices of kimchi and other fermented banchan wafting from the kitchen—the smells and sounds of my childhood embrace me. Truly, the only embarrassment I encounter is my clumsy use of chopsticks, despite 20 years of trying. Belly full of Korean black–bean noodles and surrounded by diners sharing in one another’s company, I'm not alone. I'm home.
I continue to thirst for solo excursions and self–exploration. I want to share the beauty of finding a companion within oneself. Yet, it’s impossible for me to write these stories and share these places without providing assurance.
Know that there is no shame in company or a lack thereof. We are social creatures. We crave companionship and shy away from the unknown. Arms linked or steps falling in stride with one another—company is comfort.
Maybe you’re apprehensive about a solo dinner in the dining hall, a visit to Kiwi for a sweet treat, or even a moment of peace on a Locust bench. Whatever it may be, reluctance to be unaccompanied is legitimate.
There is no shame in fear. The beauty exists in recognizing where fear comes from and how to convey it. Whether it be big or small, the actions we take to know ourselves better can bring on world of clarity.
My time alone doesn’t detract from the joyful moments I share with others—they coexist. I am an amalgam of the love I have for others and the love I grow for myself. We don’t often value our own company to the extent we deserve. I hope that my experiences affirm you as you explore the beauty of self. Who knows what gems you might find along the way.