By Jessika Harkay |

My spring break was picture perfect on paper.

I was in New York three days before the start of the week-long break for a journalism convention. I was also planning to meet up with one of my best friends from my hometown the day after the convention to spend the rest of my time in New York with.

Two girls ready for adventure in a new city, all alone.

No parents.

Saved money.

And endless plans.

It was all perfect and ready to go until I heard at the end of my convention and the day before our week would start that I’d be the only one making the trip.

The picture-perfect spring break did a complete 180 on me only within a few hours of when the plans were supposed to be happening.

I spent that morning debating to cancel all my hotels and go back home.

I could travel down to Virginia and spend the week with some family or I could wander around and explore a city over 2,000 miles away from home, alone.

The little Miss Independent in me told me to do the latter.

I stayed in New York for six days alone. I learned how the city that never sleeps is also the city of reflection and finding yourself again. Being alone emphasized an underlying independence in myself that I sometimes overlook. It also made me open to exploring outside my comfort zone by having to sometimes depend on the stranger next to me — especially to take those cute Times Square pictures. But most importantly, it allowed me to do things that sometimes I’m embarrassed to do around others.

If you’re ever alone in New York City, here’s some of my go-to advice from my trip.

Explore the City’s Art — and Capture It

This sounds typical, but outside of the beautiful skyscrapers and the endlessly busy streets, there’s so much hidden beauty in the cracks. Everyday I began my day on 46th St. and would take an hour or two to explore in each direction. I’m a sucker for stickers, graffiti and things you can’t find in towns like Waco. I’d always end up on the quiet streets a couple blocks from Manhattan and it’d give me time to reflect. All the different stickers and murals would catch my eye and remind me that it’s okay to be lost—weirdly I got a sense of reassurance.

Explore Brooklyn Bridge and Embrace the Tourist Spots

Although it can be a common tourist spot, I learned that Brooklyn is the hot spot for people aged 18-24 alone on a trip. When I got off the subway, I ran into a girl who was from Turkey and needed someone to take her photos — sure enough I did too. We started talking and ended up creating a crazy friendship I would have never encountered otherwise. Not too long after, another kid our age approached us and we all were talking about our trips, what brought us here and overall putting to rest that you can’t approach anyone in New York. Odds are, tourist attractions will guide people in the same boat towards you.

Hire a Photographer

If there’s one thing I wanted from my first time in New York, it was going to be cute pictures that scream “I’m in the city that never sleeps!” If you’re anything like me, angles, angles, angles are important and sadly, most people can’t capture that picture-perfect moment everyone dreams of having in Times Square or around skyscrapers. Don’t be afraid to do some searching for photographers on Instagram. They’re usually students or young adults trying to make it in the Big Apple, and they often know the in’s-and-out’s of different locations.

Look for the Biggest and Cheapest Pizza Slice you Can Find

The funniest part from my trip was exploring for food. I mostly relied on my instincts and hoped I wouldn’t be dying on the toilet the next day. For the most part, my body did me well. Around 304 W 47th St., I found what looked like a grocery store in the middle of an avenue with restaurants. I walked in and saw cupcakes for over six dollars and of course was turned off. Yet, I also saw a display of pizza bigger than my head for $3.50 and gave it a try. It became one of my favorite highlights of the trip.

Broadway

Let me just start with saying that I’m not a theater fanatic at all. The only reason I found myself on Broadway was because my mom said it was a crime not to go, and figuring I had nothing to lose, I went and saw the Lion King. A few minutes in, I understood the hype around the famous theaters. This was no thrown-together high school play. It literally had me in awe, with the most gorgeous backdrops, singing and interactive characters that I nearly teared up a few times from how incredible the show was. Jump at any opportunity.

I could go on about different little things to do, but these were a few of my favorite moments of the trip that I genuinely appreciated while being alone. Being able to be on my own schedule, do what my heart desired and go with the flow gave me a sense of freedom that I encourage anyone to jump at. Remember — everything is what you make of it.