Sometimes you just need to be alone.
A couple weeks ago, I had the occasion to venture out by myself to Bradenton Beach on a Wednesday morning, plop down my towel and dig into a pile of back issues of Time and ESPN the Magazine. In my reading, I came across this lovely little piece about the beauty of summer. The author writes, “I am more likely to read trashy books, eat sloppy food, go barefoot, listen to the Allman Brothers, nap and generally act like I’m 16 than I’d ever be in the dark days of February.”
Ignoring the fact that February in Florida is not so dark, I immediately wanted to treat summer with this sort of innocent, inactive reverence, to do things without explanation. I waded into the waves by myself, floated on my back with the water over my ears muffling the sounds, staring at the clear blue sky. I had nowhere to be and no one to engage; I tried to make myself think of nothing. I saw the swimming zone buoy and didn’t have to explain to anyone that as kids my sisters and I always talked about swimming out and touching it, but never made it. So I slowly made my way out, reached out and tapped the buoy. I floated back to shore as a thousand happy thoughts crossed my mind, none of which had to be vocalized.
This is the beauty of being by yourself: not having to explain.
Morning on Bradenton Beach—one of my favorite alone moments.
But not every place is great for being alone—especially not for neurotic, self-conscious me. So when I’m faced with lonely lunch hours (often) or evenings sans family, boyfriend and obligation (not often), these, in addition to Bradenton Beach, are some of my go-to locales for savoring the summer solo.
Laurel Park: On the north side of Laurel Street, between Orange and Osprey avenues, Laurel Park is so unobtrusive you’re likely to drive past without noticing it. But just blocks from our office, it’s a peaceful, shady, quiet place to sit and listen to the birds. Some days, I don’t see another soul.
GT Bray Park: Just north of Cortez Road in Bradenton, GT Bray, like the beach, is so expansive that I never feel like I’m intruding—or even noticeable. There’s a great walking trail and endless areas to explore, including expanses of soccer fields that beg to be sprinted across like you’re six again. I especially enjoy the chance to kick the snot out of a soccer ball without having to worry about breaking a window or retrieving it from someone else’s yard.
Southgate Mall: Yeah, inside can be important, especially at noon in August. But Southgate’s windowed ceilings let you savor the sunshine (or the storms), with AC and convenient coffee. Plus, strolling the length of the mall to me feels like being lost in a crowd—in a reassuring way—and for meditative moments I get the feeling I’ll never get to the end, and the shops and people and AC will go on forever.
O’Leary’s/Bayfront Park: Also just blocks from our office, Bayfront Park has the benches and breeze to accommodate me for a full, hour-long lunch break, the entirety of which I can spend trying to convince myself that, Yes, I really do live here. O’Leary’s is great, too, for an instant, after-hours escape—right after work, where I don’t have to meet up with anyone or go anywhere or do anything else. I think I covered the beauty of that locale—and the potential of time spent alone—in a blog I wrote more than four years ago.
The soothing view at O'Leary's.
And there are loads of other establishments (WhiteBerry, Pho Cali and the Hi-Way, my favorite dive bar) that make me feel at home for reading a book or watching a game. Where do you feel most comfortable whiling away your time alone?