[NYC Travels] PART 2: The Thrill Of It All
This is reality and you're here. There's no looking forward or back anymore. You made it and now you know you can; the least you can do is just be.This is reality and you're here. There's no looking forward or back anymore. You made it and now you know you can; the least you can do is just be.
As we've experienced in "[NYC Travels] PART 1: Hello Brooklyn!," my first few days in the city involved going to my must-visit destinations, meeting up with my family who coincidentally decided to vacation in New York the same time as me, and discovering that the mosquito bites I received the night I arrived from Montreal became infected.
Thankfully, the latter is probably the worst event that happened to me while being on my solo trip. Like I've mentioned in the previous articles I've written about this special journey, what remained the most significant was the self-growth I noticed within myself from planning the trip to this very moment. My last article on this big trip of mine will be centered on just that, but for now, on goes the storytelling of my first time in New York City.
DAY 7: August 28th - Strand, take my money!
Two days prior, I walked into Strand Bookstore to feel out the vibes of the shop I was most excited to see. I immediately knew that I had to go back and stay there for hours, because it was a wonder to my eyes and to my soul. Inside and out featured an array of colours, pins, tote bags, and of course, the ocean of books, that combined -- made my entire self smile.
After buying what I could at the bookstore, I walked just across the street to a coffee shop called The Bean, which I discovered while I was researching places to eat in New York City. As I walked in, I first noticed the selection of food from macarons to sandwiches, the rainbow tiling, and the pretty lamps dangling from the ceiling. I bought a smoothie, took a seat near the window at a small round table, and wrote my daily journal entry (part of which is shared below). This is also where I met my first New Yorker!
(when I stopped writing the time.. but probably around 1PM) EST
"... Right across the street is a café called "The Bean" that I actually discovered when I was searching places to eat in New York. ~ I met a girl here, since we sat next to each other at our tables!! She's a year younger, from Buffalo, NY, and is an upcoming freshman at NYU. She had these cool flare pants, a flower crown, glasses, and short hair.
Yay me! for finally meeting a 'New Yorker.' :D"
FUN FACT: I actually wrote that when I was sitting right next to her while she was doing work on her laptop. She stood right behind me in the lineup as we were ordering and when I know good vibes, I go for the good vibes, so I decided to speak to her. I also got to this point in my trip where I really wanted to meet people, so I started stepping out of my comfort zone to speak to strangers. Plus, as a tourist, what better excuse is it to ask for help?
After my time in the shop, I was feeling like being frugal with my money (so that I could spend more of it at Strand on my last day) and walked to the nearest Trader Joe's to buy groceries, like apples, granola bars, bread, and cold cuts; not only so that I could save money, but also so that I wouldn't have to stray away from adventuring just to feed myself.
PRO TIP: GO TO TRADER JOE'S ASAP THE DAY YOU ARRIVE IN NEW YORK CITY. I swear, I saw the cheapest prices there... it was a dream. I also later received a tip that you should stop by Asian stores to get the good discounts too. You can also decide not to stay in a bougie-ish neighborhood like I did, because the prices reflect the kind of neighborhood you're in.
DAY 8: August 29th - Nothin' but a dream come true.
Today, my family made their way to the neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, to check out my temporary pad before heading to Greenwich Village and Chelsea in Manhattan. We took the F train to the city for about an hour (which is a commute time I quickly got used too, since my school commute back home is that long) and first stopped by the iconic building from the TV show Friends. We also walked by beautiful brownstones that look like no one actually lives in them (or they're probably owned by one of those wealthy people who use it as a home when they're in the city).
It started raining sometime during the day, which gave us an even better reason to visit the Chelsea Market, situated indoors (similar to Granville Island in Vancouver). By this time, it was around lunch and the market was pretty busy. My family and I separated as they bought pizza nearby and I decided to explore the market some more and hit more of my must-visits.
Inside, I went a bookstore, walked through a sort of craft market featuring independent artists, and drank a decent latte. I wasn't too hyped to walk out into the pouring rain, but there were still hours left until the sun went down, so I wanted to make the most of my day.
While I was walking in the heavy rain, it was one of the few times, to my surprise, that the streets were almost empty. From previous research, I read that there was this popular candy store in the city which solely sold Swedish candies called Sockerbit. I found the small shop and looked around for a bit until I realized how much I didn't want to spend on candy. At the end of treasure hunt, I'm just glad I actually managed to find it.
In the evening, I was set to watch a Broadway show, so I had more time to spare. I walked to the nearest station that would bring me to Central Park so that I could make the free hours of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Since I arrived there approximately one hour to closing, I just browsed one floor and the gift shop to evaluate how much money I'd possibly be spending there when I would come back another day.
Around dinner time, I met up with my family again in Times Square and hugged all of them goodbye, since they were leaving the next day, and at night, I saw the Broadway Musical Waitress. I'll let my journal entry speak for itself, but it was absolutely impeccable and one of the most rewarding investments I've made thus far in my life.
I use the word 'investment,' because Broadway shows aren't cheap... I wasn't surprised to be seated amongst middle aged couples, but I felt pretty luxurious when I bought my $12 USD apple pie in a tiny jar while adults bought their wine.
Also, a tiny note on Times Square; it's probably my least favourite area of New York. Imagine having a headache and wondering what it would look like in real life... this is it. I can also say that it's the personnification of my mind when I overthink; people (seen as thoughts) everywhere, a sight almost suffocating for introverts -- you can see more of the streets later in the night, but any other time during the day, AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
(once I got home from the Broadway show) ~ 11:30PM ish EST
"Waitress" was amazing. I think that the actual event of seeing a Broadway show (my first at that!) was so unbelievably significant to me. Although, my brain found a metaphor, a connection when the cast of the show did their final bow. At that moment, it's like a glass broke into pieces to show -- to really show what was behind it.
This whole trip has been so surreal. I have a feeling that this will be one that will show its impact when I go back home.
I truly couldn't even take in that I'm in New York City -- the somewhere I've been dreaming of for forever (pun intended ;).
It's funny because there are no words to describe how it's been so far. The days go by so slow, yet so fast that I can't quite form a singular thought or expression to tell you how it's been.
I really am happy. That is all I can say for now. ~
When the amazing and talented cast bowed at the end of the show, the wall between my inner idealism and reality broke, and the two opposites merged together (or at least noticed each other).
The meaning of living is subjective, but when people think about going on an adventure to "live your life," you first imagine backpacking and looking a top mountains. Sure, that particular experience can give you the sense of being free and feeling present, but for me, it was in this moment this very evening which struck me how far I'd come.
Looking back just a few days ago, I felt the same way when I was sitting at the top of Mont Royal in Montreal. That's why I find solo travelling so rewarding. The experience can look so one dimensional from the outside, but the meaning behind it is incomparable.
DAY 9: August 30th - When oceans (of problems) arise.
This day was the last of my terrible ones and honestly, I kind of forgot about it because it wasn't as fulfilling as I wished it could have been.
My day started with visiting the AMNH for a few hours. It isn't the most aesthetically pleasing museum, unlike the Met, but my mind definitely felt fueled with all of the information right in front of me. One of the more joys I can point out in regards to solo travelling is that you can actually spend as much time as you want looking through a museum without feeling nagged.
After visiting the museum, I walked across the street to find a place to sit in Central Park to relax, eat an apple, and take in the sunshine. Since this was one of those days I just wanted to stay in -- even though I was in New York, I headed back to my AirBnB fairly early.
On my way to Brooklyn, I took a train I've never been on before, because I decided to trust that seeing the name of my stop would take my to where I usually get off. When I stepped out the subway station at 7th Avenue, I realized that I was at the north of the street, which was quite far from where I was really staying, which was the opposite end. I ended up having to walk for 20 minutes, but since I saw my situation as an opportunity for me to explore Park Slope, I wasn't too torn.
Walking down 7th Avenue, I stopped by a bakery and bought a slice of carrot cake. There was a bus stop right in front of the shop, so I decided to take that instead of walking another 10 minutes. On the bus, an old woman said to me "You better take my seat before someone else does!" as she got off the next step -- again, the friendliness I encountered during my trip made me feel all warm inside. Funny as it sounds, It's as if the more I spoke to strangers, the more safe I felt.
Before heading inside the brownstone apartment, I also stopped by a pizza shop to gather more food for my evening of watching Wong Fu videos, thoroughly planning the rest of my trip, and charging myself before expending more energy I knew I would release.
I'll go further into my emotions in a future article, but for now, the night especially was a time my mind decided to remember all of what I was going through prior to my trip, including how lost I felt in life and how constrained I felt by myself and most of those around me. You'd think everything would be fine when you're on vacation -- and part of me even feels selfish for saying this, but the reality is that your problems will follow you anywhere you go and you just have to deal with it.
DAY 10: August 31st - When It Really Begins.
Today was the day I finally felt like my solo trip began. I started the day off in Lower Manhattan and visited the Financial District, home of the famous Wall Street, the Charging Bull and newly added Fearless Girl sculptures, the World Trade Center, the Oculus, the 9/11 Memorial, and more.
As I was walking along the sidewalks in this particular neighborhood, I couldn't help but notice how much it felt like Downtown Vancouver with its tall glass buildings and near empty streets. On my way to the sculptures, I sat down on a bench to eat a snack, take in the simple environment (in contrast to the rest of the city), and to add on a layer of clothing due to the wind picking up.
It started to rain pretty heavily (apparently it was the effects of Hurricane Irma) and I took mother nature's queue as a signal for me to visit a museum. I walked to the nearest station and took the train uptown to the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) and spent an hour and half there, because it wasn't open for much longer. When I came out of the museum, the rain had stopped and I took the M1 bus going downtown, since I wanted a convenient and scenic route to the Flatiron District.
This is probably one of my favourite places in the city. I loved taking in the cozy outdoor ambience of Madison Square Park, especially during golden hour when the sun is setting, the stringed lights hung on trees grows brighter, and the air gets cooler.
For dinner, I bought a shack burger and lemonade from Shake Shack, fell in love with it, and questioned why I wasn't having it since the day I landed in New York (no, but really... can Vancouver introduce a location or two?!). I ate my food on a bench while watching the squirrels playing around me, as well as observing the people who were doing just the same.
As the sun was setting down, I made my way to the High Line. For some reason, I felt the strongest desire to write about my feelings that came out all at once and all philosophical, further confirming the familiar feeling that my mind is actually about 1000 years old. Anyways, I wrote this little thing on my phone after walking part of the High Line for about half an hour.
There's something about looking out the city at night. A metaphor I never quite understood but was always so intrigued by. It's not even quiet and it's not the best view, but there's just something about the planes that drift off into the night, something about seeing beyond the ocean into the unknown.
You spend your whole life thriving for the more, hoping to better yourself, wishing to constantly reach for what's on the next level. But what if there is no next level? What if it doesn't exist? What do you wish for then when you've spent years dreaming of something, you finally get it, and now you're just floating trying to catch clouds of somethings that are impossible to grasp.
It turns out, there's nothing there. It's just you, but not just you. It's you along with your accomplishments, your problems you never thought you'd get through, your moments of "What did I do to deserve this?" when tears of joy and sadness fall down your face unto your pillow at night.
This is reality and you're here. There's no looking forward or back anymore. You made it and now you know you can and the least you can do is just be.
People will tell you that you shouldn't walk alone at night when you're in New York City... and you should probably listen to them and not do what I did, which is the exact opposite. In my defense, even though it was past 10PM, I was walking through the Meatpacking District to Hell's Kitchen, which was pretty empty (and my trustee, Google, also told me they were relatively safe areas), but there were always people on the same sidewalk as me. They weren't exactly in close proximity, but I could always see someone on the other side. Anyways, before readers start lecturing me, I made it safe to my destination -- Ample Hills Creamery in Gotham Market (ice cream is worth it. jk, stay safe).
Inside the dimly lit social hub, I ordered some chocolate flavoured ice cream with a hint of alcohol in it and sat on the opposite side of a bar. After devouring my dessert, I walked to Times Square, not only in order to feel safe around people and a bright place once again, but to catch my train back to Brooklyn.
From here on until the last four (technically, five) days of my trip, I'll promise you this -- the days only get longer, more fulfilling, and more rewarding. When I placed my elbows on the railing and looked at the sky on the High Line earlier, I watched a plane passing by above me and thought about my family leaving me and how I was now completely alone. Scared? Honestly, yes. Excited? Honestly, even more so.