I recently did some traveling! As I had written about in this post, I had a few options when traveling and I decided to take option #1 and visit friends in different states. The first place I picked was New York.
Honestly, the reason I picked New York first (out of the 5 states I have friends living in) is because I would be going in November, and I like alliteration. New York in November. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?
My invitation to New York came from Austin, a friend from my childhood. I have known Austin since we were 6 years old. That makes us friends for the past 18 years. But…not really…Austin and I went to different high schools and hadn’t spoken in about 9 years. Austin reached out to me after reading this blog post. Turns out life had thrown him a few curveballs recently and what I wrote resonated with him. Knowing that I wanted to travel, he offered me a place to stay in Queens, New York. At first I assumed he was just politely offering this to me out of courtesy, but I soon realized it wasn’t just empty promises. I found roundtrip tickets to NY for $400 with Southwest (always my favorite!) and booked them. Two weeks later I was in New York.
This sounds absolutely crazy, I know. I flew across the country to stay with someone I hadn’t spoken to since I was 13 years old. Say what?! Fall into my rabbit hole. This is how I saw it:
I want to travel and here is an offer to do so. If I get there and we hate the people we have become or we don’t click or my spidey senses start tingling, I’ll leave. I call my friend Joe who lives in New Jersey and stay with him. Or I can get a hotel. But knowing I am capable of getting myself out of a bad situation was great peace of mind. On the flipside, what if I go there and we have a great time? What if it is totally worth the risk and I just need to trust my gut?! Trust my gut that this is a good guy who is giving me an honest offer to come and see New York. Lucky for me, I did trust my gut. And we had a great time.
Day 1: Monday
I woke up at 1:30am LA time to get ready for a 3am SuperShuttle to LAX. I have used SuperShuttle a ton of times, and I really rate their service highly. Service at LAX flew quickly and before I knew it I was boarded on my 5:35am flight! After one layover in Atlanta, I landed in La Guardia Airport at 6pm New York time. Austin had just flown into La Guardia from Colorado, so he waited for me at baggage claim for two hours. From that moment on I knew we would get along fabulously. He hailed us a taxi like a true New Yorker and we were off!
After meeting his three roommates, we grabbed some pizza (Austin, like most New Yorkers, calls it pie), caught a basketball game, and then headed to the heart of Manhattan. We ended up in Times Square at midnight. It was surprisingly busy and all of the shops were open! So far the city was living up to its title: the City that Never Sleeps.
Day 2: Tuesday
Started the day off at the National History Museum and a stroll through Central Park. We had perfect weather (it was about 63˚F and sunny each day), and Central Park looked as beautiful as any picture you would see of New York in the Fall.
After awhile, we strolled around the über high end Time Warner Center Mall near Columbus Circle. I have really been trying to spend money on only the things I truly want and need, so I didn’t pick anything up. After all that walking, we headed back into Queens to attend a lecture at Austin’s graduate school. The lecture had a surprise guest speaker, the Foreign Minister of Kosovo, Enver Hoxhaj. This was a truly random moment in my life, and in some ways his speech was a little over my head, but when would I ever experience something like this again?! I savored it for all it was worth.
Later, we got ready for a night out on the New York town! Since last call is often at 4am, we didn’t leave the house until about 11pm or midnight. This is so different from Sacramento, and even Los Angeles, where last call is between 1am and 2am. As there was no need to drive with such awesome public transportation, we enjoyed ourselves to the fullest!
Here are some of my tips on how to have a great night out:
- Wear an outfit you trust and are comfortable in. No sky-high heels for me.
- Go with a no-drama friend. You are out to have a good time! Be with people who won’t ditch you (thanks for not leaving me in a strange city alone, Austin!) and people who are committed to having a great night as well!
- Eat! For me, the key is to have dinner before or with my first drink, and a second meal (often a piece of pizza) about two hours before I wrap up my night. This is the number one tip I have.
- Know how to get home. Luckily, I was with a local who could navigate for me. But be sure to know who your DD is (and trust him/her to stay sober!) or have the address you need handy for an Uber.
- Wash your face when you get home. There is nothing worse than waking up with last night’s makeup on. And, brush your teeth too please, no one likes beer breath.
- Be kind to your hung-over self. Set out some water by your bed, or your friend’s if you are crashing elsewhere, for when you wake up.
Day 3: Wednesday
Well, Austin and I went a little harder than we thought, so we had a slow morning. After getting some fresh air on a walk around Queens, we hung around his apartment. I napped and Austin worked on a paper.
Oh yeah, side note, here is another reason why I knew to trust my gut and stay with an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in a decade. Austin surprised me and took the week off of school and work to make it a vacation for him as well! I went into the trip thinking I would be alone for most of the day, but no! I had a travel buddy the entire time. We were actually only apart for 15 hours the entirety of my week in New York.
Sorry for the tangent. As I was saying, Austin worked on a paper for a class presentation he had that night. Later, he went to class and I had two hours to myself. I was pretty hungry, so I popped into the first deli I found. This deli, Double J’s Deli in Queens, had probably over 200 sandwiches on the menu, so I made things simple and ordered the #1 hoping it would be good (it was delicious!). The guy working the deli counter was super nice and after about a 15-minute conversation with him, he handwrote me a list of things to do in New York! In fact, everyone was really nice in New York! I had a woman approach me with a free Subway pass, I had a bartender pour me a shot on the house while I was trying to escape some rain, and I had a homeless man tell a friend of mine to propose to me! This wasn’t the NYC cold shoulder I was expecting, to say the least.
Since our day had been slow thus far, and I was feeling refueled by my deli sandwich, Austin and I took off into the NYC night! We chatted and walked miles around New York University and Grand Central Station, popping into bookshops and people watching along the way. It was a ton of fun.
Day 4: Thursday
This was the only day that it rained the entire week. To escape the rain, Austin and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is a great museum and is nestled up right next to Central Park. Austin and I both love museums, so we took our time looking at all of the different exhibits. After the Met, we headed down to South Street Seaport. Austin introduced me to a delicious restaurant and bar called Ambrose. They specialize in lobster, so I had a lobster sandwich and he had lobster grilled cheese. Delish, as we say in LA.
With full bellies, we headed to Ground Zero to see the 9/11 memorial. When I last visited New York, 9 years ago, the memorial was still under construction. Seeing it for the first time, even in the pouring rain, was profound and is not up to me to put into words.
Day 5: Friday
Austin and I headed to Madison Square Garden to do some exploring. We poked around the 7-story Macy’s and some other shops in the area before heading to the United Nations (UN). A friend and fellow graduate student of Austin’s was kind enough to take us on a private tour! We got to go into some of the conference rooms and the General Assembly! As there wasn’t a meeting in progress, we were even able to take some photos up at the podium!
After the UN, Austin and I went to Chelsea to explore Chelsea Market and the Highline. Chelsea was definitely my favorite borough of New York. I would move there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t so damn expensive!
After a few hours of walking about, I met up with an old friend from Sacramento who had recently moved to New Jersey. Joe and I grabbed dinner in Chelsea and then went to Hoboken in New Jersey! It was a total surprise and so cool to be able to travel to another state so easily! Hoboken is a really cute area of New Jersey that offers a great view of New York and the Empire State Building.
In Hoboken, Joe and I bar hopped a little and visited Carlo’s Original Bakery (some of you might know this bakery from Cake Boss on Food Network!). I, of course, ordered a large cannoli and it was so tasty! Definitely check it out if you are in New Jersey! Cannoli consumed, we went back into NY and Joe showed me where he works on Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Charging Bull statue. Joe and I then took the Staten Island Ferry. Although it was a tad cold out, the Ferry offered a great view of the Statue of Liberty! And it is completely free! After a fun ferry ride, Joe and I bid our farewells and I headed back to Queens alone.
While traveling back to Queens, I struck up a conversation with a student named Lionel. I was telling him about how I came to New York. You know the story: quit my job, moved to LA, decided that I wanted to travel as much as possible, and ended up here, alone on the streets of New York at 2am waiting for a bus. Lionel, on the other hand, grew up in South Korea. He moved to New York to go to school 15 months earlier. I complimented his courage in moving to a new country, having never been there before, and asked how he liked New York and if he had ever been to New Jersey (remember, I had just visited there!). Lionel told me that he had never been outside of New York, as he was always busy with school and had no free time! I told him that, at 25, he has nothing but time right now! Lionel in turn told me that, unlike him, I am brave and free. These felt like the two most powerful and significant words anyone had ever said to me. There I was, in New York, having a conversation with a complete stranger and he saw me exactly as I wanted to be seen, exactly as I felt. Brave. And free.
Day 6: Saturday
Austin and I started our day with brunch in the city! Can you say bottomless mimosas?! I sure can!
With fully bellies, we made our way to the Flatiron District and to the Museum of Sex. The Museum of Sex is one of the newer museums in NYC and you can learn more about it here.
I will say that it was one of the only museums that we visited that was not free to the general public. After that…interesting…experience, we went to Coney Island. Unfortunately, most of it was closed down for the Winter, but Nathan’s Hotdogs was open! Austin and I both chowed down on a dog and contemplated the current world record of 62 hotdogs consumed in 10 minutes by Matt Stonie. What a talent…
We then lived up my last night in New York! Austin took me to one of his favorite restaurants, the Churchill Tavern. It was decorated for the holidays and looked like something straight out of Christmas in London. And I have been to London during Christmas. It was magical.
Day 7: Sunday
After getting in at 3am from our Saturday night out, I slept for one hour before my Uber arrived to take me to the airport for a 6am flight! I slept the entire way home!
Putting myself out there online – in such an open and personal format as I have made this blog to be – was with the hope that good things would come into my life. This is a testament of that. New York was one of the best weeks of my life and I am so grateful to Austin for hosting me. He was a great travel companion and put such a fun spin on the New York classics. This experience taught me to always trust my gut. Taught me that I am brave. That I am free.
I leave for a trip to Dallas, Texas in one week. Any advice on what to do while there? Let me know.