That was … interesting. I’m back from New York, and ready to tell you all about my trip. Let me preface by admitting that no, I did not actually wander barefoot through the streets of New York. But I came close. And I’m not happy about it.
Overall, my trip to New York revealed some interesting things to me. I learned that I may be entering a new phase of my travels … one that’s a little less solitary and more focused on connection. More on that later, though – I’ll start from the beginning.
I arrived in New York last Wednesday afternoon with plans to stay at an Airbnb in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’d been to New York before but hadn’t really had much exposure to Brooklyn outside of a quick jaunt to Williamsburg with my friend Kathleen. I tend to run in kind of artistic circles, though, and knew that I wanted to explore the area more.
After an hour-long ride on public transit (no complaints there, I <3 the New York subway system) I checked into my Airbnb. I stayed in a pretty cool loft that was definitely to my taste – I love lofts, with their high ceilings, artsy vibe and exposed hardware. I got a private room in a loft with four other women with whom I interacted a little bit throughout the course of my stay.
I was a little surprised, though, that my place wasn’t exactly in Williamsburg. It was in Bushwick, a still trendy yet more up-and-coming part of the borough. Unfortunately, I discovered this the hard way. On Thursday morning, I set out in the general direction of Williamsburg, assuming Google maps wouldn’t lead me astray. I was wrong.
Setting out with only Google maps to guide you is perfectly fine when you know an area, but my route took me through some very desolate, warehouse districts of Brooklyn. In addition to me being kind of creeped out by my surroundings, my shoes broke (hence the “barefoot” reference) – right after a night with quite a bit of rain. By the end of my two-hour walk through the grimy warehouse district, my feet were not only soaked, but covered in city dirt – ugh. All this before I’d even had any coffee. I was pissed.
Eventually, I found a nice little spot to get coffee and do some work. I worked throughout my trip – one of the benefits of being a freelancer, I suppose – so I got to know a few of the coffee shops in the area. I spent most of my time at Swallow Cafe, which was right around the corner from my loft (I wasn’t going to make the mistake of walking to Williamsburg again) and ate more than a few meals at Forrest Point, which was quite good.
And that was … it. For the first four or five days of my stay, I made attempts to meet people by going out to bars and reading my book at restaurants. I also took an aerial yoga class, which was super fun. I should’ve made more of an effort to talk to the girls at the class, but our conversations mostly revolved around yoga. I’ll do a separate post with my experience of practicing aerial yoga, but suffice it to say, I’ll definitely be doing it again.
Other than the yoga class, though, I didn’t get too much interaction. On Saturday, I went out with the girls in my loft, but we quickly went our separate ways at the party (I think they were trying to meet guys) and I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. I know, I know … the sob story of an introvert. I decided I was over the party and headed home early.
Another factor that didn’t help my mood was the fact that my building turned into a huge party at nighttime – like, until 4:30 a.m. I would’ve maybe liked to go, but I’m not really one to walk into random parties, and unlike at hostels, there was no common area in which to meet people. So I ended up lying in bed simply listening to the party all night. I had little choice – there was extremely loud club music blasting from the room right above mine. This continued Sunday night. And Monday night. I wondered if these people ever worked.
Things really looked up on Tuesday, when I got to meet up with my cousin Olivia. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you already know about my cousin John. John, Olivia and I are the closest cousins in age on my dad’s side of the family, and I hadn’t spoken to Olivia since our last family reunion (she has since moved to New York and gotten married).
She took me around her borough, Manhattan, on Monday. We walked the High Line, which I really loved, as it reminded me of the 606 in Chicago. We also went to the Manus x Machina exhibition at The Met, which I’d read about in Vogue and really wanted to see. The exhibition focused on the marriage of technology and hand-crafting in haute couture. It was really crazy to see high fashion up close. The detail was simply stunning. There were garments embroidered painstakingly by hand juxtaposed with outfits manufactured with a 3D printer, and all were equally sophisticated and impressive.
After a busy day running around Manhattan, we ate sushi at MOMOYA, and it was honestly the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life. This is saying something because, as much as I love sushi, it all tends to taste relatively similar so long as it’s of pretty good quality. This was way better than what I’ve had in Chicago, though – crunchy in all the right places and amazingly flavorful, with high-quality, fresh ingredients and an amazing seaweed salad to complement it.
Wednesday, Olivia and I met up and did a little more sightseeing. She showed me some of the neighboring suburbs, including some quaint picturesque towns and some very grand estates. Suburbs aren’t really my thing, but I’d always wanted to see some of the New York area outside of the city.
The next morning, I caught a 6 a.m. flight back home. I was honestly very happy to get back.
So, I started off this post mentioning that my trip had taught me some new things about myself. It might sound like a sort’ve uneventful week, but I learned something: my days of wandering in solitude are coming to a close.
For the first time, I was legitimately craving a companion while I was at cafes and bars by myself. My fun score improved drastically once I got in touch with Olivia and had someone to talk to. When I first started traveling alone, I really reveled in being alone. Even at hostels, I tended to stay away from the common areas and keep to myself. I wanted to take it all in in silence. I wanted to read my books. I didn’t want to feel obligated to make conversation.
For the past few years, traveling alone has been really empowering. Maybe that’s because I spent so much of my early 20s unable to find independence. But lately, traveling alone has felt … well, lonely. I think it’s time to start traveling in a different manner.
So what’s that going to mean for how I plan my trips? Obviously, I’m not always going to have someone to travel with. I think I’ve learned that the best way to make friends if I do have to travel solo is to stay at hostels rather than Airbnbs. People at hostels are usually there because they WANT to meet people and make friends. I’m going to continue traveling – ideally with friends or my boyfriend – but if I do travel alone, I’m going to make more of an effort to connect with others. I am over being a loner, and I think that’s a positive thing.