A week ago today, I boarded a plane for the first time in my life and headed to New York City. As someone who can count the number of big cities I’ve been to throughout my lifetime on one hand, this was a big deal for me. My boyfriend’s 21st birthday was on New Year’s Eve, and being in New York to celebrate this milestone was on his bucket list- so me, him, and his best friend decided to bring our southern charm to the Big Apple- I had been looking forward to this trip since we began planning it, but I never could have imagined that I would have such a great experience.
In the short period of time that we were there, we came across so many different cultures and communities- all in one place. It’s so interesting to me that the people I see on Wall Street live in the same city as the people in Chinatown. And beyond that, we met people in Times Square on New Year’s Eve who had come from all over the world just to visit the city. It’s incredible, it really is. People who know New York much better than I do will tell me that I only scratched the surface of such a diverse place, and I believe it. I most definitely want to go back there and see more of such a cool place. But for now, here’s the week in review- all in photos. :)
Day 1. On our first day, we went to the Financial District. We got to see Federal Hall, walk down Wall Street, tour the Federal Reserve, and then we made our way down to Chinatown. We also came across a two-story McDonald’s that had an orchid room and a piano player- they don’t mess around in NY.
Day 2. This may have been my favorite day of our whole trip. Not only did it snow, but my uncle took a train into the city from Boston and met up with us to show us around. We walked down Fifth Avenue, which is actually considered to be one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. All of these stores had extravagant window displays and even more extravagant prices- needless to say, I didn’t buy anything. We also visited the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park, and Grand Central Station. My uncle even treated us to lunch at a trendy Chinese restaurant in the city- an opportunity that three poor college kids jumped on quick. :) We were absolutely exhausted after everything we did that day, but it was so much fun.
Day 3. On Sunday we went to Tim Keller’s Redeemer Church in downtown NY. The location we went to used more traditional practices than what I’m used to, and it was cool to practice a different style of worship than what I normally do every other weekend. It’s also really cool to see such an influential church in the middle of a place like New York City. Afterwards we went to tour the USS Intrepid and finished the night by going to see the Blue Man Group, which was a great show. Seriously, if you ever get the opportunity to see them perform, go! They’re great.
Day 4. Monday was New Year’s Eve, and so we decided to battle the crowd for a spot in Times Square to see the ball drop at midnight. We got there at noon, staked out a spot (a perfect spot, actually), and about 2 hours later, NYPD moved us to a different location (it’s all part of a long, complicated process that I can’t even explain) and we decided that 10 more hours of standing in a spot that wasn’t as good as the original without food, drink, or a way to use the bathroom just wasn’t going to fly. Let me be the one to break it to you that the Times Square experience you see on TV is not at all what it really is; it looks like everyone gathered in one place to celebrate the New Year, but in reality, everyone fought each other for a spot, and all of those people are probably starving, thirsty, and halfway out of their minds by the time the ball drops. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still awesome to watch on TV. :) Instead, we went ice skating in Central Park and went up to the top of the Empire State Building at night, which was such a cool sight to see. I think we made the right decision to skip out on Times Square.
Day 5. On our last full day in the city, we toured the 9/11 Memorial and went back to Times Square to see it at night and to actually walk into some of the stores. We were also able to meet up with some friends from UNC who were also in the city, which was a lot of fun. As it got later and later and we walked back through Times Square to get to the Subway station, I don’t think I let it sink in that it was the last night of such a great trip- honestly, all I could think about was how sad I was that I had to wake up 5 hours later and get on a plane to come back home. But even then, it was still perfect.
And that was New York. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone through my pictures since I came home yesterday, or how many stories I told my family at the dinner table last night, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it justice through explanation or even pictures.
I think the one thing I’ve learned from just the little traveling that I’ve done is that there is so much more to the experience of being somewhere than any image or blog post or story can captivate. Because beyond the sight-seeing and the huge buildings and the great food and the different people that you stumble across are all of the things in between- the subway rides and the conversations while walking through the city and the awkward conversations with cab drivers and even the nights we spent in the hotel just talking or laughing about any given situation.
When I’m in my hometown or in Chapel Hill, I’ve become so comfortable with the area that I’m not vulnerable to any of my surroundings anymore- I take it all for granted. I take the people for granted and the familiarity for granted, and while comfort is a great thing, I think it can also be our greatest crutch- and we don’t even recognize it. With that being said, I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity to travel somewhere new, even if I only scratched the surface of such an intricate system of cultures.
New York City, I’ll be back.