Travel Alone

 

This past week, I took two days off before the long Labor Day weekend, and I went to New York City.

When I tell people this, the immediate question is a variation of, “Who did you go with?” So like, “Was it you and your husband?” or “Did you go with friends?” or, my favorite, “You went by yourself?” The last one comes with an incredulous, slack-jawed expression that I would imagine one might get when they share that they decided to try hillbilly hand-fishing.

I try not to make too much of a face at this point, because I’ve gotten used to this line of questioning. My husband doesn’t like to travel. I do. So instead of sitting around moping or, worse, haranguing him into it and ultimately dealing with the adult form of ‘are we there yet?’ (‘there’ being ‘back home and not in a strange city I don’t like’), I go by myself.

Traveling alone is wonderful, and I recommend it to everyone. You don’t have to necessarily go eight hours on a tiny bus to one of the busiest metropolitan melting pots in the world, sure, but there is something to be said for the experience of self-reliance and happy spontaneity. Every second is a multiple choice question that you get to answer:

Do I want to:
A) Go to the top of the One World Trade Center Observatory and eat a grilled cheese sandwich while I listen to fifty different languages all being awestruck around me?
B) Ride the Staten Island Ferry and take a billion tourist-tastic pictures of the Statue of Liberty?
C) Sit in the park across the street from a bohemian hotel next to a sleeping puppy and read while the sun goes down over Hoboken?
D) Take my pants off and eat a burrito-sized sushi roll in bed while watching re-runs of Bob’s Burgers?

The correct answer was all the freaking above.

Ask yourself when the last time was that you let your feet take you wherever you want to go, instead of basing their path on the whims of a companion. Imagine all the stores and pockets of magic you wouldn’t have to skip because there’s no one to compromise with.

Sure, it may be a bit intimidating to be with yourself for a while in a place you potentially aren’t too familiar with, but I think it’s a challenge worth taking.

In fact, I dare you.

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Microfiction: City

Each step on the sidewalk is a story. Something has happened that is greater than the sum of a body, the whole of feet and bones and blood. A life has been spent, made or traded on the concrete (or at least the ground beneath it).

They say not to romanticize New York too much, but that’s hard for anyone who hasn’t been exposed to the electric air from birth. Because when you arrive the first time, you’re the rabbit pulled from the hat.

I still dream of the skyline without end, the statue in the bay, every single promise.

5 Best Things from 2014

It’s still January. I’m allowed to do this. 2014 was a hell of a year, right? Here are the most awesome things that came out of it.

2014 copy
1. Izmee the Hippo: after 5 years of waiting for someone to give me a hippo, I took matters into my own hands. Since then, Izmee has become a constant companion in my adventures. She’s there at new restaurants, she gets to check out the digs at hotels, and she reminds me not to be so serious.

2. Rats: in December, we welcomed into our home three fuzzy brothers who have grown into delightful additions to our family. Chip, Moby and Oreo are like tiny puppies: they lick our faces, they want to interact with us, and they are constantly playful. I’m 100% converted to the way of the rat.

3. The Jane Hotel (NYC): this one is very specific. When I booked my room at the Jane, I was mostly intrigued because it came off as an affordable, private hostel. Now, though, as I reflect on it, the Jane was one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been. It captures the Manhattan feel of old movies, with its boat cabin rooms and distant view of the Statue of Liberty. I can’t imagine going back to New York and not staying there.

4. Food: 2014’s food was amazing. No kidding. My husband and I did a lot in 2014 to expand our culinary horizons. I baked bread from scratch for the first time. Instead of going out for Valentine’s Day, we had a 5-course dinner at home, including duck confit (pictured here). Looking at cooking as a creative endeavor has changed the way I look at food everyday.

5. Travel: I can’t express how pleased I am with how much traveling I managed to do in 2014. I chose pictures from only a few of my outings, including DC for the annual cherry blossoms, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Virginia Beach (local to where I grew up but my first time at a beachfront hotel). I also visited New York City twice – once by train! – Columbus, Cleveland, Baltimore, and several cities around Pittsburgh during my summer staycation. And I am ready for more!

What were your favorite parts of 2014? I’d love to hear about them!

Choo choo!

So last night I got back from a whirlwind, magical journey to New York City (where everyone’s your friend, according to They Might Be Giants). As I compile photos and narrative from this wonderful time – which I cannot wait to share with you – I wanted to tell you about a first for me: this trip marked the first time I took a train from one city to another in the United States (I took a bullet train from Osaka to Hiroshima when visiting Japan in 2002). Amtrak was amazing and business class was worth every penny.

To document this awesomeness, I took hourly notes, which was very fun and kept me ‘in the moment’ throughout my trip. Enjoy!

Hour by Hour on the Pennsylvanian

(I saw this photo and was all, “Or what? The devil is going to get me?” Because that’s what I saw first…)

Hour 1: Breakfast! Bye, Pittsburgh!
Hour 2: iPod, you make me sad. Don’t lie about your age (battery life) when I forgot my charger.
Hour 3: Took a break from working to see the infamous historical Horseshoe Curve. Did you know it was targeted by the Nazis?
Hour 4: Mario 3, you are still just as fun 20 years later!
Hour 5: I think it’s nap time. Talk to me, Jenny Lawson. Ooo, cows!
Hour 6: Holy crap, giant eagle. Not the store. Like a big-ass bird. Freaking sweet.
Hour 7: There really is something to this whole work-on-trains thing.
Hour 8: I looked up and was all, “Man, this area looks crappy.” Realized we were coming into Philadelphia. Wah-waaaah.
Hour 9: We are now going in the opposite direction. I feel like I’m backing up really fast.