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I have a bit of a love affair with New York City. We don’t see each other often but when we do, there’s always chemistry.
New York is one of those places you either love or hate almost instantly. I instantly fell head over heels in love! The city that never sleeps, the hustle and bustle, the cafes on every corner, each one offering different cuisine and a different ambiance, the amazingly fashionable people that grace the streets, taxis honking and zipping by, the land of opportunities and the world’s melting pot; it was where I belonged.
I had been to New York in 2006 and 2007 with my family – once as a week-long trip and the other as 3-day stopover on our way to Bermuda – and this is when my fascination with travel began. In 2008, I was 20 years old and on the verge of adulthood, itching to go explore on my own. I ended up finding a summer program through New York University that allowed me to stay in the dorms while taking a course about New York theater. Being that I had never really been away from home on my own longer than a week, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was fearless. It ended up being one of the best summers of my life, and as far as traveling goes, I haven’t looked back since.
Every summer I plan some sort of trip to get away from my everyday life and feed the travel bug that lives within me. This summer I planned a six-week trip to Europe and decided to add a two-week stop in New York City. My friend, Tina, who I met while living in Australia, now lives in the West Village area of Manhattan and I usually stay at her place when I’m in town. For the first five days in New York I had Amber, a friend from home, join me in the Big Apple. We did all of the tourist spots: New York Library, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and the 9/11 memorial site. Although I had been to all of these attractions before, New York is one of the few places I’ve visited where I don’t mind seeing the same things. It’s sort of like looking at a piece of art over and over. Each time you look at it you notice more details, different brush strokes, or simply something you may have overlooked the first time. This is one of the many reasons I love New York, you can visit the city a million times and still every time is a unique experience.
Another great quality about NYC is the diversity of people.; very rarely do you meet people who were born and raised in Manhattan. Most people are from other states in America, but there are also numerous foreigners who flock here for work or simply the allure of living the big city.
After Amber headed back to Los Angeles, I was hit with a nasty virus that I later found out was making its way around the city. I was bed ridden for two days, trying to fight whatever bug I had so I would be healthy enough for the next leg of my journey. Half way into the first day of my sickness, I was not only feeling physically sick but I was also feeling homesick. I started to question whether I should even be going on the rest of my trip. All I wanted was my own bed in my own home with all the things I’m used to.
I finally started feeling better after sleeping the entire two days and taking more medicine than I could keep track of, but the homesickness lingered. Doubt settled in and I couldn’t even find an inkling of excitement within myself for my upcoming adventure to Europe.
On my last weekend in New York, Tina organized a nice dinner with some friends. The five of us ordered a couple dishes each and shared, allowing everyone a tasting of multiple items. I had never met Tina’s friends that were dining with us so there was so much to talk about over dinner, not to mention we were all from different countries, adding more topics for conversation. Sitting around our table were a French, an Australian, a Canadian and two Americans. There was never a moment of silence during dinner, as we were all so interested in learning about each other’s cultures and how we all ended up sitting at this table together in New York City.
It was at this table that my feelings of home sickness vanished as if they never even existed. One of the people at our table energetically told us stories about his climb on Mount Everest. Another told us how he trekked Africa for a month. I shared stories of my trip last summer exploring Europe all on my own. The next thing we knew we were the last few diners at the restaurant. We were all so intrigued by each others lives that time became irrelevant.
It was the stories I heard and the stories I shared that reminded me why I loved traveling so much and sparked the excitement in me for the next part of my journey. I realized that the people you meet and the experiences you encounter while traveling, whether it’s near or far, long or short, are invaluable and inspire something within that nothing else can. I follow my heart, reinvent myself at every destination, explore the unfamiliar, and search for questions, not answers.
As a popular Chinese proverb goes, “It is better to travel 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 books.” I say it is better to travel just 1,000 miles than to read 1 million books! Get out, go travel and take advantage of all that this world has to offer.
Nicole Hale is a Downey resident and journalism major at Cal State Dominguez Hills. She will be documenting her summer travels with occasional stories in the Patriot.
Published: June 26, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 11