As mentioned in the final post summing up my Maui experience, I vowed to travel at least once a year. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible financially, as I seem to move a lot, never really staying anywhere for even a year and jobs are sometimes unstable here also. I often had to move near places I worked because public transit doesn’t always work as well as it should. It took over a year for me to finally go somewhere else. I thought about it often in the time frame between travels, thinking, “Okay, so I made it to a very relaxed tropical island with a very low crime rate. But could I really go to a big city by myself?” I didn’t think I could manage getting around in a city I was unfamiliar with. However, I have a very dear friend, Niina, who lives in New York. Finally I asked her if I should come visit, and I was pretty sure she’d encourage me to do so. She kindly offered up her place for me to stay, which was amazingly nice of her especially because at the time I thought I was going to be there for a week but it turned out to be something like 9 days. Oops. I have since gotten better with my planning, now I prefer to have at least a day at home between traveling and going back to “real life”.
I was yet again traveling on a pretty light budget, though I had finally gotten a full time job after three years being without one. That was an awesome achievement for me in Portland in the recession, jobs were just really hard to come by. However, even with this job, being one of the best paying I had ever had, I still struggled to pay my bills. I suppose this is the result of having a very in-demand city, for whatever reason, the rental market is awful. Recently it was made known that we had the lowest amount of rental vacancies in the nation, and without rent control, landlords and rental management companies can charge whatever they like and there will generally be someone to rent to regardless.
So, lucky for me, I have a rewards Visa through my credit union, and I had relied fairly heavily on that card during my time being underemployed. In fact, getting that credit card was the first thing I did after getting into a car accident, because I could not work for three months. No one else would be taking care of me so I felt it was the best move to make. I used this card to purchase my airfare and hostel reservation for my Hawaii trip. It worked out for me for this time, because I had earned enough points to get round trip tickets to JFK for $220. This was almost half of what they were going for at the time.
I was still apprehensive about my trip but encouraged by Niina’s offer though I knew I’d mostly be on my own because she has quite a busy life. I booked the ticket and it was certainly nice to not have to worry about figuring out where to stay in such a big city. When my friends found out where I was going, many of them through various suggestions at me as to what to do, where to go, what to see, etc. but frankly a lot of it sounded like what they wanted to go do and a lot of it was not really of interest to me, plus, I had very little to spend.
I also had to buy a netbook before my trip because I was taking online courses at this time, and was in some kind of horrific precalculus class. I would have to try to submit my work while on vacation. The only laptop I had was an ancient Mac PowerBook which was huge, heavy and nearly impossible to travel with. So there went a couple hundred dollars; I would have to try to be careful financially for awhile.
I arranged for a friend to check in on my snakes, since they aren’t the easiest pets to find a pet-sitter for. I was living in a very public transit unfriendly area of the suburbs at the time because my job was also in this same public transit unfriendly area, and living a mile from work was the only way to make it simple to get there. I felt bad for my friend who had quite the trek to come check up on my snakes but he’s only one of a couple people I know experienced with reptiles. This time I prepared a little better, borrowing some rolling luggage instead of hauling around that duffel bag. I packed pretty light; it was the end of August 2010, and while it wasn’t so hot here in Portland, it was quite hot in NYC. Clothes, netbook, books, mini travel size toiletries, phone charger and that was about it.
Before my trip, I had gotten back in touch with an acquaintance I hadn’t talked to in a year or so and it seemed we were hitting it off in a romantic sense which was kind of terrible timing. I had already purchased my tickets but was spending a lot of my free time with him (which happened to be late at night, resulting in very little sleep for me, since I was working a full time job, taking classes, learning to drive*, and had also hired a personal trainer and worked out at least three times a week) so it seemed weird leaving for 9 days when something new and exciting was happening in my life.
*This was a big deal to me! Learning to drive had been a source of extreme anxiety for me for many, many years. I was very far behind most of my peers in this regard, though I do know a fair amount of people who just have no interest in driving, which is great. For me, it just couldn’t work out well living in such a public transit barren location, having all the appointments I had to get to around my work schedule (I have chronic pain issues due to the car accident, that accident also certainly added layers of distress to my already-anxious thoughts about driving). It was huge for me to finally feel like I had the freedom to live somewhere not based around my job or buses, to go to the beach or the mountain or go camping whenever I felt like it, to actually go out at night since the buses stop running relatively early, go grocery shopping without carrying armloads of bags in the rain, etc. All those feelings of freedom were simple to obtain after taking some driving lessons to ease my anxiety. I had received my comparatively small settlement check finally from my car accident after three years of legal battling but having a lump sum in my hands is how I was able to purchase a car finally. The entire settlement did not cover all my medical bills, but I had been dealing with so many appointments and bills it didn’t matter to me anymore. I had done my best scraping by and paying for appointments as I went. I was paying them off, and this gave me a chunk of cash to put a down payment on a used car, so I did. Also one of the best decisions I have ever made. I thought “well maybe I’ll just stay off highways and never drive downtown” since those ideas panicked me sometimes. But I did end up driving on the highway often in my commute after moving back into the city and still working in the suburbs, and currently I work downtown and drive nearly every day. It seems over the past few years I have really knocked a few of my biggest anxieties out of the ballpark. I do hope I can help others be encouraged to do the same!
My flight was a very early morning one, so I stayed up all night, spending time with my soon-to-be-beau and then with my very good friend Kristin, who was kind enough to drag me to the airport at 4 in the morning. I had gotten a direct flight from PDX to JFK and I think this was the first flight that I really got bored on. Antsy, I guess. It’s only about six hours but I can never seem to fall asleep on planes and sometimes my eyes just get too tired to read. I didn’t check my luggage because I used to have an aversion to doing so, fears of my luggage going lost and me being left without any clothing and no money to replace it. I liked to keep my things where I could get to them.
I landed in New York in the late afternoon. Grabbing my bag, I wandered through the airport, at times feeling a little panicky because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I knew there was some kind of train to a subway terminal but trying to find it took some time. This was probably the worst part of my whole trip, which in retrospect was not bad anxiety-wise. Certainly not as terrifying as I was expecting. Perhaps that’s a negative expectation, but I really did kind of expect to be freaking out in such a huge unknown-to-me city.
When I got off the train, I noticed I had to pay for it after the fact, and there were separate machines for the AirTrain ($5 fare) and the subway. It was a little confusing because I wasn’t used to paying for a service after I’d used it and the separate machines confused me too. I called Niina to figure out what to do and where to go from there. I think I ended up picking up some kind of week-long unlimited use MetroCard but I can’t recall now exactly what the options were.
I got on the train and made the correct transfers in time to meet Niina as she got off work and she could show me where she lived. At the time she was living in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. We walked back to her place, a short jaunt from a subway terminal on the L line. I think the only thing that was in order for the evening was good food, wine, and X-Files. After that, some much needed rest. I took up quite a bit of Niina’s space and felt bad for that. The weather was hot and stuffy and the windows needed to be open all night. Lots of noises to get used to that first night but I can grow accustomed to that pretty quick. The next day, I’d begin my adventure on my own while Niina was working.
Next update will come in a week!
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