Given New York’s geographic proximity to Vermont, it’s strange that I’ve been to Las Vegas more times than I have New York City. I’ve made three trips to the city, the first two when I was a teenager, and the most recent three years ago. My early trips were of wide-eyed wonder as I saw things I’d never seen in Vermont before. (I grew up in a town with a population of about 1,000, compared to New York City’s millions.)
I traveled with my church’s youth group, and we brought sleeping bags and slept in the basement of a church in Greenwich Village. Of course, being teenagers, we all had snacks in our belongings, like cookies and chips. We had no idea these would be a magnet for cockroaches. I had never even seen cockroaches before. I hope to never see them again.
We visited a halfway house for former drug addicts in Brooklyn and saw the doorway where John Lennon was shot. We saw hookers and drug dealers, a homeless man on the Subway who ranted at us all about Satan, and a sheet-covered body in the street where a pedestrian had been hit and killed by a car. At that point in my life, New York City might as well have been on a different planet.
Lest you wonder what it was about hookers and drug dealers and cockroaches and dead pedestrians that made me want to travel again, that wasn’t all I noticed about New York. Obviously, we hit the usual touristy highlights, too. There are no skyscrapers in Vermont. There is no Chinatown, no Broadway, no Fifth Avenue, no Statue of Liberty. We went up to the observation deck of the ill-fated World Trade Center and looked dizzily down at yellow cabs that looked like Matchbox cars and people that scurried around on the sidewalks like bugs. We took pictures of each other standing in front of limousines parked at the curb. We rode the subway. We watched grown men playing stickball in the street. These trips were life-altering experiences for me. I realized that there were other places in the world–even in the United States–that were nothing like Vermont. (Don’t let anyone tell you domestic travel isn’t travel.)
My last trip to New York City wasn’t quite the same. I went with my ex-boyfriend who didn’t bother to tell me until after we arrived that the reason he was able to cover the hotel room was because he had signed us up for a time share sales presentation–on my birthday, no less. It wasn’t all bad, though. It was early January, but there was a freakish warm spell that week that made it really delightful to be in the city. We had a nice dinner in a revolving restaurant and a carriage ride through Central Park (word of warning: It’s not as romantic as you think; the smell of horse poo is pretty overpowering). We visited Rockefeller Center, strolled through Times Square and listened to a great band at BB King’s Blues Club.
Why this sudden trip down Memory Lane, New York, NY? At the end of this week, I’m headed to the Big Apple for a few days for a travel blogger’s conference (TBEX10) that has been described by one person on Twitter as the “travel blogger’s Woodstock”. TBEX is short for The Travel Blog Exchange, founded by the creative geniuses at Galavanting. It was established in 2009 as an online community where travel bloggers could meet virtually, network, and share information and ideas about travel blogging.
I was thrilled when it was first announced that TBEX would be held in New York City because I figured it would be a cheap trip for me. Just a few years ago, you could get round trip airfare between Burlington, VT and JFK on Jetblue for around $100. Not any more. I monitored airfares for four months and finally had to bite the bullet and pay $245 for my tickets. I could have driven to New York in about six hours, but I despise long solo car trips and the idea of driving in New York City sort of freaks me out. (The extremely long train ride was about as appealing.) So expensive airfare it was.
As I started shopping around for a hotel for my trip, I got a bad case of sticker shock. About the only rooms you can get in New York City for under $150 involve sharing a bathroom (and oftentimes, a bedroom). I’ll be staying at the high-tech Pod Hotel in one of their single rooms. Yes, I’ll be sharing a bathroom. Expect a full review upon my return.
The Pod is a couple of blocks from the 6 train, which not only takes me to within a couple of blocks of the conference site in Greenwich Village, but also to a number of places I want to visit or revisit, as the case may be), such as Grand Central station, Chinatown (for a bite), and the Brooklyn Bridge, which I hope to walk across for the first time. What else do I plan to do? My cousin just moved to Brooklyn, so we’re going to spend some time together. Other than that, my plans are pretty flexible. I have a list of things I could do, but I don’t really have any concrete plans yet.
Thus, this trip marks a first for me as a solo traveler: The first time I’ve chosen to–gasp!–“wing it.” Being the uber-planner that I am, this is very new territory for me. I’m also trying to travel with just a carry-on, another “first”, and a challenge all its own. Suffice it to say, I woke up in a panic this morning realizing I’ve never had to deal with the “3 oz. rule” for liquids, since I always check my bag. I’m rummaging through my liquids realizing some are in 4 oz containers and some 6 oz. Augh! Another thing to deal with before I leave.) I had no idea being disorganized was so stressful.
I’ll try to tweet from the conference (and the city), so be sure to follow me on Twitter.