TBEX10: New York City, Baby!

by Gray Cargill on June 22, 2010

NYC skyline at sunset

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.)

Central Park Reservoir

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.

brooklyn bridge

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.

Photo credit:  New York City Serenade by joiseyshowaa, Central Park Reservoir by echiner1, Brooklyn Bridge at Sunset by Rick Berk.

SoloFriendly July 16, 2010 at 2:08 am

I love Restaurant Week! I haven't been to the one in NYC, but I've been to others. It's such a great way to try new restaurants. Thanks for the suggestions!

Eric Lane July 16, 2010 at 1:52 am

Being so close to NYC, I solo trip here all the time. This week was restaurant week so I dined at Ocean Grill behind the Rose Center, then explored the Whitney Museum for American Art before going to see The NY Philharmonic with Brandord Marsallis for free on the Great Lawn.

Anyway, this weekend continues restaurant week. Some of the great restaurants in the world take part. Do yourself a favor and get to one or two of the places for the $25 lunch or $30 dinner fix prix. I suggest Auquavit or Aquavit Bistro. If you want that celebrity chef cache, the chef there is the winner of this year's Top Chef Masters. I've been dining there for a while, it's a NYC standard.

SoloFriendly June 30, 2010 at 2:05 am

Aw, timing is everything. One of these days, our paths will cross. TBEX rocked. You must come next year. I really liked the Pod. Full review to follow. 🙂

Grrrltraveler June 27, 2010 at 3:14 pm

You know, if this post were a year back, we would've met! I loved your trip down memory lane– yes, I guess there are things about NYC which can give you just as much culture shock as a developing country. I'm excited to hear about the Pod Hotel experience tho. I've always imagined what it would be like staying there & I've had some friends really like it. Sadly, I've never got around to trying it… Enjoy TBEX!

SoloFriendly June 24, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Thank you very much, I'm sure I will!

wanderingtrader June 24, 2010 at 7:42 pm

I have been to NYC many times alone, I love the city. Very different and eclectic.. there is always something to do.. have fun on your trip!

SoloFriendly June 23, 2010 at 2:13 am

Thanks, Geraldine. I suspect it won't be as magical, either. Cool, but not in the same way. I'm not the same person.
Skimpier clothes aren't a problem right now–NYC is going to be very, very hot. 🙂
The Pod definitely sounds hip. I hope reality lives up to the hype.

everywhereist June 23, 2010 at 1:26 am

Gray – I never travel with anything more than a roll-on bag – you will be fine. I promise. You'll just need to start wearing skimpier clothes. 🙂

As for NYC, I love, love, LOVE your recollection of it. It's funny – I love New York, but it's never been as magical to me as the time I saw it when I was a teenager. I suspect you might feel the same way – cockroaches and all.

I hope you have a blast, and I can't wait to hear all about the Pod hotels. That sounds so hip.

Steph June 23, 2010 at 1:23 am

Oh yes! can't wait.

SoloFriendly June 23, 2010 at 12:13 am

Thanks, JoAnna! Come on, a seasoned traveler like you? You'll be fine. I am SO looking forward to seeing you again, too! When are you getting into town?

joanna_haugen June 22, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I'm both excited and a little nervous about NYC. It all seems a bit overwhelming to me. I am looking forward to seeing you again, though. It's hard to believe that was late 2009 when we got together!

Safe travels!

SoloFriendly June 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Back at you, Steph! You're going to the Speakeasy on Friday night, yes?

SoloFriendly June 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm

You got to stay at the Waldorf Astoria on your 1st trip to NYC??? Wow. Lucky you!

SoloFriendly June 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm

That's the thing, Zoe. If I were visiting a city I'd never been to before, I'd be nervous not having a plan, but I've been there and it is the kind of city where you just see and experience so much just walking around. I wish you were coming to TBEX too! Next year?

SoloFriendly June 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Ditto, Candice! I hope you experience the wide-eyed wonder I did on my first trip!

Candice Walsh June 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Oh dude, my first trip ever, I'm beyond ecstatic/nervous. Can't wait to meet you!

zoe zolbrod June 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I loved hearing about your first visit to the Big Apple. I'm from a small town, too, and I visited NY when I was 16. My mind was BLOWN. I think it's a great city to approach with a loose itinerary. Just strolling around Manhattan can take you through so many worlds in one day. Chinatown might lead you into Little Italy which might lead you to Nolita. Have a great time! I wish I was going to tbex10.

Nancie (Ladyexpat) June 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

My first trip to NYC would have been in the 1980's. I was going to a conference (also my first), so my company was picking up the tab. The conference hotel was the Waldorf Astoria, and that's where I stayed. The entire adventure was awesome. I attended the conference by day, and saw NYC at night. Loved every minute. I've been back once since, and had a wonderful time then as well. My friend and I ended up watching “The Lion King” sitting on red leatherette kitchen chairs from a side balcony. We still laugh at that. Have fun and bring back lots of stories.

Steph June 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I always have mixed feelings about New York. It used to feel overwhelming and nervewracking but as I've spent more time in it the past couple years I've gotten much more comfortable with the big city streets. This time I can't wait.

Really looking forward to meeting you!

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