My relationship with New York City began how most people’s do: in the movies. Romantic stories of leaving small town life to make it in the big city give us the impression that New York is where dreams become reality and if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere (as long as you don’t get killed by Godzilla). So of course the buildup to my first meeting with the Big Apple was an exciting one. But by the time I left, our status was ‘complicated’.
One quick thing to note is that by the time I had left NYC the relationship status paralleled that of the romantic one I was also in. This was my first travel lesson:
Nothing will bitch slap you harder than traveling with a significant other with whom you are incompatible.
Aren’t sure if you guys are compatible? Then take Bill Murray’s advice and travel around the world to find out. Write the cost off as R&D and save yourself a lot of two resources you may never get back: time and happiness.
Now I’m not saying that the girl I was dating was a bad person in any way shape or form. She was great and I loved her at the time. But there was no long-term future for us, and this trip made sure I didn’t forget it. Ultimately, this downturn left a negative taste in my mouth, which I then associated with New York. Instead of thinking back to the mouth watering pizza we snagged from Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge, I remember standing in line for an hour only to have to run back to the NYU dorms so my girlfriend and her sister could use the bathroom (public restrooms were out of the question). The cold hard mozzarella just wasn’t the same. And instead of reminiscing back to the non-stop laughter at the Underground Comedy Brigade, I am drawn to the preceding fight at the McDonalds around the corner over whether or not drinking hot cocoa through a straw made the liquid hotter. I shit you not this was the ‘fight’ that kept a frown on her face in the remaining four days of the trip… I have the pictures to prove it.
By the time I ever made it back to New York I only had these memories at my disposal along with a few abrasive confrontations with some ‘holier than thou’ New Yorkers. Being from Idaho doesn’t give the big city slickers much to swoon about and so I returned on subsequent trips with a chip on my shoulder (since I’m from Idaho, probably a potato chip). My insecurities led me to believe that New Yorkers looked down on me, didn’t respect me and were all around hard, unfriendly people. Which leads to my second lesson:
When traveling it is best to leave the negative preconceived notions at home. If you don’t, your confirmation bias will make you defensive in nature and you will fail to find the hidden beauty in your experiences.
I didn’t do this at the time. It took several short visits and the right company to break down my defenses and open me back up to the idea of all that was NYC. And while I will be the first to admit I could never live there long term, I can now say that it is one of my favorite places to visit. My last visit reaffirmed why…