For someone who hates flying, on this particular day I am sashaying through the airport like some kind of a pro. I realized that this couldn’t be a crazy figment of my imagination when someone asked me where the Gautrain was and I actually knew the answer. One of these days I’ll be a travel guru for sure, I thought as I headed to check in.
“Just you?” The girl at the counter looked up at me in disbelief.
“Just me” I said, smiling nervously.
“New York”, I reply, familiar with the running order in this script.
“I want to travel alone. My boyfriend just broke up with me… but I’m scared.” She said looking up at me, somehow knowing that this is my game.
“Well the way I see it is you’ve got 3 months to snag a date for New Years Eve. Until then, instead of dates… you can spend all your money on shoes.” I leant over, grabbing my boarding pass to JFK “…and wine” I winked and she smiled back.
A very crabby Carly climbed out of the plane and waited for the shuttle back to her hotel. And then it happened… squashed in the back of a taxi with a bunch of grumpy sweaty travellers I caught my first glimpse of New York. The suburbs dissolving behind me like a packet of white picket fence sherbet in the Hudson River.
Suddenly I found myself in a grid like wonderland, shaded by high-rise buildings and murred by foggy steam coming out of the underground. People decorated the streets and shops, ordering their morning coffee from Starbucks, hailing down cabs, slinging the New York Post under one arm and a the latest from Gucci under the other. My sleeping pill hangover dissipated into the excitement of being in this kaleidoscope of perpetual and beautiful havoc.
I checked into my hotel on the corner of 49th and 10th and had already missed my group meet up for the day, which meant the city was mine. I think if I wasn’t from Joburg I would have been too intimidated to leave my hotel. But I am. So I slapped on some vintage red lipstick, walkable heels and headed for Soho. You know that feeling you get when you step out of yourself for a moment and it’s like you’re watching a movie where you play the lead and you’re fabulous? That day I played a New Yorker, strolling through Soho and Greenwich Village. I watched skateboarders flipping arleys on Broadway while I sipped on a skinny latte and then had my 1st of multiple compulsive shopper orgasms when I found a cheap boho shop called Little Amsterdam. Looking up at a mix of green leaves and silver shimmering windows I thought to myself, life isn’t really that complicated is it? Nope. Not now. Not here.
My tired feet finally force me back to the hotel where I meet up with my group who turn out to be a bunch of young and wild Ozzies.
“My 6 year relationship just ended so we quit our jobs and decided to fuck off for a few weeks” my new fried Debbie said as she sipped her Vanilla Vodka and looked at me.
“I’m trying to tick off all the countries I can before I get old and boring” I replied.
“Yeah, I’ll drink to that!” she chimes as the waitress comes to take our next round. I couldn’t help but secretly want to make New York my drunken lover that night… and every night.
The next few days I spent in NYC we did all the touristy things that you kind of feel obliged to do as a visitor… all with a mild to major hangover. The Statue of Liberty, Central Park Bike Ride, the Empire State Building and Times Square. Tick, tick, tick, tick. But I found the most fun and adventure I had was when it was just the city and I hanging out. Taking a walk through China Town, eating a bagel on the outskirts of the park, sipping on oversized cocktails at lunch, dinner and well… anytime.
I have to say my favourite experience must have been trying to catch the Sex and the City Tour in peak Uptown traffic. Running through the subway, sprinting around blocks and blocks that all look the same, yelling at people to move their ass. I didn’t come all the way from South Africa NOT to go on this tour. I’d been looking forward to it for months… well really, forever. Flustered and a little out of breath I caught the bus and as I sat down I realized I’d actually had a true New York experience without even knowing it. I was elated.
It’s amazing how just a small time in a big city can change your perspective on the world. That’s what’s so freeing about travelling… you get to extend your own personal borders just a little bit further. You get to dream a little more, you get to be a little more, you get to renovate your imagination just a little more. You get to take just a little sip of the bigger picture.