Social media often times makes things more beautiful than what they really seem — we throw around ‘5 stars’, ‘too awesome’, ‘this gave me life’ very casually, to the point that everything can be epic. But here’s the thing: my recent workacation trip to New York for about 2-weeks worked out quite the opposite — social media does not even come close to encapsulating how much fun I’ve had these past few days.
Why did I have so much fun?
#1: I traveled alone
I’ve been fairly independent for about 10 years now — when I moved out of our house for college in Ateneo, I lived alone, and sort of always been (operative word here being sort of) self-reliant. So it should come as no surprise that I very much value my independence. And it’s perfect for traveling: you can do everything you want, at your own pace, at your own time. No one to please, no one to consider.
I’ve thought about all the places I’ve been to, and some of the best memories I have are those when I was alone.
Thanks to digital innovations of our time — Airbnb, Skycanner / Hopper, Traveloka, Klook / Viator — it’s not at all hard to travel alone, and while you basically trust in the goodness of humanity, I think its very safe.
I think everyone should travel alone at least twice in their lives — the first one they would probably be overly cautious and scared. But if you don’t die, the second one (and the succeeding ones), will be some of your best experiences.
Read a book, bring a notebook, scribble what ever shit you like — it actually doesn’t matter. Because it’s all up to you.
#2: I met new people
Traveling alone doesn’t mean you’ll be this overly introverted, unsociable being. This is actually a perfect opportunity to just meet people randomly — and it doesn’t have to lead to anything. It can be just one of those passing / fleeting moments where you talk for an hour, and wish each other a good life ahead.
I went to Top of the Rock at night (this viewing deck of New York City) with a Colombian girl I met on Travello (like Tinder but for those looking for travel buddies). The hour or so I spent with her was a nice and very succinct peak into their culture (or maybe she just wanted someone to take her photos). We talked about our country’s drug problems, and how Narcos is quite accurate (I’ll stop with the politics here).
Another person I met was an Irish guy in Starbucks while I was having lunch and browsing through my pictures on my newly bought camera. I didn’t realize he was taking photos of me with his better camera while I was looking for the perfect picture for the ‘gram. He approached me and just said that he loved that moment — a tourist so engrossed with his photos (yes, I was). We talked about the deep Catholic roots of our countries, and we agreed to go to the Brooklyn bridge together the following day (yes, just so we can have good photos for uploading).
And then there are those who I think have become lifelong friends. My Airbnb host — whose roots are from Panama but born and raised in Louisiana, we had so much in common in terms of what we do at work. And then there’s a guy I met at the conference I went to for two days — I think he would be the white, taller, older version of me, especially when he said that he likes to put his travel plans into a spreadsheet (uhm, hello, bookedandshookt.com downloadable itineraries).
#3: I’ve never taken so much alcohol in my life
Lets face it, New York is probably one of those places where there’s always a party happening (hello, city that never sleeps). So it shouldn’t be surprising that my alcohol intake increased by 400% while I was here. Of course I was going out almost each night, trying to visit as many bars and places in West Village and Hell’s Kitchen.
I realized that I’m not a bad drunk — but I’m a very verbose drunk. Often, I tend to be inside my head — always trying to find the right words, the correct words to say, that I end up not saying it at all. Or sometimes, my mind works too fast, I’ve so many thoughts that my mind is faster than my mouth. But with the right amount of alcohol in my system, I overcome my inhibitions — I’m very chatty, I open up easily, and overall much more sarcastic. Maybe I should be drunk for my next presentation…
I will end this part on alcohol here because my mother might be reading this.
#4: I planned the hell out of this trip
Going to New York isn’t cheap — in fact, I think I chipped away some of my savings for trip… But I was able to prepare very well for it. One thing I did was every payday, I would book a musical I wanted to watch, or a place I wanted to go to. Every detail was neatly arranged in an excel file, so my days and activities were also very planned out. If you’re traveling alone, it’s best not to do everything on the fly when you arrive at your destination.
#5: I made sure that everything was still malleable
While I prepared for the trip for months, I still allowed myself a lot of adjustments and free time. For example, I had 4 hours of just walking around the SoHo area, and I changed my entire subtrip plan from Boston / New England to Washington, DC. Over-preparing is as bad as under preparing — I was on vacation, and it wasn’t about meeting everything to the dot.
Maybe it was the destination — I mean, how could I go wrong with watching the Best Musicals or going to some of the best museums in the world? Or maybe it was how my trip was organised yet adaptable? It could be me enjoying independence yet again, when everything and anything was up to me: I did everything I wanted, at my own pace, at my own time. No one to please, no one to consider but me. This trip deserves ‘5 stars’, ‘too awesome’, ‘this gave me life’, and I’d do it all again.