Looking back on 2016, the opportunity to travel to New York was most certainly the highlight of my year… It meant more to me than any academic or professional achievement I attained this year. This revelation is somewhat surprising to people, but pushing myself academically and professionally is second nature to me. Traveling and exploring makes me feel alive in a completely different way and that’s part of the reason it meant more than most other experiences 2016 brought my way.
I still remember being so excited the night before my flight that I couldn’t sleep properly. I arrived at the airport about five hours before my flight and I wished I could just fast forward to the next day. A sixteen-hour flight later, we safely landed at JFK International Airport. I don’t think I realized it was real just yet. Throughout the drive from the airport to Manhattan, I kept looking out the window, just in awe of every little detail, from the roads to the buildings and everything else in between. I just wanted to take it all in. I didn’t want to miss a single thing. It was just one of those situations where I only cared about being in the moment. No yesterday or tomorrow mattered. It was just me living in the moment. Something I usually struggled to do but was now effortless.
The funny thing is, no matter how tired I was, I just found the energy to push and explore constantly. After dropping all luggage at the hotel and with a few hours to kill before check-in, a long walk around Manhattan followed. Watching people go about their business, everyone concentrating on their own thing and not really concerned with dozens of others sharing the sidewalk. Traffic, yellow cabs. It was all surreal to me. What is an everyday normal thing for millions of people was truly an experience for me which I treasured more than I could ever explain. It was so humid, but I really didn’t care so much about the weather. The heatwave was a small price to pay in comparison to all the experiences, big and small.
I mistook Chrysler Building for the Empire State Building probably for the first two or three days and I remember taking a walk to Chrysler Building like look!!! Empire State Building right there!!! LOL. But that’s one of those mistakes I look back on and laugh about now. Taking the subway was also an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. Being one of many commuting from one place to another, seeing random performers hustling for dollars on and off the train. It was all part of the New York vibe.
Exploring Brooklyn the first evening in New York was really special and I conquered a night on the town despite jet lag. The adrenaline and excitement made me feel superhuman.
My hotel room was on the 36th floor with a clear view of the actual Empire State Building. The view at night was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I wanted to journal about my trip at the end of every day/night, yet I couldn’t really sit still and I wanted to just take photos, videos and still have enough time to live in the moment without getting carried away in capturing so much that it takes away from the actual experience of being truly present without distractions.
I remember I barely slept the first night. The next morning, I went up on the rooftop of the forty-floor Element Westin Times Square Hotel and experienced New York City from a whole different angle. I fell in love with every little detail. I was never a fan of crowded places, yet it made me feel so alive and energized and inspired by how fast-paced it was. I really got to understand what is meant by the saying “in a New York minute”.
I also had the opportunity to visit a few court houses. As a lawyer, it was really exciting just visiting and seeing the differences. I really wanted to sit in on and observe a jury trial, but that bit didn’t come together. But at least, there’s something to look forward to for next time.
I took trips to the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Terminal, a night tour of New York, Times Square, Central Park, Queens, George Washington Square Park and many other places. Whether I was traveling by road, subway or taking lengthy walks, it was all an adventure.
In those few days, I learnt things about myself that I didn’t know before. I enjoyed the hours I had to myself all by myself exploring the new and unknown on my own. I trusted myself and my instincts more than ever before and I was not all in my head constantly. I was spontaneous, adventurous, I felt safe, didn’t worry about getting lost anywhere, I had a completely different sense of self and direction… The best way to describe it was feeling like myself, only better. All of my qualities were heightened. I felt free, fearless, at peace and washed over by clarity. I had more energy than a little kid. Sleeping at night was something I didn’t even want to do because every moment counted. Waking up in the mornings was thrilling because it meant I got to visit more places and see more.
Sometimes we have to get away from all we know and explore the world… Go to foreign places and give in to the unknown. See where it takes us. By learning more about other people and places, we learn more about ourselves… I met people and shared experiences beyond my imagination and had I not stepped outside of my comfort zone and being open to travel and adventure, I would have missed out on a great deal. It’s hard to describe it all, to capture and relive each moment… But I lived them all fully… And nothing will ever take that away from me…
We all deserve to get away once in a while. To travel and see the world. To be inspired by life outside the borders of the where we live… So get your passport… Pack a suitcase… Go on an adventure and see where it takes you!!!….
My view of NYC from my hotel room window.
(© Photography By: GMZee)