Some things you’ve got to see to believe… or not believe. Travelling is a constant learning curve. The lessons come at the most unexpected times. Like at 3.00am, in an Uber. In NYC.
I opened the door to a girl, already deep in conversation about race and rights. The soft voice spoke proudly about her Puerto Rican heritage – one which she’d never had questioned until now. 15 minutes later, I felt connected to this stranger. As we weaved through the now familiar streets of Williamsburg, I retreated into my thoughts.
It was one of ‘those’ moments of reflection. I seem to have them often here. A big lesson in a tiny moment. I had romanticised NYC in my mind. Hollywood paints an eloquent depiction of the city – the city of dreams. That Puerto Rican girl, those 15 minutes, was all it took to show me that we’re all equal. No place is better than another. They’re just different.
There are all types of people in New York. This is what gives the city it’s unmistakable energy. The eccentric mix of people. You’ve got the Wall Street suits, the grungy, Lower East Side lovers, the chic bohemians in Greenwich, the tourists in Times Square, the hipsters in Williamsburg, and that’s just touching the surface.
You can easily blend here. Do your own thing and you’re already a New Yorker – unapologetically independent.
If you’re like me and you’ve always wanted to give New York a portion of your 20’s, do it. Don’t think twice, just go for it. But be ready for one hell of a time.
Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.
Some stereotypes are real.
Sometimes, reality doesn’t meet our expectations. And with New York, some things do and some things don’t. Before I moved here, I assumed that everyone living in NY would be naturally glamorous. But don’t believe everything you see on Instagram. Life is hard here. Healthcare and college debt is a serious issue for everyone I’ve met so far. People literally can’t move out of home, in the second half of their 20’s, because of student loans. One friend told me she pays $400/week.
I had this idea that everyone would be too busy to make new friends. That it would be hard for me to be social. It’s the opposite. For New Yorkers, the city is their way of travel. Sure, everyone does have their own agenda, but it’s not everyone for themselves. I witness compassion every day. Only last week, a girl fainted walking off the subway. Strangers flocked around her, running to buy her water.
It’s not a dangerous, rude, highly impatient city. Well, it can be, but not always.
Yes, rent is high and apartments are small. But there are ways to save money. Hello $1 beers and 99c pizza. You just need to find creative ways to spend your money.
People are nice here.
I’ve made some of the quickest, most intense friendships here in New York. Less than two months after moving here, I’ve had my Queens girls tell me to stay forever.
I’m constantly told that my personality and mindset on life is “refreshing.” So, maybe that’s it – it’s not so much about the city itself, but how you look at it. I look at New York positively, attracting these people. If you go in with a negative, ‘this city will chew me up’ kind of approach, that’s what you’ll find.
While it’s easy to meet people, it’s just as easy to get lonely. You’d think that because there’s so many people, it’s impossible to feel lonely, yeah? No. It’s easy to blend in. Even if you don’t know anyone yet, date the city for a while. Go on mini adventures and get to know every part of its beautiful body, mind, and soul.
Every person has their own NY story.
One thing I loved about this city is the diversity of stories and people. Everyone you meet has a story and there’s inspiration everywhere you go – buskers in subway stations, conversations in cafes, in street art, and in cabs. The barista who makes your morning coffee, the woman working at your laundromat, the security guard checking your ID, and the guy serving your pizza. Everyone came here for a reason. Often, for a better life. The city, it’s full of personalities, all hustling, yet connected for what the city stands for. Possibility.
No, you won’t die on the subway.
There’s always people everywhere you go. Whether it’s 11.00pm or 4.00am, taking the subway is 100% safe. If I can give you two tips when it comes to taking the subway, it’s these:
- Smile at buskers. You’ll get a smile back.
- Get off a stop early and wander new neighbourhoods. You’ll get to experience a new ‘city.’
There’s always happy hour somewhere.
I’ve found drinking in New York to be cheaper than Bali. Yep, I’m serious. With drink specials every night, in almost every bar, you can easily have a cheap night out. End it with tacos from that street van and you’ve got yourself a pretty affordable weekend.
Boozy brunch. That is all.
It’s exactly as it sounds. You brunch and get boozy. Just picture mimosas or bloody mary’s on tap, for two hours, while you eat brunch. You’ll end up in some dive bar at like 3.00pm and tucked in bed by 8.00pm. It’s a good time.
If you can make it in NY, you can make it anywhere.
While NYC is a pipedream for most, the city is tough. People say you’ve got to be here for a reason. I disagree. I think it’s the perfect place to put yourself to the test. Prove it to yourself that you can make it in NYC, then you can do anything.
It can be, at times, unforgiving. It’ll either become your best friend, your soul mate, or a quick fling. Other days, it can feel like the city is chewing you up whole. But if you let it do its thing and throw you through back and forth a bit, you’ll realise how strong you really are.
But if you let it, god you’ll have some stories to tell.
Your limits will be tested here, like nowhere else in the world. But if you can make it work, you can make it anywhere. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. NY separates the dreamers from the doers. The weak from the strong. If you can create a life here for yourself, whether it’s for a year or 10, you’ll carry those lessons anywhere you go.
Moving to NYC sounds impossible… but it’s not.
There’s this saying: In New York, you’re always looking for a job, a boyfriend or an apartment.
I’m going to cover all three, but let’s simplify it.
A Job: I can’t speak for this first point. I run my own business so getting a job wasn’t necessary for me. But I’ve seen dozens of signs in shop windows looking for staff. Get your start in a café, clothing store or bar.
A Boyfriend: With the city as your date already sorted, focus on making friends instead. Connect with FB groups. I love using Girls Love Travel and Digital Nomads Around the World. Make friends, even if you’re with a friend or partner. New Yorkers go out a lot. They live in the moment and they’re social. Build your friendships. It’ll make your experience, trust me. Oh, and go out, a lot.
An Apartment: I got an Airbnb for a month and went from there. I got a feel for the neighbourhood and if I liked it, I’d extend my stay. I hit the jackpot with an apartment that had it all – awesome housemates, a washing machine, a dishwasher, and that famous NYC view. Sign up to Airbnb and book your first stay. Here’s the link!
Your neighbourhood will become your mini NYC. From there, you can work out the best way to rent using this resource – http://streeteasy.com/guides/moving-nyc/
Oh, and don’t forget to get travel insurance. You don’t want to risk getting hurt in America without it. I use World Nomads – they’re awesome. Here’s a direct link to their plans.
And, say yes, to everything. It’s a small goal that I made for myself at the beginning of the year, and it’s changed my life.