It's been a year since I visited USA. The first time in my then-sixteen-year-old life outside of South East Asia. My dad needed a guardian, and I was available. We stayed with my relatives in Virginia, bordering on Washington, D.C but that's another story. During the trip, we went to New York City for a long weekend. A trip within a trip. And my, what a memorable trip it was.
In hindsight, there are a lot of things I wish I did. I wish I wasn't on my phone so much. I wish took more photos. I wish I stayed up later and talked to more people. Yet there are still many things I did that I'd do all over again if I had the chance to go back. I thought I'd share them with you!
So here are five things you should do in New York! (from the perspective of a small-country girl)
Always Walk, Never Run | My dad wanted to use the tourist bus, citing that we could visit anywhere in little time. I refused. I wanted to walk. Though by the end of the night, my legs ached in pain, I did not regret it one bit.
Walking in New York City is a small pleasure in itself. It allows you to see New York for the little things that make it New York. The strange smell of clean but stingy air, the giant buildings, the people going about their day. Walking through the streets of New York shows you what tourist pamphlets don't. It shows New York for all its subtle wonder.
Sing For Broadway | This may come from a place of bias. I love musicals, and watching two Broadway shows was a dream come true twice. I am a proud Broadway Baby, and everyone should watch a Broadway (or West End) show at least once in their lifetime.
I watched Wicked and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. I was a part of a Wicked production a few years ago, as Nessarose. So watching Wicked in real life left me in tears, like watching something old from a new perspective. Nothing could compare the feeling when Elphaba sang the final note of Defying Gravity. Watching Fran Drescher perform as Cinderella's Stepmother is a close second.
Be a Traveler | Not a tourist. My dad and I didn't have a tourist guide, or a bus, or anyone in New York. The only thing we did was print tickets to watch Wicked and visit Statue of Liberty, and booked the hotel room. The rest of the trip beat to our drum.
Yes, it can be little difficult. For the whole trip, we lived on McDonalds' Fish-O-Fillets and Halal street carts. We couldn't find any Halal restaurants near our hotel. We accidentally walked from our hotel in Broadway to the Chrysler Building, not the Empire State. And we may have gotten lost once or twice. But that's what travelers do, get lost from the freedom of structure.
Strangers are Surprising | Sometimes the best parts of a trip are the little things, like the people you meet and most likely, will never meet again. Talk to them, their stories are just as interesting as yours. I promise.
The male stripper dressed only in tight underwear and a cowboy hat, holding a guitar in Times Square. The Caribbean woman on a subway train whom we talked about traveling. The old, black lift man who told me how it wasn't windy at the top of the Empire State Building. I may never meet any of them again, but they will always brighten my dark days.
Remember the Stories | From big stories come little ones intertwined in them. When you visit New York, a place so different culturally and socially, you will find stories to tell everyone back home. Twice and over.
I skated in Central Park, getting soaked because the ice was melting. I went to the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park Zoo. A man in Sephora called me 'stunningly exotic!' In fact, people from the ticket woman to the taxi driver found my dad and I ethically ambiguous. I still find much amusement in that.
To sum up, wherever you are and wherever you go, please appreciate the moment. Take a step back to look at the present. I miss New York for all the little things, and I am so grateful it has given me so many wonderful memories.
So have you been to New York before? Is it on your bucket list at least? I'd love to know!