New York, New York - Partially Written May 24th 2013


When I think back on vacations I have had I cannot legitimize them as such. My perception is I should be relaxing, dining out and be stimulated by wherever I chose to go. As an adult, I can't recall having a valid vacation. I completely discount the fact that I've had two three prior "vacations" with my friend. We went camping that one time. I went to NYC last year Labor Day weekend to see her. In January when she visited we stayed at her fam's timeshare and went to Disney World a.k.a. vacation. Now I guess her involvement made it too effortless to be such. I guess that is why I cannot include this last minute trip north. This trip is nothing but tying up loose ends. I am in NYC with a purpose. Surely, I hope to get a little leisure and recreation in but I figure things would be more about packing and bookings, etc...


Up until a month ago, my travel companion was to meet me in Florida to plan for our trip to France. When she mentioned her family was coming up to her, I realized she'd traveled to me quite often. It was time I made the effort. I also had a series of points and credits from JetBlue and they were set to expire. It made sense to make a last minute domestic trip, not only to see her and plan our journey, but to do a personal test run of airline travel.  My last trip to NYC was in September and I hadn't flown in almost seven years. It wasn't anything elaborate but necessary. Packing for more than a few days, getting through security checkpoints and knowing what was allowed was an unknown. I had a lot of difficulty getting through and had some rather embarrassing hiccups. My trip now is built on valuable time - to plan and prepare together just before her departure. So getting there was extremely important and somewhat experimental. If I could have a seamless domestic trip things like customs would be a breeze. 

Having recently left for North Carolina with my mother this trip was rather rushed. I was bringing things I would need while in NC, my dogs, the car and all items necessary for France. So packed car and 12 hours later we arrived with only two days for preparation for NYC. The goal was to get in the door and separate clothing by season and use. I would leave all Winter items at her home, pack items for NYC and keep all international items to the side. While traveling up to NC we had to find very creative ways to make space in my car. So all my Winter stuff got mixed with the Summer, my items for NYC were not all planned out and all my gorgeous things for international travel were balled up in my trunk. It was a hatchback nightmare of random. As much as I wanted to travel rested it was impossible. I wound up staying up almost three hours till leaving for the flight doing laundry and sorting things out. 


The morning of my flight my car broke down 19 miles out to the airport. We had to call highway patrol, AAA and someone to pick us up. After making so many arrangements I truly had no time to make my flight. I spent most of the morning on the side of the road yelling at a few inconsiderate airline representatives. I rescheduled my flight for later that evening which I knew would inconvenience everyone. Yet it bought me more time for rethinking my suitcase and my friend more alone time to tie up my own loose ends. I had no cold weather clothes packed and NYC was quite cold. I forgot to get a lint roller and some wrinkle release spray so a trip to Walgreens was in order. I also removed all the fluff in my bag like books and nail polish. I was now streamlined and ready to go.

Thankfully, Charlotte-Douglas International is a smaller airport. Although the place was far, busy and under re-construction its only one big terminal. I was delighted to see the ticket counter empty and a variety of shorter checkpoints that I could actually choose from. I lightened my carry on load to a laptop backpack and a small cross body purse. However, I didn't realize what normally required shoes off and one tray now I needed three trays. So I had to remove the laptop, the travel toiletries, my shoes, sweater and scarf. Once I got to the gate my shoes were barely on and they were already boarding for my section. Sadly, my seating had been rearranged to the last seat on the plane so I had some lingering time. I decided to curb hunger and anxiety with some Illy coffee. The coffee was the best coffee I had ever had. I hadn't eaten in hours and my nerves really needed soothing. I even bought in-flight food and was pleasantly surprised. However, takeoff and a latte didn't mix well. I got coffee all over my new laptop backpack and really made a mess. I was also clumsy with granulated crystallized lime they provided with tonic water. This experience prepared me for future flights. I know now to ask for quite a few packets of this lime and to place coffee in a barf bag during turbulence. Thankfully, the person next to me was very welcoming and even held my latte as I tried to clean myself up. I don't know if I'll get the same level of friendlessness on future flights.

I flew into JFK for price not location. I had no idea where JFK was located in regards to the city. I knew my later flight was going to throw off my companion. However, she showed up just minutes after de-boarding and was able to meet me at baggage. She informed me that the trek for her was indeed long and now cold. I had to open my suitcase for a sweatshirt, put my coffee stained scarf back on and then brace this 60 degree temperature drop. We got a taxi rather quickly and were dropped off curb side at Grandma's in the Bronx. We also had a lot of help with the luggage. However, we paid almost $70 with tip but we simply had no other choice after 10pm at night. She paid half but she really shouldn't have. Even with her help I'd depleted all of my on hand cash and pretty much 1/4 of my overall trip budget. A few excursions the next day completely broke me. It was chilly and raining our first day out so we took a series of buses, trains and cabs. There were no day pass MetroCards and all cab rides no matter how short required a large suggested tip. Towards the end of the day we settled in a Times Square Starbucks. We spent about three hours there getting warm and planning our global expedition.

Sitting down with a doting barista and decent wifi we were able to plan out the entire trip. I was very open about not knowing how to navigate or not having any set plans. I'm a follower when it comes to directions. I can be rather adventurous when in comes to food or entertainment. Please don't ask me where I would like to go or if I know where something is. I need a guide and playing guess where isn't my idea of fun. If there is no guide and/or map I can get defeated rather quickly. I've always been very disappointed in myself being so lost as we walked the city. I imagined a rather daunting arrival in London. Thankfully, she was able to visualize the location of London-Heathrow in regards to Central London and where all the touristy things to do actually were. It was clear to both of us London was not to be done alone. We totally revised our trip plans to a rather short French visit, a month in Italy and the last month between Spain, Belgium and London. We also looked for inspiration through friends who had recently traveled and gave suggestions. All I could think about was Buckingham Palace in London and now we had a list including Spice Market, the Tate Modern, WB Harry Potter etc. The same went for France and Italy. She had such great lists of sites she had to see and we carefully merged my expectations with them. In a few hours we had a calendar full of destinations, festivals and landmarks. We also discussed accommodations making sure her and I were close as she studied in Nantes. When leaving Starbucks we both felt rather accomplished. We never butted heads on any potential places to visit and were both open to plan changes as problems or different interests arose.

Spending time with her was vital for our trip but very introspective for me. Having left the only city I really know to make this trip; it was important for me to witness her take on closure. Just as I was I she didn't seem to know what to do to make herself feel okay with leaving. There simply was no bucket list for either one of us. As I left, I simply allowed last minute appointments and invitations to shape my last days. So I explained that there was nothing I needed to do or see and whatever came about I would gladly attend. So we went out dining and shopping with someone she had been seeing. We met a business partner of hers for drinks. We sat at the Lincoln Center for nearly an hour pondering. We went to her mothers for brunch. We had a few exciting days in the city with no rhyme or reason. It was a lovely time where she could have done so much more but took it easy. I was also very happy to be introduced to her family and connections. It is really interesting as the last days unravel how those closest to you make an effort. We have both been experiencing strange pop-ups from people we were personally or professionally connected to. Instead of choosing the right people to hang out with the right ones sort of make themselves available and send you off right & proper. 

I left early morning just two days later. She took me half way to the JFK bound train and I went most of the trek to JFK alone. When above ground we texted. She explained what she was doing and I complained how long the journey to the airport was. We left almost 3 hours before my trip but the airport was a complete mess. If it weren't for a few wise moves I may not have made it home. I found myself in the same position as before. I was not able to move any faster to the gate and had no time to relax. The AirTrain was delayed, it took me several minutes to get to ticketing, I had to check a bag and security was overwhelmed. The final boarding call was announced as I was retrieving my things at checkpoint. Honestly, if I hadn't gotten a Skycap, forfeited the pat down and left my shoes off and ran to the gate I'd still be in New York. I made it to the gate just as they were sealing the doors. I boarded the flight bare footed and dropping things out of my open backpack. The flight was more comfortable since it was a seat I'd actually chosen. However, my ride kept canceling via text and left me feeling very uneasy about coming back to North Carolina. Hungry and tired I was looking at a possible six hour wait for a ride. Sadly, I had no idea how to navigate back on my own so I was forced to wait for whoever could come. I also rushed to get my checked bag versus grabbing something to eat nearest the gate. I also bypassed the Illy coffee stand because there was a long line. I walked past checkpoint knowing I couldn't get back that way so I found myself at a baggage claim stuck with bottled water and souvenir candy. I had my laptop and phone and the airport has great free wifi. I was able to get a lot done while waiting and that distracted me from sleeping. I was glad to have made it both ways despite circumstances. I was also proud that I could find ways to both enjoy and learn from the discomfort.

My friend flew out later that evening. She continued to communicate everything she was doing on her last day. She went downtown for a smoothie, met her friend for lunch and spent the remainder of the day with her mother. She was at the airport almost 3 hours early and was able to communicate with me once past security. She also explained that customs was on the other side and texted me about the interrogation after her flight. She said everything was rather light and didn't contact me again till much later. Apparently, she fell asleep with all the London rain. I didn't stress her about being back in NC which was so boring in comparison. Having the opportunity to watch her prepare was definitely necessary. Just seeing her pack is going to streamline my possessions and allow me to make some sacrifices as she did. I'm also going to really focus on making the most of the people important to me versus leaving unannounced. I will attempt to rest days before, really plan out the departure process and linger around the gate for my last American drink and fare. This last minute trip really ironed out the kinks for a more efficient international journey.

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