Let’s start this travel blogging endeavor with the first trip I remember making that gave me the travel bug. I don’t count Puerto Rico at 1-year-old or Jersey at four because I have no memories of those trips.
No, my first official journey into the world of travel happened when I was 8-years-old and my parents took us, my brother and me, to New York City for the first time. My dad drove us the whole way in, in his graying, white Toyota Corolla with the thin blue stripes along the side.
We made our way through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, stopping a few times to take pictures and bathroom breaks. All the way we went until finally, our hotel in the heart of New York lay ahead of us, behind a flurry of white cold sheets of snow. We’d arrived in the middle of a blizzard.
My father never let on his terror of driving in that snow, but I never saw it as a threat. I stepped out of the car, eyes wide and tongue out, trying to catch a snowflake, and let those tiny icicles charged by wind fly into my face without a care. I’d never been in snow before that day, and it was as magical as the movies always made it out to be.
I remember warm, toasty nights in the hotel room, wearing our flannels and thermal underwear while we sat under the bed covers eating pizza and drinking hot chocolate. Back home we never got to eat this much junk food, but we were on vacation, so health and diet be damned.
We saw the usual tourist sites: Central Park, Rockefeller center with the tree all lit up, ice skaters gliding on the ponds and in the rinks like fairies coming through portals to another world, and even the Twin Towers. We’d visited NYC the year before they crashed down, and that was the day I realized I had a fear of heights as we reached the top and my brother pretended to tip me over the edge. I haven’t been able to climb high places ever since.
The day we took the ferry to Ellis Island was bitter cold, chilling straight through my layers of a fluffy coat, fleece sweater, turtle neck long sleeve shirt, mittens and scarf, as if Jack Frost laughed at my poor attempts at armor. As we pulled into the parking lot for the ferry dock, my brother and I pointed and laughed at a seagull trying to fly away, but only getting knocked back to the ground by a strong gust of wind.
That day Lady Liberty’s upper floors were closed, so we only made it through half the museum, but I still saw so many pictures of immigrants, in black and white and sepia tone, arriving at the island, wearing smiles, signing their names to the books, greeting relatives. I saw pictures of the very statue I stood in from the point of view of newcomers seeking refuge, prosperity and family, and even then I knew what that meant.
The thing that always stuck with me though about New York City was the rush. The city that never sleeps. Constantly bustling, I had to learn how to walk fast and keep up with the flow of bodies from bus station through streets to subway stations and back all over again. I even got to yell at a taxi that nearly hit me as I walked with the throngs through impatient, honking traffic.
The reeking smell of garbage as we hustled through construction zones never bothered me. Truth be told, I probably didn’t notice because I breathed through my mouth as I struggled to keep up with my family in such thick and heavy wardrobe. The pace and flow of New York City is not to be taken lightly.
I’ve been to New York a couple of more times since then, and every time I still feel like Dorothy as she approaches the Emerald City. I’m just always in complete awe of the blazing lights of Broadway, the obnoxious honks of horns in standstill traffic, street performers putting on a show like their lives depended on it, and the rushing bodies as the crowds swarm the sidewalks and streets making their way home or to school or to work, all the while never paying each other any mind.
It’s the perfect place to be if you want to be left alone but not feel alone.
Updated 2/16/17 with photo.
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