5 Things I Learned While Visiting NYC / by Nicole Paulus

While waiting for the gnarly thunderstorm to pass during a layover at Hartsfield-Jackson, I thought I'd write a quick blog post about my most recent big city adventure.

The best part about my job is that it gives me the freedom to travel when I want. Most recently, I took an opportunity to visit some good friends in NYC/Brooklyn.

During my week long trip, I discovered a few things about the big apple that I am going to divulge with you now. 

1. All the bathrooms are disgusting.

dirty bathroom

It didn't matter where I went (the Natural History Museum, La Guardia Airport, The Met, a dive bar in Brooklyn, or a Starbucks on the Upper East Side)--the bathrooms were awful, just awful. If the bathroom didn't reek of urine, you could almost guarantee that there was a littering of trash and toilet paper, as well as visible layers of dirt and grime caked to the floor. With nearly 47 million foreign and American tourists a year, it's surprising to me that bathroom cleanliness is not more of a priority. Imagine if the coolest most interesting person you know stopped showering one day because he knew he was fabulous and that people were going to continue to like him regardless. Um, gross. Take a shower please. 

2. Public transportation is awesome and convenient but the technology is extremely outdated.

image by Robert Manni

image by Robert Manni

Shortly after landing at La Guardia, I bought my weekly MTA pass from an ATM looking machine. See what I did there? MTA-ATM. I was proud of myself for navigating my way around the airport and with the help of Google Maps, I quickly figured out which bus/train would take me to my friend's place in Greenwich Village. 

I will admit--the subway is a little confusing, especially if you aren't used to riding public transportation. I bought the $30 unlimited week pass because I knew that I would screw up a time or two and I wanted to give myself the peace of mind that would allow for these mistakes. Well apparently my weekly pass got damaged after only using it for three days (still not sure how--it remained in a very safe spot in my purse the entire time.) Not only would MTA not distribute me another pass (I had my original receipt!) but two different, two very unpleasant attendants informed me I'd have to mail the pass into the MTA headquarters, fill out a form, and wait to hear if they'd give me a refund. In the meantime--I had to pay for all my rides out of pocket. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Oh and did I mention this is a normal thing that happens to lots of people? Two of my NYC friends have had similar experiences and there was a guy in line behind me that was dealing with the same issue.  Again, for a city that relies so heavily on tourism, you'd think they'd be a little more progressive with their public transportation technology. 

Aside from the MTA mixup, the Subway is awesome. You can seriously get to anywhere in the city AND it runs 24 hours. 

3. Perfect city for wanderers like me.

washington square park

As someone who is prone to going stir crazy if kept cooped up in one place too long, I seriously enjoyed how accessible and walkable the city is. It's also a great city if you like to do things alone but still want to be around the energy of other people. 

Every day I would set off in a different direction, sometimes opting to walk there instead of ride the Subway. Not only were there a ton of sites to see along the way, but there is something very empowering about using my body to get from point A to point B. Not to mention, it's a great way to stay slim and sleep soundly the following night.

After eating lunch at a cute spot in Chinatown one day I was seriously exhausted. I had been site-seeing for a solid week and just needed time to recuperate. If I had been in Phoenix, I probably would have gone home and laid on the couch in my A/C and watched something ridiculous on TV before nodding off for the evening. Instead, I walked back to The Village and hung out in the grass at Washington Square Park. I wrote, read, listened to music and took in the beautiful sites. 

4. NYC is only as expensive as you make it.

Sure rent is about 4 times as much rent in Phoenix, but everything else is pretty comparable. Well, let me rephrase that. There are cheap alternatives to everything. I made the horrible mistake of eating a $9 canned bean burrito at Florencia 13 one evening, but other than that I stuck to my budget pretty well. Most bars have great happy hour deals and there are plenty of cheap food alternatives.

In addition to food and drink, many of the museums in NYC (like the Met, Brooklyn Museum, and the Natural History Museum) are pay what you want--always.  Other museums also offer free or discounted days for those seeking culture on a budget.

In lieu of a cheesy tourist tour of Lady Liberty, I rode the free Staten Island ferry instead. The 30 minute ride picks you up near Battery Park and takes you to Staten Island. Once you are on the island, you have to exit the boat and then get back on the returning ferry. And it passes right by the Statue of Liberty!

5.  NYC's got it.

starry night

You want authentic Polish food? NYC's got it. You want to see Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh? NYC's got it. You want to walk by the apartment that Buddy Holly wrote several solo acoustic tracks? NYC's got it. 

NYC has all the culture, history and cuisine you could ever want. Despite NYC's unclean bathrooms and public transit hiccups, it is one of the most fabulous cities I have ever encountered. One day I will be a true New Yorker but until then I am going to eat ALL the yummy mexican food I can while living out my desert days.