In a few weeks time I’ll be soaking up as much as I can during a four day trip to the city so good they named it twice - and I can’t wait!
So it's not entirely sudden and on a whim, I've wanted to visit New York for ages, in fact I came close to going a few years ago before letting fears and expectations talk me out of it.
But with all the recent shifts in my life, I got to the point of realising that if I don't do this now - if I don't start really listening and acting on what my heart and soul tell me is a path I need to follow - I probably never will, and that's something I'm likely to regret.
Travel has been one of my biggest dreams for a long time. It's my very first response when anyone asks me - if money were no object, what would you do? My gut reaction on seeing somewhere new and exotic and exciting and beautiful on television is for my heart to beat a little harder and my soul voice to shout - I want to go there!
I want to be able to experience as many of the wonderful sights and sounds and smells and tastes, people and cultures, that the world has to offer, and interestingly to me, this deep desire for experience almost completely overrides any fears or doubts I have about travelling to new places, about being completely out of my comfort zone, about having to try new things, and about the many risks that there also appear to be.
And trust me, in most other things, those fears would definitely win.
I'm one of those people who genuinely loves doing things on my own. Exploring at my own pace, stopping or moving on as I choose, getting involved or taking a step back to observe.
So booking a solo trip to New York feels like an entirely logical thing from that perspective - I'll be able to experience the city unencumbered by anyone's expectations but my own, to make up my own mind, and to tell my own stories about it.
I truly believe that our experiences are what we make of them - what we think about them - and I can tell you, I haven't stopped thinking about how incredible it's going to feel being in New York since I pressed that button, slightly shaky of hand, to confirm my flight and hotel booking.
My imagination is running riot with different scenarios - my first view of that iconic skyline, the noise and crowds of the streets, the possibilities.
I have this mental picture of what New York is like thanks to a lifetime of films and television (complete with rousing soundtrack and swirling camera angles), and I'm excited to see how true a picture it turns out to be.
I'm fully into planning mode now, figuring out where I want to go, what I want to see, how far it is from where I'm staying, how much it'll cost, how long it'll take, how much I can fit in to the four days I'll be in the city.
But I'm also trying to hold the planning lightly, to create options and alternatives, to leave space and flexibility in the itinerary, to allow myself time to wander and explore as the whim takes me, to discover hidden gems, and to be able to stop and soak it all in.
Clearly, for my first trip to New York, I’ve got to play the true tourist and will definitely be heading for most of the top attractions - the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Times Square to name a few - and in mid-November I’m anticipating the beginnings of Christmas appearing around the city too.
But what I also love about visiting a new city is just walking around and exploring, seeing where I end up, observing the people and the day-to-day goings-on, and there are a few neighbourhoods I’d like to take a wander in to get a flavour for the incredible cultural diversity that New York offers.
I’m intending to visit at least one of the major museums or galleries, and want to see at least one Broadway show. And of course, as a dedicated Instagrammer, there are a few spots I hope to head to to get my own versions of some of the city’s most iconic photos.
Of course there are practicalities to consider too, and as a woman travelling on my own perhaps a few more than there might be if I were going with other people. My personal safety is of course a big one to think about, but I’m mainly relying on my own common sense, previous experience, and advice I’ve picked up from friends as well as the myriad ‘solo female traveller’ blogs there are around online.
Things like keeping my bag and personal belongings secure about my person, sticking to well lit and well populated areas, not walking around with my head in my phone, and I’m staying in a mid-sized hotel that’s part of a well known chain which offers a bit of reassurance too.
One aspect of the trip I’m trying to keep on the excited end of the spectrum, rather than worrying about it, is the flight. It’ll be the longest I’ve ever flown (around 8 hours from the UK), and I have in the past succumbed to travel sickness. I’m not worried about being bored for that long - there will be plenty of films on the inflight entertainment to keep me occupied - but I’ll be employing every trick in the book to try and keep the nausea at bay.
This includes staying at a hotel at Heathrow the night before so I stand a chance of getting a reasonable night’s sleep and breakfast at a decent hour, rather than a very early start to drive from home. I’ve also booked a window seat so I can watch the horizon, and yes, I will be taking travel sickness pills! My flight coming home is overnight, so I’m banking on being so exhausted that I’ll sleep then too.
Without a doubt this trip is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to have huge repercussions for my dreams and plans once I get back. I expect my inner wanderlust to be ignited even more, and a craving for more travel to be utterly unleashed.
I recalled recently how it was my wide-eyed wonder, boundless enthusiasm, and passion for sharing my experiences that had been the over-riding memory my teachers had of me during a school trip to Ghana way back in 2002, and I can see how that thread has continued in the experiences I feel most strongly about sharing now - the sights and sounds and smells and tastes that light me up, the feelings evoked by being immersed somewhere different, and an unquenchable desire to share it all, to have other people see and hear and feel even just a small taste of what I have.
Basically what I’m saying is, you can expect to see A LOT of photos from New York, and probably some creatively, poetically, and emotionally charged reviews as I try my best to describe the trip in as much detail as I can!
However, before I go, here’s an invitation and a request:
1. I’m sharing a virtual coffee date with my friend, coach, and seasoned solo traveller Eleanor Snare on Tuesday 22nd October at 7.30pm and you’re invited! We’ll be chatting about all the dos, don’ts, and why-the-hell-nots of travelling solo, our own experiences, plus tips, tricks and advice covering all the common worries I’ve talked about above, plus answering your questions.
Check out all the details and book your place to join us HERE.
2. Let’s be frank. New York is expensive. And with currency exchange rates not what they used to be (thanks Brexit!) money will be even tighter. I’ve been saving as much as I can over the last few months so that I can fully enjoy the trip, but if you’d like to, you can make a contribution to help me out - from a couple of dollars for a subway ticket, to a meal for one in a nice restaurant, or entrance tickets to attractions, it will all help to make the visit even more special - and give me even more amazing experiences to share with you!
If you’d like to leave me a gift, you can do it via my NYC Fund money pool on Paypal (you don’t need a Paypal account, and you can contribute any amount with a credit or debit card) - Thank you so much!