I (Now) Love New York | My Family Travels
Central Park
Central Park
Times Square
Times Square
St.. Patrick's Day
St.. Patrick's Day

“I’ll go, but I really hate New York City.”

“Of course you do. This is coming from the girl who hated the food in France, too. You’re about as cultured as a potato.”

            I huffed at my friend’s comment, restraining my hand from smacking him in the back of the head. The way he saw it, everyone loves New York, so obviously there’s something wrong with me if I don’t. But honestly, my one personal experience had been terrible.

            I was 15 before I first traveled there as part of a group Girl Scout trip. We’d spent nearly 12 hours on a train to get there, and once we arrived at Central Station, sleep-deprived, we were dragged on a 3-day frenzy of trying to cram in as many tourist attractions as possible. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, The Empire State Building, Times Square, South Street Seaport…soon I was just a zombie, falling into the take-a-picture-and-move-on routine.

After only a short time on the summer-hot streets of the Big Apple, I’d come to detest everything about it: from the smelly trash bags piled carelessly on the sidewalks to the mysterious droplets—that I could only hope were water–that landed on my shoulder from an unseen source above. My personal space was violated in every way, jostled in crowds of the millions of busy New Yorkers who were so carelessly placed onto a tiny little island of Manhattan.

When we finally boarded the train and left for home, I vowed I would never return. But here I was, two years later, packing my bags for a 5-day journalism convention in New York City.

The first day was probably the most interesting I’ve experienced on a vacation: we were just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that would usually go unobserved at home. But here, we partied at the parade, decked out in green, watched the kilt bands and ran into people who came all the way from Ireland itself to celebrate.

On the last day, a couple of my friends and I were finally allowed to venture out on our own. For lunch, we stopped at a empty Thai food cart who’s competitor next door had a line snaking around the corner. Feeling bad for him, we purchased a couple meals to go and walked down to Times Square to eat. The food was delicious, and we were treated to interesting meal entertainment while we watched a filming taking place a few tables down.

From there, we leisurely walked to Central Park, which we were all excited to see. The three of us found a sunny rock to lie on and soaked up the warmth like scaly lizards. From our rock, we could hear a man playing the saxophone for tips, providing us soft music to relax to. Couples strolled by with their dogs, bikers zoomed past us in a hurry to get wherever they were headed to. But for an hour, we just laid on the rock and took it all in.

And as I laid there, I realized that New York City wasn’t the hellhole I had always associated in my mind. I’d always thought vacation meant museums and monuments, not parks and parades. But all that touring did absolutely nothing for us.

This was how you truly got a feel for a city. By lying back and enjoying the good food and entertainment, letting yourself soak it all in. This was the true meaning of vacation—to get away from home and enjoy yourself, which doesn’t always include the popular destinations on the beaten path.

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