New York City — the Big Apple, the City of Dreams and the place where I spent my spring break vacation. I’ve been to New York before, but this time I went with a goal in mind: I wanted to really pay attention to the differences between this big, famous city and my sleepy hometown suburb. I was born in New England but spent most of my childhood in South Florida. As someone who wants to be a writer one day, I’ve been told that NYC is the place to be. So this trip was part anthropological expedition and part trial run. This is what I took away from it all.
You can walk to anything: In my hometown, I’m used to having to drive at least ten minutes before getting to something interesting. That, coupled with the intense heat of South Florida, means a lot of time in the car and less time walking. But in New York City, driving is very impractical due to high traffic and expensive parking. Luckily, public transportation takes you almost everywhere you need to go. There was still a lot of walking involved, but thank goodness it was winter, so I wasn’t sweating like crazy. The flow of people moves fast, though, and I found myself tripping a few times (once almost resulting in a sprained ankle).
Public transportation gets really crowded: In Gainesville, the buses aren’t usually overflowing, and if they are, then chances are another one will come along in just moments. The subways in New York are super crowded, especially during rush hour. I had to wait for two trains before one with enough room came by once. I definitely do not recommend it if you’re claustrophobic. What was interesting to me, though, was the ease with which people used public transportation. Not only was everyone comfortable with the incredibly crowded train, but I also saw little kids taking the subway home from school and across the city. Perhaps it’s the fact that I grew up in a protective suburban environment, but I thought that was pretty cool (and maybe a tad worrying, too).
There’s so much culture: Back home, there’s one art museum, one Japanese garden and one café that isn’t Starbucks. Gainesville is a little better, boasting a bunch of small cafés and independent restaurants. But for someone who loves museums as much as I do, New York City is absolute heaven. A family friend gave me free passes to a couple museums, and a handful of them were “pay as you wish,” so I spent hours in museums. As for food, there’s actual authentic ethnic food that you don’t get in a sleepy suburb, and not just in Chinatown and Little Italy.
The vibe is totally different: It’s hard to explain, and I thought it was just something I noticed, but the whole atmosphere of the people in New York is just different than anywhere else. The South gets stereotyped as sort of relaxed and laidback. The West Coast has a mix of being chill, but also adventurous and open-minded. And, well, the New York stereotype of being busy all the time was almost tangible. I talked about it with a few people during my stay, and they all agreed with my assessment. This is a city that knows what it wants and gets it.
I’m not sure if New York City will be my home one day. I’m not sure if that’s what I ultimately want, but it is definitely different from what I’m used to, and I am open-minded about where I end up.
Photo Credit: howlatthemoon.com