I’d like to thank all my readers and travel blogging companions for all the wonderful interactions through the summer. This community has been so helpful in shaping my goals, interests, and writing. I’m incredibly happy to have kick-started my blogging project over the year, and writing has been a constant source of stress relief and support.
I like to write reflections from time to time to remind myself what goals I have and where I’m at in my life. During these time in my moods, I tend to get existential, and rant about all the things I could do better. Let’s see then, shall we?
Some mini-milestones I’ve passed this summer!
Took a family vacation (We haven’t had one in years! Post to come…) to Florida, gulf side. Wow, are the beaches there beautiful.
Started my 2nd remote job. My office is set up right in my bedroom. I was so surprised when I received my equipment set: laptop, backdrop, camera, etc. I am so thrilled to be part of this work-from-home team. Honestly, before I got my 1st remote job as an English instructor, I never knew these things existed.
Saw Queen in New York! Who knew that I would get to be in the same breathing space as the rocking legends? Adam Lambert was fantastic. They threw a spectacular show unlike any other concert. I was up and dancing pretty much the whole way. While we’re there, we also saw some awesome shows: Regina Spektor, Dear Evan Hansen, Great Comet, Waitress
Went on a 3-day timeshare vacation. We’ve all heard of the horror stories and how people get stuck in these presentation for 4+ hours! We got out more than alive, loved it, and will be coming back. Aaaaand, we didn’t buy any timeshares. 😉
Hope you enjoyed my shiny new adventures! Don’t forget to let me know what you think.
Fun travels aside, these few months, I’ve been struggling with some thoughts and issues that I’d like to share. Maybe I’ll have some input from all of you.
I’ve pondering whether or not I could be doing more, career-wise. Should I give in to one of those boring 9-5 office jobs, but pays more and is more professional?
Doing something to make a difference should be today’s form of currency.
Graduate school? I’ve been constantly asked whether or not I want to go. It’s not that I don’t want to go, but the risk of spending $100K on getting a piece of paper when I could be learning from all these available online resources doesn’t make sense to me. I was fortunate enough to graduate college without debt, and I love that. I’m able to use all my hard-earned money for things I love to do. But then, there’s always that pressure from people to get an advanced degree. What’s the right answer?
I could improve….
I’m so sorry, everyone! I’ve been so off my game with keeping up with blog posts. Honestly, doing a weekly post is harder to keep up with than I could ever imagine. I admire my fellow blog challenge friends who schedule their posts. To make up for it, I’ll share this picture
Another thing I need to keep in mind: languages and learning! I’m constantly trying to remind myself to practice my Spanish and Chinese, the languages I learned in high school and college. There are so many free online resources, yet I’m so lazy and complacent, that I’ve been slowly forgetting all these awesome lessons.
Also, music! I keep forgetting in my moments of most stress, I could be learning some new tunes on my uke, guitar, keyboards.
What are some of your goals and reflections the last few months? Cheers!
This is a message to those who wish to move to the city, but are scared of the dreaded unknown. This is a message to parents or friends who have loved ones wanting to move to city and are afraid for them.
Everything will be okay.
When I decided to move to New York City, I have been discouraged extensively by my family. It’s expensive, I couldn’t make it. It’s dangerous. People are cunning and untrustworthy. It’s too far from home and family. The list goes on. I have lived in small mountain towns for most of my life. For the past 10 years, I dreamt of seeing the world and living the city life. I wanted to try new things and make a change on my own. Family duties and education had tied me to these mountains for longer than I would have liked. I moved to New York without friends or family there. I moved without a job paved out or plans. My biggest fear is that if I don’t do it now, then I would never do it.
Now, living in the Big Apple for almost a year, I can say a few things about the city- things I learned, things I wish I knew, and things I want to say to encourage people to make the big step.
Yes, it is expensive, but there are ways to cut the costs. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle for most people who choose not to move to NYC. To be honest, I was quite scared myself. With a few lifestyle changes, we learned to live well in this expensive city. Between my boyfriend and I, we spend about $1000-$1500 a month on everything. We lived in Manhattan and Staten Island in our time in New York.
We don’t buy furniture. All of our furniture have been given to us for free. We have brought home 50″ TVs, mirrors, beds (with bedbug covering), tables, chairs, shelves, printers, you name it. Free stuff are given every hour of every day. People in New York live lavishly and constantly move; we are always able to find people who want to make sure their things are going to good use. Our top three resources are Craigslist, Freecycle, and the curb. 😉
Prepare for culture shock. Coming from a small mountain town in North Carolina, I have always been a minority. The two most exotic cuisines are Mexican foods and Chinese foods.New York City is a wonderfully cultured city. Here, in just one short subway ride, I see people from all walks of life.
Your apartment will be twice the price for half the size. For about $1000/month, we share an apartment with three other people. Our apartment had one small kitchen, living room, and bathroom. We had a 12×12 room with a narrow hallway. Luckily, there are ways to minimize furniture space through wonderful inventions.
It was much more expensive than our apartment in North Carolina, but we loved the area. Walking around the area, we can find food from all around the world. People were friendly and positive energy was in the air. Of course, the further from the city, the cheaper the apartment gets. You can easily find $500-600 apartments in the Bronx, Morningside Heights (north Manhattan), Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.
Public transportationis the best transportation. This is a huge change from where I lived. Instead of relying on a car to get me places, I learned to use the intricate subway system of the city. I love it. I can walk, bike, ride the subway/bus/ferry anywhere I choose. We purchased a CitiBike annual membership for $160, and it became one of our favorite free things to do together.
It’s fast and people are motivated. Either move fast or get out of my way. New York is truly the place to go to get things done. People here have places to be and things to do. It doesn’t mean that they’re rude, it’s just the lifestyle and culture of the place. I have never felt so alive and pumping with productivity as being in the city. While apartment searching, most of the roommates requirement listed “must have a job, cannot be a couch potato.”
I have never gone negative with my finances while living here. The atmosphere and constant get things done attitude had inspired me to try so many different things. At one point, I had started to work three jobs at a time, not because I needed to, but because I wanted to try all these new things at once.
It’s a hub of constant activity and diversity. From the food, to the streets, to the clothes, to the people, New York has it all. The city is the ultimate place to experience new things. There are so many things to do. So many things to look at. Christmastime is a sight to behold. Halls decked with beautiful light and music shows. Fifth avenue bustles with shoppers and tourists. People laughing and smiling. Ice skating (please don’t go to Rockefeller) is amazingly romantic.
There are a million ways to meet people.Meetup, Couchsurfing, and Eventbrite are great resources for meeting and networking with people. From nerdy game nights to exercise groups to a party night out, they have it all.
Convenience, convenience, convenience!
Dirt cheap international flights are a subway ride away. I subscribe to the The Flight Deal newsletter, which features daily dirt cheap flights from the biggest cities in the United States to all locations around the world. I have seen tickets to Europe as cheap as $100 dollars round trip! New York is the home to extensive interstate bus systems. For travels 5-20 hours away, I like to take an overnight bus as it is much cheaper than a plane ticket. For a five day getaway, we took a bus to Montreal, Canada for only $50!
Internet speeds are superior than the mountains. With little to nonexistent internet in the mountains, New York City is a wonderful heaven of free WiFi. All over New York are LinkNYC network that provides free google maps access, internet browsing, phone calls, and a phone/tablet charging station.
East Harlem has a wonderful network of stores nearby that made our stay heavenly. Just a few blocks walking offers parks, cheap grocery stores, laundromat, subway station, CitiBike racks, Indian cuisine buffets, karaoke bars, and more.
All things nature are man-made. With an area of about 460 square miles, New York City is home to over 30 parks, and of course, the famous Central Park. However, unless you go to upstate NYC, don’t expect to find any beautiful national parks and nature preserves. New Yorkers love to wind down at local parks after work by taking their pets out for runs, spend family time, or sit and read outside.
In contrast, NYC is home to the most impressive architectures. Some of my favorites places to admire beautiful architecture are:
It was a combination of all these things that made me fall in love with the city during our first visit. There is nowhere quite like the energy of New York.
It was never our plan to stay in New York City permanently. Though there is a heartache to think that we will not be biking the beautiful Hudson River Greenway a month or a year from now, we both know that New York is not where we will will grow old. There is always a charm in the small town where I grew up. Each sunset over the Appalachian mountains, each beautiful autumn changing color, the fact that everyone knows everyone else, the hospitality and true friendships are endearing to me.
So, what’s next?
New York will always be a special place to me. It is here that I had truly become independent, and I had come out a better person. I’ve learned so much from the city. I’ve learned to speak better, to work efficiently, to think on my feet, to opened my mind and eyes, to get lost and explore. I have gained the experience I had set out to find. I can feel that it is time to set on to another adventure. We’re hoping to go to a few more Broadway shows and museums, then return home for some time to visit family. In the next year, we hope to pick up and start backpacking Asia.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment and some love. <3
Once a year, the Medieval Festival brings to life the traditions and spirit of the Renaissance days. Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park transforms into a medieval market town decorated with eye-catching bright banners and processional flags. Performers and festival goers dress in medieval costume and speak Old English. Visitors are greeted by medieval music, dance, magic, and minstrels, as well as jugglers and jesters. Costumed vendors will be on hand to demonstrate and sell a wide variety of medieval crafts as well as food and drink. The expected attendance this year is 40,000 people!
I’ve been fascinated by all things Medieval since I was little. I was brainwashed by tales of princesses, knights, queens, peasants, warlocks. Finally had the chance to go to a Medieval Festival was unreal. I whipped up the most medieval looking look (mind you, I’m not very fashionable): a scarf to use as a hood, a dark, flowy patterned dress, and a ribbon to braid up my hair. Good enough.
There was zero chance of rain, excellent;aperfect day wander into the Middle Ages. I was giddy like a child at an amusement park as we walked up to the Park’s entrance. Because the event was free, we donated at the wishing well that says “Prithee, Donate a Dollar!” The fort was a beautiful place to host a Medieval Festival, as it is surrounded by a lake, and in the middle the fort is a Medieval Museum. Since the museum is there year-round, we decided to save it for another day. Since there were events scheduled all day, we had no problems with finding things to do.
One of the most beautiful performances was this lady playing Medieval, Celtic, and world music on her harp. At one point, two people joined in with her singing. We sat on the ledge, listening to her relaxing songs for a long time. Beside her is a face painter, who paints children’s faces with butterflies, dragons, sparkles, etc. Everything about that moment was magical. <3 There’s something about medieval music that makes me feel light and wonderful.
This rowdy group of performers, Three Pints Shy, is the best.They performed upbeat music with lots of humor in their lyrics. They mess around and drank mead during their performance. They were everything I imagined musical performers in the medieval ages to be like. They told stories through their songs of their adventures. They danced, they laughed, they fought. That’s my kind of life.
Speaking of mead… We tried three different types of mead at the festival! I’ve always wanted to try out mead. Apparently, it is an alcoholic drink made of honey and water with a variety of spices, fruit, and grain. They were pretty expensive at $4 a cup. It tasted like a strong fruity wine. Yummy!
Jousting Tournament of the Knights
And finally, what everyone has been waiting for. The festival ends with a thrilling joust by four knights, mounted on their steeds. The battle gets heated as the crowd cheers on for their knight in shining armor. When I read medieval age books, knights were always admirable, honorable, and courageous. Seeing them in real life is an amazing experience. In one of the final jousts, the knight fell off his steed, and they begin to sword fight to the death. Funny thing was, kids were there and loving it.
There are wood carvers, artisans, storytellers, manuscript illuminators to demonstrate their craftsmanship.
The storyteller was very intriguing. I wish I have the ability to tell stories well. There’s an art to it; even I was hooked in her tales.
The jester was one of my favorites. He looked to be in his 80s, but juggling and jumping around like a child!
There was an awesome dragon right by the bonfire, but he was surrounded by people trying to take pictures with him that I didn’t get a closer shot.
There were tons of cool costumes that I wish I had.
Random Thoughts While Wandering Around the Festival:
I wish life was as magical, carefree, and fun (minus the wars) like the Medieval Era. – Maybe I should join a traveling Medieval group! My parents probably won’t endorse that….
Just saw Captain America… why??!??!?!!! It’s not Comic Con.
There are so many Links from Zelda! I guess that’s better than a superhero, but it seems to be looked down upon by hardcore Renaissance lovers- noted.
Those giant turkey legs look good… too bad I’m vegetarian. /sigh/
Thanks for reading!!!! Questions? Comments?? Let’s chat below! <3
New York has been especially beautiful lately. We were biking down Hudson River Greenway when I saw an excellent bench to sit with a great view of the water and the skyline. We brought our books and sandwiches, and have all the time in the world to sit and creepily watch people walk by.
There’s nothing like waking up Saturday morning and finding out we won lottery tickets to the Broadway production Sunset Boulevard for $55. Widely considered the highest level of commercial theater, we were quickly hooked on Broadway performances. Typically, Broadway shows usually range about $100-$500. In the past four months, we have won over ten Broadway show lottery tickets consisting of Tony Award-winning shows Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Chicago, Kinky Boots, and School of Rock. Because we win so many shows in a short amount of time, when we won Sunset Boulevard this morning, we had to decide whether it was worth going to. Never hearing of that production before and running out of time to get there before the show, I concluded it was too much hassle to buy the tickets.
With that decision, I went about my usual morning routines. Out of curiosity, I did a casual internet search, which surprisingly revealed that the production is a revival from an award-winning Tony Musical in the 1990s with the award-winning lead actress herself performing today. Gaping at the success of this strange title, I only had minutes left before the purchasing window closes, so I quickly bought the tickets. We had just enough time to grab $1 pizza for lunch, then rush to the theater.
Sunset Boulevard tells a story of a Hollywood silent film fading star, Norma Desmond. She yearns for the glory days of the past, taking the audience through her emotional roller coaster of frustrations, insecurities, and everlasting hope.Wishing to make a “return” to Hollywood, Norma writes a script for a film. When a struggling screenwriter, Joe Gillis, accidentally stumbles into her mansion, Norma hires him as her editor. She then takes him on her roller coaster ride of a life. Without much freedom to decide his fate, Joe is forced to accompany Norma through her bouts of depression, bordering insane.
The female lead role is played by Glenn Close, the same lead actress who won the Tony Musical Award for Lead Female Actress twenty years ago. Close performed a chilling performance, her character was so fragile, determined, hopeful. Since her performance twenty years ago, Close came back with a role that matches with Norma Desmond. Both were huge stars in the past, and now coming back into the performing world. Her performance was so real, it was difficult to tell if it was Norma Desmond or Glenn Close who was on the stage. Her special return to Broadway did not disappoint. Halfway through her song “With One Look,” her voice cracked, as if it was too much strain on her. Whether it was a real strain on her voice or if she is just in character as Norma, it was hard to tell. However, it was unanimous by the end of the night that her portrayal of Norma is ever more fragile and bitter than twenty years ago.
In all the hype of Glenn Close’s performance, it might have been easy overlook other supporting characters. However, it was Michael Xavier, playing Joe Gillis, that took us into Norma’s mad world. It felt as if I was following Alice and her bizarre, wonderful and terrifying journey through Wonderland. Xavier did a fantastic job depicting the lurking horrors of the mansion through the song, “Sunset Boulevard.” Max, Norma’s trusted companion and butler, shows undying loyalty towards her. He supports her by directing all her performances and protects her from people who may hurt her.
Sunset Boulevard embodies several key themes. Norma is consumed by her desire to be famous. She is blinded by that, only believing that she is still the star the audience is waiting for. She had manipulated Joe into staying with her by threatening to suicide. Max lied to Norma to save her feelings from getting hurt. Hollywood was fake, and the fakeness is contagious; to be part of it, Joe becomes fake too. Unbeknownst to him, Joe becomes a victim of the Sunset Boulevard life.
Like many other Andrew Lloyd Webber productions such as Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, and Cats, his musical score turned Sunset Boulevard into a masterpiece. There was that familiar Webber signature in the theatrical music that made it his own. While listening to the music pieces, I detect similarities that could be something from Phantom, School of Rock, and Cats.
Despite my skepticism of the musical in the beginning, I was immensely glad that I had purchased the tickets. The chilling, theatrical musical scores spun with story will keep me humming for the weeks to come.
New York is a giant hub of free things to do. There are always free performances on the sidewalk of busy streets in NYC, from street art to live music, from people on stilts to break dancers on subways, there’s a little bit of fun for everyone. My recent favorite is listening to a saxophonist who plays breathtaking music every morning on my way to work on Wall Street. Of course, I can’t always rely on chance to lead me to these free things to do. For free, fun, non-spontaneous day outs, I rely on a mailing list that updates me on big events that go on throughout the week.
This weekend, we decided to go to the Atlantic Antic Festival and Americana Music Festival right in the heart of Brooklyn. A mash of food, music, clothing, and culture can be found at the annual Atlantic Antic Festival where 10+ blocks of Atlantic Avenue closes for hundreds of vendors to sell and thousands of people to walk through.
Being vegetarian travelers, we have learned to never expect people to have food for us. Especially in Central America and Southeast Asia, “vegetarian” can mean very different things. I have always been very careful while eating out. One can imagine my distress when I found small chunks of chicken in my “vegetable” soup (being vegetarian isn’t really popular in Central America). That said, having food protects us from making rash and costly decisions to buy everything in sight and smell.
We walked past cool buildings full with graffiti of New York innuendos.
At the end of the Atlantic Avenue lies the Americana Music Festival. How awfully convenient for us. We were met with an amazing view of the NYC Skyline, a great crowd in high spirits, and a band that is already playing music. It was a beautiful day to be outside, good thing we came prepared.
With our books and sandwiches, we found a spot to sit and picnic while listening to great American Folk music playing. Brooklyn Americana Festival celebrates its 2nd anniversary this year; the festival features country, blues, and folk music in streets, bars, and piers.
As I listened to a banjo player telling the story of an interactive West Side Story, I thought of how a year later, we are once again gazing at the Manhattan Skyline as the sun sets. About this time last year, we had began our road trip around the United States, New York being one of our first destinations. I had fallen in love with the city and was determined to return. Now, here we are, living the dream life. Work on weekdays, travel in one of the world’s most touristic cities on weekends. We’ve come a very long way to get here, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
About 2 hours after settling down, we were greeted with a beautiful view of sunset over the Manhattan skyline. Growing up in the mountains, I never knew what skyscrapers were, or been on subways, or used a bike to get around. Here, in New York, I feel like the possibilities are endless.
The festival was beautiful all the way to the very end. We watched the sun go down as the stage back light and the city skyline illuminate the night sky, a marvelous sight to behold. As the festival was coming to an end, we packed up our things to head home, looking forward to the next adventure.