Tag Archives: Traveling

Out-Of-Town Visitors

1 Jul
A pic I snapped in Coney Island this weekend.

A pic I snapped in Coney Island this weekend.

When we first moved here, we were absolutely clueless. We told everyone, “Come visit us! Come visit us!” So that we could paint the town with fruit-smelling sharpies and LIVE. We didn’t know. We didn’t know that it would take months and months of our own exploring before we could really roll out the red carpet and act like brochure-toting tour guides.

It was only a few weeks after paying our first rent check that we had our first guest. We were super excited. I had a car back then, and we even picked him up at LaGuardia – without ever driving through NYC before. Yeah, we were smart, too. And after white-knuckling it to the airport, we showed him the sites. “This is our local Dunkin’ Donuts – we drink coffee there, sometimes.” That sort of thing. I would feel panicky as we headed down into the subway before visiting a museum. “I think we go downtown. I’m pretty sure we head downtown. I hope to God we go downtown.” So, basically, it was fabulous.

My parents flew here about a month later. I was still the kindergartner that couldn’t let go of their mom’s leg on the first day of school. They came, I didn’t leave their side. They left, I thought about getting a plane ticket with them. So while we had some definite places we wanted to share with them (I discovered other coffee shops besides DD), I wanted some “normal” hang out time. Mom, want to go shopping for generic things at the mall that sells basically the same things at shopping centers in Iowa? Hey Dad, I know you want to try the pubs here, but let’s go to Chili’s! I don’t think we’ve had their nachos enough! I found a Panera! Let’s go to a Panera! Did you notice we have a Panera, you guys have one too! Oh, sure, we showed them around – but after seeing all the homeless people sleeping in the park, I was ready for some green, green cornfields.

Some time went by. You know, the time between August and April. That time. And in that time, I got a job (or three), had to learn public transportation, survived a natural disaster, and became a bit more acclimated to my surroundings. I now had FOUR go-to coffee shops. FOUR. My best friend from grade school came from Colorado with a request for the funkier side of NYC. And while we didn’t hit all the things on the list (you never do), we showed her the Brooklyn Bridge, the Villages, Soho, and CBGB (which is sadly enough now a high-end men’s clothing store. Ugh.) She said it was great to have people who knew the area and could give her the non-touristy tour of NYC. Wow. That was a nice pat on the back. But even at that time, we were just starting to make our tread across the New York maps, and having A-Ha! moments when we recognized a certain street from an earlier journey.

My brother just got on a plane back to Iowa after four days of adventuring across the City. The bottoms of our shoes are worn, after venturing high and low and east. To the Mets game for a rainy day of baseball. To Coney Island to wade in the ocean. To Christopher Street to watch the Pride Parade. And for impromptu fireworks across the Hudson. There were a lot of “firsts” for us on his trip too, and it got me realizing: Even if we end up doing the same thing with our guests, it’s always a new experience. I always see something different and it’s just completely unfamiliar because you are making memories with other loved ones. So while my subway skills have come a long way and I no longer seek out a McDonald’s to get a taste of something familiar, I’m forever being surprised by all the “firsts” I continue to experience. And look forward to all that are coming ahead. Oh, and realizing that there is nothing wrong with an obsession for Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s just that good.

Blinders off

14 Jan


About a year ago, I set foot on my own in New York City for the very first time. I had been there before with friends, but it felt more like stumbling through the dark than actually experiencing the city that never sleeps. With friends, I was a handheld child as we ventured the subway and to various stops around town. I had no concept of directions, streets – anything, really. So last January was an experience. I had come for a writing conference, and I was shaky and nervous ever since landing on the tarmac at LaGuardia. How do you hail for a cab? How much do you pay the driver? Can you just go in one subway station and go wherever you want? I was like a big ole doe with blinders on.

With a brand new smart phone, I tried to maneuver my way around with it’s GPS to the World Trade Center. Somehow I ended up in Hell’s Kitchen and still believed it was the actual location while sending out a prayer to those lost.

I ended up taking gypsy cabs (just because I felt sorry for them), then feared for my life during the drive. Not only did they charge exorbitant prices, but I overtipped – just because I was delivered to my location alive. While I promised myself that I wouldn’t look like a dumb tourist – that is exactly what happened. The doorman at the hotel I stayed at had to tell me more than once that my purse was unzipped. While trying to figure out where I was at in the city, each time I said “I’m from out of town.” Sometimes, I would even include that I was from Iowa – complete with a confused, wide-eyed expression. I might as well have worn a Hawaiian floral T-shirt and fanny pack.

Before I moved to the East Coast, one knowledgeable person warned me, saying “Carrie, you are an easy target.” But how? I had been to NYC a couple times, I was practically a New Yorker already. Boy, was I wrong. The first couple weeks were tough, but I had a travel partner who didn’t have problems with directions. The first time I took the subway alone, I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t want to sit in close quarters with people that I didn’t know, kept looking at my purse to make sure it wasn’t gaping open, and anxiously darted my head back to the train’s map, just to make sure I hadn’t missed my stop.

What has changed since being there for almost five months? Well, I still get lost pretty easily, but I have taken the blinders off. Some of the stories that I can tell people about my first travels in the big city, while funny, are actually pretty scary. Looking back, I shake my head and think, wow, I have come a long way.

As a woman, I have to make sure that I am approaching any situation eyes wide open. Even in the Midwest, I was a little too gullible and trustworthy to begin with. My phone is always charged, directions are always looked at beforehand, and my bags are always zipped and located in front of my body. If strangers talk to me on the subway or at a bus stop, I can be polite but I don’t have to engage in conversation each time. Sometimes though, you have to be downright rude. Don’t want to get in a cab with somebody? Just say no or ignore them and walk away. Don’t want to talk with someone who is trying to converse with you on the train? At the next stop, move to a different car. I may have my headphones on, but most likely there is no music playing. And my mace is pretty powerful, none of those cute pink lipstick-shaped pepper sprays for me.

NYC is supposedly one of safest large cities in the nation. Yet that doesn’t mean that a cop will always be there to assist you in a bad situation. While I grew up in farming country, trusting most everybody – that is not how it works everywhere.

I used to think that the city was just cold and impolite. There is truth in that statement, yet it is also called surviving. Although I haven’t completely assimilated to the area yet, the experience of living in this place is different than a week’s worth of vacation here. I can’t say I’m a “New Yorker” either, as there is still so much to learn.

Coming Home

19 Nov

One of my recent Skype conversations with little Q.


I just finished packing my suitcase, and all I can think is “now what did I forget?” Shirts and dresses are crammed in the tightly zipped bag, clothing that probably won’t even be worn on this trip home. I always seem to favor a pair of old jeans, a baggy cardigan, and boots, anyway. On top of the pile of badly folded items is one carefully laid exception. A small stuffed animal for a very cute little lady. I chose a monkey as a Thanksgiving gift for my six-month-old niece Quynn. My sister, her mother, had such a toy as a child and called the beloved animal “Bonkey.” I feel it’s time for little Q to have one of her own.

I am so ready to climb aboard a plane and head for Iowa, for some old-fashioned holiday fun, comfort food, and the company of family and friends. It’s my first real trip back to the Midwest after moving to New York City, and I’m ready for it. I’ve grown accustomed to my new surroundings, the crowds, and flavor of the area; yet, there is really no substitute for the place I grew up. In the last month and a half, I have spent my Tuesday nights scouring travel sites in search of cheap flights. Thank God, I figured out that Des Moines finally has Southwest Airlines as one of its carriers. Seriously, so thankful for their excellent service and lower than low airline prices.

The last week has been spent in growing anticipation of departing the East for something familiar. I long to actually see the stars again. To feel the exhilaration of wide-open spaces. To experience the quiet of small town life, without the hustle and bustle associated with NYC. And to spend time with one of my favorite people.

Quynn is one awesome baby. For such a small person, she has a sense of humor, exudes intelligence, and has a fascinating curiosity. Although I am far away, I have been able to have some chats and laughs with her through the magic of Skype on a daily basis. I know that at approximately 9:15 a.m. ET, I will have about 20 minutes of face time with the cutest kid out there. Whether it’s a good or bad day, I know it will be even better after just a few minutes of seeing Quynn bounce around on screen. I play little games with her, while she sings songs or gabs aloud. I can’t wait to actually hold her and see her in person.

While I have spent my fair share of time babysitting and being around little kids, I never thought that I would become this exhilarated or attached to a baby. It makes me extra excited to have one of my own in the future.
I’m about to get in a taxi and head over for some lengthy airport security lines. But that stress feels like nothing compared to my anticipation of being in Iowa. Now, I’m thinking about how this trip will be so different than the ones spent in holiday past. Then, it was about spending time out in bars with old acquaintances, recalling funny stories or wondering what happened to so-and-so. This time around, all I want to do is be around the people I love, especially little Quynn.


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