8 Things I Learned Traveling to New York City Alone

The beginning of October this year was my very first time to visit New York. I’m 26, and I can’t believe I waited this long! Before I went, I did ask my friends to go with me, but they came out with lame excuses dealing with finances, jobs and time constraints. Yes, these are legitimate excuses, but I am not letting that be the reason why I am missing out on my chance to do what I want to do. For several instances in the past, I neglected traveling because my friends couldn’t. The fact that you’re friends and family can’t travel with you should never be a reason why you can’t. So, I booked a ticket a month in advance, and New York, here I go! This was an incredible learning experience. My short visit to the city has gotten me hooked. It’s an addicting atmosphere, especially if you’re young. I want to visit again! Below are 8 things I learned traveling here:

  1. This will now be part of my keepsakes
    This will now be part of my keepsakes

    Purchase a MetroCard
    Before you do anything else, purchase a MetroCard. It doesn’t matter how you got to the city — purchase a MetroCard! If you flew in, go to Hudson News, and purchase one before you ever step out the airport building. This will be your lifeline to commute throughout the jungle. You have the option to walk, if you wish, but as a tourist visiting the city for the first time, your best bet is to take public transportation. Plus, the subway is one of the many genuine New York experiences you can have. Relish it…even though it’s dirty.

  2. Always have your phone fully charged, and carry your charger
    Unless you have a device that maintains the life of your phone, you got to be prepared to hunt down places to charge your phone. I went to the banks and Starbucks to do just that. I can’t tell you how many times I had to hunt down a Starbucks just to plug my phone in. There’s supposedly a Starbucks at every corner, but knowing how bad I am with reading Google maps on my phone, I found it pretty hard to find one. I was using up the life of my phone while I was finding a place to save it. If ever you need to find a place to charge your phone, be wary that every single Starbucks I’ve entered was packed. PACKED! There were a few times I luckily found a place to plug my phone in, but while I was waiting for my phone to charge up, I was missing out. But I did take advantage of people-watching.

    We are like rats infesting the city.
    We are like rats infesting the city.
  3. You’ll be reading the Subway map — a lot
    Familiarize yourself with it. I was probably one of the few who obviously looked like a tourist holding a big subway map over her face in the train. At first, the map looks like a jumbled mess full of colored lines and dots, but after being lost for 5 days, I finally mastered (sort of), how the subway system works. Coming from me, getting lost wasn’t so bad because I was still excited to be in the best city of the world. So, if you find yourself lost, don’t fret. Getting lost is a great learning experience. On my last day in the city, I easily dodged through neighborhood to neighborhood and made it on time to the airport with no hassle. I feel like a real city girl already!
  4. Avoid scammers
    Where do I begin with this? There will be a lot of sketchy businesses you come across, let alone scammers. Just be wary of where your money goes. I wrote a review (under Renee C.) for this one sketchy business that lurks around popular areas, such as Times Square, Grand Central, or Central Park. If ever your money goes to a single person, at least use your credit card, so you can dispute payment and get a replacement card.

    Corner of Avenue of Americas and 42nd Street
    Corner of Avenue of Americas and 42nd Street
  5. Take a lot of photos, but don’t let that take away from your organic experience
    Because it was the first time I was ever in NYC with a limited time span, I really wanted to take a lot of photos everywhere I went, but at the same time, I wanted to relish the present moment in the city. Nothing can replace seeing the city with your own eyes. I kind of contemplated if I should just step back and refrain from taking too many photos. I just saved the photo-snapping behavior for a 2nd visit, AFTER I experienced the city with my own eyes. The photos you see of skyscrapers does not capture what it really looks like with your own eyes. I kind of wish it did, but your eyes are a wonderful thing. The sights, the sounds…sometimes the smell — you can’t miss out on the present moment.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions
    Everyone primed me into thinking that New Yorkers are mean. I just think that they’re just solely focused on going from point A to point B. Maybe I’m speaking too soon, but I want to keep my perspective of New Yorkers as being helpful and “not that mean”. They usually just don’t have time to engage in small talk. When it came time for me to ask for directions, I was incredibly surprised at how helpful people were. They were so concise. They took their time to help me, although everything sounded like gibberish. As a solo traveler visiting the big city, the only things I had to rely on were the maps or another human being.
  7. Cab fare is not that expensive
    I was staying at a hostel in Brooklyn (Williamsburg neighborhood), and I woke up at 4:30AM one morning to go to the TODAY Show over in Rockefeller Center. I was instructed to take the M Train from there to my destination, but realized it doesn’t operate until 5:30AM. Seriously?! I did not wake up this early for nothing. Also, I didn’t really have full knowledge of how the subway system works, so my best bet was to take a cab. I could not risk being a few minutes later than I had planned. I told myself several times about being on the TODAY Show on that specific day to be in the audience and meet Al Roker. Taking a cab was so worth it. Fare was only $25, and $30 with tip. It’s not so bad, really.

    I wonder how much the average lost tourist walks in NYC
    I wonder how much the average lost tourist walks in NYC in one day
  8. You’ll be doing more walking than you ever had in your life
    Seriously. I got lost so much, that it accounted for me walking over 23K steps, 10 miles, and 32 floors — look at screen shot. I honestly did not mind at all because while I was lost, I was making use of that time sightseeing and immersing myself into a different world. What’s even crazy, at the end of the day, when I was awake for over 24 hours, I wasn’t even tired. It’s the energy of New York! I love it so much. That’s why I want to come back.
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First New York City Experience

I planned a solo trip to visit New York, NY from September 30th thru October 4th, 2015. It was my very first time visiting the city and have always wanted to go most of my life. None of my friends and family could join, either because of money or scheduling conflicts, but I didn’t let that stop me. New York was the place on my to-do list, regardless of anything. My trip was incredibly short, but an unforgettable learning experience. Everything I was told about the city was on par of my expectations, maybe even better.

The energy is so overwhelming! I almost couldn’t contain all the things that were going on all at once. Every street corner you turn, it’s another world. My first day roaming the city, it seemed like I had a permanent smile stuck on my face. I never in my life experienced having to contain my enthusiasm. Even when I got lost, I was still smiling. I decided to be positive and relish the moment to look up at the skyscrapers and all the activities surrounding me.  In a big city like this, you are your own individual. It’s a hustle and bustle city. It’s go-go-go. When you are in New York, you don’t fret the small things. No wonder people who live here tend to be successful.

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Photobomb by cameraman made it even better

Long before I planned my visit, I actually made it a goal to be on the TODAY Show on NBC, meet Al Roker, and have a photo with him. Waking up at 4:30AM my first day, taking a taxicab from Brooklyn and getting in line at 5AM is so worth it. I didn’t think I’d actually have a chance to do all 3, but I lucked out! If you want to meet the anchors of the TODAY Show, then you gotta wake up early! This was actually the highlight of my visit.

I spent the last day of my trip visiting Chinatown and headed towards Bryant Park, and sadly headed off to Laguardia Airport as my final destination. I’m amazed at how I easily picked up on how the subway system works because I navigated through towns and actually knew where I was going on my last day. My first ever NYC trip was the most I’ve learned in such a short time span. I would definitely love to go back – this time longer.

Below is a raw video I shot at Bryant Park, and it’s a little south of Central Park. I didn’t want to make a fancy New York City tourist video with crazy video edits and background music. If I ever want to show to people what NYC is like, then I should show snippets of the city and the people in it. I honestly had a hard time as a potential tourist to find videos that showed New York, as it really is. Enjoy!