A Slice of NYC: My tips on the Big City

Sitting down to write a blog post on NYC is pretty intimidating. I am originally from New York(the state) but I have very strong ties to New York City as it’s where my parents met and fell in love, many of my family members still live and arguably my favorite city in THE WORLD. How could you really give a must do list when you can honestly do anything and everything. This summer I got to play tourist(and tour guide) in NYC showing my adorable english boyfriend the ropes. I haven’t shut up about New York since we started dating almost two years ago so I had to blow his mind. Here is what we crammed into 5 days and some additional tips from my insiders who have lived in the city for a long time. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this article!!

Photo cred: @thereelnickbell

Accommodation: Luckily I don’t really have to worry about this one because I casually couch surf between my brothers, childhood besties and college besties who live all around the area. But I highly suggest getting out of Manhattan!

Public transportation is accessible and Ubers are everywhere. The prices will be much better a little further out. I prefer Brooklyn to any area in NYC. It has so much charm, good food, funky art, a fun nightlife and it’s much less crowded than Manhattan. Sure, go see the hussle and bussle but if you have more than a night or two I would recommend staying in Brooklyn to get a broader perspective of what New York has to offer.

Brooklyn spots: Brooklyn Promenade, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Museum,  Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, A raging warehouse party(usually promoted by word of mouth), Brooklyn Barge, Brooklyn Brewery. Drop in for a yoga class at Yoga to the People.

 

 

Classic NYC spots: Central Park (go to the reservoir on E 90th St.) & Time Square- Awesome experiences but don’t spend all your time there!!! There is so much more to see. The Freedom Tower & 9/11 museum, Washington Square Park, Bryant Park. Shopping on 5th ave(head to Madison Ave for the same shops but less people.) 

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A slice of NOLA: New Orleans Must Dos

A Slice of NOLA: New Orleans Must Dos 

The first stop on my summer travels around the world was back to my home country but to a city I have never been before. Nawlins. NOLA. Whatever you want to call it. I heard so much about New Orleans and I was ecstatic to check it out. I was visiting for my company’s annual summit conference so over 25,000 people invaded the city and hundreds from my team. This threw in a lot of conference-ing into the mix our week there but nonetheless, we still explored the city, ate all of the things, listened to amazing live music, got lost on Bourbon street and left a little piece of our heart there forever.

Here’s a slice of our trip and some must-dos when you are planning yours–

Where to stay:

A big group? Garden District Mansions– I highly recommend checking out the houses in the Garden District on Airbnb. My team and I of 20 girls stayed in a gorgeous home that was spacious, clean, and a short Uber ride away from every area we wanted to go. Not to mention, it was absolutely STUNNING.

If you haven’t used Air Bnb before, use this link( www.airbnb.co.uk/c/susannaha11 to get 30$ off your first booking.

Even if you don’t end up staying there, make sure you wander around the Garden District and check all the houses. They are incredible. You can even take the old  fashioned tram that runs from downtown New Orleans to the Garden district if you don’t enjoy walking a lot.

Solo travelers– If you’re on your own or on a tight budget, I highly recommend staying at Garden District House Hostel. It is one of the nicest hostels I have ever stayed in. Super clean, safe, lovely fully furnished kitchen, outdoor backyard area and very helpful staff. My boyfriend and I stayed there before the conference started and I would gladly stay there again.

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Bourbon Street vs. Frenchman Street– If you ask a local, they will tell you to go to Frenchman Street. I highly recommend it. The music is unbelievable and the bars are fun and lively. Bourbon Street is like something out of movie. There are drunk people everywhere carrying their drinks to-go (Hello no open- container law), live music,  beads, food, crowds. We went one night and one night was enough for us. I think it’s worth it at least to experience it but I wouldn’t spend a lot of time there unless you’re into the college-frat boy-spring break type drinking scene- then you’ll love it.

The French Quarter– If you love architecture and funky buildings this is the spot for you. It’s the oldest spot in New Orleans and you can find tons of  hotels, bars, restaurants and shopping. I wish we spent more time here because it truly gives you the vibes of the city.

Jackson Square & St. Louis Cathedral– Right next to the French Quarter- Jackson Square is a bustling scene with street vendors, psychics, horse and carriages. Definitely stop into St. Louis Cathedral and check out the stained glass and incredible architecture. My friend and I actually got psychic palm & tarrot readings right outside the cathedral and it was absolutely mind blowing. I would highly recommend it. The spiritual vibes in New Orleans are very strong and they even do haunted ghost tours of the city (which friends of mine did and really enjoyed.) I’m not here to convince you, but if you’re into stuff like that I would love to share details of my psychic experience.

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Life matters

My headspace is inundated by a topic that has been saturating the media like wildfire in the past few days and really for the past few years. My blog is my space and my words are intended to express my personal thoughts and beliefs. They may be opposite or different than yours, but I expect you to be able to entertain thoughts that are different from your own. If we can not attempt to understand other people’s opinions on controversial matters, we are doomed to this cycle of  hatred, violence, protest and pain. Social media has allowed people an outlet to unload their emotions before they have the time to properly reflect, educate, research and compose themselves. I don’t blame anyone who releases their emotions, especially their hurt emotions, but I do implore everyone to remember that one voice, your voice, does make a difference, whether you choose to acknowledge that or not. What you spread onto the internet has far reaching repercussions for the morale, stigmas, and social movements happening in our country and around the world. Just because some people cannot artfully and respectfully verbalize their opinion does not mean that people who can should be silenced. We need more solutions and we need more voices, stop complacently watching as this horror unfolds.

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I am involved in an incredible online community where women from all over the world join together in their love for traveling. In this extremely active community, we often address the issues of the world and breaking news in a manner that relates and reflects on how it affects us as global citizens and travelers. The conversation was sparked about the recent murders of two African American males in the past two days in the United States and as usual, many different and emotionally charged comments were presented.

Many women posted articles and opinions and a discussion formed about the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the “All Lives Matter” counter criticism. I tried to read the articles and remain open to different perspectives. I read a few articles that I believe are extremely eye opening and  beneficial to read despite your stance on the subject. In a message board on Reddit.com the user, Geek Aesthete, artfully describes that the “Black Lives Matter” movement has an implicit “too” not an implicit “only”. Another blogger, Tyler Huckabee,  at relevantmagazine.com eloquently reminds us how important context is in this campaign. Again, “Black Lives matter” does not need the answer “All lives matter” because that is negating and dismissive to the current situation and context at hand. Huckabee states,“There is a difference between true and relevant”. Charles P. Pierce on esquire.com also acknowledges that All lives matter is not infact an appropriate response or movement and Pierce says,

“ Too much All Lives Matter rhetoric has been shot through with excusing even the most egregious and deadly police misconduct because of the “dangerous job” that police have in controlling not only actual criminals, but the spectral predators in the common mind.”

After reading close to 20 different articles from a variety of platforms, authors, opinions and subject matter and a heated two hour long phone phone conversation with my mom in America, I will humbly attempt to raise my voice in hopes to make a difference.

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Always American

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After living abroad in two different countries over the past couple of years and visiting numerous others I have gained a whole new insight about what it means to be an American. Usually I am long winded but today I want to keep it short and sweet. Today is a day in history that makes people around the world nostalgic and cognizant of a horrible tragedy that shook up America and the world as we knew it. Looking at the date, September 11th, always gives me a funny feeling in my stomach and brings thoughts of America, New York, my family and the incredible strength and resilience of the place I am proud to call home. Being an American abroad is an interesting hat to wear. I am greatly outnumbered and in the past two years I have spent on the road, I can count on two hands how many Americans I have met. I try to explain to my new friends from England, Australia, Canada, and basically all over Europe that traveling simply isn’t valued the same way in America. We don’t have “gap years”. I didn’t even know what a gap year was until I moved to South East Asia. Some of my American friends will read this and still not know. I am not saying that one way is right or wrong, but it simply is the way it is. Traveling for the vast majority of Americans is for 2-6 weeks of vacation, not a renowned lifestyle.

I have found that as an expat American I spend a lot of time answering questions, proving stereotypes wrong and explaining things that “we’ve only seen in the films.” I love being American and I love my country. Like any country we have many faults and we are held to an impossible standard due to the international spotlight we have held for decades but overall our ideals prevail and freedom remains paramount. I do everything in my power to enlighten everyone I encounter on how many beautiful people there are in America and represent the well educated, well cultured, middle class, open minded population who often get overlooked.  We are so much more than the Kardashians.

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I will save my criticisms for another day because today I simply want to honor the men and women who lost their lives and the millions of people left behind to pick up the pieces. It doesn’t matter where you come from if you were alive on September 11, 2001; you know where you were, how you found out and what you felt about it. Whenever the topic has been brought up with a group of friends from other countries, I can feel their genuine sympathy and empathy as human beings and members of our generation. Today I pause to be grateful for my life, my freedom, my country and my ability to create a life I love. I pause to remember all of the pain that this day brings for so many. We will truly never forget. Despite all of the superficial ways that America is portrayed in films, reality television and on the internet, I can genuinely say that September 11th is a day that represents the heart of America, the strength of it’s people and the ability to rise from the ashes.

refuse to let the hate and tragedy of that day outshine the light. The stories of the heroes who sacrificed everything, including their own lives, those are the stories that need to be told. The countless fathers who never made it home to their kids. The police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and ordinary Joes who gave their lives to save others, they deserve the spotlight. September 11th 2001 was the first day I saw my parents as vulnerable human beings. The first day I saw my dad cry and the first time I realized that some pain is simply too great to put into words. In my humble attempt, I hope I remind my fellow Americans how truly strong and beautiful our country is, especially our people. I hope for my international friends, you get an authentic representation of how today feels from the inside. For anyone who lost someone 14 years ago today, my heart goes out to you. I know the pain never fades but hopefully the fact that millions are here to feel that pain with you lightens the weight of the burden. We simply can’t survive events like this without sticking together and searching for the hope under the rubble. Today and ALWAYS, I am proud to be an American.

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Just Decide to Do It

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Over the long holiday weekend I spent a LOT of time in the car by myself driving all over the east coast to spend Memorial Day weekend with friends and family. Whenever I am in the car alone for hours upon hours, my mind darts in 100,000 different directions. Usually I call my whole phone book for my overdue catch up conversations, and no one answers but my mom (who I see everyday). So I go back to chugging ice coffee, blasting beats and mull over my next blog post in my head. I realized this weekend that I haven’t actually written those well-calculated road trip posts in far too long. I apologize for drifting away from my blog and I realize now as I write what clarity and satisfaction I glean from condensing my thoughts into words.

The mind is an incredible instrument and machine, but the mind of a woman who is a teacher, writer, Gemini, and suffers from extreme ADHD; it is almost unfathomable for most. I have hundreds of “tabs open” every waking second of the day. My release is when I can verbalize those into a medium I dearly love and understand: words. When I was traveling I was so excited to share about my adventures and so disconnected from my once known world that it was easy to stay inspired and motivated to consistently post. I was going through so much change and writing was the best way to reflect and understand how I truly felt about those eye-opening experiences. The pace of life and my career in Thailand also allowed me the most precious gift of all: time. I had time to write and read, rewrite, reflect, recharge, and release. Now I am lucky if I have time to charge my phone. But without the release of writing my mind hasn’t fully been synthesizing my life and my experiences.Despite the lesson plans, special ed paperwork, work for my coaching business, certification online workshop, laundry, and the 85 other things on my to do list, I am pressing pause and spending time to remember, reflect and release.

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Leaving the Land of Smiles

After a bit of a mishap in the flight department (I’ll skip the story due to my own embarrassment) we finally made it to Thailand and back to our favorite island, Ko Phi Phi. It was so strange to be back in Thailand after being in such a westernized culture for two weeks. But even more strange was how NORMAL it felt. It was normal to not understand anything going on around you, for men to be screaming “I LOVEEE YOU”, to see a family of four on the motorbike next to you and to see more 7-11’s on one street than in all of Australia. Since we had such a hard month in Bali and Australia we knew we would need time to kick up our feet and relax in Ko Phi Phi for our last week abroad. Hey, c’mon you can’t hate us for planning the best vacation ever. 😉

Unfortunately the weather in Thailand was not cooperating with us. We were there for 7 nights and we probably had two days of sunshine. Lots of rain and mud puddles which caused us to find recreational activities inside… There isn’t much to do on an island when the weather is bad, especially Ko Phi Phi. We kept ourselves entertained with lots of stories and laughs from our trip, food, and an adult beverage or two. I finally got the chance to meet up with my friend from high school, Fallon who started teaching in Thailand in March. It was so awesome to catch up with her, reminisce on life in Syracuse and bond over our unexplainable desire to find what we need out of life even if that means traveling all over the world to find it. As the rain fell the reality of the end of my journey getting closer and closer washed over me. We didn’t want to talk about moving home because that made it real. I was so excited to see my friends and family, meet my nephew, squeeze my puppy, eat real pizza and finally feel clean but I couldn’t help but hate having to leave behind this place that I have learned to call home.

Thailand is a magical place for many but for me it changed my life in a way I will always revere. Thailand taught me what it means to be myself. That is the most beautiful gift anyone can give you. By no means did I feel “lost” in life before, but Thailand opened my eyes to a world I needed so desperately to see. A world beyond sorority formals and football tailgates. A world where people don’t have shoes on their feet or have to share a small room behind their restaurant with 13 family members. A world full of dreamers, teachers, and travelers; young people who have the same desire to see new horizons as I do. Like I said in an earlier piece, I joined a club I didn’t know existed. There are so many people, so different than I am, who went to different unis, speak different languages, were raised in diverse situations that have the same fire burning inside of them. This fire can not be extinguished or “gotten out of your system”. There is a whole world full of people who want to experience life, other cultures, have heart to hearts at 3 am on cruise ships in Vietnam, explore ancient temples in Cambodia, eat traditional Indonesian food at 6 am with locals and talk to strangers about their lives simply because it matters. I am so grateful for each and every one of you I have met along the way and you have inspired me to continue dreaming, no matter what anyone thinks.

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