For the last few months, a good friend of mine kept telling me he how excited he was about a trip he planned for Oslo, Norway. He was telling me he was able to secure a round-trip flight ticket there for a modest $500 and would elaborate on everything he had heard about the city’s culture, environment and climate. It really peaked my interest, as it had been so long since I left New York (no less the country), and I was even considering copping a ticket to travel right alongside him…until my friend scrapped his plans less than a week before he was supposed to leave, and got his ticket completely refunded.
My friend told me that he was actually grateful that he had allowed a six-month gap for his trip after purchasing the ticket, cause it allowed him to re-think a lot of things. He realized that the trip would cost him over $1,500, and by canceling it he’d allow himself to save up more money towards other priorities (new cell phone, new car, upcoming concerts, etc.). What’s more, he also made a case that New York City is so multi-cultured and expansive a location that if you are fortunate enough to live here, then it’s best to really take advantage of it.
I for one comprehend this logic fully, and probably accept it even more so than my friend. In the four years since I completed my undergraduate education, I’ve only left the state of New York once yet I still feel I’m living my 20s in an adventurous and invigorating manner. Since migrating to Queens in early 2011, I’ve made it a habit to regularly go to bars, take walks/jogs in the variety of public parks available, browse through vintage shops, see shows at local music venues, view movies at prestigious art house theaters, and go to art galleries, yet I’m still always discovering something new in these familiar environments. Considering that I’ve been in New York for nearly half-a-decade now, that’s got to be saying something.
Growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, I have to admit I often felt like I just was brought into the wrong environment. It was an area an ever-present vacuity that caused me to seek refuge by other means than socializing with my peers. I felt like a social outcast for the majority of my pre-college years (you would too if you wanted to listen to The Mars Volta, when all your buddies were more into Taking Back Sunday), which drove my mantra to change my location ASAP. I longed to get into the city after completing academics, even as older generations told me the New York I knew from Woody Allen movies was that of a by-gone era. It was hard to hear it back then (and still is), but I can laugh em’ all off now as just being pessimistic bullshit.
New York is just so all encompassing a city, and I’m not just talking about Manhattan and Brooklyn. Many people are completely unaware of how diverse a borough Queens is, as approximately 138 different languages are currently spoken there, and right now I can’t think of a better place in the city to get an affordable and satisfying bite to eat (Flushing may be a trek to get to for many New Yorkers, but it’s Asian food selection arguably outdoes Manhattan’s Chinatown). Many people also remain unaware of what an up-and-coming art/music culture can be found in the oft-forgotten burrough of Staten Island, as anytime I’ve ventured there I’ve experienced a feel similar to Brooklyn (despite what Lena Dunham might think). Oh, and the Bronx is also currently home to a little something called Yankee Stadium (still won’t catch me there, but just throwing this out there).
Of course, I realize that living in New York is extremely costly and getting more and more difficult to afford each year. Therefore, you should get your money’s worth out of The Big Apple, and the cautious spender can find plenty of free/cheap things to do that are worthwhile. For example, the parks are openly public, and one can always find great performers and shows in action there (particularly during the summer). Also, if you happen to be student-age, then the art world is basically your oyster here in New York, as the vast majority of museums in New York allow college students free-entry. Plus, keep in mind that most bars don’t cost anything to enter, and you don’t even necessarily need to buy any drinks to enjoy it. It came as a bit of shock even for me to see how many people I could socialize with in this environment, drink in hand or otherwise.
People from all over the world venture here to get a piece of the New York experience, so in a way it’s a little perplexing to leave New York in search of culture, when so much culture already comes to us. As I previously stated, New York might one day be too expensive for me to live in, so I’ve decided to soak it all in now, when I happen to reside in it. I’ve formatted a schedule for working within the transportation system, have self-listed the do’s-and-don’t about managing self-awareness and money in the city, and have prioritized my commitment to know how New York’s available events will satiate my daily desires. A man with my sensibilities might not find it worth it to leave my comfy habitat for even a few days if it meant losing touch with the zeitgeist I’ve allowed to permeate my livelihood. Hell, right now I’m thinking whatever a trip to Oslo would have just been an expensive way to freeze my balls off, and find out that I don’t speak Norweigian at all..