We’ve all seen them wandering our streets – we may have been them in someone else’s streets. They walk around in big groups around town; parading themselves proudly. Badly dressed. Carrying big cameras around town. In extreme cases, they even they even wear matching T-shirts with the rest of their group. Yes. I am indeed describing the most stereotypical kind of tourist there is. That is the kind of look that gives Americans a bad rep when traveling around Europe. They are not only found in the old continent however, these hoards of tourists can be observed right here in the city; crowding the streets in Times Square; taking carriage rides; slow-walking in 5th Avenue.
They will hardly ever venture downtown; hardly ever cross 30th street or above Central Park; and they will stay confined between Park Avenue and Ninth Avenue. If you wish to avoid them, don’t you worry, just stay out of this perimeter (unless you have to work there in which case…).
Those visitors who dare venture go beyond these streets and avenues I call travelers. Obviously these are people who want to explore the city beyond the tourist traps and the “NYC Landmarks.”
I unfortunately, don’t have the luxury to say that I have never been a part of the first group. Ever since I have been stripped of the fear of traveling solo however, I believe that I have become part of the second group. Even if by traveling I mean going to the next town over on my own for a day. Wandering and getting to know a new city on your own; eating alone at restaurants. It can be an empowering experience with the right mindset. Even though I have been to New York many times before, I am rediscovering it now. I am getting to know it like a local. I still have a long way to go before I even recognize I live here.
Strive to be in that second group, fight for it. We only have this life and possessing a thirst and hunger for knowledge and new things can prove tremendously fulfilling and exhilarating.
EXTRA: While writing this post, I was sitting downtown in a small shaded table. It was a very sunny and hot afternoon and two strangers approached me asking if they could share the shade of my table. I agreed. These two people had a Bohemian Brooklyn look to them. They were not natives to this town but I could tell they were travelers, explorers who have been in New York for a while. They were from Kosovo; one of them a recognized visual artist and the other one a diplomat. We talked for about an hour about politics, art, philosophy, romance, and traveling. It was by far one of my most unexpected/interesting afternoons I’ve had in New York. With that I learned, if you are social, smart and open to new experiences, NY has a lot to offer the creative and curious mind.