Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New York - The Most Beautiful Catastrophe

New York is the most beautiful city in the world? It is not far from it. No urban night is like the night there…. Squares after squares of flame, set up and cut into the aether. Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will. Ezra Pound

With the sounds of the New York subway trains and the continuous honk of impatient taxis still pulsating in my ears, I sit here back at my desk once again absorbed in the routine of everyday life and yet I'm now grinning with sly satisfaction as I recall the awesome memories and experiences I have banked from the past two weeks of (childless!) travel. My New York bucket list was long and I feel as though out of complete obligation to myself and by a certain degree of luck, I've finally ticked off a countless number of experiences and for this, I'm silently high-fiving the travel Gods for allowing me the chance.

New York is somewhere I have longed to visit my entire adult life. Due to career pursuits and my general homebody persona, I skipped the usual era of travel one tends to do in their twenties. It was always something I would 'get around to' but of course never did due largely to procrastination and then again procreation (!) at the age of thirty. Throughout the years, I've sat through countless slide nights pouring over images of faraway places and of other people's adventures usually with a silent tinge of regret that it wasn't me standing in front of the Taj Mahal wearing a sarong. So when I was approaching forty, I decided it was my turn. I chose to forego the usual milestone birthday party celebrations (although my girlfriends and family ensured that I didn't miss out completely, bless them) and with generous grandparents on board for child-minding, I pressed the button and booked flights for two to New York City, 10 - 20 July 2013.

 I've never been one for goodbyes and never before was this point proven with greater ferocity than leaving my two kids for ten days.  I was neither brave nor stoic on the morning of departure and I'm sure my ten year old won't let me forget my vulnerability anytime soon! Nonetheless, once I'd pulled myself together, the obligatory dose of mother guilt left me and the excitement returned as we set off on the incredibly long haul flight (pleased with myself that we'd purchased exit row seats and yet not so pleased that we'd failed to do so on the way home). After a brilliant night's sleep post a ridiculous amount of travel time, we hit the ground running with the type of enthusiasm reserved for children on Christmas morning.

Never in my life have I walked so much and with as much drive and energy. Every day, around every corner was something iconic and exciting. Each day we would wake, roughly make a plan and simply set off often from dawn until dusk. There was no bag laden with snacks for distraction, no spare knickers just in case (not even my child-like excitement called for that!) and no contingency plan to ensure a return to base at anytime could be made should a small human need to re-group, or rest, or use the bathroom for the hundredth time. Anyone with kids will know that on a family holiday (or in life generally) you completely lose the ability and right to be spontaneous and live without a full plan of how to navigate from one activity to the next whilst ensuring minimal stress, whinging and arguments. And that, my friends was one of the most blessed parts of this trip; thinking only for ourselves for the first time in ten years! So we walked, we ate at grown up places when we wanted to (incidentally Melbourne still has the slight upper hand on good restaurants in a reasonable price bracket by comparison but whatever, it's New York). We went to church then ate fried chicken and collared greens in Harlem on a Sunday (the gospel church visit was the absolute highlight for me - epic, soulful and spiritually righteous) and we simply enjoyed each other's pre-kids company for the first time in a decade.

 The city, as the title suggests, is indeed the most beautiful catastrophe. It's busy and bustling, cars and taxis jostle impatiently for their spot in the narrow street lanes and its residents walk with fervent purpose, making you feel more like a tourist here than anywhere else. But amongst the immense activity, things work in harmony and you can look around and up and see beauty everywhere. The skyscrapers are beautiful, the endlessness of Park Ave with its tree lined median strip is beautiful and the people are (mostly!) beautiful too, and so proud of their city. As an outsider you're welcomed with liberal amounts of American enthusiasm; don't even try and get the last word in on a conversation; those dudes will say "you're welcome" and "have a nice day" a thousand times if they have to. Day turns into night seamlessly as the city becomes illuminated and the activity doesn't end, it just changes its purpose. You just can't imagine people returning to their apartment living, cooking a meal for themselves and settling in to watch TV. It seems that everyone is out, enjoying the city by night. Obviously that's not the case but the festival that is New York takes place nightly without fail.


So if you ever have the opportunity and ability to take a childless holiday to a bucket list destination (yes, I do realise how fortunate I am to have had the chance) do not hesitate. It's more than good for a relationship, it's good for the soul, for one's own imagination, and to help gain back some all important perspective on your own life and where you sit in the scheme of things. And as an added bonus you kinda appreciate the little people in your life more too - it's amazing how they can grow a little more independence when they're temporarily out from under your wing.

Now where did I put those damn school lunchboxes....? #sthash.m01MPnXD.dpuf #sthash.m01MPnXD.dpuf


  1. Ahh...New York.

    I've been waiting for this post since you left.

    It did not disappoint and certainly gave me my New York fix.

    It will be a long while yet before I get back there I suspect.

    And somehow I don't think our FNQ holiday with two preschoolers will be quite as glamorous (or relaxing), but I'm looking forward to it none the less.

    Thanks for sharing your very special trip.

    And Happy 4-0h!


    1. Thanks, OSL! FNQ will be fabulous - beach holidays are pretty painless with kids so enjoy yourself and relax. Looking forward to hearing about it...:)