She took a step and didn’t want to take any more, but she did.
― Markus Zusak, ‘The Book Thief’
Last night, I switched on the tv and there was a movie about Rome on. It reminded me of my last trip there and I started to hyperventilate because I was gripped by this indescribable, irresistible, powerful, almost manic urge to go back. I whipped out a notebook, grabbed a pen, started to look at my budget and calculate how much I will need to save every month to make it there ASAP this year…
It’s unfair, I thought when I moved to New York two weeks ago, that I have to start all over now when I spent the last so many years building a life in Toronto. But I know when I was there I felt I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because I was going to move to the US soon, so there was much I kept on hold. For instance, I didn’t move to a nicer apartment because I didn’t want to be stuck in a lease in case my immigration came along and I needed to leave. Or I didn’t invest in good, new furniture because it would only add to the hassles of moving when the time came.
Now that I’m here, I don’t have to worry about moving. At least not to a new country. There’s that bit of freedom. But when I moved in to my apartment, as I was setting up the place and waiting for furniture and assembling it and all that I felt upset that, for starters, I didn’t have any favourite places I could visit on a whim. I saw a pair of shoes that needed repair and I realised that I don’t know the best shoe-repair shop around here. (In Toronto, it’s “Shoe Therapy” at Bay and Charles.) I felt like getting some hot chocolate and I didn’t know which is the best spot for it. Sure, there are online reviews of pretty much everything, but it’s a different feeling when you’re actually discovering these places for yourself, from your own experiences, by trial and error, you know? And I’d already done all this in Toronto, found all my go-to spots for whenever I needed or wanted or desired any little thing. And I think what was upsetting me was that everything I’d done in Toronto appeared to be in vain because none of it mattered now or made a difference to my new life at this moment.
Then I added to this the fact that I have no friends here. The people I’d grown to love were north of the border and about 500 miles away. In this new city, I know no one. (Except an ex-bf, but that isn’t saying much, really.)
This new city is New York. Have you read of my adventures in Rome? There was something I’d forgotten about myself. My knee-jerk reaction to that movie last night reminded me of it.
If there’s one thing I absolutely love, it’s travelling alone. Solo. Discovering new places by myself, for myself, with no one else’s opinions to muddy mine, on no one else’s time but my own. I’m not afraid to have dinner by myself in a new (or favourite) restaurant. I’m not afraid to visit sights alone. I’m perfectly content in my own company, wandering the streets, people-watching, crowd-gazing, stopping for a bite every now and then, or just sitting down with a book somewhere until I’m ready to move again. Must this place be treated differently just because I happen to be living here now?
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
— Marcel Proust
I love that I’m still single and I get to do all this when there’s no one to hold me back in any way, shape, or form. I don’t have to consider anyone else’s tastes or choices or preferences. That may sound selfish but therein lies a great deal of freedom. One doesn’t always need a companion on these adventures—except maybe if one is doing the tango but that’s a different story altogether. There also isn’t any shame in being a tourist in your own city, in my opinion. And I have yet to cover this one so I will be that tourist. I will try new cafés and eateries and be my usual foodie self. I will venture into old bookstores and grow fond of a few chosen ones. I will visit all kinds of jazz bars and, at some point, play favourites among them. Maybe I’ll be braver still and do brunch alone and find my most-loved spots for it in the city. Carrie Bradshaw did say in season 5 (…right?) of SATC, “You’re never alone in New York. It’s the perfect place to be single. The city is your date.”
The important and incredible thing is that this great city is mine to discover, to explore like I would the ones that I visit—with a major difference being that there is no cap on the time I have here. Isn’t that wonderful?! And to think…I’m actually home.
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson