“You will enjoy it, I promise. Trust me.” My best friend said in calming tones as if I would throw a fit any second. She was eyeing my meticulously planned (cross-referenced and indexed) itinerary as if she was getting ready to disarm a bomb.
They always say that travelling changes you (“they” being the ubiquitous travel Gods I assume) and on a recent trip I had an experience that was so far out of my comfort zone that I thought I might possibly spontaneously combust, yet it actually had quite the opposite effect.
I was in New York City with my best friend and had meticulously planned our trip to maximise time and enjoyment. To be clear, the meticulous planning was for my enjoyment.
On our 4th day in NYC my friend sagely pointed out that we didn’t have a tour scheduled that day and very carefully suggested that we leave the itinerary behind and just explore a neighbourhood and get lost in it for a while. Needless to say my initial response was minor respiratory failure and then a very strong desire to go laminate my itinerary (how had I not done that yet?) in case she decided to flush it. I immediately pictured myself as cartoon character hyperventilating into a brown paper bag.
Her face displayed sporadic bursts of mild annoyance mixed with the rictus smile of a parent trying really hard to not smack their child, but mostly I could tell that she was trying to decide if she could conceivably pry the itinerary out of my hands without causing a scene.
“You have a problem…” she said.
“I don’t have a problem. I can stop anytime I want. I just like doing it.”
She laughed, but even my attempt at clichéd wit wasn’t going to deter my friend from her mission. She almost tackled me to the ground and twisted my arm until I finally loosened my grip on what she now refers to as “the contraband”. At that stage I realised it was time to be mature and just concede. (I also realised just how much stronger she is than me so I figured it was in my best in interests to compromise… but mostly the mature thing.) She even confiscated my pocket map, all beautifully indexed and cross referenced with our itinerary.
She chose Greenwich Village to explore that day, which in a way was poetic, as it is the least organised mass of streets in New York, not adhering to the structured grid of the rest of the city. We started at Washington Square Park, watching the street performers and students from nearby NYU going about their daily routine and probably writing future great works of literature in the shade of the Washington Square Arch while I itched for the comfort of my colour coordinated itinerary.
Wandering down the tree lined, brownstone streets of The Village was so beautiful I almost wanted to admit that just taking an unplanned stroll was a good idea. Luckily I came to my senses and kept my mouth shut. I had a reputation to uphold after all.
Just north of Washington Square Park I found myself in the picture perfect Greenwich Village circa the 1900’s. No I hadn’t time travelled (although how cool would that be?), we were now in Washington Mews. Stone cobbled streets and houses draped in ivy and wisteria… it’s a perfectly preserved stroll down history’s lane and we had stumbled upon it completely by chance.
To end this day of radical firsts, we even ate at a restaurant that I had not researched, Google Mapped or made reservations for in advance. I may not be ready to give up any organizational habits just yet but my taste tester of Greenwich Village certainly left a wonderful taste in my mouth. Even though I haven’t admitted it to my free-spirited best friend yet.
published 17 September 2014