Have you ever wished you could run away from your life? Maybe not forever but for a decent amount of time; so that you can sleep, think, slow down and figure out your next steps. Or have you always wanted to travel but could never take the leap, worrying that your peers would leave you in the dust, and that on your return you wouldn’t be able to pick up where you left off?
Well I’m here to tell you that I ran away to New York and my life is so much better because of it. Why did I go? I guess I was fed up with everything – living at home (saving the money I would have spent on rent and putting it towards a deposit), being forever single, my weight, working my arse off freelancing (feeling the pressure to prove myself every day and wondering if I’m actually any good at what I do). I needed time to focus on me, forget working for a while and just enjoy the gift that is life (I think I sometimes forget how lucky I am).
It all started on what was meant to be a holiday in New York visiting my best friend. I ended up working while I was meant to be resting and it was then that I realised that as a freelancer I can work anywhere. All I need is the internet and my laptop and I’m good to go. I came home exhausted and so a day later I booked a flight straight back. I gave myself a week to find an apartment and before I knew it the adventure had begun.
I found a place on the Upper East Side, not an area I usually hang out in when I’m in Manhattan but I loved it. What convinced me were the sheer amount of fitness studios all in walking distance from my doorstep. Getting fit and losing weight was one of the main things I wanted to focus on while I was in the Big Apple (check out the fitness section for more), so the location was ideal. My building was great too, doormen for added security (I didn’t like the idea of fire escapes that offer easy access to your apartment), a gym (although with all the studios in town I hardly used it), plus a roof terrace. My apartment was lovely too. My room especially was a really decent size for Manhattan and I loved that my walk-in wardrobe wasn’t actually in my room – it meant unlike at home my sleeping space was always tidy and clutter free. I lucked out on my flatmate, such a kind woman who was also hardly in, so it felt like I had my own place half the time.
Now going half way around the world alone can throw up some issues, there are new friends to be made, but how? And getting acquainted with the dating ‘rules’, oh and paying bills for the first time ever! (Kind of embarrassing at 32, but it is what it is). Not to mention do not smile at strangers in New York oh and its best to remember some cab drivers are mental.
There are two dates that really stood out for me during my three months in NYC. One was with a lawyer and one was with a girl! No I’m not going to reveal anything juicy, I tried the BFF option on the dating app Bumble and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I matched with a 30 something Brit who’d lived in NYC for eight years and worked as the head womenswear buyer at a huge US fashion brand. Coincidentally we’d both gone to the same uni. We meet at Soho House in Meatpacking (it’s members only, but if you ever get the opportunity to go, do!) for what was meant to be a couple of pre-dinner drinks, fast forward six hours later and we’re dancing on a table at The Jane Hotel as if we’d know each other for ages! Needless to say we are still friends now and as dates go (friends or otherwise) this one goes down as a winner!
The lawyer however, hmmm. 20 minutes into our drinks, he lunged at me, attempting to kiss me as we sat at the bar with people all around us. Me being the polite Brit that I am wasn’t sure what to do! A seasoned New Yorker would have called it a night there and then but I batted him off and ended up staying another two hours. Aside from the lunging, he wasn’t too bad, although I felt like I was at a sales pitch or job interview. When I asked him what he did I literally got his whole work history! (this happened A LOT in the city). Needless to say there wasn’t a second date.
Having lived at home for so long I’m not used to paying many bills or doing a full on weekly shop etc. You may well be asking yourself how at 32 is this possible?! Well, frankly why move out and pay crazy rent prices when you have somewhere to live in London that you couldn’t otherwise afford? It works for me, not sure whether my parents would say the same hahaha. In all seriousness journalists don’t get paid that well and I have been trying to save for a deposit on a place of my own.
I had to make a decision about what was most important to me during this experience. I went to get fit and healthy and ultimately to be happy so first off I wasn’t prepared to compromise on food – organic all the way – which is pricey if you don’t know where to go. I found this amazing grocery store called A Matter of Health it has everything from pea protein and grade A supplements to kombucha tea and organic meats. Prices were reasonable but still more than non organic fare. I spent there but saved major dollars by signing up to Class Pass. I signed up on the UK site and then swapped my city to NYC – it was the best thing I did. Classes in Manhattan are between 20 and 40 dollars so for just over £100 a month I really got my moneys worth. Plus, most of the well known studios are on CP NYC, and I discovered some amazing less well know ones too (read more about my favourites here). I did give it a try once I got back to London but I canceled my membership a few weeks after my return as – for me at least – there aren’t as many conveniently located, top notch studios on their books.
I soon realised that even without having a full time job it’s easy to fill your time with errands and activities so much so that you never actually switch off. After a month of being away, I didn’t feel like any major mental shifts had occurred and I wasn’t prepared to come home without ‘finding myself’ (as corny as that might sound). So I forced myself to ‘slow down’ for at least an hour a day – I found colouring in to be my favourite switch off activity. It’s funny where the mind wanders when you start to colour. Random thoughts, and memories would come to mind – issues I thought I’d resolved in my head would pop up from my subconscious. It wasn’t that I would then start analysing them – I let them fade away the same way as you would do when meditating. I’m rubbish at meditating – apparently I fidget, well that’s what I was told when I was ‘politely’ asked to leave a mediation course a few years back. Hello I don’t know what I’m doing when I meditate! So this is the perfect substitute for those of you who like me can’t get to grips with the whole sit in silence thing, I always feel a sense of peace when the hour is up.
P.S it’s not just for kids! Give it a go, once you start you’ll not want to stop especially with all the beautiful adult colouring books on the market. I’m currently using the Art Therapy: An Anti-stress Colouring Book.