Just a quick note before today’s blog post, if you haven’t already seen the entry from yesterday then please click on the following link > goo.gl/9BDdnf < in order to catch up to where we’re about to begin from today!
So, after a quality sleep at the Sofitel Hotel in Terminal 5 I boarded my rearranged flight and headed across the Atlantic Ocean to the USA! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Not only was this my first time outside of Europe completely alone, but I had wildly underprepared and my budget for the trip was woefully small. I had $500, plus enough money in my bank account to cover the cost of a rental car, and all this needed to last me for 15 days. I didn’t have a single night’s accommodation arranged either, for any of those 15 nights!
I’d heard that the USA was expensive, but after landing in JFK I was horrified to see how much accommodation was in New York. All the money on my bank card was tied up with the rental car, so all I had was the cash that was precariously stashed in my backpack. I needed to make savings wherever possible.
As I got off the Air Train that connected me from JFK Airport to Jamaica Station, I was met with a barrier and a toll charge of $5. Thinking on my ‘wheels’, I approached someone who was working there and explained that I was new in town and that I had been unaware of the $5 charge and that I had no money – I know, I know, don’t judge me please. They took my passport details and allowed me to go through without paying. One thing is for sure though, I wouldn’t be able to do it again as I’m pretty sure they took my details for that very reason!
The subway system in NYC is fairly complicated, but I was surprised to find I quickly got the hang of it. I saw that I needed to get the E-line from Jamaica to the heart of Manhattan. On this particular stretch of the journey, I paid $2.70, but I didn’t pay for a single subway ride thereafter as I discovered how easy it was to slip through the service gates at every subway turnstile. I’m not trying to condone skimping on paying train fares, but, you know… $500… 15 days…. I needed to keep my money tight.
I got off at Penn Station and my first port of call was to try and find Wi-Fi. I was able to leech some from a nearby Starbucks… I was pleased to find that all Starbucks do indeed offer free Wi-Fi and you don’t even need to go inside to use it. I hurriedly sent out some last minute couch surfing requests and also tried to persuade some hosts on Airbnb to let me pay them in cash; but to no avail. At the same time, I was also speaking with my friend Dias back in Holland and letting him know about my situation.
At what felt like the last moment, Dias came back online and said that his sister was able to host me for the night; up in Harlem, which is at the North-Eastern corner of Central Park. I cannot thank Dinara enough for welcoming me into her home and both her and her 3-year-old son Michael were incredible. I felt so at home with those guys and had an awesome time chatting away and getting to know them both. It’s super interesting knowing someone for years and then suddenly meeting other members of their family. Honestly guys – thank you so much for everything!
When I heard that I was able to stay with Dinara, I decided to push my chair all the way from Penn Station to 109th St in Harlem. I had a few hours to kill and I knew that this would be a great way to see more of Manhattan. If any of you are familiar with the sheer size of New York City, you’ll know that heading from one side of town to the other is no small feat. It took me best part of three hours to get to Dinara’s place, however, I did get to see the likes of Times Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park and The Met! So it wasn’t all bad.
By the time I got up to Harlem it was around 8:30pm and the jetlag was beginning to set in. The following day I spent my time looking around more of Manhattan, but I’ll get into detail about that in my next post, which will also have a lot more pictures! Stay tuned.