Approaching my last two weeks of my 85-week trip I hopped on a coach from Toronto to New York and was trying to plan an eight-night stay on a serious budget, safe to say I was worried. After searching online for days, I eventually punted for a hostel in Queens for around $20 a night. More researching suggested that if I didn’t indulge with plays on Broadway, sporting events, expensive nights out, fancy restaurants and avoiding the metro in Manhattan then budgeting is possible. I just had to accept that this means I will need to come back at least once again, what a shame.
The coach dropped me in central Manhattan and I was flabbergasted by the amount on concrete that surrounded me and the dizzying heights of the buildings. For someone who hasn’t been to a major American city before this experience was surreal. I just didn’t know where to look but to get my bearings I dropped myself in to an Irish bar to take stock. Having made my way to the hostel in a famous yellow taxi, it was time to get my timings, the hostel was a 20-minute walk through Astoria to the subway. This lovely little walk took me 20 minutes through leafy suburbia and pass independent local shops where I normally stopped off for a tuna sandwich deli style. With only 10 minutes on the subway to central Manhattan I had a result with the hostel.
Manhattan is a dazzling concrete jungle in which you immerse yourself into and I got my running trainers on and planned a day of walking around this famous island. The distance from the Central Park to Battery Park in the south is 10km but I was prepared to walk everywhere to walk off my American food but also to save money. Sights such as Central Park, The New York High Line, 5th Avenue, Times Square, Wall Street, The Freedom Tower and Battery Park are all free and easy to access by walking. There is enough there to keep yourself occupied for a few days.
Despite being on a budget you have to do certain activities and none more so than the Rockefeller Observation Deck and the Statue of Liberty. At a combined total of around $50, this is not bad for your tight purse strings. Lets face it, being on a budget makes you eek out every bit of sightseeing possible and brings out the best traveller from within you. The best tip I received for a thing to do in New York was the High Line and this 1.45 mile walk is a great way to spend a few hours weaving in and out of the New York buildings surrounded by trees and plant life. This little walk provided me with reflection time with a great view, you must do this.
Many fellow travellers will know that from time to time in hostels you do meet those characters which make the trip that even more interesting. This happened to me in my New York hostel, this French guy who had been living in Manchester. He came to New York to party and rent out a Mustang for the week, expensive. He would come back with stories of his night and offer lifts in to Manhattan, I must admit he wasn’t the best driver but I just sat back and embraced the experience. In fact, he was decent enough to offer me a lift on my last day.
When I was on top of the Rockefeller building looking out to Manhattan at sunset it made me feel euphoric and very reflective about the previous 83 weeks of travelling which I had achieved. All of the sights I have seen, experiences I have experienced and people I had met made me feel very lucky about what I had gained in life. It was a poignant moment as I stood there thinking about seeing my family for the first time in about nearly two years. I felt I had topped off my travelling in style and with Iceland to come there was still more excitement. Despite the excitement there was fear and a worry about how I was going to explain all of this to my family and friends. What was for certain was that New York alone is a spectacle which should not be missed and it was a highlight of my trip.