Six Months to Go – My Incomplete Checklist

6 months until we part, NYC!

6 months until we part, NYC!

The countdown has begun. I have six months until I will depart on the biggest adventure of my life: a year of continuous travel. I would say about 90% of the time I am very excited and the other 10% I am confused and terrified.

I have a bad habit of not thinking things through. This bad habit replaces my previous bad habit of thinking too much.

I used to spend a good deal of my time overthinking everything so much that I could never make a decision. Over the years I have made an effort to not overthink things to the point that it sends me into a fast downward spiral. Not thinking things through is my way of protecting myself from having a complete mental breakdown. If I think through the challenges and trials that await me when I travel, chances are I will never get on the plane. I find it best to put my blinders on.

For now I have six months to go and I am on track (or should I say back on track) with my budget (70% there!) and I am in the overwhelming stage of planning. I’m not a planner by nature, so I’m not worried about over planning. Instead I have the fear/knowledge that I will be at least slightly unprepared.

My To Do List:

Selling / Donating my Belongings

When did I acquire so much stuff? I living in a tiny New York apartment and yet over the past month I have been able to donate four large black trash bags of clothing, kitchen supplies, and books. And I still have so much more to get rid of. I’m not a clothing-obsessed person, but I have years of hand-me-downs from my mother and I keep holding on to those pesky “skinny” clothes, probably just to torture myself. I don’t plan on getting rid of all of my clothes before I travel. Because I will be subletting my apartment, I must narrow down my non-furniture belongings to fit in a couple of cardboard boxes. Right now I probably have enough to fill a dozen cardboard boxes. I have a lot of work to do.

Buying Travel Gear

I need a new camera desperately. I’m not the type of person that is going to carry around a huge camera all day. I need something that is small enough to fit in my pocket or a small bag.

Any suggestions?

I also need a lot of miscellaneous things such as packing cubes, a passport cover, and an external hard drive.

Vaccinations

I’m not afraid of needles. The biggest issues I have with getting my vaccinations is 1) I’m still trying to figure out where I’ll be going and what vaccinations I will actually need and 2) I don’t have a doctor in NYC. I have missed my “annual” physical three years in a row. Did I mention I’m not so good at planning?

Rough Itinerary

Right now, I only know that I will probably land in Bangkok. Other than that, I have no destinations planned. There are a million places I want to experience life in, but I must narrow down those places to fit my time and budget. I also need to set up an itinerary to get my visa requirements in order.

Do you have any camera suggestions for me?

Escaping the City: A Day Trip to Cold Spring

Cold Spring Hudson RiverAfter a brutal and unforgiving winter, I was in a bit of a rut. I didn’t write, I didn’t run, and I certainly did not clean my room. Even after the weather began to warm up, I couldn’t quite get myself off of the couch. I discovered the frozen yogurt shop less than a block away from my house and spent far too much time eating yogurt while watching Netflix. It was not pretty.

My friend, Dave, and I had discussed hiking in Cold Spring many times over the winter months while we polished off bottles of red wine. However, when we actually set a date, I became hesitant. After all, all of that hiking would definitely interfere with my cookies ‘n cream-flavored binge eating session. And, I was in the middle of watching Battlestar Galactica again, so…you know…I had had things to do.

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Saturday Morning Walk: Astoria

Astoria Park

Astoria, Queens is a little bit of suburbia right outside of the craziness of Manhattan. While I live off of an avenue filled with restaurants, bars, and shops, the street where my house sits is quiet and lined with trees. There are houses with front gardens. People hang themed wreaths on their doors to celebrate every holiday. There are Marys on the half shell in many yards, indicating that the Greek influence in the neighborhood still exists.

On warm weekend mornings I like to take walks down toward the water. I travel past the stores, past the butcher shops with whole lambs skinned and hanging in the windows (a sign out front reads: Baby Lamb Goat Pig), past the bakery filled with cakes and Italian cookies, and to the East River.

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Bahamas Cruise: Expectations (or lack of) and Reality

Usually I travel alone. It works out better for everyone this way. Yes, I do become a bit passive-aggressive when stuck with one person for too long (just ask my roommate). But, my best friend is getting married this year and as a last hurrah, we decided to take a 3-night cruise together.Bahamas Cruise

I had never been on a cruise and wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect to get seasick on the first day or have a shower so small that I couldn’t bend over to shave my legs. Not so good. I didn’t expect the pool to be filled with salt water. Amazing!

Bahamas Cruise

Drinks – the cost of drinks was one of my main concerns. I tend to drink…a lot. Especially on vacation. And maybe it is the New Yorker in me talking, but drinks were cheap. Cocktails were around $6.50 with an automatic gratuity they came to about $8.00 a piece. In New York, cocktails can easily be double that price! I was thrilled. Of course, cheap drinks did not stop me from wracking up over $100 in bar bills over the course of three days.

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Abandoned Berlin – Beelitz Hospital

Beelitz

After our successful trip to Teufelsberg spy station, we still had enough daylight to travel to the Beelitz Hospital. Lars, a native German, his Russian girlfriend, and Andre, another Russian now residing in Tel Aviv, allowed me to tag along on another abandoned adventure.

Beelitz-Heilstätten is located very close to the train station. We were not sure how to get there, but we asked a local couple for help and they pointed us in the right direction. Through a path in the woods, we stumbled upon a building. My excitement set in. A creepy, possibly dangerous, abandoned hospital! What more could a girl ask for?!

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Abandoned Berlin – Teufelsberg Spy Station

Teufelsberg

In May of last year I took a two-week trip to Germany. My original plan was to stay in Berlin for just four days, but I fell in love so fast with the city that I ended up staying for double that time.

During that trip, I met two travelers from Tel Aviv, a couple—Yael and Andre—who I ended up spending most of my time with. One of their friends, Lars, was born in East Berlin before the wall came down. He offered to take us to an abandoned spy station or an abandoned hospital both of which were just outside of the city.

Ummm…Yes, please!

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The Brooklyn Flea Market and Jazz at the Village Vanguard

This winter, I have gotten a little…stuck. I moved to Queens, which is wonderful, but ever since I moved, I have not been interested in straying much outside of my neighborhood. It’s been a brutally cold few months and the spring does not feel like it will ever arrive. Over the winter, I didn’t have any interest in exploration of any kind. I preferred to get in my bed, watch a movie, and eat Nutella by the tablespoon.

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Yes, I do buy my Nutella at Costco.

But last weekend, my Israeli friend, Yael, who I met in Berlin last year, was in town with her friend. I—reluctantly—changed out of my sweatpants into some real clothes (my jeans barely button thanks to my Nutella consumption) and did my best to be a decent tour guide.

Through pouring rain (but thankfully no snow) we explored a bit of Williamsburg; they both wanted to browse through the antiques and crafts at the Brooklyn Flea.

Brooklyn Flea Market

Brooklyn Flea Market

Shopping isn’t usually my thing, but perusing the knickknacks at the Flea is like digging through gold to find a diamond. I wanted everything. I wanted the vintage patterned plates in my kitchen cabinets, I wanted the colorful stuffed owl on my bed, I wanted a big beaded costume bracelet that I would wear only once before deeming it impractical.

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5 (Almost) Free Things to Do in NYC

When I’ve got friends visiting from out of town/state/country who are trying to see New York on a budget, these are the top things I recommend.

The View Lounge - Skip paying $27 for Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building. The lines are long and you’ll be cranky by the time you reach the top. Instead visit the View Lounge at the Mariott Marquis hotel. The lounge revolves, so you get 360-degree view of the city. Go as soon as the lounge opens (at 5:00pm most days) and you won’t feel rushed or squashed by a crowd. For the price of a cocktail, you get to sit, relax, and look out at a spectacular view.

Governor’s IslandGovernor’s Island is only open from Memorial Day until the last weekend in September. Last year it became one of my favorite places to go to get away from the insanity of the city. There is a short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan to the island for $2. It used to be free, but they are going to begin charging in 2014.

View from Governor's Island

View from Governor’s Island

Besides having great views of the city and a lot of green space to have a picnic, Governor’s Island is home to a fort built prior to the War of 1812, Castle Williams, which is free to explore. There are quite a few events that take place on the island over the summer:

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Nannying in Istanbul: the Good, the Bad, and the Really Bad

nannyingistanbul.jpg.

This is a subject I’ve been reluctant to talk about and even more reluctant to write about. Thinking about the experience gives me a little twinge of frustration, regret and embarrassment.

I’ll start at the beginning.

I once ran away from home to be a nanny in Istanbul. I was tired of college. I was bored and looking for an adventure.

I was not looking to go to Istanbul, but this particular family found me on an au pair website and we began to discuss the possibility of me moving there for the summer. My stepfather did a background check on the family. I video chatted with the parents and their two seemingly-delightful girls: ages six and ten.

“We’ll treat you like our own daughter,” they said.

“We will pick you up at the airport and show you around Istanbul,” they promised.

These were lies.

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