Sarah and the city

Work and life recently brought Sarah to New York for 10 days and she has lived to tell the tale. She shares the ups and downs of navigating work travel and New York's chaos.
This IS my chill face.

Big cities didn’t always exhaust me. I spent some formative years in my twenties in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a beastly metropolis of over 13 million people, and found it exhilarating and exciting. When I moved back to the U.S., I lived on the East Coast, and would come to New York regularly to visit friends. In those younger days, weekends in New York were filled with Heineken mini kegs, playing Rock Band till the wee hours and not feeling particularly daunted by the city.

Fast forward to 2018 and I’ve lived in a manageable mid-sized city (Austin, Texas) for seven years. I drive everywhere and my neighborhood is green and quiet. It’s very comfortable.

Work and life recently brought me to New York for 10 days and I swear it almost broke me. Behold the ups and downs of a whirlwind work/life trip to New York.

Day 1: Friday

New York, I think we got off on the wrong foot. And it’s not really your fault.

I flew all day to New York from San Francisco, where I was the week before for a grueling work offsite. It was long days of planning meetings followed by late work nights. So I’m not exactly coming into this trip well rested.

After sleeping five hours the night before and traveling on a cramped plane for five hours, I got off and was bombarded with people and sound at the airport. I listened to a Headspace meditation in my Lyft to Brooklyn where I’m staying this weekend, trying not to let the traffic and activity overwhelm me. I wouldn’t say I was particularly successful.

Let’s give it another shot tomorrow, New York. I’m game if you are.

Day 2: Saturday

I took the subway into Tribeca to visit my friend and his wife and baby. We went for a walk in Battery Park, and I was struck by the sheer number of people, especially as we attempted to wield a stroller. Kind of took away from the park experience I was hoping for, but I tried not to let that get me down. Then, back at their house, as I was joyfully holding the baby, his diaper exploded all over me. Luckily, they have a washing machine, and baby and I made up over an adorable floor play session. I did what looked like the walk of shame home in my friend’s basketball shorts with my pants in a bag. I’m not mad, baby James!

Day 3: Sunday

Finally! Way more my speed: My friends and I spent the day in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I had read about it and wanted to go, so my friends and I checked it out. It is on the water and so quiet it feels like a small town. We got brunch, ate key lime pie and went for a long walk. I’m charmed.

New York, I’m starting to feel like I get you.

Day 4: Monday

Damnit, New York.

I’m here for a three-day work training and today was day one. The office is in Midtown, and I decided to walk there from my hotel on the Upper West Side. BAD IDEA. I was picturing a charming New York stroll to start my day. But I quickly realized that Broadway isn’t a “stroll” kind of street, and I forgot how sticky this city can be, especially if you’re walking two miles on a 90-degree day. After navigating the throngs of tourists who stop right in front of you to take a selfie, New Yorkers who are understandably impatient and perhaps a little pushy, and honking hoards of traffic, I showed up to the office late and completely soaked with sweat. At least training was interesting. At the end of the day, I took a cab back to my hotel because I definitely earned it after that brutal walk.

Day 5: Tuesday

I’m done trying to be a hero walking and taking the subway, so I let my company buy me a cab to the office this morning. Today’s adventure was getting soaked at lunch in a downpour — I forgot what a pain rain is in a giant city where you don’t have a car. Luckily, I brought clothes for the gym, so I changed into leggings after lunch. Yolo. 

Photo by Kevin Lee on Unsplash

One bright spot worth noting has been Sweetgreen, where I’ve eaten more this week than is humanly possible. I never understood the point of using apps to order food ahead of time until now: it is amazing to whisk in and grab your lunch off a shelf while others wait in sometimes blocks-long lines. Seriously, the Bryant Park Sweetgreen at noon is a panic attack waiting to happen. Thanks, Sweetgreen app! (I am not getting paid to write this, I literally just like it THAT much.)

After work I went to the gym, then met up with friends from college. Despite feeling extra rattled today (at one point in the locker room, I heard a pounding sound coming from the floor above me that was so loud I swear it actually made my heart beat faster), I managed to shake it off and have a nostalgic, magical night out with old friends at one of those tiny “only in New York” restaurants in Chinatown — lit only by candlelight and Christmas lights, with tables so close you were practically eating off your neighbor’s plate and a contagious hum of energy. And it had that incredible New York feeling of vastly different people with vastly different lives coming together in one place. Today was a roller coaster, but it definitely ended on a high note.

Day 6: Wednesday

Today I was able to recharge a bit. My last day of training ended a bit early so I had a few extra hours to catch up on work. I work for a tech company that has really nice offices — they always have snacks and gyms and locker rooms. Being able to eat well and work out when I travel are what keep me sane, and I’m so grateful. There was even a boot camp class in the office gym tonight, so I went, then headed to another friend’s house in Brooklyn. I feel lucky to be able to catch up with friends while I’m here.

Day 7: Thursday

I worked from my friend’s place today to save myself the years of life I’m convinced Midtown Manhattan takes off every time you set foot there. (I exaggerate… slightly.) I stayed in sweats all day and only left the house for coffee and bagels. Texas bagels are tragic, whereas the lox and cream cheese on an everything bagel I had for lunch today would have been a suitable gift for the baby Jesus. Today was a joy.

Day 8: Friday

Back into Midtown today and the Lyft from Brooklyn no joke takes an hour. (As I write this, I’m sure New Yorkers are rolling their eyes because “that’s not even that bad.” In which case, I applaud your patience.) I spent a quiet day working from the office, then ate dinner with Jen and Alyssa before heading back to Alyssa’s where I’m crashing for the weekend.

Day 9: Saturday

It’s Juggle retreat day! We’d planned this for months and it was so exciting to spend an entire day working on The Juggle in person (Amy Skyped in from Austin because she has a 4-month-old, and babies aren’t the most portable things in the world). We had a furious six-hour session, then went for a quick but glorious walk in Central Park. I had dinner out with a friend from middle school (!), then passed out at 11:00. It was the most I’d slept in two weeks.

Day 10: Sunday

The Met Cloisters

I finally found peace and quiet in Manhattan at The Cloisters — a branch of the Met museum that is actual medieval cloisters brought over from Europe. It feels like a church slash museum and is located in a huge park. I couldn’t believe I was in New York. A perfect way to spend my last day.

New York, we had some ups and downs these past 10 days. I know they weren’t all your fault. Let’s be frank — some of them definitely were. But I can also see that I didn’t set myself up for success this trip, with limited sleep, too many obligations and almost no down time to process and recuperate. It can sometimes be hard to see the magic in this city through the exhaustion and sweat and crowds of people fighting you at every turn. But special moments are there to be discovered if you work at it, and I’m not swearing this place off. I’ll be back. And hopefully with an umbrella.

Any New Yorkers/business travelers have tips for how to channel calm in the city? I’d SUPER appreciate it. Write them in the comments below!

(Nothing in this article is sponsored.)

2 thoughts on “Sarah and the city

  1. This is so relatable, thanks for writing! Last time I was in nyc for work I balanced it all out by staying in my hotel one night and ordered enough Sichuan food for five people while watching 13 going on 30. It was glorious.

    1. Janeane, you just described my dream evening — all I ever want to do when I travel for work is eat takeout in bed.

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