It was 4am on a Friday morning at Hartsfeild Jackson International Airport, and I was on a mission. This had been a long time coming, but also an adventure I knew I would cherish for years to come. As I stepped out of the car, my mother looked at me- a look I hadn’t gotten in a while.
“Stay safe, and good luck”, She told me. “Go get em!”
I waved as she drove away. Maybe it was my sense of pride, maybe it was the adrenaline or cup of coffee I had earlier. I was wired. I felt so empowered yet equally intimidated by the city that 8.5 million people call home. The city where dreams are made a reality, and the unending levels of energy consume the senses. Where I would be traveling to alone- New York City.
The flight over was quite interesting to say the least. As I boarded the plane, I was stopped by the flight attendant. My first initial thought was that my carry on was going to be checked, as it was a full flight.
“I love your sweater, where’d you get it?”, she asked me.
An immediate sigh of relief. If you’ve ever had your baggage lost at the airport, you know the feeling.
“Oh, a guy friend of mine gave it to me”, I stuttered. “We’re just frien-“
“Well it probably looks better on you anyways.”
We smiled at each other and I took my seat. I also spent the majority of the flight thinking about what had just happened. I almost always tend to get little cues when I’m doing life right. Could be anything from small talk with a stranger to a recurring song during memorable moments. Complete Deja vu.
WHY NEW YORK CITY, WHY THE SWEATER?
A couple months ago, a good friend of mine took a job in Brooklyn. We used to do everything together. From driving up to the city at 12am to see the lights to chartering out to a beach house on an island, there wasn’t anything we weren’t up for. He even surprised me with a flight to New York earlier in the year for my birthday. I had always wanted to go there, but I had no idea I would fall in love with the city as much as I did.
Before he moved, we reminisced on all the crazy trips we had taken- the memories made. I joked about what he would do if I just showed up one day in Brooklyn, the way we used to surprise each other with casual visits at work.
“Oh my gosh do it”, he laughed. “But don’t tell me anything about it. You have to visit, Rachel.”
I smiled, though knowing the idea seemed too good to be true and would probably never happen. A couple weeks following the move, I questioned how unrealistic it could actually be. Are things really as difficult as we make them out to be? Flying alone to New York City of all places to just hope everything will fall into place? I’ve slowly developed the mindset that if it’s supposed to happen, It’ll happen. I bought my plane ticket a week later, reserved an airbnb, and mailed him a Hallmark card labeled on the outside:
“DO NOT OPEN TILL OCTOBER 27TH.”
The next step was to develop the master plan. We were set to have a lunch over FaceTime at 12pm on that date, where he would open the letter. When he asked me what I was sending him, I told him it was a ticket to something in Brooklyn. He thought it was to a concert or pass to an art exhibit, not knowing it held a copy of my plane ticket. The idea was to fly in that morning and surprise him at the cafe he would be at for the video chat. For real.
About the maroon sweater- When we were going through his belongings, I mentioned that I liked it and in return he gave it to me. Something about the color just brightens my mood. I love oversized sweaters, and this one has become one of my favorites. When traveling I find it essential to layer my outfits to fit all weather conditions. Plus the temperature in NYC fluctuates quite a bit this time of year- best be prepared. For more traveling essentials, click here.
Upon landing, I was checked in to the airbnb by 11am, just one hour before the scheduled video chat. I joked with my hosts that the only thing relative to Georgia was the tree outside their loft. I took a photo of one of the branches via snapchat and pasted the temperature filter over it. 53 degrees. Following that, I sent it to Zachary.
“loving this weather we’re having today.” :R
Z: “Haha it’s cold here! But also quite sunny.”
We all laughed so hard. He had literally no idea. After unpacking my things, I threw my jacket on, popped in some earbuds to NoMBe, and headed towards the cafe. I made it sound as if I was almost to the Brooklyn Cafe in Atlanta, but running a bit behind. It was 11:50am. 10 more minutes.
Have you ever been in a situation where a trip runs too smoothly? Where there’s some kind of last minute obstacle? Because this was the one. Not only did I have no idea where the cafe was, but my video chat wasn’t working. I made a split decision to walk to his house instead, where I called him over the phone just a block out.
I would have to perfect this. I coughed up all indecency I had and faked the most dejected voice ever.
“Im sorry Zachary, but we’re not going to be able to
FaceTime today. Something came up.” :R
Z: “What, why? We’ve had this planned for weeks?”
“I don’t want to talk about it right now, but just
open the letter real quick. I’m short on time.” :R
There was some rustling of papers on his end, and my body completely froze up. This was it. Everything my sleep deprived yet coffee induced, travel fund lacking, messy haired self had prepared for. The line got quiet.
Z: “WHAT THE-”
He screamed, and I began to laugh- but nothing came out.
Z: “Oh my gosh is this a joke?!”
“Zachary, I’m here.”:R
Z: “Where are you?! LaGuardia?!”
“I here! I need you to come outside.”:R
There was some rusting around and the line went dead. I couldn’t believe I pulled it off. He ran out the front door, down the steps, and wrestled at unlocking the gate.
Z: “How did you-”
We ran up to each other and embraced. At that moment, everything felt it was in the way that it should be.
“You have no idea how much I have to tell you…” :R
A couple train rides later, we hit Manhattan and went out for lunch. It was so funny because all the connections were slowly made, and he couldn’t believe I had him so fooled. The remainder of the weekend was all a blur really, and too much to type, but I will remember this trip for a long time to come.
When I say live in the moment, I mean that it is important to remember that you are capable of anything you put your mind to. Go to that place you’ve always wanted to travel to, talk to that person you’re naturally shy around, make that bucket list, and don’t sell yourself short. Sometimes it takes a chapter in our lives where we can put our phones down, breathe in, and experience what is right there in front of us- rather than the quality of what can be recorded, photographed, and saved for later.
I hope you find that moment.
**Did I mention I have a youtube channel? Taken through my iPhone, here’s a look at my past trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwnolZZHgg4 **