The Big Apple and I

This post is a guest post from Kristene Irene of If you’d like to contribute a guest post to please feel free to contact us.


Two years ago, I made some of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, and it made me grow into the person who I am today. Stronger. Smarter. Independent.

I took a leap of faith the day that I embarked on my first solo travel, and little did I know how much I’d love it, and what a great investment it turned out to be. I will keep these precious memories with me for the rest of my life and I will never stop telling this story. The story of when I found myself by traveling state to state – completely on my own.

Work brought me to Florida, the sunshine state. Home to Disney World, alligators and those who stay faithful to their flip-flops, yet wear puffer jackets and scarves when the temperature is below seventy. I loved it there, and I wanted to see more of the state I had become a temporary resident in.

From time to time, me and a friend would rent a car and go on weekend-trips to places outside of Central-Florida, just to get our minds off work and relax in a different environment. Thanks to my rewards program membership with Club Carlson,  I had collected enough points to get a free stay and other discounted deals, which made those weekend-getaways possible while saving up enough money to go somewhere far more exciting. Florida was fine for the time-being, but I wanted to see more. And I wanted to do it by myself.

New York, New York. My first solo travel. My American dream. Blame it on TV-shows, blame it on photographs of the Manhattan skyline, blame it on whatever you like. We’ve all had daydreams about certain places. We all have an unwritten bucket list. New York was number one on my list. And because of a TV-show I once loved – and thanks to my Genius account benefits on – I booked four nights at the fabulous Empire Hotel on Manhattans upper west side.

And there I was. In a yellow cab, stuck in traffic. Headed towards Manhattan. The buildings were even taller than I had imagined, and the city lights were brighter. My hotel had made a mistake with the booking and accidentally double-booked my room, so they gave me a free upgrade. I was obviously fine with that. My new room was an elegant junior suite, and it was all mine. I felt like a royal as I laid down in my king size bed in this magnificent hotel on the quirky, yet classy neighborhood in New York City.

Dining in New York City was a challenge. In a city that has absolutely everything, where do you even start? I ended up buying coffee from at least three different establishments per day ( Irving Farm Coffee Roasters was my favorite) and ate a whole lot of different snacks throughout the day, before finishing with a larger meal in the evening (takeout from Épicerie Boulud was très magnifique). Never have I eaten as much as I did in New York City, nor have I walked as much to compensate for the eating. I ate clean organic vegan food, industrial fast food, vegan fast food (couldn’t resist a few trips to Maoz), street food, pastries, salads, you name it – I ate it.

Free walking tours is a fun concept. Although, they’re usually not really free. I booked a paid free walking tour with a local guide who seemed rather surprised to find out that I was a young woman traveling alone. He was around my age as well – so from an outsiders perspective, it must have looked like we were on an awkward first date where the guy was trying to impress the girl with his knowledge of local history and culture. As awkward as it may have looked, it was still a lot of fun. The guide was in fact a professional actor who did the occasional walking tours just for fun, while living in a fancy loft apartment (at least so he said) owned by his parents who were living in Europe. His life seemed perfect. I was disappointed. I wanted to come to New York to discover that the locals are nothing like the ones portrayed on TV. But here he was, my tour guide, the Golden Boy of New York City.

Four days were spent in the Big Apple. Leaving the city was a bittersweet affair. Part of me wanted to stay longer. Part of me even wanted to settle down and stay there forever. But I wanted to continue my solo travel adventures. And this was the right time to do it.

Written by Kristene Irene

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