I traveled to New Jersey last week to recoup a training session I had missed in early June. It was a one-on-one session, so we flew through the material and wrapped up by 2:30 in the afternoon. Since my return flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until the next morning, I found myself staring at free time–and the NYC skyline.
Faster than you can say “Big Apple,” I jumped on a train bound for Penn Station, giddy at the prospect of spending not just any evening, but Friday evening, in Manhattan. I had nothing but time, bustling sidewalks, and city lights stretching in front of me.
Somewhere in the getting-there process, I had the fleeting thought that I should have a plan–not a rigid plan, but at least some vague idea of what I wanted to do and see. Quickly dismissed by my urgent need to GO, I found myself on the sidewalk in front of Madison Square Garden faced with endless possibilities. Quite literally, I didn’t know which way to turn.
My foodie self decided to head to Chelsea Market to poke around the food and cooking shops. (Secretly, I also hoped some famous chef would stumble out of the Food Network studios located on the building’s upper floors.) I pointed my feet south and started walking.
I spent more than an hour in Chelsea Market just taking it all in. I loved smelling the freshly baked bread and handling exotic produce. I was delighted to find a few fruits I couldn’t name. I even texted my brother that I thought I would die from joy.
Then I came to the end of the market–and the end of my so-called plan. I still had five glorious hours left to spend in the city, but the sheer number of possibilities shut down my brain. So I turned my feet south and headed farther downtown, with no clear idea of where I was going.
I rambled through Greenwich Village and poked around Soho. I eventually ate dinner and wandered back to midtown and up the Empire State Building. Mostly, though, I just walked. For all those hours, I walked. Without a destination. And while I loved soaking up the sights and sounds and smells of the city, eventually it began to wear on me a little. I couldn’t help thinking that if I had added just a couple more destinations to my dance card, I might have had a little richer experience. I didn’t need a tight schedule, but a couple of anchor points wouldn’t have hurt.
They would have transformed wandering aimlessly to walking with purpose.
You could have had a plan, yes, but doesn’t the idea that you let yourself roam INSTEAD of having a hard and fast itenerary sound more FUN?? Yes I know your organized self WANTS a schedule, but the idea of turning your feet and heading in a direction you’ve never been before had to FEEL fun. Let the inner wanderer out.
I do like to wander. I just sometimes need a couple of points along the way to direct my steps. My Manhattan adventure wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without the freedom to explore–i.e. if I had scurried from place to place on a strict time schedule–but having one or two additional destinations gives me a way to be less overwhelmed by the forest and actually enjoy a few of the trees. Even if I never make it there, just setting my feet in a particular direction helps me get my arms around it better. Besides, I always end up in the wrong places when I’m on my own!