It’s not every day you get to relive your 20’s in New York City. I moved to Manhattan a month after I graduated from UT Austin at age 22 and didn’t leave the island to move back to Austin until I was ready at 29 – hello fear of 30! I made a point to do everything I wanted in that city from museums, to all the New England neighboring travel, Hamptons, night life, clubs, running in Central Park, Broadway, restaurants, hiking in the Catskills, even getting to see Hamilton for $60 while it was just showing at The Public theater by the chance of being in the right place at the right time, and truly just said yes to everything. While I love living in Austin, the last couple years I’ve been very nostalgic every time I watch a movie based in NYC and even more so after the Sex & The City recreation. I’d actually never watched the whole original series and got after it during Covid. I’ve also felt that I don’t get enough time now when I visit for a weekend or even a week, and wish I could have some extra experiences there as I don’t feel satisfied when I leave. I actually feel disappointed and could never figure out why. So, in January of this year, I had a brilliant idea, why don’t I actually do the thing that I want which is to LIVE IN NEW YORK AGAIN. I posted on Instagram about looking for a “house swap,” so I didn’t have to pay for housing, and just like that, one of my followers shared it with her co-worker in Williamsburg who had a great set up and was interested in switching with me. We didn’t do a lot of talking and really just showed up at each other’s places without meeting and dove right in.
Right before I arrived, I was kind of in a fragile state. I had a huge month in March with SXSW (read about it here), started with two new restaurant clients, and in April planned a Taco Tour for 100 people with busses, 3 taco spots, and beverage sponsors. At this point, I was hanging on by a string and really needed some mental and personal space. My 3 week trip to NYC couldn’t have come at a better time. I actually felt like I was watching my own life movie because the timing was uncanny and also amicably parted ways with someone special I was seeing all at the same time.
While I was feeling a little haggard and frazzled, as soon as I stepped into the New York air, I was taken care of. My friend Kim, who I had just met at my Todos Santos Yoga Retreat in January, offered to pick me up at the Newark airport and deliver me to my Brooklyn abode. WHAT A TREAT to be picked up at the airport with some good energy, lively vibes, and giggles as she used her typical New York attitude to get through the traffic. My spirits fell into my true self as I realized I was away from home and no one could reach me to meet in person- ha. I was AMPED, HYPED, and the enthusiastic, excited person I am when I’m my best self. This was the best idea I’ve ever had….
The crazy part about the home swap is that the apartment had the same coffee table, desk chair, and all other sorts of similarities to my own home. The alignment was legit and I set out on an adventure for 3 weeks where I maneuvered around to see friends and family while eating at 40 restaurants and bakeries, walked 111 miles, went to friend’s homes for home cooked dinner parties, saw old clients and their new projects, met new people who are planning to move to Austin that I will soon call my own friends, found an employee to hire, and truly had wings on my back as I floated through the streets each day to explore. As a restaurant expert and PR girl, I had opened 30+ restaurants when I lived here previously and during the last 5 years, I fell off the map with my restaurant education. Starting from scratch, I got to work studying Infatuation, Eater, reservation apps, Instagram, talking with friends, and I can’t believe it, but I was no joke using Resy every day more than Instagram as if it was a game. I’d wake up at 6 a.m. due to the light coming in through my window (not bc I’d EVER do this voluntarily) and just start perusing and playing tetris with all my plans and food I needed to accomplish. I felt crazy, but also know I kind of love doing that. The real take away is that every restaurant on my list ended up working out, and I spent quality with the people that mattered including treating myself! I’m not someone who is into beauty appointments and “relaxing,” but I am always “in need” of massages since I am tight from fitness stuff. I visited my old Japanese hair salon, Sei Tomoko, because Mutsumi always gives me the best cut!
So my first day, I booked my favorite massage in the whole world with Nick from Bathhouse, which ironically happened to be just a 5 minute walk from my apartment! Bathhouse offers day passes and memberships with a cold plunge pool (52 degrees), hot pool (104 degrees), thermoneutral pool (94 degrees), sauna, and steam room. Naturally, I stepped right into the cold pool as I wanted to test if I could feel a little bit at “Barton Springs” home. I began to realize people were staring at me after 5 minutes and that no one else was staying in the cold pool. Then, I started chatting with a cute Dominican Republic couple in the normal temp pool, and they were like WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN THERE? I laughed and told them about my swimming life and Pagosa Hot Springs. Next, the Australian couple in the hot pool told me about an amazing new disco bar, Café Balerica, to visit down the street and that they were headed to Austin the next day. Of course, I told them about my favorite music clubs. This kind of connection and back and forth convo with strangers always makes me giddy. Then I had my life changing massage with Nick— I’m telling you it’s worth it go out of your way to find him. He flips, digs, stretches, and puts your body back together with finesse. It’s pretty amazing how he moves around the room and you.
Anyway, I tried a few other things I’ve never done: a 30-minute facial for $65 at Glowbar that had just opened. I’ve never had a facial, so I can’t compare to the expensive longer ones most ladies get, but it’s designed for the woman on-the-go, and it made my face pretty soft. I was averaging 6 miles of walking per day because obviously I’m an explorer and can’t quit wandering or hitting all the places on my list. Walking through the neighborhood and across the Williamsburg Bridge to Manhattan is truly something that makes me the happiest. I love staring the uphill walk, seeing the beautiful bridge up close, the train zoom by, and then looking out over the water to all the buildings and making my way across. However, the milage started building up (sometimes 8 miles per day) and didn’t come without consequence (ha!).
I basically had to ground myself after a week from any movement because my hamstrings were very fatigued and the 50 miles in one week was clearly too much. However, my friend told me about Vessel Floats,so instead of going out one Friday night, I went over to this mindful sensory deprivation spa in Greenpoint. I had no idea what to expect. We started giggling as we arrived because we were both so excited and just glad to have a new experience. After you take off your shoes and put on their custom black socks, the order of events are Dose, Float, and Reflect. You choose your Dose, a beverage of adaptogen-based tincture formulated to open your mind and elevate your trip which is a little shot of an herbal house tea blend. I chose Dream which was a relaxing tonic with ashwagandha, kava, passionflower, ginger, etc. Other options are:Cerebrum, Euphoria, Soma.Then we went into our separate dark rooms where we were instructed to shower with the charcoal body wash before stepping into our tanks where we’d float in the salt bath for an hour either in the dark, with our choice of a little light, or they even had those cool neon stars on the ceiling that I of course DID choose to turn on. The intention is to deprive yourself of all senses, but I chose to have some instrumental music on (others can choose a sound bath or actual guided meditation).
My mind wandered but not aggressively – it was mostly about how glad I was that my friend told me about this place, and I could rest my body that had been going nonstop. My brain was doing its thing where I was trying to figure out– did I want pizza or Thai after the float. Then we rinsed off using their Le Labo products and drank our Moon Milks in the lobby. It wasn’t too small of a space, and I’d definitely do it again but what gave me the most joy was trying something new without any expectations with a fun friend. Then I walked to the Thai place I had my eye on in the hood, and it just so happened to be called Noods ‘n Chill. I know, my life is always connecting without me consciously knowing.
The first week I started off trying a new workout class a day, but had to stop the second week because of all the walking. My favorite studio Good Day Pilates and their class called Good Athlete incorporates kettle bells. The studio in Williamsburg felt like a spa, had great lighting, and the class was challenging in the best way possible. Session down the street was a signature circuit class with weight stations, The Corner Yoga Yin Class was a great way to wind down on Sunday afternoon, and I loved their old gold ceilings. My favorite yoga studio has always been Sky Ting and taking my friend Faye’s class made my day brighter. I love their style which is based on Katonah where you usually start with breathing and hold poses sitting and standing for a long time to deepen stretches and really soften yet strengthen your body and mind simultaneously. You can take all of their classes online, too! I am not a fan of hot yoga or fast vinyasa’s as I like the slower more thoughtful and original purpose of Buddhist style teachings. (I prefer my fast workouts to be with swimming, weights, or running). This space in Chinatown overflows with sunlight, plants, and gratitude. My other favorite class is from a former teacher here who just so happened to open her own studio in Fort Green right before I arrived. Samara’s place called, Sarai, has live music classes on Tuesday’s and it’s how I started and ended my swap. Once you get in bed after her class, you truly melt into your pillow and feel your hips releasing stress and tension all night.
Entertainment wise I made it to see Cut Copy at Webster Hall in the East Village music nightclub since 1886 which reminds me so much of 930 Club in D.C. It’s extremely intimate and up close unlike Brooklyn Mirage which was my big wild night out. Thanks to friends that put us on the list to see Disclosure, we showed up at 2 a.m. to this gigantic outdoor venue that had THOUSANDS of people and I mean THOUSANDS everywhere just dancing and grooving their hearts out. I’ve always wanted to see these brothers perform and the neon lights and hoopla was so bright it almost felt like fire… or was it? I was back in New York and hanging with a really fun musician friend of a friend through this adventure. He was down for it all, and progressive nights like these are what make it so invincible and so “only in New York.” I also loved checking out Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg which felt like an Austin bar with all kinds of parts. The entrance was a typical dive bar which then continued into a live music space that felt like a train car and a large outdoor patio with trees and lights.
I kept feeling pressure from myself to go to the MET because I hadn’t been in years, but I noticed I was also dreading riding the subway there and being overwhelmed with all the exhibits. A friend of mine said, “Alex, you can always go back another time and all of the culture in Manhattan is on the street and in the people walking around anyway.” That made me light up! She was right, my favorite thing is looking at all the fashion walking down the street, overhearing wild conversations, talking to people in line, and walking into random art galleries right off the Highline on West 21st Street in Chelsea. I bopped around some great smaller exhibits in Chelsea and got an intimate look at pieces from Ernesto Neto at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery with some live art with plants, ropes, and things I never would have seen at the MET.
I ended up spending my second to last day at the newly renovated MoMA which is my favorite museum (in addition to the The Frick Collection which was under renovation anyway). I never get sick of seeing the impressionists on the 5th floor and always like to see my favorite Picasso pieces. The Girl Before A Mirror I have hanging in my bedroom, but seeing it this time made my eyes water and me lose my breath. With all the self-love and reflection I went through the last 3 weeks here, all the happiness I let into my life, and being so present, when I saw her, I actually saw me. I’m so proud of myself for creating this experience and spending time exploring, nurturing, and love with my friends and cousins. The last time I had lived in New York, I had always had work first during the weekdays that included lavish and never ending dinners that definitely wore me out, and this time, I had delicious, superfluous dinners with engaging friends 7 days a week that filled me with energy and somehow never needed to catch up on sleep even though I was getting less than I ever have! The mind and body connection is so real. While my body might have given out a few times because of all the physical activities, my brain never felt restless and was always ready to go and be my spunky, exploratory self.
THINGS I RECOGNIZED:
- Nothing is impossible unless you don’t try
- Everything is in flow and connected if you just keep your head up and look for it
- Talking to strangers and people in stores, in lines, on the street, is quite thrilling
- Take breaks from work to allow yourself to reconnect
- The way you can be refreshed and recharged is different from others and if it’s walking your heart out and seeing a million people in NYC then that works for you!
- Playing Tetris with plans can be stressful or you can just trust that it will all work out and you’ll see enough people and get all the things you MUST do done somehow at some point
- I secretly love playing Tetris with my plans and people because when it finally works out, it’s a THRILL
- Even the hardest concert tickets to obtain or restaurant reservations to secure can be TAKEN OVER if you just sit back and let it come to you
- Take it easy when your body is begging you to stop walking
- Your life CAN BE a movie!
- I can have a pretty rad time just hanging out with myself!
- Having fun is the most important thing, and it’s ok to choose to do other things than what people want you to do or have suggested for you because they think it’s best for you, but only you know!