Travel from NYC: Four Ambivalent Factors


New York City is a fascinating place to travel—and travel from. Living within a locale where constant change permeates controlled chaos amidst a sea of countless cultural influences can be as riveting as it is tiring. Many New Yorkers may say it's hard to travel, due to demanding jobs coupled with the high cost of living. Nevertheless, NYC is not the worst place to feel trapped, as there is often something, somewhere in the five boroughs left unexplored.

While boredom may not be a prevailing problem for life in New York City, the people residing there, as anywhere, are subject to falling into ruts, which beg for the refreshment that travel provides. As such, there are several factors for which New Yorkers may simultaneously miss and not miss during their excursions to elsewhere.

1. The Subway

Getting from one point to another without driving is awesome. The subway is a wonderful urban amenity... when it's not delayed, and not fraught with closures, and not jammed with disheveled passengers and not decked with abrasive advertisements.

Missing the works of the Metropolitan Transit Authority will depend on the situation and destination. Few care to spend half the time in Los Angeles idled on the freeway, lest land there carless. On the other hand, alternative means of local transit—boarding the efficient U-Bahn in Berlin, steering a golf cart around the island hills of Culebra, riding a scooter through scooter-only tunnels in Taipei—won't arouse a yearning for the daily subway commute.

2. Polarized Interactions

One day, a person feels in sync with the city: elated, skilled in a specialization, ready to take on challenges with grace and ease. Another day, that same person feels downtrodden, wearied from the incessant grappling to keep up with the tumult. The clatter of competition and confrontations becomes taxing.

Is the dichotomy good or bad? Hard to say—it's unique, at least. Nonetheless, it's beneficial for New Yorkers to take a break from such extremities in order to reassess their handling of them. Should they decide that the slower speed of a small village is dull or conclude that the big-city strive is ultimately too burdensome, both are valuable takeaways.

3. Abundance of Activities

There's always something to do in New York. How about going to a museum? Well, there's that new exhibition at MoMA... but then again, the Whitney has those river views. Or, how about heading to the Studio Museum in Harlem, then maybe El Museo del Barrio, which is next to the Museum of the City of New York, so why not both—but in that case, is it actually more efficient to visit the Met first, and then the Neue after... or before? Or, there are the Chelsea Galleries, or the Queens Museum or...

The trove of cultural institutes and events can be dizzying. Figuring out the best way to navigate NYC is a skill that requires experimentation and patience to cultivate. In any case, traveling to a smaller place for a finite amount of time to check out its offerings is a pleasant change of pace.

4. Big Buildings and Bright Lights

The marvels of skyward construction inspire awe. Having casual visual access to an urban canopy that's accented by Art Deco arches and crowned by pointy patina towers is a privilege.

Life, though, is not all about landmarks. Actually residing in New York City often embroils stress and sacrifice, diminishing the freshness it takes to appreciate such structures. Someone who works the Flatiron District, for instance, might not care to revel in the beauty of the namesake building if the neighborhood is a reminder of the workweek's fusses.

Natural scenery, be it firry old-growth forests up Oregon mountain slopes or starry skies over Arizona canyon ridges, is arguably more peaceful than a cityscape packed with obstruction and light pollution. On the other hand, the nighttime flight back into NYC makes for a glamorous welcome-back; few sites are as dazzling as the aerial outline of Manhattan Island sprinkled with skyscrapers' twinkling lights.

Tanya Silverman is a native New Yorker who enjoys both being in the city and leaving it.