By Stacey Ramirez
Web Content Contributor
Months ago, when travel was safe, it was all I could ever think about. I would get alerts for flight deals maybe 10 times a day. But as a college student, even though a flight to Spain can be as low as $300, it’s still a lot of money to drop at once and make sure the dates match up my breaks.
Then, one Wednesday night in October, I was in bed with my phone trying to fall asleep when I got an alert for a $31 flight to New York City from Austin. For someone who had never been to New York City, I was excited. It was a price I could afford, and for almost as much as I might spend on a night out.
I have a habit of always sharing cheap flight deals just to tell people, “Wow this amazing, I wish I could go,” even though I never did. So, I sent it to my friends and like always, the conversation went, “Let’s go” — but also like most friends, we never actually did anything about it.
But this time was different. I believed that this was a sign, that somehow the stars aligned, or I manifested this deal– but I knew I had to go.
I had been reading a book called “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was about a girl who moves to New York City in the 1920s from a small town. There was one line in the book and if I hadn’t read it just a few minutes before the alert came, I might not have gone.
The line in the books message went something like, “You only get to see New York City for the first time once in your life and there is no other feeling like it.”
That line resonated with me for some reason. I remember reading it and realizing you really do only get to see New York city for the first time only once or never at all. I wondered what that feeling would feel like and wondered when I would get to experience it.
All my favorite movies and songs took place in New York. There had to be a reason.
“Why not?” I asked myself why I had to think so hard about something. The deal was only for a day, so I had to be back tomorrow night. I was tired of always making excuses for myself about money and time and now neither of those things were the problem.
I convinced my friends that we had to go. It was this might be the only time in our life we really could just drop everything and leave. No kids, no full-time jobs and missing one day of class wasn’t going to hurt us even though I had an 8 a.m. in a few hours. But which one would be more memorable? And since we were all obsessed with worrying about what stories were going to tell our grandkids, I thought this could be one.
After playing Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind” and getting really emotional we decided to buy the ticket, go to the airport, and if we were still scared the worst that could happen is that we would lose $31.
We changed out of our pajamas and tried to pick the most New York looking outfits we had. I left with my phone battery at about 45%. Then, I was driving up to Austin to drop off my dog and my car at my brother’s apartment.
We grabbed an Uber to the airport and our driver was a little only lady named Judy. Why she was driving for Uber at almost 3 a.m. I’ll never understand. At first Judy was confused about why we didn’t have any bags, but I explained to her the one-day deal.
But just like everything felt like it was meant to be, Judy being our driver was too. Judy was very supportive; she had been a flight attendant in her twenties and even when she wasn’t working, if she saw a cheap flight, she would take random trips to Mexico. She told us to enjoy being young and wished us luck. Finally, we arrived, boarded and left Austin at around 5 a.m.
I arrived in Queens at around 11a.m. EST. We had no idea what we were doing because we never had time to make a plan. But as any tourist would do, we decided to go to Time Squares first. We checked for an Uber and learned that it would be $80 to get there, so since that wasn’t an option, this led to our first Subway for only $2.75.
I was terrified about riding the subway, not because people talked about how dirty it is, but because I was sure we would get lost. One thing I did find true about the subway was the strange thing that happen in them, but maybe it was also the fact that it was Halloween and a lot of the passengers were in costumes.
Thankfully we got off at the right stop. I remember walking out of the subway tunnel and up the steps then seeing the Broadway marquees glowing and the towers rising. That’s when it really sunk in that I was in New York City.
That day I visited the Empire State Building, walked through Central Park and took a picture at the Met steps. I went shopping at the largest Macy’s, Urban Outfitters and a gift shop to buy the iconic I “heart” NY shirts. We ate real New York pizza and even watched Heidi Klum unveil her annual Halloween costume.
We also went around NBC studios and got tickets for Late Night with Seth Meyers where the special guest that night happened to be Timothée Chalamet. I didn’t go to the show that day because my flight was leaving around the same time and I still had an hour on the subway I need to take back.
We walked around Time Square after the sun set to see everything one last time. A subway ride and a three-hour flight later, we landed back in Austin at around 2 a.m. We were excited and couldn’t shut up. We couldn’t believe we had pulled it off.
Our Uber driver back was Zev, a middle-aged man. We told him about New York and everything we did. “You didn’t do anything. You missed so much. You didn’t even go to Dodger Stadium or the Statue of Liberty?” he said.
It turned out Zev was actually from Brooklyn and he laughed at us and told us we need to spend at least a week next time. He had immigrated to New York when he was young from Europe and moved to Texas only three years ago, but he talked about how much he missed New York.
I remember waking up in my apartment with my dog on my bed at almost 1 p.m. the next day. I had been awake since Wednesday and hadn’t slept since Tuesday night. Then I looked around my room and thought about how if it wasn’t for the shirt sitting on my desk, I would have dreamed the whole trip.
Featured iamge by Stacey Ramirez.