By Alexia Hill
It can be said a million times that at some point in our lives, just about everyone generates a fantasy of living in New York City. The daydream can vary from person to person, I’m sure. Whether it is the idea of a walkable city, the nightlife, the skyscrapers that make you crane your neck up to simply try to get a view of the very top. It could be the fashion industry, the financial district, the historical landmarks, the idea of exploring all five boroughs, and of course the East-Coast vibe.
For me, I feel like it was always all of that and more.
The first time I went to New York City was in 2018, with my parents. It was the typical Big Apple tourist encounter. We rode double-decker tour buses, walked through way-too-expensive food tours, saw the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Coney Island, and the foundations. Looking back in hindsight and cringing at how tourist-y it truly was, I can’t help but admit how starry-eyed I was every second.
Fast forward to 2023, and I have been incredibly blessed to be able to make a spontaneous trip to the city that never sleeps yet again. Last minute, I was told by my boss that I was allowed to go and help get coverage of our client, Kendria Godair, who was speaking at the W Hotel in Times Square at, “What She Said” hosted by The Modern Day Wife. After being told the news, I frantically spent the next couple days looking for the cheapest flight and going so far as to try and find ways to stay longer without needing to buy a hotel room. During this spur-of-the-moment planning, I also considered the fact that New York Fashion Week ended on the same day I arrived. Updating my resume, cold-pitching myself to random PR contacts via email, and applying to any and every press pass I could find while simultaneously attempting to get class work done before I left consumed my life.
On my drive to the airport, I learned I was approved for two different shows. My heart burst and dropped to my feet, my breath stuck in the back of my throat. Despite my determination to apply for these different credentials, in the back of my mind, rejection always lingers. To be approved for these before even landing was a feat.
The actual trip was a whirlwind, it was gone as fast as it came. Landing at 6 a.m. and then going to a NYFW show from 3:00 pm-10:00 p.m. the same day, waking up and doing it all over again for the, “What She Said” event, and then, finally my last day. The shows were an opportunity I never thought would come to me this quickly, but the last day solidified New York as a reality in my head. I spent the day alone, riding the subway to and from different areas of Manhattan, seeing sights that don’t make it onto tours or that I don’t see talked about (i.e. Tom’s Restaurant from Seinfeld, Columbia University, local bookstores, the 69th Regiment Armory, parks other than Washington Square or Central Park).
I kept thinking to myself the first two days that the trip didn’t feel as magical as it did when I came for the first time. In hindsight, I recognize that the reason for that was that I was sleep-deprived, working non-stop, and that Times Square is really one of my least favorite spots in the city. It may make for a nice photo backdrop, but we are endlessly looking at screens, and I don’t feel like I need to be surrounded by them looking down at me. The last day I was there I felt New York encapsulated in a new light, in a more-realistic-but-somehow-even-more-magical light. I read books on the subway, and listened to music in a bookstore. I wrote poetry in Madison Square Park and tried new coffees, and people-watched in Bryant Park. I ate out alone. I stumbled upon a tiny thrift store with amazing workers who were multi-faceted and fascinating and encouraged me to pack up and move away after I graduate. These encounters with the city made her feel like home, even if just for a few hours.
Traveling is not always accessible, or affordable and I recognize that. It takes working three jobs and working overtime to make a spontaneous trip work for me, but if you can do it, by all means, make it fucking happen. Reflecting on my experience, I think by being able to balance working, enjoying and covering fashion, and also allowing time to just breathe in the city, was necessary.
New York, NYFW, Manhattan, the people, they are not at all what you expect. They are so much more, and taking your own trip is the only way to find out for yourself.