A Travellerspoint blog

Early days

New York, New York

sunny
View Americas 2014-15 on LordGibil's travel map.

The last few weeks leading up to this odyssey have been very hectic and every spare minute has been spent making the necessary preparations. Now I have actually arrived in my first destination I've finally had some time to consider what on earth I'm going to do now I'm here. This is what I've been up to on my first 4 days.

Got lucky with the flight - had a window seat with extra leg room next to a passenger who broke her silence only to offer me her food (accepted). Watched a couple of films, read Viz and had a snooze so the 7 hours passed pretty quickly. It took nearly an hour after landing to get off the plane, but all things considered I would have settled for that. Got through customs no bother - all this talk of having to prove onward flights and sufficient finances may have been true for others but clearly my cheery nature was enough on this occasion.

Funky in-flight map (looking across the south coast of England):
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A ticket machine fiasco and two train journeys later I arrived at the hostel. It is located amongst lots of garages in an industrial area in Long Island City, Queens, and is spacious, clean, has a good bar (that sells IPA!), speedy wifi and the staff are helpful (if a bit camp). As predicted, all the other residents are half my age; some wear their caps back to front, some have beards and at least one has a guitar (she is having a good strum as we speak).

Here's the hostel:
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I am in a 4-bed dorm with a Brazilian who claims to be friends with Neymar, a German who has just given me a ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus tour and a lad from Cardiff who builds smartphone apps. They seem nice. The fellow sat opposite me now has just offered me a strawberry (accepted). In fact, there hasn't been much to grumble about at all so far.

Day 2 was spent wandering around, getting my bearings and popping in to the odd bar and diner. Gantry Plaza State Park is 20 minutes' walk away (15 if you go the right way) and is a peaceful place to 'hang out' to get away from the hustle & bustle. There is a 60-foot neon Pepsi Cola sign overlooking the park and it also gives great views of Manhattan, especially at night. There are a few pics to prove this in the photo gallery, but instead here's a picture of a fire engine:
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The next day I had a ticket for the US Open tennis at Flushing Meadows, only a few stops away on the subway. A roasting hot day (about 30C) meant it was tough walking around never mind playing tennis for 3 hours. It's a pretty big complex with plenty to see and do (and eat) outside of the matches themselves. For the first few hours I flitted between the outside courts and the viewing area for the big screen outside the main Arthur Ashe court, which was itself an impressive spectacle. One thing about Americans is they are likely to strike up a conversation at any point. Between mouthfuls of his pastrami sandwich, a bloke from Albany who had high hopes for his daughter to become a tennis champion ("she's #1 in her school and has a touch of genius but needs to put in the hard work") pointed out my ticket was in fact valid for two of the show courts (Louis Armstrong & Grandstand) so I got to see a couple of the bigger players (and none bigger than John Isner - 6' 10" and a 140mph serve). Here he is:
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All of which brings me to today, and another big wander, this time over to Roosevelt Island, a long thin needle-shaped island situated in the East River between Queens and Manhattan. Another peaceful area was Four Freedoms Park, named after Roosevelt's famous speech in 1941 that I've just found out about on Wikipedia. Again this gives great views and plenty of places to sit and contemplate things.

View of Queensboro Bridge and Manhattan to the right:
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OK you're all up to date so that's all for now. Hope everyone had an enjoyable Friday night. Look out for further updates and keep me posted on goings-on back in the UK.

Number of beers sunk so far: 5
Number of times heard something described as 'awesome': 6
Number of locals confused by my use of the word 'queue': 1

Posted by LordGibil 19:34 Archived in USA Comments (2)

What am I doing with my life?

London, England

What are you doing?
In 2003, I gave up my job at Cable & Wireless to go travelling round the world. As a 30-year-old with nothing tying me down in England, I thought I'd better do it while I had the chance. The more distant those memories became, the more I wanted to do it again. So, as a 41-year-old with nothing tying me down in England, I thought I'd better do it while I had the chance. With RTW I, I had my mate Steve for company. With RTW II, I'm on my own.

Where are you going?
The loose plan is to spend 8 months travelling down the west coast of USA, through central America, into South America and finish off in the West Indies. All that will be booked before I go is the flights and accommodation for the first 3 weeks, taking me as far as Ketchikan (SE Alaska). I have friends to visit in Vancouver and Eugene (Oregon) but, apart from that, the world's my oyster as they say.

When are you off?
Day 1 of the trip is 26th August. My last day at work is 22nd August. My birthday is also 22nd August. I will be spending most the time between 22nd-24th drinking. I will spend 25th cleaning my house and packing. Then... it's goodbye Crystal Palace, hello New York...

Aren't you a bit old for all this?
I have several concerns. As I become older and more wizened I know what I like and dislike. Faffing about is something I really dislike, and doing something like this involves an awful lot of faffage. Booking hostels, investigating bus timetables, washing underpants etc. etc. Will I be lonely? Yes I will meet people in hostels, on excursions, in bars, but are they people I will actually want to spend time with? Inevitably, a lot will be 20 years younger than me. Will I get homesick? I did last time - a little bit anyway. I like London. I like my mates. I like my comfy bed and a hot shower. I like cricket. I like playing football & squash. I like real ale. I like curry. These things will be in short supply for 8 months.

What will you do when you come back... if you come back?
Don't know. Ideally I want to move away from the corporate world and do something more altruistic. Working in banking has its benefits but in all honesty it's not particularly fulfilling. Hopefully I will have a clearer idea of what 'something' means come May.

How's the preparation coming?
Most the important stuff has been taken care of. My house has been rented out for 8 months, to 3 boisterous burly builders from Northern Ireland (sorry neighbours). The house is finally in a fit state to rent out - I've been gradually doing it up over the 2½ years I've been living here, lurching from one tedious saga to the next. The final piece of the jigsaw will be sorted in the next few days when a troublesome toilet is finally fixed. I've had my jabs, I've sold my car, I've cancelled Sky. There is the small matter of putting all my possessions up in the attic, but things are under control.

Are you ever going to settle down with a woman?
Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
An African or European swallow?

Posted by LordGibil 12:33 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (16)

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