When I first walked outside of the Grand Central Station in New York, I found myself profoundly disappointed. I had not been back to New York since I moved there when I was 18 to study acting.
At that time, New York City offered all of the reasons a young person would decide to move to such a city. It was exciting, full of museums, fabulous restaurants, and pretty and interesting people with important and riveting jobs. I loved every second of it.
Now, Manhattan felt tired and dirty. It was July, and I remembered that New York always smelled a bit like hot garbage during the Summer. But I didn't remember there being so much garbage on the streets. I didn't remember seeing so many people looking disheveled and a bit hopeless.
I asked my brother about it, fearing that my world travels had simply left me feeling jaded and cynical about a city that I once considered the greatest city on earth. He had also lived in New York for many years and recently returned for vacation.
It wasn't just in my head. He too, felt that the city seemed tired and even dirtier than usual. However, he recommended that I give it a few days saying, "The city seems to be tired from Covid. Give it some time and you will start to notice the good stuff again."
Of course, he was right. The day after I arrived, I walked through Central Park and had an old man pull out a guitar and sing me a truly spectacular rendition of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come."
After the park, I visited a tea shop on the Lower East Side called Oscar Wilde. The food was delicious and the decor inside was worthy of the author and playwright's style. After lunch, I went to a Kava bar located nearby.
If you haven't experienced Kava, it is a bitter tea that gives you a slight euphoric buzz without any hangover. Kava bars are starting to pop up all over Manhattan and Brooklyn. But as I sipped my bitter tea, I realized that both the bar and the restaurant where I had lunch probably wouldn't survive in many other cities.
On the final day of my three-day trip, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Both were incredibly enthralling in their own ways. Though the 9/11 Museum proved more difficult for me emotionally than I was prepared for.
As I arrived at JFK Airport and flipped through the many pictures I had taken, I began to realize something. Despite the fact that New York no longer feels the same as it did when I was a young man, it still manages to pull at my heartstrings whenever I am there.
It's true that New York has changed since the pandemic. But what I forgot, is that new York is always changing. In ten years, it will be a completely different city than it is today. Just as it was completely different ten years ago.
I'm not alone when I express nostalgia for what the city used to be. It seems that every generation claims that they were there when New York was "truly a great city." The truth is that much of this is based on who we once were, and not on the city, itself.
New York City is a living and breathing thing. It is always changing into something new, and that is what makes it so special. Sometimes it's better than other times, but it will always be one of the greatest cities in the world.
Join our community to network with other travelers around the world and to gain access to exclusive content and events. Submit your travel stories for a chance to get published!