#Before30BucketList: Get Lost On Purpose In An Unfamiliar Place

(First, go to this post if you don’t know what my #Before30BucketList is. I’ll also be going back to that original post and noting each goal accomplished if you want to keep up but miss out on some of my posts.)

This one goes along with my Travel Alone and Meet Favorite Author goals, as they were all accomplished in the same trip on the same day (yay me for such great coordination!).

If you haven’t read about those experiences, you can check them out in the links above. Otherwise, I’ll make it short and sweet: I traveled to NYC by myself, then met Augusten Burroughs on his book tour.

Once the book signing was over I realized I had over two hours left until I had to get my car from the parking garage, and since the book store was only a few blocks from Central Park I decided to check it out.

I literally know nothing about Central Park, except that it’s in New York and sometimes actors do “Shakespeare In The Park” there (or is that only in movies?). So I just walked in its general direction and when I got to it I wasn’t sure it was really it so I wearily crossed the street and simply stood looking at the entrance for a few minutes trying to figure out whether I should go in or look somewhere else.

But then I went in and found out it was, indeed, Central Park.

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I saw this sign but didn’t really pay close attention because I just wanted to explore. Upon further inspection, it didn’t tell me anything anyway.

So I went in and there was a random road in the middle and I was worried I wasn’t in the right place again but then I remembered (from movies) that you could drive through Central Park so I kept walking and had to decide between taking a path or some steps, so I went up the steps and came to a random building where a bunch of joggers were either jogging or resting and I looked so obviously lost but I didn’t want any of them to notice me because I was supposed to be lost so I just kept walking towards things that interested me, like this giant body of water which I thought was really cool at first but then as I kept walking my husband called me and I told him “I’m in Central Park. I think. I’m on this path that looks like it just circles a body of water. Is that all Central Park is? I was thinking about going all the way around but now it’s pretty boring” and then I hung up because he wasn’t supposed to be bothering me during my getting-lost experience.

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This was my view from one side of the path circling the giant body of water.

I kept walking along the path for a while and was pleased to find that there were other paths leading away from the water so I wouldn’t have to circle it the whole time. I came across small bridges and rocky steps and darkened paths and jogging trails. There were signs telling me which part of the park I was in but that didn’t equate to anything in my mind so I basically ignored them. I just kept going in the most interesting directions. My husband called me again and I told him to leave me alone but he said he was worried because apparently people get raped and murdered in Central Park all the time, so I told him not to worry because the only people I had come across were joggers and he said exactly, he was always hearing about joggers getting attacked so I reminded him that I was safe because I was definitely not doing any jogging. Then he got the hint to stop calling me, but then I found a dead body.

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This wasn’t really a dead body but you never know for sure, there could have been one in there somewhere.

I can’t even really explain exploring Central Park alone at night in the off-season. Everything was calming yet exhilarating all at once. I finally came across some non-joggers, including a suspicious guy having a heated discussion on his cell phone, at for a moment I thought he might kill me because he seemed to start paying closer attention to me when I veered off down a creepy dark path, but then he veered off another creepy dark path so maybe he was planning some ritual of sorts and wanted to be left alone, too.

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My creepy path, not his.

The other non-joggers were dog walkers. I only made note of a few of them: an older gay couple walking their two (what seemed to be) greyhounds who had red light-up collars that I thought were pretty cool, and they were well-behaved and stopped to inspect things now and then but never really cared about other dogs or people and always kept up with their humans — the humans had the same mentality and acted like everyone around them was invisible; a mother and son walking their one feisty and happy collie-looking dog who was really into inspecting everything and never listened to them — I loved the dog but I overheard the son ask the mom something about why I was wandering around looking lost and taking pictures and she kind of scoffed like I was trash because I was so obviously a tourist; and finally an adorable gentleman with an adorable terrier who had a single green light on his collar and also didn’t listen well but instead of running around all crazy-like he just sat in his preferred patch of grass and didn’t move when his owner kept calling him — they were my favorite. None of the dogs were on leashes which made me wonder if this was the norm in NY (or at least Central Park), because where I come from it’s basically a sin akin to murder if you don’t leash your dog, or if they were just taking their chances because it wasn’t busy yet.

Then I came across a freaking castle and took pictures of it from all directions and tried to find the best route to it but none of them worked so I just kept going down random trails until I thought I was far away but ended up looking up at it.

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This was my view from the closed Turtle Pond, when I first fell in love with the castle.

Apparently it’s called Belvedere Castle which I didn’t even know until I had gotten home and shown my mom the pictures and she asked me “Why is there a castle in Central Park?” and so I looked it up. Now I think I’m going to name my next pet Belvedere because I really like it, and my next pet is going to be a rabbit and for some reason Belvedere reminds me of Velveteen? Anyway, that’s off topic.

I climbed up the steps to the castle and there was so much to take in but I only took pictures to prove I was there instead of getting all the other cool stuff..

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WOAH

After I explored the outside of the castle I found another building which seemed promising at first but upon closer inspection seemed to be just a workers’ building or something, but behind that was the Shakespeare Garden and this really beautiful area that had scary, unstable steps and a swift (fenced) ledge and I think that was my favorite place because it was the most dangerous. The rock-steps informed me (with a sign) that they could be icy but it was pretty nice out that day so I took my chances.

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No ice, just some other-ways-to-die.

I didn’t find anyone acting out Shakespeare or anything at all, really, but I figured this was an experience not many people get because most would probably visit in the on-season and during the day so they could see everything open and working and up-to-date and in all its glory, but it was pretty damn glorious to see it all shut down and closed and frayed and dismantled without the annoyance of a thousand other people on their lunch break or family vacation or drug run.

I was using my phone as a camera but had everything else disabled so I wouldn’t know where I was or what was going on in the world around me because I was supposed to be lost and alone, dammit, but once it got to 10% and 9:15pm I realized that I had 15 minutes to get back to my car and honestly had no idea where I was, so I did use my GPS to find my way out of Central Park and back to the parking garage. But that doesn’t count because I still did get lost somewhere unfamiliar, I just didn’t stay lost. That would be really dangerous anyway considering I had given all of my snacks to the homeless dog and her person (read Travel Alone for that story).

I wasn’t tired at all on the drive home — instead I felt quite refreshed, having washed away all of my real-world nags and responsibilities and familiarities. I was able to clear my mind and simply not worry about where or who or what (and only slightly when).

I’d very much recommend this to anyone. Even having every single part of my body ache for the next two days because I’m so out of shape was beyond worth it. (Also it made me realize I need to exercise more to prepare for my next visit, which is now on the list.)

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This is me with a random Central Park bush/tree or something. I dunno, I look cute.

Companions: Camera, random joggers & dog walkers

Cost
$0 (Just my throbbing body the days following)

Goal Total: $0

5th Goal Accomplished
List Item #71: Get Lost On Purpose In An Unfamiliar Place
On 3-27-2017

Bucket List Total: $124

#Before30BucketList: Travel Alone

(First, go to this post if you don’t know what my #Before30BucketList is. I’ll also be going back to that and noting each goal accomplished and maybe adding or editing some items, if you want to keep up but miss out on some of my posts.)

This one came about quite unexpectedly. I put it on my list but I didn’t really think I would pull it off. After all, I made this list when I turned 29 so I have to complete them all in a year. Of course, I thought inside the box when I wrote it down and imagined flying off to Guam or some shit all alone, knowing it would most likely not happen.

Then, while planning another #Before30BucketList adventure, problems arose.

My favorite author was on a book tour promoting his most recent book and he would be in my home state at the end of March.

So I made all my plans to go see him on a Tuesday. At least two other people were willing to join me on that date. Now, I had looked into it, so I knew for this specific signing, you had to purchase a ticket. I knew this, yet somehow I let it slip through my crowded brain and didn’t think to actually buy any tickets until the weekend before the event.

Of course they were sold out.

But since I had looked into it, I also knew that he was doing a signing in NYC the day before. And NYC was almost exactly the same distance from my house as the location I had planned on visiting. Coincidentally, none of the people who were available on Tuesday were available that Monday. But there was no way I was missing such an opportunity, so I decided to go alone.

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This is me, alone in my car, heading out to NYC.

I concluded that driving to New York was, in fact, traveling alone. I was driving over two hours away, and I was planning to explore some of the City and take it all in and not be bothered by other people’s agendas. It was somewhere I haven’t visited since I was 14, and it was somewhere many people traveled to from all over the world. So it counted.

(Admittedly, this wasn’t my main reason for going and I crossed three items off my list in this one trip, but when you have over 80 things to do in a year you have to conserve a little.)

I filled my tank and looked up the best (see: cheapest) parking garage and set my GPS and tuned my radio to country and left, without looking back.

The drive was enjoyable. Typically I hate driving far distances alone but I guess because I knew this was a self-adventure I took more pleasure in it. I stopped a million times to pee because I had downed two 24oz lattes before I left, but even the rest stops seemed like an experience.

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When I actually got into NYC, my father’s worst fear had me reeling with excitement: the crazy drivers. I loved it. I felt right at home. I blended in with the rest of the rat race, only I was no rat and I was not racing. While the other cars were speeding to or from work or home or meetings or appointments, I was simply partaking in the mayhem of my own free will. When someone did something unexpected, I matched the obnoxious rattling of driver’s horns with my own melodic (or maybe insane) laughter. I would have been happy having gone home after simply driving with the best.

I maneuvered my way to the parking garage quite easily for someone who had never driven in New York before — it was the walking that threw me off. I switched my phone GPS to walking mode but first it didn’t know which direction I was facing so I walked back and forth until it figured it out and told me where to go. Then wherever it told me to go was wrong so I walked back and forth again until I chose a direction and just kept walking, because I knew my destination was on 86th street somewhere. I chose correctly because I only had to walk another block.

When I arrived, I had four whole hours to kill. So I perused the book store and read a little and colored a little and people-watched a little, but my anxiety started to kick in (as it sometimes does if I stay in one place for too long) so I went outside. There I met an adorable homeless dog lying in her person’s lap. I went over and talked to them and asked if I could sit with them. The person seemed skittish at first — I think maybe he thought that if I was sitting with him I would either want some of his money or I would scare away the kind people who might be willing to help him by not looking homeless enough (although I almost always look kind of homeless).

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I started talking to him but he mumbled so I didn’t make out his name or his dog’s name, but I managed to get that he moved around a lot and the dog was a 6-year-old female (just like mine). I pet her for a while which gave his aching legs a break, then gave him a cigarette and 90% of the snacks I had brought with me (I literally had no extra money). Sometimes he was very friendly but others he gave the impression that he was uninterested in my company, so I went on my way and by the time I came back they were gone.

I watched the hodgepodge of people weave their way through one another and intersections and around grates. There were young women pushing strollers and hipsters skateboarding and old men in suits. No one seemed scared, no one seemed threatening, no one seemed angry when I did obviously-touristy things.

I wandered for a bit but never far from the bookstore, because although I was aware that I was considering this traveling alone for my list, I was also aware that the tiniest mishap could ruin my other list items. And don’t worry, there’s way more to this trip, but that’ll be explained in upcoming posts.

Honestly, the most thrilling part was driving. I watched the car lights and the building lights and the bridge lights and the waters and the highways. I had not a care in the world so I took it all in as much as I could. I wish there were a way to be the driver but also see everything around you.

For some reason my GPS took a different route home, which elated me because that meant I could see even more.

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On the way home I, again, drove as I wanted and listened to what I wanted and weaved through traffic the way I love to do, and when I got home I crawled into bed with my husband and dog and drifted off into a blissful sleep.

Companions: Music, Homeless Dog & Her Person

Cost
Gas: $30
Tolls: Courtesy of Dad
Parking: $20

Goal Total: $50

3rd Goal Accomplished
List Item #63: Travel Alone
On 3-27-2017

Bucket List Total: $124