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Find yourself in New York: Kelowna wanderer takes on the Big Apple

Gina Petrovich is Kelowna Capital News’ newest travel columnist

Raise your hand if you categorize yourself as a traveller type. It’s OK, my hand would not have been up not long ago too. It’s good to know what you enjoy and what makes your wandering soul sing, but it’s important to sometimes expand beyond the safe comforts of your travel style and experience something different.

While I would choose mountains over the ocean, sunrise over sunset and ancient over modern, I don’t categorise myself into the solo female, sunrise, mountain lover, vegetarian, refuse to stay in a hostel, I’ll sleep when I’m dead, ancient ruins only group because then I may turn down some amazing experiences in the name of my brand.

I’ve always wanted to visit NYC, but for some reason just never did. After exhausting all my travel buddy options for the Big Apple, I decided I was going to go alone, or I may never end up going. Strangely, I found myself not in the moment of booking my first solo trip and not erupting with excitement that I was going to Manhattan right in the midst of the Christmas season, but rather I was mulling over my so-called brand.

READ MORE: Beat the Mondays: Use your travel time wisely

I’m a nature lover, I hike all the time and living in the Okanagan really lends itself to a spectacular love affair with nature. What was I doing to support this persona by going to New York? This thought pattern would take a few years to change, luckily, I never let it take over completely.

This first solo trip would mark the beginning of my love-hate relationship with Toronto Pearson International Airport. I loved that being in Pearson meant I was heading somewhere far, but hated that I was always frantically running trying to make my connecting flight. Let’s say from here forward if I make mention of Pearson it’s safe to assume I was running like a mad woman and don’t want to talk about it.

I booked my hotel near Times Square hoping to be in the heart of the action not knowing that pretty much anywhere in Manhattan is the heart of the action. Let’s put Manhattan into perspective for a second here. Kelowna is roughly four times the land size of Manhattan but would lay in the shadows of the endless high-rises that outline the skies of New York.

Just like in the movies, the streets are lined with vendors selling hotdogs and newspapers, and if you find yourself crossing any street corner alone, the apocalypse has likely happened and you’re the lone survivor.

I ate pizza at Lombardi’s which was the first pizza place in North America, located in Little Italy. Having visited Italy in the past, I got the feeling that I was back roaming Italian streets with endless cafes and the smell of fresh dough in the air.

I involuntarily shared a falafel with a pigeon outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I spent three hours wandering in awe. Admission is by donation, so carry some cash.

Central Park. Wow. Choirs singing, bells ringing, and horse drawn carriages populated the roads. I walked aimlessly around ponds and on bridges, half expecting to see Macaulay Culkin wandering around like he did in my favourite Christmas movie, Home Alone, Lost in New York.

Broadway to New York is like casinos to Las Vegas. Getting Broadway tickets right before most shows is very doable at the ticket kiosk in Times Square. Of course, I had to see the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, a definite must in New York at Christmas. I felt the scrooge getting sucked right out of me much like the Pinot Gris getting sipped out of my glass. I left the music hall feeling like a million bucks even though when I got back to my room I had a $9.99 H&M sale tag hanging off my back.

I couldn’t visit New York without paying my homage to the 9/11 memorial. The feeling of being in that exact spot and seeing all the names of those who lost their lives can’t properly be described in writing or words, but best in my silence. The price to ride the elevator up the new One World Trade tower is possibly the best money I spent during my visit. You’ll have to try it to understand what I mean.

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge if you ever end up in New York. It was while doing this that the feeling of freedom, liberation and complete fulfilment hit me in full force. I did this on my own, I remember smiling ear to ear knowing that my life had changed. I gained a sense of independence and knew that this was the start of something so big in my life that I couldn’t yet comprehend. No, I didn’t hike or get lost in nature, but I put a big fat checkmark beside NYC and knew this was only the beginning of #ginassolotraveladventures.

Gina Petrovich is a Kelowna-based wanderer with a knack for adventure. She’s now sharing her adventures with the Capital News in a bi-monthly column.


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