New York City : How to heal yourself

September 17, 2017
We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. Dalaï Lama
 You can be as well prepared as you can. Nothing can prepare you for some things.

I was originally born in New York but spend most of my life in Belgium. I grew up with an illusion promise that I would go back soon. Very soon. Which never happened. I had to wait until recently when I decided to quite everything behind me to put my energy and soul in travelling.

When I decided to take that bus to come to New York and see my father, I didn't know what to expect but felt a lot of joy from being able to finally go back to where I came from.

What I learned throughout those nearly 4 months in the USA, is that sometimes we need to let go. Not only letting go of what we cannot control but letting go of all the past, the things that hurt you. Letting go means at one point to forgive yourself instead of holding yourself responsible for everything and blaming yourself over and over.

We need to be kinder to ourselves especially in those hard times.

The thing is, I discover how afraid I was of the world. At the point that I was afraid to live, to go out there. I was afraid of so many things that could happen. Because they were the only things I knew and that I was told.

When the bus entered NYC (we came from Harlem all through Manhattan), I saw all those people in the streets. So many streets and avenues. I was so overwhelmed. Suddenly, I felt so little like a little girl again. I was afraid and felt so powerless.

But I couldn't hide in my bedroom anymore. For the first time, I had to deal with my fears in the moment. 

We don't see sometimes how in a subtle way people are send to help us. That's what happened for me. I met that first person in Boston and coincidentally she was on the same bus as me the next morning and I deeply think it was for a reason. She stood by me spontaneously as if she felt I needed someone for some reason. And I was so grateful for that.

I figured things out at the end and the fears I had disapeared as I saw myself dealing with everything. We are so much stronger than we think we are. And sometimes when we feel powerless like that it's also ok to have someone by your side or call someone. There's nothing to be ashamed of. It's OK to be afraid. THAT was my first lesson. 

As I walked through the city, I left my pain, and wounds behind me, I started to let go. I felt weirdly at home for the first time. I just fell in love with the people, the neighborhoods, the dynamic.

Between all those Latina women calling me "Mami!" or speaking to me in Spanish, and the exchange I got to have with people even if it was just a compliment about my sneakers. I just love how every culture lives together in the same city. It's not a myth, the whole world lives in New York City.

Related post : How to let go ?

Still you can see poverty like in all big cities but even so, everyone is included in a way. There's an exchange and solidarity. Like that beautiful woman selling her jewelry in the subway fighting to change our view on femininity (such a beautiful queen) that I had the chance to talk to, or that guy dancing around us, that guitar player creating a song about how beautiful the women next to me was , and so on...

So even when you have a bad day, you so all those people fighting and wishing you well even though they have nothing. How can you have a bad day ?

"God bless you miss"
"No god bless you, mister you enlightened my day".

But the weirdest thing that I experienced in New York City was when I went visit the apartment where I was born. Where my parents lived for a year after my birth. I went there with my dad.

As we entered the building and discovered (for me) the place, he started talking to me about an African woman that use to be the land lady here and who use to take care of me when I was a baby.

At the same moment I saw a women get out of an apartment. Our eyes cross for a few seconds and she paused on me as if she was trying to remember something but then she continued to walk to the lobby.

I told my dad as he saw her too: “wouldn’t that be insane if it was her?" "Yes it is!" He said.

So we walked up to her and he asked her:" Do you remember me? Her mum was french you use to take care of her back in 1994". She paused for a second as if she didn't know at all what he was talking about when suddenly, I saw her face change as she looked at me. “Oh my god yes! I remember your mum was such a sweet women!"

She took me in her arms and told me: "Oh my god I felt I knew you when I saw you, I just wasn't sure and didn't want to bother you."

We hang out with her and she gave me a little African key chain as she explained to me:" In African tradition, when you bump into someone that you knew a long time ago and didn't see for years, you give them a present."

What a wonderful women on so many levels. After all these years being held and welcomed like that. Nothing could have been better.

I think we all need a sense of home and belonging in a way even if we are so much more than our upbringing. It's more subtle than that. It's a primary need like love, connections. It's what keeps us going and motivates us as human.

Travelling alone is wonderful. It's not easy though and think a lot of people have that ideal image of what it is when it isn't. Travelling alone is: awkward, scary, very scary, stressful etc...

But at the same time you get past your fears, surprise yourself and learn to trust yourself.

What I would say that I agree on is that you are never really alone especially when you stay at hostels but also Airbnb and couch surfing.

We have today so much technologies that can connect us in so many ways. That's the good side of it. You can meet people from everywhere on this planet. And I feel that it should be the main intention we have while we use it. Apart from creating wonderful content. 

After spending in last minute my first night next to Columbus circle in Manhattan (that was expensive), I stayed in an awesome hostel in Brooklyn east to Williamsburg next to Burshwick.

I cannot say how much that place was awesome to start off with. It gave me a glimpse of Brooklyn which I loved. I had a wonderful room and a big bed.

It was kind of a quiet place with time to time music and people you could hear having a drink but it was the perfect place for me to recharge as my first week was intense.

And I met wonderful souls there. You know when you come back home and you feel so lost and panicked and someone looks at you and tells you: "oh oh oh you need a drink. I have some wine if you want." I cannot describe with words how much those people without knowing it made me feel joy and happiness, and helped me in their own way to let go. 

I changed for a hostel in the upper west side of Manhattan for 3 days before going to stay in my Airbnb that was fully booked at that period. It was one of those international hostels that I stayed in back in Boston.

I really appreciate those kind of hostels for the buildings that are always incredible as their locations. For me they are the secure sure hostels where you're guaranteed you'll get no bad surprises. Easy, efficient and comfortable.

From Wi-Fi to laundry service everything is made for travelers. But I think that in some countries they must be really useful but for a city like New York, I feel that if you really want to have an interesting experience and unique one, trying local hostels in different neighborhoods is how you are really going to get that.

As meeting different kinds of people.

To be honest I didn't really planned to change 4 times of places but I am so thankful I did because I discovered so much more, and got to see so much.

My airbnb in Queens was one of my favorite experience in NYC. Well situated in the middle of Jackson heights where all the Indian community lives but also other countries from Asia and Latin America. I got to discover Colombian food, enjoy Indian food and drink as much mango lassi I could afford.

Of course like everywhere you go when you travel being a good observer of how people live in a community and how they interact is important. Fitting in is the best way to have more interactions and stay safe at the same time. And being ok with people being curious (if sometimes they stare at you). I mean me in the middle of little India or Chinatown. Of course I stand out. And it's fine. Just being respectful listening to your guts and staying in that positive mindset is how you are going to enjoy yourself as much as you can.

It's always about perspective. Our perspective is a filter of our reality and shapes our experiences. If you decide you are going to enjoy your present you'll find things to enjoy. And if you are in a negative mindset everything will feel scary, bad and you'll find things to comfort you in that mindset. 

I think that's why so many people are in love with NYC and so many hate it. There's no in between because the experience is so intense that either you focus on the beauty of it and all the hidden tresors and different sides that the city has to offer or you just see a dirty polluted place with rude people.

 Maybe you'll become a chilled hippy!
Learning to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. I read that somewhere and it's just exactly what illustrates my experience up to now. A friend told me today : "Maybe you'll become a chilled hippy!". And I think maybe that's it. Travelers and hippies are confortable in the uncomfortable. Not knowing what's coming next. I love that mindset. 

Everybody today wants you to plan your futur. Where do you see yourself in 5 years ?

I don't know and to be honest I don't mind not knowing. It's so much more fun and gives me so much freedom. Because in 5 years I could be anywhere. Isn't that exciting? 

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