So, last night Donnie and I went to grab a beer at our favorite taproom before going to watch an amazing performance of Newsies. I was a bit frazzled because the dog had been crazy and so my mind was scattered when Donnie said, “I finished planning my next trip today.”

Now, Donnie has had some changes at work that require more travel and so of course that’s what I thought he was talking about, but it immediately reminded me I had seen a weird entry in our budgeting app which I assumed was an error on his part.

“Hey, speaking of, why did our AirBnB purchase for Boone show up as a purchase from Expedia? Did you enter it wrong?”

“Nope. That’s the trip I booked today. Guess where I’m going?”

“Somewhere that costs quite a bit?”

“New York City in November…for a week, and you’re going too.”

Now, my brain was immediately thinking he was going for work which was weird because he works in the tech industry, all of his US offices are in Silicon Valley or at least somewhere on the West Coast. I was panicking at the idea of me just being a tag-a-long for work because that does NOT ease my travel anxieties.

“What?” was all I said because my brain was not on the same page as his.

“Yep. I planned it. We’re going for 8 days. And guess what we’re doing on Wednesday of that week?”

This is when it started hitting me what was happening. My husband, who has not planned one major trip our entire almost 20 years together, had booked hotel and accommodations for a week-long trip to a city I don’t even think he was that interested in visiting. When we talk about planning big trips, NYC is NEVER something that comes up. EVER. So I was still slowly processing what he had done when he asked me to guess what we’re doing.

“I don’t know…”

“3rd row orchestra seats to see Hamilton.”

And that’s when I lost it. BUT WE ARE SITTING AT MY FAVORITE BAR AND IT IS CROWDED. So I put my hands on either side of my eyes like horse blinders and just started crying and saying, “What? Are you serious? What? WHAT IS HAPPENING?”

Y’all. I have wanted to see Hamilton for years. It’s been touring, I could have found a way to buy tickets but it’s still SO EXPENSIVE, and my love for the show kept me from doing it because I really wanted to see it on the original spinning stage in NYC. BUT DONNIE DID NOT KNOW THIS. I never even discussed this with Donnie because it would be so outside our budget considerations it’s not even funny. Y’all – we only go on week-long vacations once every few years because it’s expensive. We are solidly middle class, but we do not spend that money on travel or vacations.

Donnie somehow managed to plan a dream trip and he didn’t even know how much it was – quite seriously – just a dream. It’s not that loving gestures are out of character for him at all, but vacation planning is MY thing. And live theatre is MY thing. And going to Strand Bookstore (the second thing on my NYC Wish List after Hamilton) is my thing. So he did my job and planned a trip that he’ll obviously love, but built around MY things.

I spent the next hour or so just randomly crying and fanning my eyes and he was LOVING it because – like I said – WE ARE SITTING AT OUR FAVORITE TAP ROOM WHERE EVERYONE CAN SEE ME!

Of course, the reason he didn’t know how much I wanted to see Hamilton in NYC is because I can never get past my anxieties enough to even think about going to NYC. And I’m not going to ruin this amazing trip he planned with my panic attacks.

And that’s where you all come in.

My major anxiety triggers are: 1) Crowds and 2) Unfamiliar travel/transportation situations

(You see why I never even let myself dream of a trip to NYC.)

I’m okay with flying, I’ve done that enough that it’s kinda familiar. But everything else – taxis, trains, busses, subways – cause me MAJOR panic. I’ve used Uber and Lyft but only in cities like Nashville. Does it work the same in NYC?

And the crowds. Oh, dear Lord. How do I prepare myself for that?

So I need to plan the next 7 month to A) learn to understand traveling around NYC and to B) fill in the other days on our week-long trip.

The only thing I have to do is go to MoMA and Strand Bookstore. That’s it. We are staying in Midtown Manhattan, 4 blocks from Central Park near Carnegie Hall. I love culture…history and art. What should we do?

The main thing that helps my acute anxiety in these situations…well, is medication and I’ll be stocking up on that. BUT! The other thing is PLANNING. Knowing the best hours to avoid the subway. Knowing the best restaurants to eat at where there won’t be terrible crowds. Knowing the slowest hours the visit the biggest attractions.

And also the medication.

So fill my ears with your stories. Your fails. Your successes, and most especially if you’re a high-anxiety traveler like myself. Tell me things I need to know so I don’t seem like an annoying tourist because nothing will make me panic more than simply feeling DUMB in an unfamiliar situation. I feel like I need a chaperone. I mean, my husband will obviously hold my hand, but he loves new and exciting things and it will all make him smile with adventure while I’ll be cowering in the corner popping benzos.

NYC…here I come.

22 thoughts on “Dream.”

  1. I am so excited for you – I live here, and struggle with anxiety, but everything you want to do is totally manageable
    (and this is from someone who had trouble calling her FATHER IN LAW yesterday, because of the anxiety.) Plan on the big things, like MoMA early in the day, then you have time to decompress afterwards, expecially since you can walk in Central Park afterwards. There are lots of quiet corners there that will be perfect. I can help!

    And, Hamilton? Damn lady!

  2. Download the Curb app. It’s like Uber but for taxis. We used it last November and it was so easy and convenient. When we went, holiday markets were set up, so it was fun to wander around and just look at things.

  3. Oh, my!! Hamilton in NYC?! That is the most, to say the least.

    I can’t help you with taxis. I’ve been in one once? Twice? And hated it. I wouldn’t take an Uber to save my life! Yes, there are times I let my anxieties determine what I do – but in big cities like NYC or Chicago there are subways and I love to walk.

    Go to the New York Public Library by Bryant Park! Explore Central Park! We spent hours there and it wasn’t enough.

    If you don’t pack your days you will have the time to figure out how to get somewhere without feeling rushed.

  4. That’s just the best! NYC is one of my favorite places (and I also get uneasy being in large groups of people). I’d go with one main thing a day and separate out the city, ie one day upper west side, next day lower east side, etc. otherwise you spend a lot of time and energy getting from one activity to another and aside from your scheduled activity, just wander. The museum of natural history is great (and then you can pop over to levain bakery for the very best chocolate chip cookie), the iced coffee at ess a bagel (I think it’s technically midtown) is amazing (go early or the line stretches down the block). Everything is crazy $ so we would usually go really quick for lunches, either a slice of pizza or something from a food cart. A fancy but somewhat cheap thing we do each time is get lunch from the food hall at the bottom of the plaza hotel and then walk into Central Park to eat (or depending on how cold it is, eat inside the food hall and then get some coffee for the park walk).

  5. Not sure I can help much with travel anxiety. BUT, going to see Hamilton was an experience that exceeded my expectations, which were already sky high. You will absolutely love it. Caroline and I went to see it in London, and we keep talking about going back and seeing it again. Thrilled for you. I’ve used Uber in NYC, and it’s absolutely the same, but if the weather is good, you can mostly walk. We used the subway to come back from Brooklyn and way uptown near Columbia, but we had walked to both of those areas and it was easy. Congratulations! It’ll be fantastic.

  6. When I saw this on Instagram last night I was REALLY HOPING we’d get to read about it on your blog today! I’m so so happy for you. It has been years since I went to NY so I’m sure a lot of my recommendations are out-of-date. But I would second just spending a day wandering around Central Park, the NY Public Library, and any museums trying to be there right at opening. I doubt that will be hard for you as a morning person, but it means shorter lines and smaller crowds. I rode public transit and took taxis once or twice, but mostly I just walked everywhere. It will depend on where you are staying I guess. If I were to go back, the 9/11 memorial would be pretty high on my list, too. I haven’t been to NY since 2004 so that’s one thing I would like to see. I would also avoid Times Square. It is so so touristy and not worth it. There are people everywhere, but everyone is so intent and focused on their own thing that it never bothered me much. And Hamilton…I couldn’t get tickets when it was near me (in Denver) so I bought tickets to see it in Chicago, a city I’d never been to before, so I get it. My expectations were high, to the point where I was worried, but it was SO WORTH IT. I’m so happy for you, and think it’s really cool that Donnie managed to plan it and give you such a happy surprise. I would also say, try not to feel pressured to do everything and have every second structured. I’m a planner too, but I think of it more as an outline and I can fill in the details later. Because walking makes me TIRED and you can’t see everything anyway, so it is better for my expectations to try to aim for one cool thing every day. I like to just wander and look for fun photo opportunities, and you will have plenty of those! Can’t wait to hear all about it (and the tips I hope other people pop in to share)!

  7. I can’t help with the NYC planning (it’s on my bucket list!) but big kudos to Donnie for planning such an amazing surprise. Your marriage is inspiring!

  8. Get the app called Transit. It was amazing for getting around in NYC. You put in where you want to go and it tells you exactly what form of public transportation you need to take to get there down to the train and bus numbers. That was biggest anxiety trigger before my trip and it was a breeze with that app.

  9. Go Donnie! What a great trip he has planned for you.

    You can’t possibly do worse than this: I was in Chicago for my first business trip in 2012. In the hotel, the closet and the bathroom were next to each other. A barn door slid on a rail from the ceiling, so if the bathroom “door” was closed, the closet would be open and vice versa.

    Well… my suitcase in the closet tipped over when I slid the door to close the bathroom, blocking the barn door from opening, so I was stuck in the bathroom FOR THREE HOURS. I could only get out when housekeeping came in.

    So humiliating!

  10. OMG OMG OMG!!!! I’m so happy for you, this post made *me* a little weepy! YAY!!!

    I’m a high anxiety traveler, but I’ve only been to NYC a few times and not to do the activities you are interested in, so I’m no help, really. Mostly I just wanted to tell you that your joy brings me joy. <3

  11. This is so incredibly COOL!!! Way to go, Donnie!!! As someone who is usually in charge of most of the planning and decision-making for vacations, I love love love when Steve plans things for us to do. However… I have to give up some control of the schedule to let him do so, which is hard for me. So… my recommendation would be to try to go with the flow as much as possible. Coming from someone who plans everything TO THE MINUTE, it can be really nice to just for a moment, allow someone else to take care of it, provided I am willing to allow for things to not be done EXACTLY the way I would have done it. Try to relax even if he didn’t plan time to research the least-busy restaurant, or travels on the subway during busy hours, etc… I have learned that if I want Steve to help with planning trips, then I have to give up some control and be willing to face my anxieties about things which are out of my control and realize that in the grand scheme of things, maybe some things I’m worried about are not that important. 🙂

  12. A couple of subway resources to help get you oriented:
    2 “for dummies” guides:

    And the MTA route planner:

    Subway is going to be your cheapest way to see the city (since you can get multi-day passes). The majority of subway entrances are well-marked and easy to find.

    Stops are announced really clearly, so if you know where you’re getting off (from your route planner), you’ll be fine. And, if you’re not pressed for time and a train is too full for your liking, you generally only have to wait about 5-10 minutes for the next one.

    Enjoy the city! November is a great time to go. If you’re there before the tree, it’s not too crowded, and once you get out of the theater/tourist area (Times Square), it’s like a whole different (less crowded) city. I hear you on crowd anxiety — I went up to see the tree one year and was so overwhelmed at Rockefeller Center that I almost shoved an old lady in a walker down the stairs trying to get some breathing room. (Not my proudest moment)

  13. I definitely have to Xanax up sometimes for our trip to NYC. 😉 I hate crowds too and It can be sensory overload. But don’t let that stop you. 🙂 It’s very safe. Once you’ve seen Times Square get the heck OUT of the immediate center of Times Square or the crowds will just send you over the edge. You’ll have such a blast! Highly recommend the NBC studio tour and Top of the Rock!

    The hard-hat tour at Ellis Island is amazing and totally worth it.

    We love Patzeria for a great sit-down NY Pizza dinner.

    The taxi drivers get you everywhere you need to go and the subway is so cheap and easy to navigate.

    Take hotel breaks so you don’t get too frazzled. You are going to have so much fun!

  14. oh and there is a walking tour of the history Alexander Hamilton. Definitely on my list for next trip. You have lots of time so google that one and go do it!

  15. Hi! I work in NYC (commute in every day!) and I have a few tips below! But the first thing to remember is that NYC is so busy that no one really pays attention to anyone else. There’s a level of anonymity here that I don’t think you can get in a small town. Don’t be afraid about getting on the wrong subway or whatever – it happens to everyone and you can always just go the other way. and take the subway, not just taxis/ubers! It’s the quickest way to get anywhere and you can get a sense of the people.

    1) Whenever i go to a new place or whenever I am planning a full day in the city, I like to make a custom Google Map of the points of interest that I want to visit, so i don’t forget and also so I can get a sense of where they are in relation to each other and how long travel times are in order to plan what I might like to do in section A of the city or section B. Then you can pull it up on your phone whenever.

    2) Use Google street view! Whenever I’m nervous about like, oh where is the entrance to that restaurant? what side of the street is that office on? etc I use Google Street View to allow me to get a visual sense of what I’m expecting and i find it SO helpful. I have also been known to preview my walks from point A to point B with street view to make sure I know where I’m going, and even identify some landmarks that will help me not get lost.

    3) Crowds are inevitable, but try to roll with it. If you want to be alone (ish), get places early (I used to walk across the city on 42nd street between 745 and 815a to work every morning and it was my favorite time. It’s midtown, but it was just so calm. When i would walk back to my bus at 6pm it was a like mob scene, every day. Mornings are the best.)

    Have so much fun! Good for Donny!

  16. This is so exciting, congratulations! We were in London in February, and I can’t stand big crowds. My favorite trick on public transit or anything crowded is just find a spot to look at and concentrate on breathing – for me, deep breaths are the biggest way to push away the anxiety.

    And since you are going to see Hamilton, may I suggest trying to get tickets to Come From Away as well? It’s about the 38 planes that landed in Gander, Newfoundland, on 9/11, and it is amazing. I firmly believe every single human being should see it 🙂

  17. Bookmomma – "The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” -Elizabeth Hardwick
    Ashley says:

    This is the perfect post for me. My husband just surprised me with a trip to NYC for our anniversary at the end of May. This is our 15 year anniversary and we have NEVER done a trip like this. I am thrilled and can’t wait, but I have similar anxiety about where I will eat, how will I get places, what I will do. I’m trying to tell myself to live in the moment, but that makes me panic more. If you have any good recommendations that are passed on please share!

  18. Yay! I’m so excited for you.

    My husband took me to NYC just before our first daughter was born. One thing we did that I really enjoyed was to get on the Hop On Hop Off bus. It allowed us to see the city and get a sense of where everything was in relation to everything else. Then we were able to pick some stuff to visit that appealed to us on the tour.

    We got tickets for the bus in Times Square.

    Have fun!

  19. This. Is. Awesome. Go Donnie!! I secretly long for my husband to do the same! Take the reins & totally surprise me like that. This is epic. I can’t wait to read about your adventures in NYC!!!

  20. Yes – this is what I was going to say. The great thing about public transportation is that you can always fix a mistake! Wrong platform? Go back up the stairs and around and go to the other side. Wrong train? Get off and transfer. Wrong direction? Get off and go back the other way. Also, modern technology is super useful – every city I have recently been to with public transportation has a handy app where you can map routes, get times, and sometimes even buy tickets. When we were in Paris earlier this year, I would even take a screenshot on my phone of the route I had mapped in case when I was underground my phone didn’t work. Then I could just pull up the photo and use that to figure out the correct metro direction and stop. Just remember, the direction of the train is often identified by the last stop on that line. Try not to time your trip so you are buying tickets in the morning or evening rush hour. Locals will always use the machines to buy their tickets and I have found that if the station has a person on duty, that person can often be really helpful to clueless tourists if you ask nicely. The lady at our “local” station near our flat in Paris saved us a bunch of $ by telling us which kind of tickets to buy.

    Uber works the same everywhere, you are good there. Just make sure to double-check the license plate matches.

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