What a difference a year can make… just… wow.
Exactly one year ago today, I had no idea what coronaviruses were and excitedly embarked on an aircraft alone to venture off on my first ever international trip. I chose to take my first steps off of Canadian soil in the good ol’ USA. More specifically, the great State of New Jersey (which gets far too much hate, in my opinion) and a whirlwind walking tour of New York City.
The major goal of the trip was to meet some cool online buddies in reality for the first time. I was also in the middle of a panicked health scare and there was no time like the present to see more things. That trip was honestly the best few days of my entire life, and I’ll treasure the memories I made there for the rest of my life. ❤
I even got a badass souvenir tattoo while I was there: A pink dragon with New Jersey’s state motto “Liberty and Prosperity” under it. I can’t really convey into words the special meaning behind it. I just know I’ll never stop smiling whenever I look at it.
I loved meeting the good people of the USA. I felt so welcomed in New Jersey. It breaks my heart when I think of the current cataclysmic situations unfolding there now. A year ago might as well have been another lifetime on a different planet. I’m grateful I got to see some of the USA at its best, and I know my beloved American friends will get through this. Sending all my love across the border, eh!
To honor the anniversary of that awesome trip, here’s a travel log style article detailing my wonderful days spent there.
Day 1 (July 3rd, 2019): “Gracefully” Entering the USA
Did I mention I don’t get out much? Because I don’t. Here in Canada, we have something called ‘US Customs Preclearance’, meaning we have American border agents at our airports who clear us to land as domestic passengers on US soil.
As soon as I got to the airport my anxiety level was way over 9,000 making me a nervous freaking wreck when interacting with airport personnel. That led to an amusing (but not at the time) incident where I almost climbed into the baggage drop off thingy…
“Ma’am! You can’t do that!!”
Oops. Thankfully, she didn’t call for security and smirked at my recovery sarcastic remark.
“Well, I’d probably get through security faster this way.”
Yeah. In my defense, being a n00b traveling alone is extra stressful. At least I had no issues with the official American Border Agent Guy. He WAS NOT amused by my nervous sarcasm, but he granted me access to his country anyway, so yay!
The flight itself was mostly uneventful. Directly from Halifax, NS to Newark, NJ in about 1 hour and 50-ish minutes, and with a little more turbulence than I’d care to experience, but whatever.
I was staring nervously out the window for most of the journey, minus snack time. OMG!! The free waffle cookie was amazing, by the way. Thank you, United Airlines!! Take notes, Air Canada… your free pretzels are pathetic by comparison.
I’ve been told by many to avoid everything in Newark except for the airport, so I was grateful a cool friend picked me up and drove me to my hotel.
Eating at a real life American diner was on my To Do list, so that’s where supper happened. I was a bit shocked to see poutine (a Canadian delicacy of fries, gravy, and cheese) being passed off as something called ‘Traditional Disco’, but it was tasty nonetheless.
Day 2 (July 4th, 2019): Sailing and Sangria
The 4th of July is a big patriotic holiday in the USA so it was really neat to see the celebrations firsthand. We have something similar in Canada (calling July 1st “Canada Day”) but I usually don’t partake in any festivities here.
Anyway, the day started off with me going sailing for the first time ever!! It was quite an experience, to say the least. Thankfully I was with an awesome experienced skipper friend.
Yeah. Remember how I tried to climb into the baggage drop off thingy? That’s a great thing to remember as I explain my sailing, um, shortcomings. In my defense, I’ve never sailed before.
I started off trying to row our boat backwards out of the canal (oops!), couldn’t for the life of me remember how to tie one simple knot (never been good a knots… took me forever to learn how to tie my shoes as a kid), I failed to free a stuck sail on the way back, and probably some other blunders I can’t remember now. Oh well! Props to my friend for their patience with me.
The actual smooth sailing part was amazing. Just drifting on the lake and feeling the wind carry the boat along was so freaking cool. It’s so peaceful, yet you have to keep on your toes in case something needs attention. I helped tack a few times too, which was very exciting. I’m definitely going to be looking into local sailing clubs here in Nova Scotia sometime (I do need to learn how to actually swim first though 😅).
After sailing was a badass BBQ! I had tons of food, including yummy homemade American apple pie, so much Sangria (lost count of those… hic), and got to play croquet with the family I was visiting. They were very welcoming to this quiet Canadian n00b and it was overall a super fun time. Oh and I kinda remember a blurry fireworks display at the end of the night (the Sangria was really good, by the way).
Day 3 (July 5th, 2019): Historic Arcade Gaming
The day started out in beautiful Morristown, New Jersey – known as the military capital of the American Revolution. I walked around an area called The Green and took in all the historical sights with my friend.
It was sad to see that some idiot cut the left thumb of the George Washington statue. People are disrespectful jerks. What can I say? Anywho, random picture gallery from that area incoming!
After taking in the neat historical sights, my friend and I hit up an arcade in the area. They had, like, every game there!! A big bonus was no need for quarters. All the old machines were equipped with buttons to bypass that archaic system, and you basically pay by the hour with a bracelet system. There were no arcade places near me as a kid so adult me jumped at the opportunity to check out this place with my friend.
My great gameplay highlights were: failing at lightsaber battles in a Star Wars trilogy game, getting pwned a lot playing as Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat (why didn’t I pick the thunder god Raiden?), and beating a co-op X-Men beat ’em up game (I may have pressed the quarter button too many times and walked away with my Storm having 118 lives left… oops!).
And this glorious day was far from over, my friends! After a quick stop to try Dunkin’ Donuts for the first time (Confession: I like it a lot more than Canada’s famous Tim Hortons coffee chain… please don’t revoke my citizenship!), it was time to get inked for the second time.
Just have to say this tattoo was planned months in advance as a way to commemorate my first trip outside of Canada. NEVER EVER get tattoos on a whim. Do your research on artists and make sure it’s a design you’ll want to wear for the rest of your mortal existence.
Shout-out to Trent over at Expressive Ink in Wharton, New Jersey for being awesome to deal with and a badass tattoo artist!
Day 4 (July 6th, 2019): New York City, Baby!
Okay. So I was raised in a small Nova Scotia community with a population of 91 people, and I’ve lived most of my adult life in my province’s “big” city of Halifax (about 430,000 humans crawling around here).
Imagine how I felt standing in New York City for the first time… I swear I saw more people in my first 5 minutes there than I had seen in my entire life before that point. Wow. Overwhelming and awesome is the best way I can describe it. The tidal waves of people… just.. never stop!!
Good advice from my friend and amazing tour guide: “When we get there, don’t stand there looking up at the buildings with your mouth wide open.”
And wow, my good friend and I had one hell of a trek through the city! According to my phone app, we walked a grand total of 15 km (9-ish American miles). Here are some random photos of neat things I got to see along the way.
Yeah. The tall buildings were cool and all that, but my primary reason for wanting to brave the near-infinite strangers: Nintendo Store!! And it was freaking awesome (albeit hella crowded like everything else in NYC). I bought lots of swag (Charmander plush, Angry Kirby Plush, two Bowser key chains, and a T-shirt that all came in a Link bag). The store itself also had lots of sweet Nintendo themed things to gawk at.
What else must you absolutely see when you go to NYC? Yep. The Statue of Liberty!
My friend and I lucked out and found a random tour boat launching from Battery Park that sailed us around the statue. That was a wonderfully relaxing voyage, and gifted me with some much needed sitting time. My friend got to help the crew raise the sails, and it was so awesome to see how happy they were about that!
It seemed like a thunderstorm was rolling in as we set sail, but thankfully it held off.
And before jumping on the train back to New Jersey, I was honored to visit the One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial site.
I… can’t even imagine how awful it must have been when the September 11th attacks hit. So many innocent people lost their lives where I was standing. Being there and seeing the beautiful memorial to those who died was an intense feeling that’s hard to describe. The vibes there were just unreal.
I honestly had to hold back a few tears. Yay for sunglasses hiding those emotion things I hate to admit I have!
Day 5 (July 7th, 2019): Vertigo and Video Games
Whoa… I woke up with a scary case of random vertigo episodes, let me tell you. It was bad… randomly when I sat down, looked up, or looked down, it felt like the world around me was spinning out of control. This sent my medical anxiety through the roof since that could easily be a symptom of something worse.
Thankfully, the Charmander plush I bought was nearby to hug, and my friend took me crayon shopping which helped cheer me up (long story). It disappeared a few days after I got back to Canada. Maybe being in NYC short circuited my brain? I dunno.
Swag always brings comfort and joy!
Anyway, it was a pretty chill day (minus the vertigo scares). I had an epic chat with my two online buddies in Starbucks, and got to play Grand Theft Auto with my friend for the rest of the day after eating delicious hamburgers. The absolute perfect way to spend my last full day in New Jersey!
Day 6 (July 8th, 2019): Smashing Back To Canada
Alas! All good things must come to an end. I was really sad to say goodbye to New Jersey. If I ever win the lottery, I’m so buying a mansion there.
But yeah, I used Uber for the first time to get to the airport. I have to say, my driver was awesome! He was super nice, had snacks, and skillfully avoided some idiots on the highway.
I got through airport security no problem, but my bag of ground Dunkin’ Donuts coffee had to go for additional testing, which I thought was hilarious for some reason.
I like arriving stupidly early for flights, so I spent 5 hours playing Breath of the Wild on my Switch in the airport.
“Welcome to Newark Liberty International Airport. Please do not leave your bags unattended. Please do not accept packages from other passengers. Do not park in the loading areas. Stand to the right on the moving walkways.”
Yep. I heard that announcement on loop SO MANY TIMES. At least I got the Divine Beast Vah Rudania! Yay progress. I need to travel more so I can beat this game someday.
I got to see one last view of the Statue of Liberty from the plane, then it was back to Canada.
I arrived in Halifax late at night, super tired and worried about everything. As a result of that, I accidentally scraped someone’s car in the airport parking lot on my way out, didn’t realize it until I saw the damage on my car the next day, and drove back in a frenzy the next morning to leave a note on the person’s car.
And now fully back to July 2020 me. It was really, really nice to do a bit of time travelling with this article. The good times can never last forever, as much as we try desperately to hold onto them, but our memories will always be there.
Here’s to hoping the coronavirus goes away eventually and I can go on trips to more places someday!
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