Aug 032013
 

It’s 5:14 am here in Paris… I can’t sleep and can’t stop thinking about my time in New York.

13 amazing days have passed since my last blog update, there has just been so much going on. Today also marks day 64 of my solo world tour, time has gone by so fast – it only feels like I left Fiji a few weeks back.

It was such a tough decision to leave NYC. I had an amazing 4 weeks there and could easily see myself living in Brooklyn or Manhattan, a discussion I had plenty of times with several friends during my stay. After delaying my trip to Paris twice, I was almost set to change course completely and head to Puerto Rico with a cool Irish lad I met in Brooklyn named Kevin.  But at the last-minute I stuck with my original game plan as I really want to spend time in Europe before the summer is over.

I met some awesome people in New York – some real quality people.  Some I only spent days with and others I was fortunate enough to spend weeks, and I know many of those characters will cross paths with me again. Trying to adjust to the highs and lows of solo travel is a challenge for me – making great new friends and then having to say goodbye so soon is something I really struggle with.

There are so many experiences that I’d love to write in detail about but that would take far too long.  From massive nights out clubbing, attending music festivals, bar hopping around Brooklyn & Manhattan, dining at awesome cafes/restaurants and shopping in some seriously cool stores – what made these experiences so memorable were the people who shared them with me.

Kevin, Sam and I at Greenhouse in Manhattan. Turned out to be a HUGE night!!!

Kevin, Sam and I at Greenhouse in Manhattan. Turned out to be a HUGE night!!!

 

During my final week I was also lucky enough to hang out with a good pal from back home – Sam.  We covered a lot of ground together and as a result I obtained a completely different perspective of New York.  Unfortunately NYC is not the most accessible city in the world for wheelchairs, especially when you combine the lack of accessibility with the huge volume of people in the city.  But we didn’t let that stop us as we hit one of the most popular hip hop clubs in Manhattan called Greenhouse.  We also travelled all the way to Holmdel, New Jersey to see the ‘Americas Most Wanted’ tour with Lil Wayne, 2 Chains and TI.  And to top that off we also kept the Jersey theme going and went to the Lincoln Park Music Festival in Newark (via subway, PATH train and 2 buses!!!).  That was an eventful day in itself as we discovered that there were actually 2 Lincoln Parks – Jersey City and Newark. After arriving at the Jersey City location I was shocked to discover it was the wrong venue, but luckily we found 2 buses that got us to Newark a few hours later.  Once we arrived it was shaping up to be a massive day of performances (Redman, Naughty By Nature, EPMD) but the weather turned bad with heavy rain and a few lightning strikes later the festival got called off. I did get to see Channel Live perform ‘Mad Ism’ and Black Rob perform ‘Whoa”. And for the record, I do like other forms of music apart from hip hop.

I also got to check out Hoboken earlier this week with Mike whom I met out whilst partying last weekend.   Kevin already worded me up on how amazing the views of Manhattan are from Hoboken, and he wasn’t exaggerating.  Even though Hoboken is in New Jersey it still has a Manhattan ‘feel’ – just a lot more chill.  After downing a few buckets of wings with Mike and his friends, I played my first game of beer pong and smashed it. It was an interesting PATH train back to Manhattan that night.

View of Lower Manhattan from Hoboken

View of Lower Manhattan from Hoboken

So a massive thank you from me to everyone who so generously gave me their time in the USA. You all know who you are, the list is large and I am so appreciative of the opportunity to share my experiences with you.

soloworldtour signing out from the USA.

 

 

Jul 152013
 

It’s been over a week since my last post and as usual a lot has happened in that space of time. My solo world tour has now spanned 6 incredible weeks and is officially my longest ever time spent outside Australia.  So I guess if I were to do a world tour health check now against some key criteria, my scores would be:

Overall Rating (14th July 2013)  = 62%

  1. Fun factor 9/10
  2. Cities visited 7/10 – The weather in Fiji was prohibitive and LA was somewhat disappointing.
  3. Personal Challenge 5/10 – I’m definitely not pushing my boundaries enough here, particularly in relation to being more extrovert.
  4. People 7/10 – Whilst I have met some incredible people, this rating is more about the volume of relationships made rather than the quality.
  5. Health/Fitness 3/10 – No gym since LA (5 weeks), loads of alcohol consumed daily and whilst food has amazed I haven’t exactly been going healthy.

I think the important thing to note here is that this solo world tour is not really a holiday in the strictest definition.  I do actually want to achieve a few personal goals outside seeing some beautiful places and meeting awesome people.  I have goals to really challenge myself in difficult situations by generally being more spontaneous and much more proactive in relation to seeking and forming new relationships.   I also intend on being away for circa 12 months so its important I stay healthy both mentally and physically.

So back to what I have done…

Once again I have been fortunate to receive such wonderful hospitality from my great friends.  Following San Francisco, I spent a week in Virginia hosted by Kay and Gabe whom I have known for some time and have shared some memorable experiences with.  They have a beautiful property in Purcellville – Virginia. It was a week of pure R&R enjoying the simple things in life among good friends Samantha, Andrew and their beautiful daughter Milla whom are from Australia.  We had wide open spaces, great conversations and loads of laughs during our week together and I could not have scripted a better way to spend the 4th July in the USA.

I now find myself in the familiar territory of New York having visited here about 4 years ago.  I’m staying in Greenpoint (Brooklyn) with Mandy and her fiancé Robbie and housemate Bianca – the place is called The Ceeflat and is an art gallery that doubles as residence for these awesome people. Greenpoint is very close to the up and coming Williamsburg which has exploded since the last time I visited. It’s great to be staying in Brooklyn away from the hussle of Manhattan.

Thus far I have been quite disciplined about shopping as I really don’t have the space and don’t fancy spending my time in stores. But New York is an exception, you can not come to this city without experiencing some retail therapy.  New York is home to stores not found elsewhere in the USA or abroad.  My 2 notable mentions are the following:

1. Sneakers – whilst I am no hardcore expert in sneakers I do know enough to say that New York is home to some amazing stores like DQM, Fight Club, ALife, Nike ID Studio and several other smaller boutiques.  My passion for sneakers really took off thanks to a good friend of mine Greg (DJ Vaughn) who sadly is not with us any longer.  I fondly remember visiting loads of sneaker stores with him in Japan a few years ago, Undefeated in particular – and since then I make a habit to visit sneaker stores in his honour when I travel.  Even if I don’t intend on buying anything, I still visit just to check out the collections and represent just as he would.

2. During my welcome to NYC dinner with Mandy and Robbie, I was given a great recommendation for a hip new eyewear chain that has recently opened its first store in NYC called Warby Parker. Many people describe this store as the Apple store for eyewear with an impressive open plan store layout, young hipster staff and unbeatable priced eyewear.  The frames are the latest designs made in the same factories that most of the ‘brand’ eyewear comes from – minus the price tag.  $95 buys you a pair of eyeglasses with prescription lenses ($150 for sunglasses).  They have some innovative concepts such as free home try on and 30 day returns if you decide you don’t like the frames.  They also give a pair of frames to someone in need for every pair purchased! It would be great to have a store like this in Australia.

Redman @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

Redman @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

Yesterday, I experienced the Brooklyn Hip Hop festival which is now in its 9th year.  Words can’t describe how brilliant the performances were – with Redman, EPMD and Pusha T all simply ‘dope’.  The festival was held on the water at Brooklyn Bridge park with Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge in the backdrop.  Brooklyn is home to many of my favourite artists and is nearly always mentioned in the lyrics of their tracks.  So when artists physically perform in Brooklyn you know everything is going to be ‘A grade’ as the crowd are the finest connoisseurs of hip hop.  I was so absorbed with the music yesterday I literally had to force myself to take a few photos.

Redman @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

Redman @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

There was a tribute to MCA from the Beastie Boys and an amazing expression of turntablism  by DJ Scratch. My jaw was literally on the ground after hearing him scratch ‘Mary had a little lamb’ from the Rob Base classic “I wanna rock right now”.

There is so much love for real hip hop in the USA and from all walks of life. The crowd was diverse and everyone appreciated the quality of the performances equally.

EPMD @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

EPMD @ Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

Whilst America may have it’s fair share of critics around the world, no-one can take anything away from its stature in my eyes.  I was talking to a local at the end of the show and he took the following words straight from my mouth “What makes America what is it… is simply the freedom of expression people have in this amazing country”.  There is no place on earth where people are so free to do and express what they want.

I am having such a blast in NYC that I have decided to see out the rest of my USA world tour component here.

I love New York. I love the USA.

Peace.

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