AK Monthly Recap: January 2016
Last month, I said that my one and only goal was to find an apartment in New York. So did I succeed?
YES! I GOT A PLACE. I saw five apartments in total and fell in love with the second one on sight. The entire process was difficult and nerve-wracking and I think I gained several gray hairs over the course of the process. But I’m so excited to move in this week!
The rest of the month was very quiet — one of the quietest months I’ve had in the past few years. I went on a photo-taking frenzy in Rockport a few days ago because I had almost zero photos to put into this monthly post!
Reading, Lynn, Newburyport, and Rockport, Massachusetts, USA
New York, New York, USA
New York today, New York tomorrow, New York forever.
Finding the apartment! I thought apartment-hunting in Boston was difficult; in New York, it’s worse. Tenants in New York have a lot of rights, and for that reason, landlords are very strict in who they allow to live there.
While in Boston a landlord would verify that you have a job and check your credit score, New York landlords do a lot more. Most apartments require you to make an annual salary of 40 times the monthly rent. (That works out to one third of what you make.) And when you’re self-employed, it’s even more complicated and requires years of past tax returns and several bank statements.
But I did my research, searched hard, and it worked! I’m moving to Hamilton Heights, Harlem! A lot of my friends were shocked to hear this; in fact, I was dead set on moving to Brooklyn until recently!
I’ll be writing about my decision to choose Harlem over Brooklyn later on, as it’s a huge topic that deserves a full post. The main reason? My biggest priority was to live alone in a really nice apartment.
While I looked all over Brooklyn, Hamilton Heights has much better value for money. Most rentals here are newly renovated and in excellent condition. Transportation is outstanding. On top of that, rents are lower than most decent Brooklyn neighborhoods, even lower than cheaper neighborhoods like Bushwick, Crown Heights, and Bed-Stuy.
How good is the transit? My sister commutes about 100 blocks from Hamilton Heights to midtown and it literally takes her TWO STOPS on the subway. How crazy is that?!
I like Hamilton Heights a lot, and I’ve spent a lot of time here, as my sister has lived here for the past few years. It’s convenient to several subway lines, the architecture is beautiful, and there are lots of cool bars and restaurants. I’ve walked alone at night here quite often and I feel very safe here. It feels like a comfortable, lived-in neighborhood.
The moment I walked into my apartment, I knew it was the one. It just felt so warm. It’s a roomy one-bedroom apartment in a beautiful, well-maintained brownstone on a gorgeous block. It’s actually the entire second floor of the building (!!).
The living room is big enough for a dining table and a desk as well as a couch. The kitchen is separate and has more counter space than any other unit I saw. The bedroom is on the small side, but it fits a queen bed and has tons of storage shelving built in. There’s a long, gallery-style hallway leading to the bathroom.
Best of all…I have an in-unit washer/dryer. That is the HOLY GRAIL in New York City!
Location-wise, the apartment is within four blocks of all the subways (1, A, B, C, D), multiple grocery stores, my sister’s place, a coworking space, some great bars and restaurants, my favorite coffeeshop in the neighborhood, and more! Walk a few more blocks and you’ll hit multiple gyms and a yoga studio with $5 classes.
So you could say that I chose the neighborhood with my head and the apartment with my heart.
While I was too busy waiting to hear from brokers to hit up the New York Times Travel Show, I did make it to one of the post-show parties and got to hang out with lots of my blogger buddies! I always relish every chance to see my friends and it’s been a while since I’ve been at a big blogger event.
Oh, and while apartment-hunting, an adorable little man, the super of one building, asked me if I was a Columbia student. I patted his shoulder. “Sir, you flatter me. I’m neither that young nor that smart!”
Furnishing and decorating! OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, THIS IS SO MUCH FUN. I’ve always loved art and design and I’m so happy that I finally get to design a place for myself!
You know, I actually never really furnished my post-college apartments in Somerville and Boston. I hung up my diploma — that was it. I knew from the beginning that my dream was to travel the world, and I couldn’t justify spending on money on something I’d be putting into storage before long.
Now, it’s finally time.
My friends sent me off in style. Lisa and Alexa insisted on giving me a special going-away-day from Massachusetts, and we spent it day-tripping to Rockport, a little seaside town on the North Shore.
Rockport used to be a tiny fishing village; today, it’s popular with artists. It was actually the filming location for the Alaska scenes in the movie The Proposal. The only issue? Most of Rockport shuts down in the winter months! Definitely go in the summer.
We finished at home with a bottle of champagne and an HGTV marathon. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
You don’t want to know how much money I spent this month. Moving is expensive, New York is expensive, furnishing a place from scratch is expensive…
Also, I’m growing my eyebrows out. I used to have much thicker, darker brows when I was younger (even when I was in my early twenties) so I’m experimenting to see if I can grow them back. It’s not a great look so far — pretty much the only thing more awkward than growing out your bangs.
SNOW! COLD! It’s hard enough living in the suburbs without a car of your own. Add freezing cold weather and snow and it’s no surprise I became a virtual hermit this month.
Other than these little peccadilloes, it was an easy January, and for that I am grateful.
Most Popular Post
How to Arrive in Bangkok — Wow, this post did well! I love writing in-depth posts for the cities I know best.
Kate’s Picks: Where to Go in 2016 Before It’s Too Late — Japan for the exchange rate, Nicaragua before the canal is built, and Jordan to expand your friends’ horizons.
Scenes from England’s Lake District — One of the most beautiful places I’ve been in the UK.
Quit Fucking Around and Build Yourself a Fuck-Off Fund — This post was HUGE! And a very important message.
The Ultimate Girls’ Getaway to Koh Lanta, Thailand — My favorite place in the world. My third trip was my favorite.
Make This The Year You Start Your Own Business — Literally the only way you can have job security.
Seven Quirky Travel Accessories For Your Future Home — Some of my favorite new finds from Airportag.
News and Announcements
Not a lot of big news to report. January’s challenge was to find and furnish a place, something that I’ve achieved for the most part.
But for February? Hmm.
Then I got an idea. We’re in a leap year — why not do something with the number 29?
So I decided — 29 days, 29 friends! I want to spend time with 29 different friends over the course of the month. Not necessarily new friends (though meeting new friends would be AWESOME!) — I want this specific challenge to be about reconnecting with the friends I already have.
And to add to the list, I want five of those friends to be people I haven’t seen in at least five years. I have a few in mind already.
So if you’re in New York and we know each other, drop me a line! Let’s hang out soon.
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
Everyone loves a glorious sunset. I’ll never forget this sunset at Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District of England!
What I Read This Month
I read a piece on XOJane that suggested completing an author in 2016. What a great idea — you read all the works by an author you love (or at least everything you can find!).
I had already planned on completing Junot Diaz this year, but I could easily do Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elizabeth Gilbert, Toni Morrison, or Barbara Kingsolver. As much as I adore Lionel Shriver, her books take a lot out of me (in a good way) and they’re best spaced out over a long time.
But a suggestion for you? Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin. His books are magnificent and very different from what you think they would be. My favorite is Born Standing Up; I also love Shopgirl, The Pleasure of My Company and An Object of Beauty.
Here’s what I read this month:
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs — This book is going to stay with me for a LONG time. Robert Peace grew up in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Newark. He was brilliant and hardworking, earning a scholarship to Yale. After Yale, he traveled the world, then returned to selling drugs in his old neighborhood and was murdered.
How could this happen? How could this be prevented? I can’t stop thinking about these questions. What if he had had a mentor? What if he hadn’t been so loyal to his friends and family above all other things? This book was tremendously eye-opening when it comes to race and especially class in America, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates — This is one of the biggest books on race in America. Written as a series of letters to his son on what it means to be black in America today, Coates weaves through the history of his life from Baltimore to “The Mecca” (Howard University) to New York, Paris, and beyond.
This book was more of a challenge than I anticipated — it’s dense, it’s difficult, it’s beautiful and not a single word is wasted. As racial violence grips America, I’m trying to read more so that I understand more (not least because I’m moving to a historically black neighborhood). This book isn’t the easiest read, but I feel like it should be required reading for Americans, especially in an election year.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — This Kindle short is based off Adichie’s TED Talk on contemporary feminism in Nigeria and beyond. So it’s a quickie read — and I’m not sure if I’m being dishonest by including it in my book round-up here! It’s an argument for why feminism needs to be taken seriously and appreciated by all citizens of the world — but she delivers it in the most delightful, charming way. Definitely worth a read.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling — I like Mindy Kaling a lot and I really enjoyed her first memoir. Like the Fey/Poehler/Dratch memoirs, she has great things to say about working hard in a female where women struggle to be acknowledged (not to mention women of color). But I think Kaling’s biggest strengths are when she writes about feeling like an outsider and faking it until you make it.
Anyway, I’m hoping that if we meet, we’d be friends. Her high school was actually one of my high school’s rivals. I’d love to tell her stories about the freaky incest-space-shadow-baby plays her high school would present at Dramafest.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert — I adore Liz Gilbert and will read anything she writes. This book isn’t quite a self-help book, nor is it quite a memoir — it’s a guide on how to bring more creativity into your life and how best to use it. It’s a quicker read than I expected, and I absolutely loved it. I feel like I have a whole new way of seeing things, both the creative work I do for my career and the creative work I do for myself. Definitely worth a read, and Gilbert is one of my favorite literary voices.
What I Watched This Month
Mozart in the Jungle. I put it on after it won a few Golden Globes and I ended up binge-watching all 20 episodes over three sessions! It’s a show about the secret lives of the best classical musicians in New York. It’s a bit soapy, a bit funny, and an interesting look at the life of a professional classical musician.
If you are a creative or work in the arts, you need to see this show. Seriously. More than anything, it’s about the relationship between art and money. And if you’re a musician, especially a classical musician, you’ll love it, too. It reminded me of my nights partying, skinny-dipping, and drinking with the musicians in Kuhmo, Finland, before watching them perform Bach and Sibelius the next day!
What I Listened To This Month
“Lazarus” by David Bowie.
As usual, I woke up, grabbed my phone, and opened Facebook. My stomach tightened when I saw that David Bowie was trending. I knew he’d been ill with heart problems and living out of the public eye for awhile. Had he left us?
And the first thing I saw was this video, which I watched immediately.
I was overcome.
He knew he was dying for a long time. And instead of withdrawing from the world, he chose to create a beautiful final collection of music, as unique as his material had always been.
I thought I would listen to this song once, be sad, and turn to my usual favorite Bowie songs, “Young Americans” and “Modern Love” and “Golden Years.” But I kept listening to “Lazarus” and marveling at how bravely and beautifully Bowie decided to leave this world.
Coming Up in February 2016
Moving day is February 3! My dad is driving me down and helping me move in my belongings. Furniture will be arriving over the next few weeks. Let’s just hope the weather doesn’t look like that above photo!
I won’t be traveling anywhere in February (other than home to Boston for a bachelorette party two days after I move, amusingly enough), but I’m making BIG plans for the spring and summer. I’m also arranging lots of meetings with my New York-based travel contacts so we can put some cool trips together.
Guys, the travel tingles are returning. That makes me SO HAPPY. Last week I got an idea for a trip and I researched and planned it maniacally, my heart racing, until I realized it was 3:30 AM and I should probably go to sleep.
That trip might end up happening — or it might not. We’ll see. The important thing is my mojo is sloooowly coming back. For awhile I was afraid that I had lost it after pushing myself too hard for too long.
It’s still there. And it’s raring to go.
One last thing — I am deeply grateful to have what I have today. Five years ago, my dream was to earn $1,000 per month from my blog so I could afford to live in Southeast Asia. That dream obviously grew and changed over time as I grew and changed as a person.
To be at the point where I can live on my own in Manhattan — and still travel — is something that I didn’t think would be possible a few years ago. I’ve worked so hard for this but I’ve also had a fair amount of luck, not to mention privilege. I won’t ever forget that, and I’m enormously grateful to all of you who continue to read my material and allow me to remain a full-time blogger.