Where we’re at: I’m recapping my 2019 travels, which included this week in New York City in January.
I started 2019 with a goal: reintroducing travel, a new kind of travel, back into my life. We’d finally found a reliable home aide at the start of January, and my sister’s campaign job had ended, meaning she’d be back in Albany more. I knew I couldn’t go for very long or for very far, but I could try to keep the flame of my wanderlust alive.
When my sister came home for a week following the inauguration in January, I dreamed of flying somewhere warm and exotic. Somewhere on my bucket list. Somewhere that might make this, my one blog post from that whole month, a little more scintillating. But in the end I chose something close to home — a week in beautiful but blustery New York City.
Why? Several reasons. First of all, it was the longest I’d be away from my mom in over five months. Being seperated gave me a certain sense of anxiety, and feeling like I could get home in an emergency helped with that. Second of all, there were two things I was extremely eager to attend: a Buti Bands + Sculpt fitness training, and the New York Times Travel Show. Finally, the city is quite literally crawling with some of my best friends in the world, and I was ready to be hugged, big time.
My friends Ashlee and J, who travel often for work (that’s an understatement!) were generous enough to lend me their empty apartment for the weekend, which was close enough for me to walk to my training. I arrived late at night, buzzing with the energy of my old home and forever favorite city.
The next morning I arrived at B MVMNT filled with anticipation. I had been a Buti Yoga fan for years and years, and was absolutely thrilled when the brand opened their own Soho HQ over the summer while I’d been completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training nearby at Y7 Studio. I’d often finish a long hard day of training with three hours of vinyasa in it, and hustle over to B MVMNT to take a Buti class! (Sadly, the studio closed late in 2019, though classes are still available throughout the city.)
While in Albany, I’d started streaming Buti classes via their app when it was hard to get out of the house, and was able to try their new bands series this way. I fell in love with it and when I saw the training pop up during a Black Friday sale, I spontaneously snapped it up (along with a Buti yoga training, which I’d planned to complete that April).
I was doing things a little out of order, taking Buti Bands + Sculpt before Buti Yoga, but I was assured that since I had my 200 hour yoga teacher training under my belt, it would be no issue. I showed up bracing myself for two back-to-back twelve hour days, totally immersing myself in this new fitness discipline I’d grown to love, and ideally recapturing some sense of confidence in teaching — something that had been largely disrupted by my mom’s cancer diagnosis just a week after my 200HR YTT graduation.
Unfortunately, the weekend was… confusing. Let’s start with the good. The master classes that started each day were phenomenal. The master trainer who led our session is one of the best Buti teachers I’ve taken a class with and I was in awe of her sequencing and energy, and so thrilled to learn from her.
And that’s where the trouble began, unfortunately. I’ve hesitated to write anything negative about this training publicly because like many fitness modalities, Buti is a very close-knit world that it can feel intimidating to give anything but gushing feedback on. But, well, you guys know me — I’m pretty much physically incapable of sugarcoating anything.
Out of the scheduled twenty hours of training, we completed twelve of them — which we absolutely sprinted through. The instructor seemed frustrated when I slowed her down for clarifications, but I figured, I paid a lot for this training, I’m not moving on from this until I understand it!
I was also the only one in the class who was not yet Buti certified, which the instructor seemed visibly annoyed by (though again, even on the sales page for the training, it stated the only pre-requisite was a 200 hour certification, which I had.) I do believe the issue was more with the vibe this particular master trainer had that particular weekend, rather than an issue with the training structure or material itself.
So, I left the training feeling a bit discouraged, and not having gotten the exact experience I had hoped for. My goal was to get my confidence back to start teaching again, and I think the opposite happened.
But I was determined not to let it derail my week. In fact, I hadn’t been to New York since I’d discovered my newfound obsession with aerial arts, and while my body was in pieces from the training (we did hours of class and demos!), I couldn’t wait to dive into the many, many studios that New York is blessed with!
Are you also in love with or intrigued by aerials, and in or heading to New York? Save these recommendations! By the way, if you want to try loads of them, I recommend ClassPass — even though I was only in the city for a week, I re-enrolled for a month, knowing I’d save money over doing daily drop-ins. Here are the studios I tried and tested:
• Om Factory: This is the OG aerial yoga studio in New York, and I tried both a lyra class at their Union Square location and an aerial barre class at a now-closed location and really enjoyed them both. The vibe is colorful and homey, and it reminds me of my Albany studio Good Karma in many ways.
• Body + Pole: This is very hardcore aerial and pole powerhouse in the Fashion District. The classes are incredibly organized and structured, and the students goal-focused. It definitely can feel intimidating at first, but it’s a truly excellent studio where I’d be a regular if I could.
• Incredipole: This Brooklyn studio is blast — clearly, it’s primarily pole focused, but there are sometimes lyra or other classes on the schedule. The class I took here totally sparked my newfound interest in pole, and led me to drive to the closest studio to Albany, nearly an hour away, a few times. I would love to study pole more often someday when it’s accessible to me, and this funky studio would be a great place to start!
• The Muse + The Muse Gowanus: The Muse is a very circus-based school with two different locations in Brooklyn. Unfortunately I’m an enormous idiot and didn’t get the chance to actually go to a class, since I signed up for one and then went to the wrong location. Face palm. Luckily, the manager was understanding and put a class credit back in my account so I’ll be able to try it in the future.
Many of the same instructors teach across all these studios, so find the studio vibe and the teacher you love and learn to fly, baby! I can’t tell you how rewarding this journey has been for me. Of course, I also hit up my favorite Y7 teachers from my training — it was so good to reconnect with them, and discuss the weird energy of my weekend training with those with much more experience in that world.
After the training, I headed out of Ashlee and J’s Manhattan high-rise and over to Crown Heights, where a bunch of my college besties had settled in a cozy brownstone. I jokingly call it The Commune because there are twelve people living here but amazingly it never feels crowded — just like a big, happy family. They do really beautiful shared meals and there’s always a bunch of laptops at the table working on something creative. I find it such a calming place to be.
Steffi, a name that will be familiar to old school Alex in Wanderland readers, let me play her roommate for a few days while her boyfriend was out of town, and I couldn’t have felt cozier in their light-and-plant-filled space.
It felt insanely luxurious to spend a few days between the training and the travel show catching up on work, attending fitness classes, having dinner dates with various friends, and having some space to be alone with my thoughts.
visiting my friend Dallas at the cafe where she created the menu, Lil Skips
January in New York can be kind of bleak. The magic and sparkle of the holidays is over, and the cold can be absolutely brutal. But one day, I was working out of a cafe in Manhattan after a class and before meeting a friend for dinner, and my girl Erica texted me to see if I could meet up. We were both eager to stretch our legs and so decided instead of a tea and coffee date, we agreed we’d go for a walk instead.
And actually, there was still a little sparkle still lingering in the city.
In fact, we stumbled upon the most magical thing.
Did you know that when it gets epically cold in New York, the Bryant Park fountain actually freezes over? Despite a youth of trips down to New York, four winters as a resident, and frequent visits back since, I actually did not. (The fact that my tenure there pre-dated Instagram is surely a factor.)
Apparently, this particular fountain has an internal heating system that keeps it running even in the most arctic of temperatures, creating a ring of dramatic icicles in the heart of winter. We were completely enamored. Man meets nature!
And then it was time for the New York Times Travel Show. Oh, and since it kinda sets the tone for the chaos of the week, I should mention that I hopped apartments again just in time, spending my last two nights on my friend Amanda’s couch in Williamsburg. I try to never wear out my welcome when I’m crashing with friends — plus, it gave Amanda and I time for a much needed girls’ night.
Anyway, the New York Times Travel Show is a nostalgic event for me as my first ever travel industry event. I first attended in 2011 and then again in 2012 and I guess I haven’t been back since which is wild! It’s a consumer show, not a conference, but still it can be a great place to make connections, network, and get a pulse on the industry. Plus, it’s fun and meant even more friends came to town — like my bestie Angie Away.
If you’re a travel lover living in New York, I can’t recommend a day at the show more highly. Just walking the floor is fun, and a great way to get inspired about future travel destinations. The in-depth seminars can be super interesting for travel addicts, there are fantastic giveaways (I won 10,000 Starwood points here once!) and there’s always fun things like fun cooking demos and colorful dance performances going on. I loved being back.
I only attended the trade day of the show on Friday, because I had to get back to Albany, so I missed the madness on Saturday and Sunday. But in just that short time I sat in on some very interesting panels (including one Angie was on!), connected with friends and colleagues I hadn’t seen in ages, and sparked a lot of ideas.
Of course, it was also tough in ways, too. I no longer had the freedom to travel on a whim, and hearing about other’s enormous career leaps and far-flung adventures definitely tugged at my wandering heart strings a bit. (And I can’t lie, it was tough being back in the Javits Center after my last traumatic experience there.) But mostly, I focused on enjoying the privilege of this trip to New York, which would have been impossible not long before.
My very last night in New York I was beat — it had been a beautifully busy, exhausting week and I was on my feet all day at the show. By the time I got to one of the crowded happy hour after parties, I was verging on tears I was so eager to sit down. We mingled a bit and caught up with a few more travel friends before heading out to dinner and then one, just one nostalgic drink, we agreed, at Angie’s favorite old Hell’s Kitchen gay bar on the way home.
Cue us getting kicked out a karaoke club at 5am closing time.
The best New York City nights are the spontaneous ones you could never plan — and in fact, would have bet a large sum never would have happened, just hours before when you were an exhausted shell of a human. Angie and I still laugh about this night, in which we somehow brought a whole crew from the bar along with us (one of them turned out to have the voice of an angel, which he rudely only revealed after Angie and I murdered a couple Disney songs.)
As my train pulled out of New York, my body was completely depleted, but my heart completely full. It wasn’t an exotic tropical island, or a hardcore backpacking trip. It didn’t produce groundbreaking content, or yield earth-shattering prose. It was more practical than impressive.
But I’d traveled. And while it may have only been a hundred and fifty miles, and hadn’t gone exactly according to plan, it turned out it was just the trip I needed.
And then, I was back Upstate to Albany. But just a month later I was on my next trip… to somewhere much warmer!