Thank you, NYC

Ten months after I moved to a small fishing village in Costa Rica, I’ve come to an interesting revelation: I most feel at home in Coco (population: 3000) because of the time I spent in New York City. I’ve moved around so much, that those five years living in Manhattan are my record, as long as I’ve lived anywhere. From there, I moved to Austin, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, all which ended up being temporary stops. Now? I’ve got NYC on the brain. Here are the surprising ways that living in the big city eventually turned me into a small town girl.

1. My first house in Costa Rica was only slightly bigger than a Yukon, but I’m used to cramped space. In NYC, my bedroom was the size of my bed. (Literally. I had to climb off the foot in order to get off it.)

2. New Yorkers have street smarts. Slightly tweak them, and you’re good to go in Costa Rica. When I was robbed my fourth night in Coco, I didn’t go running back home to the US; I knew I just had to learn a different layer of protecting myself. And I was a quick study thanks to my early years in NYC.

3. Having a car in Central America is expensive, but that’s ok. I prefer to call a taxi anyway.

4. In New York, I was too busy to see my friends as often as I would’ve liked, so email was my life-line. Now, a good chunk of my friends live far away. But keeping in touch constantly via email and social media feels comfortable to me.

5. City life guarantees a certain anonymity — but since you’re out walking around, you run into familiar faces all the time. “Big city, small neighborhood” is a feeling I still have. On the one hand, I have the unsettling feeling that nothing could find me or catch up to me in Costa Rica as a whole, since it feels so foreign. But I know all the neighbors, which calms me again.

6. Shopping in Manhattan was so pricey (and I worked too much to have time for it) that I really didn’t do it much. In Coco? I’m grateful I never became a shopoholic – we have only two stores that sell clothes. And you need to wade through racks of wooden souvenirs to find the dresses.

7. NYC boasts quite the booze culture. Thankfully, it taught me how to hold my own, because there’s a lot of drinking in Costa Rica.

8. My oldest friends live in New York, and when we’re together we don’t have to do anything to have fun. Exhausted from long days of work, fun was watching The Apprentice together and ordering in sushi. In Costa Rica, I also have a tight-knit group of girlfriends, and we gather at a dirty old stoop. A group of friends takes any city from fun to special.

9. Long-term, I feel most comfortable in cities I can’t get lost in. (Hello, Manhattan’s grid system.) I was so happy to leave behind the sprawling cities of Austin and LA, where I was constantly calling friends in a state of panic.

10. Living in Manhattan was about following my dreams and having adventures. I was a risk-taker in my 20s, tearing through the city causing trouble like the fearless young woman I was. Now that I’ve caught the travel bug again and become an expat, I have that youthful spirit to thank. NYC, I owe you one, old friend.

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. I love this post. I live in DC right now & know I won’t be here forever – in fact, I have no idea how long I’ll be here. But I like to think that wherever I go next, my time in this city will carry over & help me out.

  2. I think it’s called the phases of life :) Nice post.

  3. If that dirty old stoop could talk…

  4. How funny…I would never have thought of comparing the two, but you are right–those two places and the skills you need to live there really do complement each other. I’m from Austin, and I know what you mean–getting around here can be a nightmare. Only our downtown has an easy-to-navigate grid format. The rest is craziness. I’m going to Manhattan on Friday, and you’re right; despite it’s big size, with the grids, you’re often never totally lost (though leave it to me to get lost anywhere I go…).

  5. @Suburban If you can drive the Beltway, you can go anywhere!

    @Nancie Isn’t it funny how life goes in Cycles?

    @Lisa NONE of us wants that!!

    @Emily Thank you for understanding Austin! That also the city I learned to drive in after so long in NYC. It was not pleasant. Have in NYC this weekend. I hope I get to meet you!

  6. Here, here! Can’t wait to see the city for itself. You make it sound lovely.

  7. Bonita, what a lovely post!!! I can relate to absolutely everything you said. #10 was my fave and is OH SO TRUE! Have the best time in the Big Apple this weekend. Give our City a big kiss for me. :)

  8. @Candice!! NYC can’t wait for you to get here.

    @Andi I wish you were coming — NYC needs to host Abby and Andi on a girls’ trip. But there are so many more places to see, too. ;-)

  9. And now how do you feel now you’ve been back to NY?

    (Was watching the livestream. TBEX rocked).

  10. This is one of my favorite posts you’ve written. As a former New Yorker, I can relate to every single one of these points! Lovely.

    (How was TBEX?)

  11. Hey, Mike! I wish you would’ve come! We had such a blast. And I really miss NYC now. I’ve never come back to Costa Rica with such mixed emotions! But no rest for the weary — off to Nicaragua tomorrow.

    Thanks, Kristin! Now it’s time to get ready for the culture shock. Going back and forth can be tough!

  12. This is a great post! I love how you managed to find so many similarities in two seemingly disparate places. I also love that both of these cities are part of you and homes for you. And, this line, “A group of friends takes any city from fun to special,” made me smile. So thankfully true! xoxo

  13. Wow – seeing the connections between the two is really, really interesting. I definitely would’ve missed the connections but you’ve convinced me! How cool.

  14. Love this post. I’m on the travel trail for the next year or two, but I’m seriously considering moving to NYC whenever I return to the states. It’s one of my favorite cities and a very different environment from Seattle where I grew up.

  15. @CityGirl So glad you liked it!! We’re so similar!

    @Adam I’d been meaning to do that post for awhile; I just needed the excuse. It all started when no one could believe I could live in such a tiny little house. But I was SO used to it!

    @Drew Keep in touch while you’re on the road! You’ll LOVE New York. Most adventurous types do!

  16. Beautiful, heartfelt points. NYC vs. Coco. To most people it’s a clear divide, but you’ve melded the two fantastically.

  17. This was a great post! Although Toronto is no NYC (some people like to think it is but it isn’t) it is Canada’s largest city. Living here has been a good training ground for a lot of things. It’s taught me how to be more direct & aggressive (in a good way) -something I never mastered growing up in a sleepy, slow paced seaside town.

  18. Loving this site and the great posts. Great post.

  19. I definitely feel like my “past life” in Philadelphia has helped me with the adjustments that I’ve had to make since moving to Argentina. A lot of what you wrote rang true for me. Great post!

  20. Love it! I’m a city girl myself, but I hate getting lost in big cities too. I enjoy smaller metropolitan cities.

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