(Photo Details: Top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York--June 2014)
I’m just finishing up a five-week visit to Manhattan on our annual home-exchange vacation. I get a lot of questions from people about why I like to return to New York year after year. Why not go somewhere different? Why go for an entire month? And why go during the hottest time of year?
And I do have answers to all those questions. But this post is about the value of seeing something that you’ve seen before in a totally different light.
I just calculated that I’ve visited New York City 14 times over the last three decades for a cumulative total of eight months here. We used to come for a week at a time. We’d stay in a hotel, run from one activity to another--all day and all night--and then go home utterly exhausted. Since we started visiting for a month at a time seven years ago, we haven’t had to run ourselves so ragged. We take lots of time to recharge in between activities. But we still return home pretty tired. New York City has that effect on us.
In any case, I get why people are perplexed that I would want to do the same thing year after year.
Doug hits his limit of Manhattan about three weeks in. I could probably be here a couple months before I’d tire of this city. So this year, we tried something different. I flew out alone a week before Doug did. I invited a girlfriend and her daughter to join me for the week.
I spent the week playing drill-sergeant travel guide. In four days we covered a lot of territory. We went to many places I’ve been before: the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Bridge and the High Line, The Book of Mormon, a comedy club, Grand Central Station, and Times Square. I took them to my favorite restaurants and my favorite walks in Central Park. We also enjoyed a couple of sights that I had never seen in all my time here: the Statue of Liberty and the top of the Empire State Building. And this year the new 9/11 Museum opened just in time for their visit.
But while I was playing tour guide, I was seeing these familiar sights with fresh eyes--through the excited eyes of my friends. My friend Kendra is an artist, so she was giddy at the Met. Taylor is a civil engineering student in college, so she was enthralled with the Brooklyn Bridge and the museum inside the Statue of Liberty.
Every time I come here I have a completely different experience from the previous time. Some of that is simply from the changes here over the last 30 years. Some is because I have changed a lot in the last 30 years. The last few years though, it has been because friends have come out to visit while we are here. Even if we take them to do things we’ve done over and over again, we see things through their eyes. Appreciating all over again the things we love about this city.
It’s the same thing with retirement. I’ve been retired for six years now, and I don’t always look at retirement with those fresh, tourist eyes. Then I get an email from someone like Terri, who sends me joy-filled updates from Sun City about how much she appreciates having so much TIME. Or like Kaye who enjoys “a slow wake-up, with coffee and quiet time to read and reflect” each morning--a luxury that she didn’t have while still working. And especially like Jill, who is “playing at being at holiday,” enjoying her local museums, galleries, and concerts. Reminding me to take my tourist eyes home from New York and use them back at home all year long.
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