I had three fantastic travel companions. Two were friends and co-workers, with similar interests (books and toys? yeah, we're proud nerds), similar tolerance levels for walking and when to stop, and positive attitudes that made for an enjoyable trip. The third companion was my bag of almonds. (See? Turning it back into a health/fitness blog). The thing about travel is that it's unpredictable. You don't always have control over when and where you get to eat. This is beyond the ability to make good choices. It's not like you can't find food on every street corner in New York. Literally. We walked around a city block trying to figure out from which cart the fragrant smell was coming from. We thought it was fried dough of some kind. Turns out, it was roasting nuts. But all that food, the assault on the senses, can make it hard to keep any kind of balance. Caloric or financial. It's also a fine balance between your wants and your needs, and the amount of energy your body requires to criss-cross midtown Manhattan a few times during the day. And who wants to spend all of their time eating when there is so much to see? It was the bag of almonds that saved me, a few times, from having a blood-sugar crash type of headache, or the energy to just keep going.
Actually, that bag came in far more handy the day before. As perfect as Saturday was, Friday was the opposite. It's the example of how life sometimes gets in the way of all your plans, and that there are days on which it really is not possible to get your exercise in or to maintain healthy eating. We left super early, because the weather was pretty bad and we weren't sure how the roads would be. So, I was up at 4:30 am, running on only a few hours of sleep from the two nights before. It was half-rain, half-ice out. As early as we were, it still took most of that time standing in line to get through all the security checkpoints and searches. Nothing makes me feel more like an animal, inhuman, than air travel. Our gate was at the farthest point of the terminal, in an old rickety wing that had only one restaurant option, not the multiple stores we had passed along the way. It was like a portable classroom version of an airport terminal. So, stopping and getting some breakfast/lunch before our flight, the food choice was pretty limited. Great Canadian Bagel. Okay. Bread it is, for the first time in a long while. The flight was only supposed to be an hour. We were going in to Newark, on the New Jersey side. I figured that I could last an hour, no problem, without food or water or needing a washroom. So a lot of the things I usually rely on to get me through a flight were in my carry-on, which was stored under the plane, not in the overhead bin. I only had my purse. Which became a problem when we taxied to the end of the runway for takeoff, were told we were going back, sat on the plane on the runway for another hour or so, taxied again for takeoff, were told again that PSYCH! we weren't able to take off, and this time we had to de-plane since we had been on the aircraft for too long at that point. But I had my almonds with me, so I didn't pass out.
The issue we were facing was that New Jersey, New York, and much of the eastern sea board were in heavy fog, and the airports were in a ground stop. Nothing was getting in or out. In Toronto, they had no idea when or whether a flight would be allowed to leave for Newark. Now, it was clearly frustrating and inconvenient for all the passengers. Our dilemma, though, was how short our trip was. If we couldn't get out some time on Friday night, there would be no point in going at all. The earliest flight they could re-book us for was Saturday at 3 pm. Um, yeah. The return flight on Sunday morning at 10 am? That would mean flying to New York basically just for dinner. Pretty pricey. As it was, I was starting to think that the 3 hour nap on the plane while waiting on the runway was about to be the most expensive sleep I'd ever had, given that our tickets were non-refundable, as was our hotel. (The price of getting last-minute deals, eh). We had no viable choices, so we just waited. Our plane was there, it wasn't officially cancelled like many of the other flights were, and we just had to hope for the fog to lift.
You know what? Attitude is everything. It's one of those things that you know, in your head, but it's hard to remember in the heat of the moment or in your heart. It's something that is reinforced over and over again when it comes to fitness and health. Patience and attitude. Nothing happens quickly in fitness, and nothing happens quickly in airports! A positive attitude is part of good physical and mental health. All around us, people were losing it. On each other, on the customer service reps. It was kind of a gong show. I was disappointed, of course. I was trying to stay positive and hopeful, but the reality was that I also had to allow myself to think through the scenario of "this trip may be cancelled." Because if I didn't, if I did not go through that process of "what if?" then I know I would have had a bad reaction to a worst-case scenario. There would have been tears. I don't play the "what if?" game to be negative. I play it so that I can work out solutions in advance. If A happens, then I can B or C or D. If X doesn't happen, what do I need to have in place for Y and Z to happen? My goal this year is to find balance, and this is one way that I do it. Don't skew too far on either end of the pendulum between positive and negative thinking. There was no point in getting angry. Nobody could control the weather. The attendants were just doing their job. A blind optimism, lacking any sense of reality, also doesn't help me. Just saying "it'll be fine, it'll work out" and not knowing how, is delusional. I appreciated that I was with people who walked that same middle ground. We admitted that it sucked, we were disappointed, and that we needed to know our options. We also didn't get mad, didn't get rude, and tried to remain as hopeful and positive as possible. While having a beer.
In the end, it was while sitting and having a pint that things worked themselves out. We just had to be patient. Some people from our flight, who we'd chatted to in line because they were not on their phones yelling at people or trying to get new seats immediately, passed us and said "are you going to Newark? They just announced it, the flight is leaving!" We got on the plane, and the third time was the charm. (After another brief delay, which had me giggling at the absurdity of it all. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh). We got in to New York City, about 8 hours later than planned, having missed the show for which we had tickets, but we were there. Trying to look on the bright side, I figured that at least ALL we lost were those theatre tickets. (And the chance to see Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen performing together, but I digress. Let it go, let it go, let it go). I could have lost all of that money, and the experience on top of it. Instead, I got one perfect day in New York City.
You know, the main reason we went to New York was to visit the library, and the exhibit. Outside of the library are two stone lion statues, named Patience and Fortitude. I thought I was going to NYC to see Patience, to see Fortitude. Rather, I re-learned and I practiced my own patience and fortitude. Now that's an education and experience worth having.
Plan ahead. Be prepared. Part of maintaining balance is planning ahead, and being prepared for various contingencies ... without overpacking and trying to be prepared for every possibility. Oh, and wear sensible shoes if you're going to walk a lot.
Flexibility matters. You gotta go with the flow. Same with balance. Balance is about knowing when to walk and when to take a cab. Balance is about having the drive to keep momentum going so you make the most of the time you have, and also the restraint to know when to pause for a break.
Sleep is important. We started out tired, and the mental toll that the false starts and the lack of answers took was probably harder than it needed to be. Also, when we finally got in on Friday night, it would have been easy to say "let's get stupid to make up for the time we missed!" By being a little bit mature, and going back to the hotel instead of to Times Square, I think we had a much, much better Saturday. Sleep solved a lot of Friday's problems, and prevented a world of hurt on Saturday.
Have a strong circle of influence. I have a lot of great friends. I happened to be travelling with two wonderful people who had similar interests and personal thresholds for things. We worked well together. And part of that working well was finding balance. You know you're travelling with the right influences when they say "I feel like I need some fruit, we should find a grocery store" and "hey! there's a cheesecake shop. Whaddaya say? Cheesecake for breakfast?" and no discussion is needed, you all just turn and head in. Balance.
Patience and Fortitude. Sometimes, you won't have the answer and you won't have control. Be patient. If you are prepared, if you are flexible, and if you keep your wits about you - if you maintain an inner fortitude - then things will
often sort themselves out on their own. You just have to wait and let them. Without patience, we may have cancelled the trip altogether, and lost out on a great memory.
Keep it simple. The simple things in life are the most rewarding. Central Park was one of the best parts of my day, and it was so simple. The sun was shining, we were walking, I was surrounded by nature. It was free. It was active. And the people enjoying it were using it, not just watching it. Walking, running, biking, skating. Even if you feel like you're only observing, you still have to be in it to be part of it.
Seek adventures. They don't just happen. One friend said, "this is so unlike you." Actually, it isn't. I love to travel. I would do this kind of thing all the time if I had the time and money. And therein lies the problem: there is never enough time, and never enough money. I had to make it happen. Someone said, "let's go" and I said "okay" instead of the more common response of "no, can't." Before you say "can't" ask yourself if you can make it happen. Stepping away from work, from the perpetual to-do list, from the daily grind, it's the only way to have an adventure like this.
Have child-like fun. Stay young. Be silly. Okay, it may be my personality, but the best parts of my day were the ones which had to do with childhood. The toy store. Making and buying a Muppet. Children's books, coming to life. Even Central Park and all the associations of fun and silliness. I, um, I also had a cape in my purse which made an appearance in a few pictures. If you can't get away with that kind of silliness in New York City, where CAN you? We laughed a lot, and it made the whole trip so much better.
Look for beauty. Some things have to be appreciated in the moment. In fitness, you do a lot of delaying gratification (don't eat that now, so you don't regret it later), and you have to work hard for future payoffs. I learn the most from reflecting and ruminating. Yet, I went back to Starry Night three times. It had to be felt. I had to pause, stand there, feel the painting, get close to see the thickness of the strokes. It's not something I can get back just by looking at photos or thinking about. Van Gogh was a tortured soul, and still he saw beauty everywhere. No matter what happens, look for the beauty around you. If you look, you'll find it.