Explore NYC the Budget Traveler Way

Have you ever dreamed of setting foot to the Big Apple yet worried about the expenses? The higher cost of living in the metropolis is expected. However, everything is possible with subtle opportunities here and there. I spent two months during the summer in New York City (and the weekend visiting other cities in the East Coast) with average spending of $800 per month.

Lodging

Accommodation is probably one of the major expenses in traveling, especially in the urban area where space is scarce and pricey. Fortunately, I found out the Workaway platform where traveler can volunteer for assigned job in exchange for free housing. This service is available in most cities and countries. All you need is just to spend some time to search for the right project that matches your interest, capability, and need. My dream came true when I got matched with a host in Brooklyn. The main duties were housekeeping (which took less than 3 hours per day) and community building through event that fostered bonding among the house residents. Once I completed my daily task on my own time, I was free to roam around the city. It costs $50 to sign up the membership but I get to stay in NYC for two months completely FREE. You don’t need much mental analysis to know its worthiness.

Food

Another great thing about my workaway’s place was that it included basic food like rice, milk, cereals, etc. Since it had a full kitchen, I bought groceries and cooked and my own meals most of the time. I allowed myself some good food once a while, especially after a long day of exploration in the city with an exhausted body (in the weekend usually). All together I spent an average of $270 for food per month.

Transportation

One can access NYC with a monthly metro pass which works for both subway and bus. The monthly pass costs $127 and gives you unlimited ride in the city. Each trip with the subway or bus costs $2.75. If you will spend 46 or more trips in a month, the monthly pass is definitely a wise choice. There are daily and weekly passes as well for those with shorter stay.

Sightseeing at low cost

The city itself offers a wide range of attractions, be it high-end mall that satisfies the shopaholic in you, museum or site that fuels the historical knowledge, or a sensational evening with the musical show. Instead of paying the full original price for the admission ticket, one can opt for the New York Explorer Pass that gives discount to most of the sight-seeing spots. Certain museums offer pay-as-you-wish or free admission during specified day and time. Check this page out. These were the spots of my choices and their related fees:

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum- $1 (pay-as-you-wish on every Sat 5-8pm)

MET- $12 (student price)

Museum of American Natural History- $27 (student price with full access to special exhibition and show)

Museum of Jewish Heritage- $10 (student price)

The Jewish Museum- $0 (free on every Sat)

The New York Historical Society- $2 (pay-as-you-wish every Fri 6-8pm)

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island & Top of the Rock- $56 (using New York Explorer Pass)

Places for free

Besides those ticketed entrance, there are plenty of free places worth visiting.

Places for walk and recreation- Flushing Meadows Corona Park at Queen, Central Park, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge

Places for architects and monuments- Mid-Manhattan Library, Grand Central, Atlas Statue, St.Patrick’s Cathedral, Flatiron Building, Dumbo

Places to shop- Time Square, The Strand bookstore, Chelsea Market, Chinatown

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While there are many more to-dos in NYC, those were places I went which fulfilled the learner spirit in me. My list is definitely not exhaustive,  but it gave me a good grip of New York’s past and present.

I hope you will enjoy NYC!

 

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American Museum of Natural History

The movie ‘Night at the Museum’ has casted a strong impression of that museum in me. I finally visited this amazing museum after more than 10 years later.

Established in New York City in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) housed over 33 millions of specimens of fossils, animals, plants, rocks, minerals, meteorites, human remains as well human cultural artifacts. Recognized as the largest natural history museum in the world, one should not surprise to find a long line right outside the main entrance regardless of time and day of visit.

The suggested admission fee for adult is $23 ($18 for student) but one can pay what you wish at the counter. If you are opting for access to one or all of the special exhibition and shows, you can pay for the full price of $33 ($27 for student) at the kiosk, which will save you plenty of queuing time. Since the museum closes at 5.30pm, one should allocate a full day to have a thorough tour in these halls of knowledge. I personally am considering to visit it for the third time.

There are four main floors with exhibitions. Floor 1 consisted of Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, Hall of Biodiversity, Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life, North American Forests, Warburg Hall of New York State Environment, Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, Ross Hall of Meteorites, Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway and Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth. The Hayden Planetarium houses the space show on the Dark Universe. The LeFrank Theater shows a giant-screen film- Oceans: Our Blue Planet.

The second floor has the signature of the museum- Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda that greets visitors at the grand entrance. The other parts are Akeley Hall of African Mammals, Asian Mammals, Stout Hall of Asian Peoples, Bords of the World, African Peoples, Mexico and Central America, South American Peoples, and Hayden Bing Bang Theater. The Butterfly Conservatory is closed and will be opened on October 2019.

The third floor is the home to Reptiles and Amphibians, T.rex: The Ultimate Predator (temporary exhibitions), Primates, Sanford Hall of North American Birds, New York City Birds, Akeley Hall of African Mammals, Eastern Woodlands Indians, Plain Indians, and Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples.

The top floor is where one finds the extinct giant- Ornithischian Dinosaurs and Saurischian Dinosaurs. Also, there are Primitive Mammals, Vertebrate Origins, Milstein Hall of Advanced Mammals, and Wallach Orientation Center. There was an exhibition on Unseen Oceans but it is closed in August 2019.

As you have noticed, this enormous museum covers the entire world we are living in, from the universe to the microscopic form of life; creatures from the past to the present and not to mention the myriad cultures where humanity deeply rooted in. It will not be exaggerated to equate a tour in AMNH to travel across time and space.

The evolution of life is no doubt astounding. While nature continues to find its way for betterment, our selfishness with misuse of resources has harmed other lives by causing them to suffer and extinct. We have an amazing home planet enriched with biodiversity today, but how long would that last?

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Book Review: How To Be Yourself by Ellen Hendriksen

Growing up with constant feedback that I should speak up more, I adopted the belief that quietness is a form of social malfunction while the opposite trait like extraversion is a desired and “healthy” personality. I spent time trying to convert myself to an extrovert by taking part in all different kinds of social activities. Over time, I succeeded in making people noticed me, but I was exhausted too at the same time.

And then came ‘Quiet: The Power of Introvert in a World that can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain which relieved us, the quiet person. Susan gave a detailed insight into introversion and its power. The introvert is different from extrovert in many ways. But those differences do not make the silent group less capable or sociable. This quiet revolution definitely made us being appreciated better and not being urged to transform ourselves into someone else.

Many years after, ‘How To Be Yourself’ popped up in my Facebook’s book recommendation column. At first sight, I know I must get it. ‘How To Be Yourself’ addressed a slightly different issue (social anxiety) from ‘Quiet’ (introversion). Social anxiety evokes uneasiness at the thought of meeting people, especially crowd or stranger. Escaping a social situation could subdue the anxiety, but also trigger guilt related to social incompetence. On the other hand, introversion is the enjoyment of having private time with oneself or intimate friends. A social situation will not freak introvert out, nor does declining a party will bring a sense of guilt.

According to the author, social anxiety usually unfold due to four main areas that we are inferior of : our anxiety itself, our appearance, our character, and our social skills. We are constantly thinking that people may notice our flaws from head to toe, the way we present ourselves to others. We are worried that we will be disliked if we don’t behave perfectly. Before we learn how to tackle social anxiety, let’s look at the bright side of it. Evolutionary, social anxiety played a helpful role in maintaining social order and group harmony but inhibiting aggressive behavior. However, an excessive amount of shyness will deter a meaningful connection with others.

Social anxiety is part of an inner critique that drives away our best self by aggravating things that might go wrong. However, they are often flawed and fallible. We can start out by embracing our inner critique by accepting it without any defense or thought to push it away. Next time when you hear your inner voice: ‘you suck and can’t social well’, response to it by saying ‘thank you for your reminder, but I am improving and I believe I can do it’. The other way to deal with inner critique is by replacing it with a more positive belief. Instead of thinking “You are not talented, no one will like you’, tell yourself that you are good enough and deserve friends. It is simply a change of thoughts.

We often assign conditions to achieve a goal that we have. For example, I can only mingle with people when I am confident enough. The truth is confidence will be built gradually throughout the process of attempt. We start to approach people then confidence will accumulate.  Just like the muscles resulting from a consistent workout, social interaction will get easier each time we practice approaching people. Oftentimes, we succumb to self-degrading thought due to the spotlight effect, a situation in which we overestimate the attention given by others. As a result, we try to be perfect by acting cool and excel in as many aspects as possible. The high standards we set to ourselves have hold us back from reaching to others. The truth is we are much better than we think and others notice us less than we realize.

To go the extra mile, one can choose a role to play by giving yourself some structure. Instead of being the usual intimidated you, construct a bold and confident character in you and act according to that identity. Pose powerfully. Through repetition, your brain will start to ingrain the new identity you created for yourself.  ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg explained how consistent behavior over a duration will create a habit that sticks.

Good news pointed out is that we all possess the right social skill, we are only lack of confidence in executing that innate skill. It is not about being the right person or looking for the right person to make friends with. Instead, a person becomes right overtime when we in contact with them over and over again. This again, show the power of repetition. To escalate the friendship from acquaintance to a confidant, we disclose ourselves through the reciprocity of give and take. When we first met people, we usually ignite the connection through small talk. As time pass by, the conversation will go more intimate by sharing personal feeling and thought. We like people that like us. We can apply this rule of reciprocity by showing others we like them by being the first to approach and say hi. Last but not least, the connection is always built on warmth and trust.  Once those elements are embedded, you are bounded to have friendship that is fulfilling and last.

Social anxiety could be a hindrance for most of us in navigating the complex social world. Nevertheless, it is solvable by instilling positive thoughts in us and start practicing it. It may require us to go out from comfort zone and stumble across some awkwardness, but the outcome will worth it all.