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Coming to New York for the summer would’ve been much scarier if I had never been here before. Luckily, I already had a base familiarity.

Still, I hadn’t really done my research. I didn’t know my way around the subway. I hadn’t checked out what’s going on  in the next few weeks or made my bucket list for the summer. Consequently, much of my time the first couple days (when I wasn’t out and about) was spent researching things to do – parks, museums, talk shows, restaurants, sightseeing, tours, etc.

By the end of the weekend I had quite an extensive list, which left me feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I want to do and see this summer and not knowing where to start.

I also was still quite nervous about navigating the subway and hadn’t found a map yet.

Third, Central Park was farther away than I expected, and I wasn’t thrilled about running on city blocks, so I was also wondering about how and where I was going to go running.

So somewhere in my first few days here, I was just feeling generally confused and seemed to be in a state of waiting — waiting for someone to give me some answers. Where should I go first? What’s most important? How do I learn the subway system? Where should I go running?

And then I had a bit of an epiphany: No one is going to tell me. That’s what this experience is all about. I have to figure these things out on my own.

So I did.

I looked at my long, long list and picked a starting point. I went on a walking tour Sunday, I acquired maps of the city and subway Monday, and when I got off work early Tuesday I went exploring on my own. I saw many of the midtown landmarks, and along the way I came across many other noteworthy NYC items, taking the time to just take it in.

I took the subway the first night I was here, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that I took it alone and took it with a connection. But I just got on, determined to make it work and telling myself that I could just get off and start over if I picked the wrong one. Fortunately, that never happened. One line didn’t stop where I thought it would, but I just checked the map and redirected.

I got up in the morning and went on a run, just seeing how a potential route worked out. I made it to Central Park without having to fight big crowds and ran into the park for a while. Halfway through, I turned around. I didn’t retrace my steps correctly, but I just reoriented once I reached the street.

So I’ve realized, with my sightseeing and my running and my subway riding, that I have to just go do it. I sometimes needed to consult my map of the city and give away my out-of-towner status, but I’ve accepted that that’s ok. Besides, I’m not going to look like a local when I’m taking pictures, anyway. And luckily my instincts have served me well – and the streets are numbered.

By the end of my solo sightseeing adventure Tuesday — which included subway transfers, spontaneous landmarks and an unexplored neighborhood — I felt I had finally mastered New York City. Obviously, I still have an enormous amount to see and do, but I’ve taken the initiative. I can make my own plans, do my own research, and most importantly, then go out and do these things — whether I have companions or not.

No one is going to tell me how, but that’s ok. I don’t need it.

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