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My First Solo Weekend Trip in New York

by Serina Gousby
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I remember the day I started planning for this solo trip. In the last week of August, I was burnt out from everything. Balancing work, the blog, family, friends, and my nonexistent social life turned unhealthy, and I lost a part of me when I decided to take a long break from the blog. Although the break was needed to make this platform stronger, my spirit still wasn’t in the best shape.  I knew life was much more than going to work and coming home to sleep, but I fell into that routine, and I needed a change.

Then, an idea clicked in my head. Why not use some of my remaining vacation days and plan a real vacation…a solo vacation? My previous vacation in August doesn’t count because I stayed home, cleaned for most of the week, and had one day at the beach. I definitely deserved a do-over.

I love New York. It’s only four hours away from Boston, there are amazing events happening all the time, and it seemed like the perfect place to get away from everything. The last couple of solo destinations I experienced happened in New York, but I would always return to Boston on the same day. That was about to change, and I decided to challenge myself to stay for four days and three nights. I had my mind set on November because I wanted to attend the third annual Well-Read Black Girl Festival in Brooklyn, so I immediately searched for an Airbnb apartment, got my travel and festival tickets, and by the beginning of September, I noticed a significant change in my attitude and mood pattern. 

Since I planned to arrive in New York the day before the festival, and leave two days after, I needed more activities, so I planned each day with a theme, and each activity faced a challenge and fear I wanted to succeed. So, this is how it all went down:

 

Day 1: Treat Yourself

Rasta Pasta with Chicken and Shrimp from Footprints Cafe

Friday morning was horrible, and it seemed like Boston didn’t want me to leave. I wanted to experience a train ride to New York for the first time, but I shortly regretted it after my 6 am train canceled three hours after continuous announcements of the delay. Mind you, I did not sleep since Thursday morning, so just imagine the aching feeling of being up for over 20 hours. I originally wanted to arrive in New York as early as I could to sleep, experiment with some skincare products, watch a few movies, and eat some Caribbean food from Footprints Cafe, a nearby popular restaurant in Brooklyn. Thankfully, I was able to do all except skincare, by the time I arrived in Brooklyn at 4 pm. I managed to order in the food, and watch Love Jones, American Son, and The Matrix on Netflix, and getting ready for the Well-Read Black Girl festivities the next day.

Day 2: Well-Read Black Girl Festival

Beautiful. It’s the only festival I’ve ever attended where Black female readers and writers come together in one space, purchase books, meet authors, and watch panels throughout the day. When I attended the first year’s festival in 2017, I was blown away by the experience and it’s really the one event that pushed me to keep this blog at the time. This year’s theme, however, was “Reading for Resistance, Reading for Revival,” and the topics in each panel spoke on how writers use their platforms, books, and writing processes to raise awareness, and to pave the way for the next writers to come. Some of the panels I loved included a discussion with author Erica Armstrong Dunbar, whose book She Came To Slay, documents the life of Harriet Tubman. Another panel featured poets Mahogany Browne, DaMaris Hill, Josie Duffy, Aja Monet, and Kalisha Buckhanon discussing mass incarceration of black women, and how we can keep the women and ourselves encouraged and supported. 

YA is Lit Panel. (Left to Right: Ebony LaDelle, Nic Stone, Dhonielle Clayton, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Jacqueline Woodson

My favorite panel was the “YA is Lit” panel featuring authors Jacqueline Woodson, Elizabeth Acevedo, Nic Stone, and Dhonielle Clayton. They discussed everything from their reasons for writing Young Adult literature, their self-care rituals (which will be its own blog post soon), and their writing processes. Lastly, the opening performances from 2019 NYC Youth Poet Laureate Camryn Bruno, and the legendary poet Stacyann Chin literally made every woman in that space cry. It was such a stellar moment to see the impact of spoken word poetry, especially when the encouraging words resonated so much to black women. You can never go wrong with poetry to start the day. 

 

Day 3: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

A shot of me on the Brooklyn Bridge

I did a lot on this day. I didn’t want to leave New York without seeing different parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, so I found two Airbnb Experiences that would encourage myself to be more social, feel more comfortable with my body, and teach me more about different aspects of wellness. The first experience was a 9am photoshoot in the Dumbo neighborhood and the Brooklyn Bridge 

I was incredibly nervous taking these pictures, and in the first few photos, I could just tell how uncomfortable I was. However, as I was talking to the photographer, Nik, more about his 10-year experience and knowledge around the area, posing for the photos became easier. He even helped me with pose suggestions, but constantly told me to be myself. Thinking back, I wish I did more poses and faces that would have shown more of the excitement I had internally, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the photos came out. The ones I have now are all unedited, and I received them on Sunday evening. With the experience, I can have 15 of the photos edited (out of 300+), which is great because some of my favorites came out dark. The photoshoot also represented a few things that I wanted to celebrate officially. I turned 25 years old this year, it’s been 7 years since I went natural, and I’ve lost over 10 pounds since April. My weight has been an ongoing issue for years, and I was emotional throughout the weekend as I slowly fell in love with my rolls and curves again.  Additionally, I don’t have many pictures with my afro, as much as I do with hair extensions, so this was a moment of celebrating my authenticity and beauty. Most importantly, if you read my letter to my dark skin, I hope you’re proud to know I wore gold jewelry. I haven’t taken it off since. After the photo shoot, and I spent the next hour walking on the Brooklyn Bridge and heading to my next activity, a walking tour.

 

On the walking tour with these amazing group of ladies.

Stephanie Flor, an NYC Makeup Artist and Founder of Around The World Beauty, hosted a beauty and wellness tour around the Soho neighborhood in Manhattan. It included everything I wanted to know about—rituals of clearing space with sage, Palo Santo, and Agua De Florida, the benefits of crystals, fragrances, and learning about various indie brands and small businesses that are only found in the area. I met four other women on the tour, and it was so exciting to connect with them, as well as the associates and owners of the shops we visited. The Alchemist’s Kitchen, The Detox Market, Atelier Cologne, and Natura Brazil were among the shops we learned about. This experience taught me ways to adjust my wellness and spirituality, along with understanding the importance of clean and non-toxic products that respond great with our bodies. 

 

Yasiin Bey, formally known as Mos Def

Now, for the night festivities, Yasiin Bey. Back in September when I was in the planning stage, I heard that Yasiin Bey, formally known as Hip Hop musician Mos Def, was going to perform in Brooklyn on November 3rd, the same weekend I would be there. Long story short, I managed to score tickets to the sold-out show, and witness one of my favorite hip hop artists perform the entirety of his Black on Both Sides album for its 20th Anniversary.

Dave Chappelle and Yasiin Bey

The show was on time, and I arrived pretty early with a line that wrapped around a portion of the building. Camp Lo opened up the show, who I also admire as one of my favorite groups because all of their music is full of pure lyricism. Yasiin danced on stage during their performance of “Luchini AKA This Is It”. When it was time for Yasiin to perform, I was smiling so hard. I couldn’t believe that I was in Brooklyn watching a Brooklyn native artist perform his legendary art. There was a special appearance by Pharoahe Monch who performed Simon Says, and I nearly got trampled by a few guys the second the beat dropped. A surprise at the end of the night was an unexpected 40-minute comedy and music encore from Yasiin, Dave Chappelle and Tiffany Haddish. I was able to get one photo in before Dave told us to put our phones away, and I’m glad he did that because it centered us back to enjoy the moment. Overall, I had a very authentic New York night concert experience that will always stick with me.

Day 4: Reflect and Return

My last day before heading back to Boston was very minimal and simple. I packed the remaining items I had, cleaned the Airbnb spotless, and walked to a nearby cafe for tea and breakfast food. I usually don’t have breakfast so this was a great moment to change up the routine and be in the city on a Monday morning when everyone is back on their regular schedule.

This trip was everything I needed it to be. I arrived there with so much exhaustion and excitement and came back home rejuvenated. I managed to be more social, meet more people, talk about my blog, learn from authors who look like me, celebrate every roll on my body, and smile. I smiled and laughed so much on this trip, and it still amazes me how I kept myself safe, alert, and well throughout it all. In the next few weeks, I’ll definitely share my tips and strategies as a solo traveler, as well as ways to keep yourself financially secure while traveling. In the meantime, I encourage anyone to plan a weekend, a week, or even a day to help recover from rough situations like burnouts because we have to take care of ourselves. My next steps are to implement new rituals and experiences with my daily routine, and I hope to continue this journey of traveling…it’s so healing. 

It set a fire in me that won’t burn out anytime soon. 

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