Flying back last Friday from Bogotá, Colombia meant a quick stop at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York before heading home to Seattle. Or, so I thought.
The layover was only about an hour and 40 minutes and getting through customs was brutal. There were 3 international flights all arriving at the same time and only 4 people manning the booths for much of it. By the time I got through and picked up my luggage, my plane was already boarding and I wasn’t even close to security. The nice people at Delta got me on the next plane…at 3:45 (it was only 7:30 am)! They checked in my bags and gave me my boarding pass and directions on how to catch the Air Tran to the A train to get to Manhattan. New York City, here I come!
It all worked seamlessly. I caught the Air Tran to Howard Beach where I jumped on the A Train. I had been to Manhattan once before and knew if I could get to Rockefeller center, I could work my way around. In looking at the map, I saw Cathedral Street. I knew St. Patrick’s Cathedral was next to 30 Rock, so I figured I’d get off there. That was my big mistake.
After getting out of the Subway and walking upstairs, I realized I was not where I wanted to be. I was in Harlem. Oops. I also had a large sum of cash I was carrying for my cousin for a deposit they needed me to make in the States. This only added to my growing apprehension. I started walking in the direction I thought I should. To say I felt out-of-place and a little on edge is an understatement. I remembered what my friend and personal safety guru, Larry Kaminer always says – “Act naturally and be observant.” I also called my wife. I figured if I was on the phone, that was a good thing. It was for me, but it wasn’t for her! Needless to say, Barb was very concerned (and loudly) that I had left the comfort of JFK airport to traipse around Harlem in my quest for Manhattan. Regardless, it was good to have her on the phone as I kept walking in the direction I thought I should be. Finally, I decided to check my GPS on my iPhone. I plugged in the only address I knew…30 Rockefeller Center. I was going in the right direction! However I was 3.6 miles and over an hour walking away! I was glad I dressed casually to travel that day!
Soon, I was very relieved to find the entrance into Central Park (Barb was still not happy at 5:30 am her time). I felt very safe among the joggers, walkers, baby strollers, and dogs in the park. It was a beautiful morning in New York City. As it tuned out, the GPS kept me on my way and in exactly an hour and change from the time I started the walk, I ended up at 30 Rock. I spent the morning walking around Manhattan, sipping on Starbucks, and taking pictures. Several hours later, I was on the train back (the right one), and easily made it to my gate in time to head home. It was a fun adventure and a great way to end my vacation.
Here are a few lessons that I took away from my jaunt into the city…
1. Take a few risks. I could have played it safe and stayed in a stuffy old airport in arguably the greatest city on the planet for 8 hours. I decided to take a risk and do something I’ve never done before. Sure, it came with a little scare, but it all worked out and I have a terrific story to tell. In business and life, you need to take a few risks to gain tremendous rewards.
2. Be prepared when you travel. I had a couple of energy bars in my backpack. I can tell you I was pretty hungry and the availability to have those handy was a life saver. I would have had water too but I couldn’t take it past security leaving Bogotá. When you travel, make sure you have food and water handy.
3. Act naturally in anxious moments. Yes, I admit I was nervous. However, I think I did a pretty good job of just trying to blend in and be natural. Otherwise, you cause unwanted attention to yourself.
4. Laugh. I actually chuckled to myself and then laughed about it when I was in the park. It really was an amusing set of circumstances that occurred. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.
5. Be in the moment. Be observant. Have fun. Take in beauty. Take in life. Don’t become so over-anxious and concerned that you waste precious moments and time.
Well, I’m back from my trip, Labor Day is in the books, and so it’s time to get after it. Captain Jack is laying here next to me as I type, so all is back to normal. Except, I now have new memories and stories because I took a few risks. Go out and do likewise!
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved