Observations from an adventure

By James Willoughby

Two weeks ago my wife and I left the sleepy suburbs of Ohio aboard a 12-passenger van, bound for the city that never sleeps. Our destination was the upper west side of Manhattan where a three-day whirlwind excursion awaited.

This was no ordinary vacation. Seven couples joined us on a trip arranged by our church and billed as a ‘Couples Adventure.’ My last visit to NYC was 23 years ago, and my recollections were giant rats, homeless shanty towns, and a man spitting on our windshield while cussing at my dad. I was in no hurry to return.

But at my wife’s prompting, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone in an attempt to wash away the bad taste left by the city two decades ago. What I learned on our long weekend is that a lot has changed in 23 years, both in NYC and in me.

Here are five observations I gleaned from our adventure:

1) New Yorkers Are Alright – Inhabitants of the Big Apple get a bad rap as being rude, but I didn’t see it. What I saw was young people giving up their seats on the subway so the elderly didn’t have to stand. Locals helped us with directions and information. I experience more rudeness in a typical weekend in Ohio than I did on this weekend in NYC.

2) Be Graceful – I don’t mean elegant but graceful in the sense that you are full of grace. I told my wife before we left that I was going to need her grace on this trip. I’m not crazy about big cities or crowds and knew I was going to be sleep-deprived. So we both approached this trip ready to extend forgiveness to each other.

3) Be Childlike – This might seem like an odd suggestion, but I’m not saying to enter NYC full of naivety. You need your wits about you to safely navigate the city. But children have a sense of awe and wonder that we often lose as adults. I had to drop my preconceived notions and treat this trip like an adventure.

4) Apps Are Good – I don’t know how tourists navigated NYC in the old days. I’m envisioning maps and compasses. But I would have been lost without the aid of a smart phone and some solid apps. One of our companions plotted the destinations and through some wizardry that is beyond me, his cellular device told us where to go and which subway lines would get us there. We live in amazing times!

5) Don’t Leave Love Notes In Your Spouse’s Sandwich Baggie – This advice isn’t specific to NYC. But one of the men on the trip shared a funny story about how his wife left love notes in her his lunch, in the baggie with his sandwich. After several days, his wife became distraught that he hadn’t acknowledged her efforts, only to find out he was ingesting the notes along with the sandwich. Wonderful idea for sharing your love with your spouse. Slight tweak needed in the execution.

There were things I didn’t like about New York City, like the crowds and weirdoes. But there is so much to appreciate. The City is saturated with history and icons that are testaments to what makes our nation great. Buildings speak of engineering marvel. Memorials cry out courage and perseverance. Lady Liberty welcomes the oppressed.

Poet, Emma Lazarus, described the statue and the spirit of New York City better than I ever will, “…A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome…”


By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.