Inspired by my Golden Birthday (turning 28th on March 28th), 28 Days of Awesome was created as a way to live local life to the fullest. Initially, when brought to my attention through a friend that 2017 was my lucky turning of age, I envisioned a weekend away. Boston, upstate New York, maybe the Carolina’s. However, without a current substantial, steady pay check the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a small vacation conceptually created more stress than anticipation. On the positive side, no routine commitment allows me the flexibility to seek the unknown any time of day, spreading my dollar to daily, local activities. Thus, creating a ‘golden’ opportunity for an extended adventure (and blog series).
Eventually, as expected, planning something ‘awesome’ every day for four weeks became exhausting. By day 17 I started referring to it as the 28 Day Challenge but, in conclusion of it all, 28 Days of Eating would have been a more accurate description.
Amid my struggle to pull through to the end, a friend’s text message read:
“Isn’t that life? We start off doing something because we have a passion for it and it becomes a challenge to continue as each day passes. But that’s one thing you’ve proven me wrong on several occasions. You decide to do something because you’re passionate about it and you see it through no matter what obstacles get in your way.” – Anonymous Motivator
Without realizing it, my idea was spreading light to those around me. As though someone dropped a match in gasoline, the fire within me was reignited and I successfully accomplished something new every day for 28 days.
- Finding Things That Are Free: In thinking up things to do I also needed to adhere to some sort of budget. Manhattan has dozens of talk shows that are free to attend. That’s right, be a part of a studio audience at no additional expense than the transportation it takes to get there. In a city where a drink can cost the same as a meal, it’s hard to find ways to inexpensively spend time. So, on March 1st I sat front row at The Wendy Williams Show as a way to kick off my month long celebration. In a wonderful turn of events, they asked me to be on call for future projects! Still on a high from the previous day, I attended a press & industry event for the new Broadway musical Anastasia, courtesy of The Garden City Hotel, where I met several of the producers and cast member Derek Klena.
- On a Budget, Coffee Coffee Coffee: There’s something to be said about a well crafted cup of coffee situated in an uniquely decorated shop. Independently owned coffee houses draw in personalities similar to the engaging atmosphere they provide. In addition, you know that money goes directly back into the local community. When it comes to ‘cawfee,’ I say- Go small or go home (I do enjoy my morning cup of Folgers, actually, home isn’t a bad idea either). One day, I stumbled into Toby’s Estate Espresso Bar located in the Flatiron, perfectly situated in connection to a sub-location of Strand Bookstore. Isn’t that the ideal combination, coffee and books? Another, I sought out Bellmore Bean Cafe, a place I’d passed countless times but for some reason or another never took the time to go inside. As it were, it was comedy night but turned out the joke was on us (at that point I realized why they had alcohol on the shelves next to the beans brewing). I also made a point to attend the Coffee & Tea Festival in Brooklyn, with my friends from Terranut. It was something I never experienced but found myself tweaking out from too much caffeine in the end (basically Kramer from Seinfeld).
- Take Time to Disconnect: Tending to my physical health and disconnecting became important on my list. After hearing the benefits of floatation therapy, I did a 60-minute float at iChill. Having been to the Dead Sea years ago, I had an idea what floating felt like. What I didn’t foresee was the hurdle of mental disconnection (that and getting salt in my eyes without clean water to wash them). At Hand & Stone a massage wasn’t new to me, that would’ve been a blog post experience in itself, but I requested my first male masseuse. I can honestly say I will never go back to women again (yes, fellas, you do it better).
- Philanthropy Feels Good: How ‘awesome’ could my days really be if all 28 were about myself? I participated in my first Zumbathon with my Long Island Crunch Crew benefiting Make-A-wish Suffolk County and learned how to line dance for the first time (Cotton Eye Joe doesn’t count) at Denim & Diamonds, benefiting The Ellen Hermanson Foundation. Oh, and I found out my veins are a nurses ‘wet dream’ as I donated blood for the first time with the New York Blood Center (it’s either true or the weirdest pick up line I’ve ever heard).
- Carpe Diem: When I was running out of ideas I stopped thinking and let the day progress naturally. I stumbled across a new Zumba instructor I hadn’t taken before, went to see a movie (Beauty & The Beast) for the first time alone, received my debut article for Luxury Living Magazine and saw my friends acoustic session at Craft Kitchen (a place I see every time I ride the LIRR but hadn’t yet tried).
- Give & Take: Not everything panned out as planned, like a two hour wait for indoor go-karting (which I’d never done on Long Island). While we took a great picture the real experiences were exploring local bars, rather forgetful in documenting the ‘awesomeness.’ Luckily, some things are easy to rely on, like a complimentary pilates class for new students! Though I am a self-proclaimed fitness foodie, this was my first pilates experience.
- When in Doubt, Eat…: Never one to turn down food, the easiest thing to do was discover new places to eat or drink. Grindstone in Sag Harbor had long been on my must-see list since its opening in summer 2016 (I vote donuts every time!) as was The VNYL in NYC (complimentary Irish Coffee on St. Patricks day? I’ll cheers to that). Piecraft was a unique option for a late night dinner with a craft-your-own-pizza attitude (Chef Nikki, coming to a pizzeria near you) and Kinha proved to be a good sushi option for a friendly catch up. Yet, when ‘snowstorm Stella’ came to town (meteorologists really called that sh*tshow) I had to prepare for things to do at home, and a new bottle of Natura Malbec wine tipsyed the scale in my favor.
- …And Eat Some More: As mentioned, not everything went as expected. As a backup, I revisited Bellmore Bean Cafe and tried their dessert with some Irish coffee (it was acoustic night, which was a nice change). But nothing, aside from my actual birthday, beat my final day of being 27 on the 27th. I waited 3 years to experience Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar as part of birthday celebrations and that dream finally came true. My admiration for the brand & love for polo made it an experience I hoped for and one that finally became a reality. Dream, dress and dine like a Lauren!
- Every Day is a Day to Celebrate: Having never been to a brewery before, and admiring local craft brews, I did a tasting flight at Port Jeff Brewery (their Cold North Wind Barleywine was especially delicious, but that could be the other 10 tastings from the flight talking). Finally, after a prior failed attempt, I made it to Crown Steakhouse where I sampled several of their nearly 200 different types of whiskey with the owner, Gerry (‘un-lushing’ my inner Irish).
- Spontaneity Works: Alright, so having brunch at Jam or attending a Paint Nite (both were firsts, as you can tell by my large order & terrible canvas) was planned in advance. But spontaneously trying on Victoria’s Secret Angel wings directly off the mannequin was a spur of the moment decision. On my 28th birthday the store lent me them so I ‘could fly.’ Sadly, they were too heavy, so I requested a photo op instead.
3 Things I Learned:
You Don’t Need to Travel Far to Get Away
Local adventures have the ability to shape our day-to-day lives. Over the course of 28 days my appreciation grew for my hometown and the surrounding areas. By committing to step outside my usual routine each day, even if for a moment, I discovered an unknown and felt a new sense of happiness.
Expect Less, Receive More
Money and people, two things where the more I rely on it the more disappointed I become. The value of an adventure isn’t measured by its price tag but by its impact. Free to low cost activities had a greater affect on me because I had low expectations, and if it wasn’t ‘awesome’ than I didn’t break the bank testing it out. The same went with friends. Over the course of 28 days I tried to involve as many people in my life as possible, to share in the experiences. Unfortunately, quite a few times I was let down and made to do things on my own. From disinterest in what I was doing, life getting in the way and even just flat out ditching me. It was when I committed to an idea, be damned who came with me, that others eagerly joined in. The less I asked the more I received.
Doing Things Alone is Awesome
I think I am awesome. I have an awesome sense of humor, an awesome mind, an awesome array of interests, an awesome outlook on life and an awesome ability to meet people anywhere I go. Yes, I am confident, I am awesome. So why should I worry about doing things alone? Since I love who I am and what I am doing things solo eventually became easy. As I mentioned in my blog about solo travel, doing things alone allowed me to be selfish and ignore other peoples noise. Besides, smiling is a fantastic ice breaker!