Vintage travel poster of new york to illustrate travel article by Laura Martin Bovard

Most people I know have been to New York City at least once in their lives. It was never a destination desire for me. And yet, recently, life called me there and I answered.  I cannot deny that there is a lot of appeal for a beauty maker to spend time in such a colorful, vibrant, culturally-rich environment. But, to tell the truth, I resisted going because, well… New York scared me.

So many people… so many cold, hard surfaces. It turns out, of course, there is much more to New York than the narrow perspective I was holding about the City that Never Sleeps — beliefs that served to keep me “safe.”

Sometimes we hold beliefs like this, and then when we can move past them we discover that our fears — originally meant to protect us — were actually keeping us from having an exciting, new life experience!

Still, as an empathic, sensitive person, I wasn’t sure I had quite enough grit to DO New York, especially for the multiple visits in a few short months that I was contemplating, but I came to discover that this story about myself really isn’t true.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

If you are like me in this way, if you are feeling called to a New York adventure, but are holding back because you think this city is just too loud, noisy and unwelcoming read on…

In the spirit of “A Life by Design” (the name of my monthly column in the Piedmont Post) I am sharing with you today how I designed my trips to New York so that the experience would support my related passions — the transformation of Self and homes.

Having just returned from my third weekend there in as many months, I realized that with my cumulative knowledge, I had finally “hacked” how to “do” New York.

My secret sauce is to make sure that I have a mix of downtime for self-care, plus exposure to new art and resources for beautifying interiors. It also helped that the purpose of each weekend was for me to participate in an intense personal-growth workshop that created a new level of emotional freedom. Thus, I distill down for you, my New York City travel tips, or how to have a “Vacation by Design.”

1. Choose Your Travel Companions Thoughtfully: I may be stating the obvious here, but whom one chooses to travel with is vital to a fulfilling trip to New York. Dealing with cussing cab drivers, aggressive (I mean, assertive) airport staff, and cat-calling construction workers — yes, this is STILL a thing; What decade is this anyway?!

Grouchy spouse? Leave them at home — and find a fun friend to travel with instead! At this age and stage of our relationship, I know my husband’s limitations. If there isn’t a mountain peak or granite wall to get on, he’s not so into it.

Good friends riding in a pedicab in New York City

My traveling companion Andi Yablonski and I in a bicycle-drawn carriage

Having a level-headed, good humored travelmate is vital. And, if you are anything like me, choosing someone who is self-sufficient and doesn’t take it personally when you need alone time is equally important.

2. Home — I Mean Hotel — Is Where the Heart Is Nourished: (File under: I’ve done the research so you don’t have to; third time’s the charm)… after a few trials-and-tribulations, Eventi by Kimpton wins, hands-down!

Eventi Hotel Lobby

Eventi by Kimpton NYC hotel lobby: Wouldn’t you love for this to be your home-away-from-home living room?

Why? Gorgeous interiors with big, sexy bathrooms where one can really spread out; the highest-quality and very-friendly staff; exquisite views; two fabulous restaurants; and comfortable sofas in private nooks perfect for morning journaling and drinking endless coffee.

Poached eggs, arugula, coffee, lion's mane, journal

Starting my day with poached eggs, coffee, and reflection

3. Eat! I won’t even touch on recommending any particular restaurants, because New York is an absolute culinary Mecca. You can throw a dart and land on a good spot for a meal. I don’t bother to research. I ask my foodie friends, either locals or my traveling companions, for their recommendations and I follow their guidance — which frees up my research time for seeking out the art exhibits, flea markets, and maker faires that feed my need for aesthetic input and inspiration.

4. Art! Again, I won’t define it for you. There is so much to choose from. Just do it. Do art. See it, consume it: high art, low art, visual art, live art. All of it is happening in New York. Pick at least one thing, place, show. Don’t skip or skimp on this.

5. Have a Purpose: Lastly, traveling with a purpose is something I like to do in general. Sometimes the purpose is relaxation or connection with family, many times, if you know me, you know, it’s Self-transformation. Some people do fitness vacations, others do eating vacations, I do personal-growth vacations; capitalizing on my time off to expand, to explore and connect with who I am, so I can offer more contributions in my own life, my family’s life, my employees’ and my clients’ lives.

New York Crosswalk at Dusk

Crosswalk picture taken from the pedicab: the light at that hour was exquisite!

In this case my three weekends were a mashup of art and culture and foodie moments, and at the same time I was traveling primarily to study with Regena Thomashauer, a.k.a. “Mama Gena.”

Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts Mastery Program provides a creative, immersive, experiential, in-person learning curriculum for women — a program unlike any on earth — and students come from all over the world to study with her.

We who attended this workshop have all been shaped by life, and wounded by it, too. And through our different experiences, in this three-month immersion, we became one another’s teachers and a learning community of sisters.

As with any advice from anyone, please take from this what works for you, and let the rest go. If I can leave you with one overall message, my hope is that my suggestions for traveling with intention and seeking out beauty moments will help you to create adventures that leave you feeling resourced, such that the quality of your journeys to new places is both exhilarating and nourishing to your soul.