The Free Vacation Idea for Broke, but Creative People
The Free Vacation
One fine midsummer's day, my creative writing friend and I decided that we just had to get away from it all - or we would run amok. But where would we go on vacation, spend no money and know that we would have a good time?
What is this Eureka moment? Well,we would exchange apartments for the weekend. How could this work so amazingly well? What could possibly be different or new? Especially since we live just 2 miles apart and in similar apartments?
The thing is, if you live in any large city, a mile away can be a whole different world: different housing, different restaurants, different shopping, different family makeup. And that was the case with us.
What are the differences?
My creative friend lives in an area of Brooklyn (affectionately known as Bed-Stuy, short for Bedford - Stuyvesant), New York City, which truly fits the description of Brownstone Brooklyn. These massive brownstone homes are often four stories and owned by one family who has been there for generations. The homes are often made up of extended families, and sometimes a floor is converted into rentals. My friend's community is a family neighborhood and it is quite peaceful and quiet.
I, on the other hand, live close to downtown Brooklyn (see photo - my avatar has always been the view from my window). Amidst the brownstones here are many apartment buildings filled with a few billion people - maybe more. They've come in droves - many have arrived here in NYC during the last 5 years - to work. Because there are so many people, it can support many restaurants. In fact, I live near what has always been known as restaurant row. It is filled with every type of of so-called trendy restaurant (they come and go), and often there is entertainment. These venues would never survive in my friend's neighborhood - because we native New Yorkers know better than to pay top dollar for trendy. That's for outsiders that don't know where to go for real food and want to sit all evening nursing a drink. It is never quiet where I live.
It seems my friend and I were spending a great deal of time - in each other's neighborhood. She loved all the jazz clubs and knew the owners and enjoyed all the latest cuisines. Me, I love the Egyptian buffet in her neighborhood, and one of the best bakeries ever - where I can get a tiny bean pie - just enough to genuinely enjoy without being a hog. Her neighborhood is where I also shop for pure shea butter and all the amazing natural soaps - like coconut, mango and lime, etc. We did however, agree that she lived near the best coffee shop.
So that is where we met to exchange keys. At the coffee shop.
I must admit that she did a better job than me of preparing her apartment. It was shiny. I think it's because she still had the original wood floors that were buffed to a lustrous sheen. My floors I replaced with laminate that just cannot duplicate real wood. She also had this nice gentle vanilla smell wafting around. I found out later how she did this. She didn't burn incense sticks - but she used lots of them to place on the tops of door frames - so as you walk by and under you get a slight whiff.
How sucessful was our Friday and Saturday night well into Sunday?
It was perfect! I stopped on the way in at the buffet - a real bargain and then got some fruit at the greengrocers. Of course I got a bean pie (see link below for weird pies) - actually I got two - but they are tiny. And some shea butter to anoint myself (see link below for shea butter information). My friend always seemed to have a large selection of those little jars of amazing natural creams, oils and lotions. So yes, I enjoyed those too because I always did.
And I know why the really old claw-foot tubs no longer exist, like the one in my friend's place - because Americans did actually get stuck in them. If I was 20 pounds heavier - my weekend would have been spent stuck and turning into a prune in the tub. You see - it is shaped like a very slim, shapely number 8. So if you make the mistake of leaning back and reclining, then stretching out, you can get stuck in the middle part.
And my friend - did she enjoy my place? Well, for the little time she spent here, I'd say yes. You see there was this jazz band back in town and performing at the same local venue. She met this group the year before. So after hanging out with them until 4 a.m. she was able to get home in less than 3 minutes - walking. And then meet friends for an early breakfast right around the corner. I did put chocolates on the pillow - but no, I don't have all those exotic little bottles of unguents.
An Old Saying:
There is an old saying "A change is as good as a rest" - how true. I'm well-rested because I have since spent time at my cousins' place in Queens (another NYC borough), where there are three of my favorite supermarkets - one is Korean, one Chinese and one Indian - I find every ingredient and tea I can ever want and always about half the price of the usual supermarkets. Also this is where my favorite Thai restaurant is located and so much more.
For my vacation this year - I offered to trade places with my son and daughter-in-law. Recently, my DIL mentioned how much she liked living in my neighborhood some years ago - so next time I spoke to my son, I suggested a switch. They are young and also enjoy eating out and are known wherever they go around here. For me, I'd get to live in a well-appointed suburban home with every amenity - and absolute peace and quiet - what I crave the most right now and need so I won't run amok. And a lovely garden to reflect in. Mmmmmm. Lovely Garden.
Suggestions if you are thinking of switching homes with a friend:
- Switch homes just to enjoy the neighborhood, or to put your feet up and enjoy reading a book perhaps, and some peace and quiet. You are just passing (lightly) through.
- Do not plan to cook. Leave fire alone so you don't burn down the place. Plus, there is no reason to dirty someone's stove. Bring your own sandwich fixings or plan to eat out.
- Do not plan to have a party - that is inexcusably tacky.
- Do not bring your laundry. In fact leave all appliances alone so you won't break them.
- Do not fight with the neighbors and keep the noise down.
- Resist the urge to rummage through the medicine cabinet. (see the poll)
See links below for weird pies and shea butter and more:
Looking Through the Medicine Cabinet
Would you look through a friend's medicine cabinet?
Shea butter, weird pies and more
- The Amazing Healing Power of Shea Butter
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- Weird Pies for Dessert!
What is a weird pie? Depending on where you live you may consider a bean pie a weird pie. Beans as a pie filling? Yet, it is one of my all time favorite pies but then I live in Brooklyn, NYC where beans pies...
- How We Make Extra Money in NYC
As a native New Yorker, I can always tell when a recession/depression is on the horizon; people flock to NYC in droves, in search of jobs. This time it is the young and single - perhaps to pay off their...