Be Open to the Unexpected

Monday, February 21, 2022

We took advantage of an unusually warm day by strolling through Central park.

This past weekend, my family took one of those trips that we will remember for a lifetime. My son recently turned 16, and since his older sister still drives them to school and sports and we don’t need a fourth car, I suggested we take a trip to a place he’s never been before in place of a gift. Now, he was hesitant at first because he’s a homebody and he felt like that would be “too much.” My daughter is 18 and she was all on board. We took advantage of them being out of school last Thursday and Friday for teacher workdays and booked our flight and a modest hotel in the Garment District. 

As I’m sure you can guess, not everything went as planned. My husband and I have never traveled together to NYC and we’d never ridden the subway. But my son is a huge NBA fan and we bought tickets to see a Brooklyn Nets game the night we arrived. This meant we had to navigate the subway to and from the game. Don’t laugh, but I’d watched a few YouTube videos on how to purchase a metro card and use it for our family of four, and we used Apple Maps to tell us which stop to get on and off. It made for a long night, but we did it. We were proud of ourselves but then accidentally boarded the subway going in the wrong direction the next day trying to get to the World Trade Center. We quickly hopped off once we realized it, the attendant let us pass back through to get to the train going in the right direction without paying again. 

The trip took us out of our normal comfort zone, but through trial and error, we learned how to balance the inexpensive meals with the expensive. We saw how magical a Broadway show was (and my son kept joking he would probably nap through it. Spoiler: he didn’t). We stumbled across an experiential "Stranger Things" store and had a blast taking photographs. We marveled at the architecture in the New York Public Library. We shopped in Soho and Times Square and visited all eight floors of Macy’s just to say we did. My daughter, who also loves to write, said she can now realistically write what it’s like to ride on a subway. Because I’ve read so many books set in New York over the years, I was able to share factoids with everyone else about the different districts and history. 

The whole trip made me think about how our writing projects sometimes take us to unexpected places. The very first book I ever wrote was an 80,000-word novel that featured adult characters and chapters detailing their teen years. I eventually cut it in half, deleted all the adult scenes, and focused in on the teen storylines. A trip to the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida one summer inspired me to sit down and write a short story about a famous circus fire in one sitting. It can be easy to develop tunnel vision with our projects, but I encourage everyone, including myself, to stay flexible and follow your heart. You never know where it might lead you. 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at


Angela Mackintosh said...

I love New York! My husband and I have been all over the state many times, mostly for work. We drove all the way from NYC to Niagara and everywhere in between using a printed itinerary I made from MapQuest (remember that? lol!), and we hit every skateboarding and hip hop store in the state. My husband actually loves driving in NYC, because the drivers are just as crazy and aggressive as he is, so we usually don't take the subway, but I have before. It sounds like a fun and challenging trip. I think every trip is potential writing material - maybe this one will inspire a short story! :)

Renee Roberson said...

Ang-Awww, Mapquest. I love telling the kids how we used to have to print out Mapquest directions to get anywhere. I saw a funny video about that recently, too. I'm a chicken driver so I would not be brave or aggressive enough to drive in the city so you guys are my heroes. There are a ton of inexpensive direct flights back and forth to NYC from where we live so I'm sure we'll be back more often now. We loved all the different cuisine on every corner and how you can be there a week and still not see everything. Mia found a bookstore that specialized in Japanese literature and I thought we'd never leave that place! I already have a few ideas for stories--there's so much history there and I had such an emotional response visiting the 9/11 memorial that it may inspire a CNF piece.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I've only been to the Greyhound bus station in New York City. Perhaps there is more to see than that?

I'm so glad your family got to make this trip. That picture looks like the background is a painted backdrop--it's perfect and so beautiful, it looks fake.

Yes, we have to make the most of our trips and our experiences. I agree with Angela--every trip could be fodder for a story.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

What a fun trip! And how true that travel is like writing. You make plans, even if just a general idea, and then whoops! Something happens.

Loved hearing about your trip.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Mapquest! Oh, Lord, when I think of all the paper I wasted. Hahahahhaa! (And STILL got lost!)

I love to travel and I loved when at long last, I made a trip to NYC with my daughter. And though I'm a big planner with trips, it's always the unexpected parts of the trip that I remember most (whether good or bad). SO much to draw on for a writer!

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