Travel

Sibs in the City: Exploring NYC With My Brother

Joel in the East Village

Sometimes I’m concerned that travelling alone has ruined me for travelling with others. I’ve struggled sometimes dealing with travel mates with a different approach to seemingly everything, from what time you go to bed at night to what time you get up in the morning to how quickly you mobilize and get out the door to how much you spend to what, where and how often you eat.

So it is always with some trepidation that I travel with someone for the first time – even when that someone is my beloved big brother, Joel. Of course Joel and I have travelled together before, but those trips typically involved our being in the backseat of our parents’ car…sometimes peaceably, most often not.

So how would Joel and I travel together, just the two of us, without Mum and Dad? Turns out, pretty damn well.

Washington Square Park Washington Square Park, Golden Hour New York City Skyline

We weren’t travelling, I guess, per se, in that we weren’t moving from place to place. Joel lives in Toronto and I live in Vancouver, and we decided to meet in New York for an extra long weekend. There was lots to do, and not a lot of time, which can sometimes be a recipe for disaster – or at least disagreements. Not in this case.

I found it remarkable, actually, how in sync we were. Maybe it’s just that Joel is way more agreeable than I am (he is) but I don’t think that’s it. There were many things that we both wanted to do – MOMA, The Strand, The Highline, Shake Shack in Madison Square Park – so that was easy. We were in agreement about when and how much to walk (LOTS), the priority of getting a good cup of coffee in the morning (high), and when to go to bed (earlyish). It was hot and humid and we walked and ate and drank a lot. And we’re old and sleepy people.

And food – in New York there’s so so so so much choice, and only a finite number of meals to eat. We didn’t get to eat everywhere we wanted or intended, but we made decisions pretty amicably. Maybe because, again, Joel is just more easygoing than me.

I think the moment I realized that we were good travel companions was when we went to Smorgasburg in Prospect Park. We did an initial round to suss out our options, and afterwards we were in exact agreement about what we wanted to eat – namely: a brisket sandwich, green chili fries, fancy mozzarella sticks, duck poutine (the last of which we unfortunately didn’t have room for).

And then we both needed a nap in the shade. Done and done.

It made me wonder how much of our being in sync is related to nature/nurture. Obviously, part of it is that there are certain places in NYC that you just have to go, and there are pop culture influences (namely Dev in Master of None). But there’s got to be something about having grown up together and coming from the same parents that makes us alike in ways that make us good travel companions? Maybe, maybe not. I can think of some friends who would sooner surrender their passports than travel with their siblings.

I guess it doesn’t really matter what made it work. What matters is that it was really lovely, spending time with my brother in a place that’s home to neither of us. I hope this trip will be the first of many.

It’s funny, when Joel and I were younger and would fight (which we did frequently), our mum would tell us that one day we wouldn’t live in the same place and we would spend lots of money calling each other long-distance. You weren’t exactly right, Lucy, ’cause long-distance charges aren’t a thing anymore. But you were close. We do live far apart and apparently we are willing to pay a pretty penny to meet up and eat our way around NYC – and hopefully many more places in the years to come.

Joel at MOMA Shake Shack in Washington Square Park New York City subway

And finally, this is the only (barely) half-decent photo taken of Joel and me in NYC. I typically wasn’t in a selfie-taking mood, because it was hot and humid and my hair was pretty much constantly wet with sweat. But we knew we had to get at least one. So here it is, for better or worse. 

A few more photos and NYC favourites to come later in the week.

All photos by Chelsea Herman
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