One thing's for sure, having good networking skills can be very helpful in New York City.
An open mind and a keen eye for the city's surroundings can prove even more beneficial, at least for a reporter such as me – and can be for businesspeople, too.
As my kids and I made our way to Manhattan for a weekend getaway, we never imagined the whirlwind of a networking adventure we were about to embark on, one of an amazing and diverse culture, filled with an awesome array of people, food, history – and just plain fun!
No matter your profession or passion, the Big Apple can make you feel energized by the fast-paced, loud and sometimes brutal elements of the city. And it even can be inspiring.
As the silhouette of the Big Apple's skyline descended upon us through the windows of our bus, we were bursting with excitement. We could smell the warm scent of roasted chestnuts and feel the subtle rumbling of the subways.
Already, we were experiencing the diverse cultures of the city.
Our bus entered the dimly lit terminal garage in Manhattan and coasted to the arriving gate. As we exited the bus station, we noticed a homeless man sitting on a side street, staring at us aimlessly and helplessly. It seemed like a frightening sight of reality for my young children to witness, but they reacted with admirable empathy.
As the traffic sounds of the city continued to blare, we blended in with the crowd to hail a taxi to our hotel. Turns out, our taxi driver, Bernard, was from Ghana, a country we knew very little about. A simple ride to the hotel turned into an interesting story of Bernard's days in his home country.
Who knew we would be learning so much world reality and history in our first 10 minutes in the city?
We arrived in front of our beautiful hotel and scurried through the doors to make it to our room as fast as we could. Wondering why everyone stared at us when we spoke to them in the elevator and in the halls, we came to realize that 90 percent of the guests and staff of the hotel were French and did not speak English. Just in the three days in the hotel, we learned so many new and interesting things about the French and their culture, language and food. We felt as if we actually visited the country. Pretty cool.
OUR LESSON CONTINUES
And now, the montage of food.
We hailed a cab to Chinatown, a small section of Manhattan, and were overwhelmed by the many vendors vying for us to buy from their stands. Once we made it through the crowd, we came upon a gourmet Chinese dumpling restaurant. Many of the staff and patrons were Asian or of many different ethnicities and cultures. The menu consisted of dishes we never had and were eager to try. Everything was amazing and authentic, as if we were in someone's kitchen in China.
We made our way to an authentic Italian bakery in Little Italy, another small section of Manhattan. We never smelled anything so amazing. The shelves were packed with every kind of Italian cookie, pastry and bread imaginable. Many of the staff and customers spoke Italian and were some of the friendliest people we had ever met. The Italian music in the background and the warm atmosphere made us feel as if we were really in someone's home in Italy.
To cap off our dining for the evening, we experienced a walk through musical history with dinner at the Hard Rock Café. We had a blast, and my kids loved learning about the many diverse legends of rock 'n' roll.
As an ending to our amazing first day in the Big Apple, we took a horse and buggy ride through Central Park. The carriage driver, John – who shares the same birthday as my daughter – is from Poland. That meant that we heard another interesting story, about John's mother and his home country. He also gave us a history lesson on famous sites in New York City. They were beautiful stories to listen to under the warm, bright Manhattan sky.
TAKING IT ALL IN
The most important thing we gained from our trip to the Big Apple is a deeper respect and admiration for how different we really are in this world.
Different, yes. But, all put on this Earth for the same reason – to make a difference.
Each one of the paths that my kids and I crossed required networking, even nonverbally, whether it was the homeless man on the side street or the Chinese woman persuading me to buy a scarf from her vending stand.
Each one of these people makes a difference in this world, and they did for us on that memorable day.