The Highline is so overrated

Tourist trap revealed

We’re approaching Thanksgiving. Midterms are behind us. We’re signing up for Spring semester classes. Even the Freshmen cannot claim to be new New Yorkers these days. We’re starting to find our feet and leave the comfort of the immediate East Village for things like… The Highline.

The Highline.

1.45 miles of a disused New York Central Railroad branch repurposed as a public green space. My mother said it was a perfect walking trail. Tripadvisor describes The Highline as a “beautiful oasis in the city”. My family friend said that it is an essential experience different from any other in “the city that never sleeps”.

“How incredible!” I thought. I wanted to walk every step of the 1.45 miles. I wanted to see every angle of every view of the city. What better way for a new New Yorker to view the place that they now lived?

Tripadvisor and I disagree. No, I did not feel so free. While I appreciate the view and while I take interest in the train track, it is not for me.

To me The Highline was nothing more than an elevated holding pen for hoards of visitors clad in their matching “I Love New York” uniforms. One such tourist unexpectedly stopped walking right in front of me to take a mediocre photograph. Google has better pictures.

Worse still are the special breed of tourists: the “selfie”-takers. Never mind if The Highline has been captured, as long as their hair looks good. And how can I myself see the beauty when I am forced to spend all attention navigating bodies?

Shade is a rare commodity and shade-seekers pack themselves together like they’re waiting for the train doors to open at rush hour. And so I leave the shade and instead seek relief from the heat in a water fountain. I take my shoes off to walk through the running water. Cold water between my toes and cold stares from parents of small children splashing around. I am the only barefooted person beyond their first decade of life. Why is relief from the broiling sun reserved for infants? I put my shoes back on, but now my feet are wet and it’s not so refreshing anymore.

Vendors are selling overpriced beverages to thirsty tourists. The line travels far from the cashier as every tourist struggles to sift through euros, pounds and yen for enough dollars for an expensively-priced, cheaply-made plastic pen. No, I don’t need an expensive t-shirt that I am most likely never going to wear. Tourists flock the stands filled with useless memorabilia: floral coasters, an eraser shaped like New York City and a mini water tower. Does the $98 picnic blanket come with a Michelin star meal? I suppose I’d take a tourist’s out of focus photo over dust collecting trinkets.

Yes, I am glad that I went and no, I am not saying I would be opposed to going again (perhaps snow would deter tourists?). But was it an oasis in the concrete jungle? No. I find more solitude in the anonymity of the streets. For me an escape from my mind is not somewhere where tourists gather to take photos.

Viewing the city from a moving train is far more my speed. Commuters don’t stop in their tracks in front of me. Despite the higher speeds on a functioning train, out-of-focus photographs are far less likely. I’m just another person walking with a destination. I’m not walking to find the perfect backdrop for my new profile picture. I’m not wearing an ‘I Love New York’ t-shirt. I’m “alone in a crowd” in the best way.

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