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Before coming to Arcadia, I had never traveled anywhere by myself. I forget things easily while packing and am typically confused by public transportation, so the idea of traveling to Center City by myself used to be daunting.
This may sound silly to readers who have lived in or near cities, but as someone who grew up in a rural town, I’ve lived a cushy life of hitching rides or calling a Lyft when I needed to get somewhere. However, two of my best friends live in New York City, and since we don’t own cars, I had to face my fear of independent navigation.
Since my first trip to NYC over a year ago, I’ve learned to embrace my newfound independence, which helped me make the most of my recent trip to the AnimeNYC convention. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am an avid fan of attending conventions and cosplaying.
My go-to for getting to NYC is taking the Warminster SEPTA line from Glenside to Center City, getting off at 30th Street Station, and catching a Megabus from there. This is a very straightforward route, as there are no train transfers, and the Megabuses are located just down the street from 30th Station. While I can’t say that riding a Megabus is the most luxurious form of travel, it’s cheap and accessible, which is all a college student needs. My recommendations are to develop a flexible schedule and consider paying a bit extra for a better seat. Riding a Megabus to NYC is sometimes a gamble in regards to your ETA, depending on whether the bus departs on time and how heavy traffic is. Some days, I’ve been perfectly on time; other days, I’ve arrived two hours later than I expected. This obviously isn’t ideal, but my ticket usually ranges around $3-$5 dollars, so I can’t complain.
I often spend an extra few dollars reserving a seat in the front row on the second level. It’s the roomiest, and it’s easy to reach the outlets between the seats to charge your phone. If you’re someone who suffers from motion sickness (like me), being at the top level and facing forward, toward the horizon, is the best thing you can do.
At this specific con, I decided to skip the costumes and instead focus on photographing the intense but playful energy of the convention. I broke off from my group and meandered the exhibition hall, where a variety of displays and stalls offer items for sale. One of my favorite displays showed off the newest models of Smart Dolls, a Japanese brand that emphasizes anime-esque design and visual diversity. In America, we associate dolls with children’s toys; here, the price tags indicated they’re in a different league than Barbie (many cost upward of $400).
Another highlight were the massive mechas, or robots, which seemed to be at least eight feet tall. Anyone who grew up with a love of toys like Legos or cars would be impressed by the craftsmanship in the giant robots.
My favorite part of the convention was attending numerous concerts in the Javitz Center, featuring Japanese artists and bands like Guilty Kiss, Jam Project, and Miku Ito. One interesting aspect of Japanese culture I was acquainted with at these concerts is the use of light sticks or glowing wands. The audience waves them with the beat of the performed songs—definitely more fun than swaying in place in a crowded venue.
While at these concerts, my new sense of independence came in handy again when my friends weren’t feeling well and wanted to retire early before a performer I was excited to see came on. Past-me would’ve reluctantly headed back with them. But this was a safe venue, and I knew I could handle myself. I said goodbye to my friends, put on a brave face while I pushed through the crowd, and reconnected with an old friend without missing any of the acts I wanted to see.
In this moment, I realized part of the importance of developing independence is recognizing that you don’t always need company in order to have fun. Don’t get me wrong—safety while traveling anywhere alone is extremely important! For the most part, I still live by the buddy system. But when it comes to simple things like taking a bus, or having the confidence to change plans on your own accord, developing this self-reliance has helped me get the most out of my journeys.