I moved to NYC from Boston and lasted only a couple weeks before I ended up with sleep deprivation, anxiety, and a huge absecess on my butt cheek.
This isn’t one of my usual “practical advice + info” posts, but I wanted to document this experience in case it could help other noise-sensitive folks moving to NYC, and I also just want to do more personal writing on this blog.
How I Got Here
I work remotely for an education startup that’s technically based in Boston, but hasn’t had an office for over a year. I’ve had the flexibility to move around for nearly 3 years now, but have never really taken advantage it, and have mainly stayed in Boston.
I’ve always wanted to move from place to place, so I decided to finally take the leap. To prepare, I got a short-term sublet when my old lease was up in Boston, so I’d be ready to start moving at the beginning of 2022.
My list of potential cities included Philly, the Pacific Northwest, France, and NYC. I didn’t want to venture too far just yet, so it came down to Philly or NYC. I actually preferred Philly, but I know more people in NYC, and I’d found the loveliest Airbnb for a decent price.
The Airbnb was $1300/month for one room in a 3-bedroom apartment in Inwood. While it was the most I’ve ever spent on rent, it seemed fair for NYC and a short-term agreement. The place was just a few minutes from the train and a 30-minute ride into Manhattan. It was right next to a couple parks and the river, making it perfect for running. My favorite part was the thoughtful decor. My room had a forest green dresser with gold handles, a hanging plant, floral curtains, and scalloped yellow bedspread. The host also seemed super sweet, and she was vegan (I’m plant-based).
When the Problems Began
When I arrived at the Airbnb, I heard loud bass vibrating through the floors and my heart immediately sank. Cars honked and blasted even more music as they drove by.
I stayed only an hour that night since I realized I’d left my phone charger and toothbrush at my friend’s apartment in the city, where I’d been staying for a few days. Since my friend let me crash for a few more nights, I practiced avoidance strategy.
I decided to give it another shot and went back to my apartment on a Thursday evening. The bass wasn’t as loud that night, so I fell asleep fairly quickly, but I awoke at 6AM to the sound of hissing pipes. I laid awake for the rest of the morning.
That day, I noticed a red bump on my butt cheek, but didn’t think much of it and thought it’d go away in a few days.
The loud bass was back that Friday night, so I turned up the volume on two noise machines and used earplugs. I could still feel the vibrations and hear the sirens and honking from the street. I eventually fell asleep after a couple hours, but woke up again at 6AM from the hissing pipes. My roommate’s door creaked open and closed a few times as I tried to sleep in.
The red bump on my butt was getting worse. My brain was feeling a little fuzzy from the poor sleep, but I still managed to eke out a run that afternoon. To get some better rest, I stayed at my friend’s apartment again for the weekend.
The red bump had grown to the size of a quarter, and had become extremely sensitive to any pressure. I had to take ibuprofen a few times for the pain over the next couple days.
On Tuesday, the bump was still as irritated as ever, so I walked into the nearby hospital to get it checked out. The woman at the front desk asked me what I was there for. In front of the other nearby patients, I sheepishly answered “I think it’s an abscess on my butt cheek.”
“It happens sometimes,” she responded.
The abscess ultimately needed to be cut open and drained. I winced in pain as the doctor injected anesthetic, adding more pressure to the area.
After the wound was dressed, I got up to put my pants back on and noticed the piles of bloody gauze, the soiled hospital gown, and the syringe full of yellowish liquid.
“There was a lotta stuff in there,” the nurse told me, “You’ll probably feel a lot better now.”
I did feel a lot better. The whole situation was so unfortunate, it was almost comical. I started joking about my “second butthole” because I literally had a second hole in my butt from the abscess drainage.
I thought I’d give my apartment another try (I’d already hit rock bottom, right?). I’d even gotten noise-canceling headphones over the weekend to help. My host had also ordered some noise curtains.
The noise-canceling headphones masked the bass, which felt promising. I was starting to doze off when a series of car alarms went off. My heart rate wouldn’t slow down after that. I tried listening to boring audiobooks to get sleepy again, but they didn’t work, and inevitably another loud noise would jolt me awake.
I decided that the apartment wasn’t good for my health and started packing my stuff. I was awake until 4AM that night.
What I Learned
My host was really understanding, and offered to shorten my stay to the first month only (it’s not possible to get a refund for the first 30 days for long-term stays on Airbnb). I lost around $1400 from the whole fiasco, which is a pretty big waste of money, but I’m also grateful to be financially stable and able to take that loss.
I decided to leave NYC for my family’s home in Ohio to hopefully get some rest. In the days leading to my flight, I moped around and wailed that I’d “failed.” I had a lot of plans for NYC—there are so many interesting spots and events. I was hoping to meet some fellow creators based in the city. I felt extremely bad for leaving the Airbnb early as well, since the host and my other roommate were so nice.
Maybe I could’ve gotten used to the noise, but getting poor sleep really damages my physical and mental health, and I didn’t have enough in me to keep trying. After a certain point, giving up is sometimes the best option.
Going forward, I’m going to be more diligent about researching noise levels. The top reviews of the Airbnb said it was “quiet,” but a couple reviews further down did say that there was a lot of street noise. I should’ve searched terms like “loud” and “quiet” and read all the relevant reviews, and asked the host specifically. If I’m staying in a big city again, I’ll want to find a room that’s facing a smaller street or even yard/courtyard.
I also later realized that Inwood is actually one of the noisiest neighborhoods in NYC, and I simply didn’t know because I’m not familiar with the area. The next time I find a place to stay, I’m going to do a lot more research about the different neighborhoods in a city.
I’m not planning to spent an extended amount of time in NYC in the foreseeable future, but I did buy a round-trip flight when I returned to Ohio since I’d already planned a train trip from NYC to Boston at the end of March. I’ll probably hang out with friends for a couple weeks before coming back to Ohio.
I still plan to be a bit more nomadic, but I’m feeling a little shaken after this first experience, and think I’ll need a bit more time to recuperate.
I still have my eye on the Pacific Northwest (probably Seattle) and France (I lived in Dijon for a year from 2018-2019). I’m hoping to be out there exploring again by this summer.
So here’s to healthier days (and butts), more careful planning, and knowing when to give up.