New York City is not like the movies. Day in and day out, Farid takes passengers from all corners of the world to some of the most famous destinations in the city. Tourists, agglomerated in Times Square and the midtown region, are stuck in a bubble where they only see the version of the city based on movies and TV shows. They go to the same hotels, eat at the same places and visit the same spots as a blog or a city guide tells them to. The truth is, they don’t get to see nor even experience the real New York City and all its beauty.

The beauty of exploring a new place is being unafraid of getting lost. Taking a subway somewhere, without a destination, and finding along the way a world of experiences. Farid says people are now blind to following the current and not really adventuring outside their comfort zone, and as a result, stay within the same boundaries they’ve grown used to. Last month, he traveled for the first time in over three years, when the pandemic first hit. He decided to visit Germany and Turkey, both countries he had grown deep admiration for over the past few years. Once he landed in Berlin, he rented a car and went on to explore the countryside. Without a GPS, just being guided by the directions of the wind, he found some of the most beautiful places and people that made his trip one to remember.

He didn’t have strict plans, but rather the will to discover the unknown. The will to write his own guide and fall beyond the lines others had written. If he follows a plan, he chooses to always challenge himself and go deep into the places he visits so he can truly live the culture and experience life within.

Originally born in Algeria, Farid came to the U.S. in his younger days. Ho him, New York City is home. The city has the beauty of welcoming people from anywhere and everywhere, and he can’t imagine himself living anywhere else in the world. He values his roots, and always makes sure to remind himself where he came from so he can draft his future. He says, “You can’t make the future if we don’t know the past,” and being honest about ourselves and our roots it’s our utmost duty.

For Farid, the pillars to living a good life in NY are: be yourself, be honest and be kind to people, no matter where they are from or who they are. He abides by this motto as you never know which interaction might change the course of your life. To him, the people he meets and the community he builds around him are what give him the support to move forward. No one could ever get anywhere without the support, collaboration and help from others.

Nowadays, however, he says people forget that the simpler things in life don’t require much from us, but they can truly mean the world from the other end.

Caring and showing you care through actions is the most important thing about a community. Farid says, “when the heart loves, the feet go.” He said he would do anything for the people he loves and cares about, no matter the time, distance, or sacrifices needed. Whether is through a phone call or text, showing people that they matter and we care is one thing Farid never takes for granted. In the end, he says, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not promised.

All of those things — calling, texting, showing up for those who we love — are the human thing to do. Showcasing kindness everywhere we go and not expecting anything in return is not an obligation, but rather a duty. Life, he says, is too short, and it’s better to make the most out of our time than to regret something before running out of time.

Every six months, Mr. X packs his luggage, says goodbye to his home and heads to his home in Pakistan to visit his dad and live with him for the next three months. He has been traveling this way ever since his mother suddenly passed away from a stroke, leaving a hole in his family so deep it can still be felt up to this day. Mr. X also has two brothers who live across the U.S. Every three months, one makes sure to go back to Pakistan to be a company for their dad. This time, it was Mr. X’s turn.

To him, home was everything. Nothing could even compare to the feeling of seeing his father, eating homemade food and spend time relaxing — away from the work life cycle which consumes all his energy and makes the most out of his life in America. To travel as often as he does, Mr. X has no days off. He works a full hour shift, with a break only to use the restroom and take a quick bite, before he heads home and wakes up the next day to start a new cycle. He saves money to pay the airfare and any costs he might have while away. After all, he still has bills and expenses to pay — even if he’s not around. Life is challenging, but he persists each and every day to make sure he stays close to family and he continues to fight for his goals in the foreign land.

Ranvir was stretching to his 12-hour shift when he picked me up from work on Friday night. He had been working since noon, and he only planned to stop once the clock strikes midnight. The time he uses to rest, he said, is when everyone is asleep. While he’s awake, he makes the most by working as a driver and a real state agent in Long Island.

Originally from Bangladesh, Ranvir moved to the U.S. in 2011 after his parents got a green card. He stayed in NYC for three months, and then later he found himself on the West coast enjoying the Californian sunsets and the busy life of Los Angeles. When I asked him why he moved to LA, he asked, ‘why wouldn’t you?’ The life near the beach, the warmth of the people on each corner of the city and the life in California were some of the things he enjoyed, and now misses, the most about the city of angels. He back to NYC in 2017 to stay closer to his parents, and while he misses CA, he loves being close to family.

Throughout the ride, he asked about my life and what I did for a living. When I mentioned my Brazilian roots, he went on and on about his admiration for soccer stars like Ronaldinho and how he always wanted to visit Rio de Janeiro, especially during one of its biggest holidays — Carnaval. While he always loved the country, he had never met a Brazilian before. He was glad I was his passenger that night, and in return, I was happy I got to hear his story.

On the back seat of his Toyota Highlander, two notebooks rested. At one point during our conversation, Ranvir pointed out why they were there and what they were for. The notebooks, he said, have been with him on every ride for the past four years, when he started working as a driver, and since then, he has been collecting notes from each one of his passengers. His hope, he said, is to one day publish a book with all of the notes he collected throughout the years.

Skimming over the pages, I found all sorts of messages showcasing kindness, appreciation and, above all, heart. Ranvir wanted his passengers to write something “nice,” either about their day, something they’ve learned, life insights or anything that they can think of that might be worth sharing. In the end, he was left with hundreds of messages from the melting pot that NYC truly is. On my note, I told him about my admiration for his passion project and hoped to see his published book one day on a bookshelf.


From the book:

“Feel free to write

This book is going to be published. Hope you write something nice. You can leave your signature/name and date.

Thanks so much for ride with me.”

“I live with low expectations. This is an interesting idea. Perhaps we will connect differently this way. That being said, I have enjoyed my holographic universe more through this. Thank you for experimenting with consciousness.”

“We are all stars…

Made up of stardust…

So shine! :) and smile <3

And love!”

“<3 to all of this!!!

How can you appreciate and enjoy even more love + serendipity in this moment?”

“Just a regular Wednesday!

To anyone who reads this, you are AWESOME! Stay optimistic & pass on positivity! Good vibes are contagious!

& if you ever want to talk or just need someone to hear you, there’s no better diary than a stranger… XXX-XXX-XXXX”