The wandering cowgirl’s grand adventure

Day 11 of #100DaysofPhotoshop

Three years ago I set out for California with a single suitcase and a one-way ticket. Or so the story goes.

I’ve told it a hundred times, pausing in all the right places to mention my lack of job or apartment and answer the typical questions:”Why California?” (Oh well it was this or NY and..) “Did you know anyone out here?” (There was a boy, but that was about it..) “Were you scared?” (Like crazy, but I knew if I didn’t do it then..). With time I’d work in the fact that I flew out on 9/11 because it turns out that’s a very cheap day to fly. Invariably the responses are peppered with words like “adventuresome” and “chutzpah.” Sometimes I’m even “brave.”

The problem is I don’t even know if it’s true at this point. It’s become part of my personal myth, the story that lets me explain myself in shorthand. With one story I can account for my presence on the west coast, dispel any misconceptions about my own capabilities (I’m still here, aren’t I?), and paint myself as the wandering cowgirl I’ve always wanted to be.

Yes, I did come to California from a tiny state thousands of miles away, one that remains home to my family. There was a single suitcase, and a one-way ticket, and no job, and no apartment. Those parts are all true.

On the other hand, there was a boy. A bed to sleep in until I got my feet. A bank account that would keep me afloat for a month or two. And parents who would gladly welcome me back if my grand adventures should fail. Every one of these omissions makes me feel like a fraud.

The problem with feeling like a fraud is it creeps into the cracks of everyday life and spreads without you knowing it. It’s the black mold of my life. On a particularly bad day in San Francisco I’ll convince myself I was never meant to be here in the first place, that the city is rejecting me on the basis of a false origin story. I swear sometimes a screeching streetcar will hiss “leasssst coasssst” at me. The city is taunting me to admit defeat, pack up my adventure boots, and head home. And I deserve it because I’m a fraud anyway.

Recently my mom was in town, and we talked about that story that’s come to be such an integral part of my personal mythology. I asked her if I was misremembering—it must have been less scary, more planned than I remember. Her reply: “That’s exactly what you did, and I was crazy to encourage you!” And slowly I started to remember the anxiety of sitting in the bed with the boy, terrified I wouldn’t find a job here. The exhilaration of my first few weeks exploring a city as foreign to me as any I’d been to. The roller-coaster gut drop I’d experience every time I remembered that this was my big leap into life, and there was no trampoline to break the fall.

Turns out the myth is real. Even if it weren’t it’s become so important in shaping how I approach my life. And so, instead of feeling like a fraud, I’m going to invest a bit more time into living a life worthy of the 21-year-old who filled a bag with her things and hopped on a plane to start a new life. I figure that way at least I’ll have a hell of a story when I go.

(Image is from Day 11 of my #100DaysofPhotoshop project; quote from Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck)


Coachella Bound

Packing for Coachella

For the second year I’ve got my bags packed and I’m ready to run around the desert for three days sweating out of every inch of my skin in order to soak in as much music as possible. You guessed it: Coachella.

I’ve got a plane to catch in a couple of hours for which I can’t check in, my chargers are still strewn across my room, and because I love myself I just spilled a full cup of coffee all over my comforter and jeans. But by this time tomorrow I’ll be pitching a tent and drinking a beer with one of my best friends of 12 years. So it’s hard to get too worked up about anything.

The current issue at hand is making sure I’ve packed everything I think I’ll need. As you can see my suitcase is ready to go with nary a flower crown or crop top in sight, but of course I have the sinking suspicion I’ve left something out. But Molly, you’re thinking, if there are no flower crowns what on earth could you be packing?

  1. Tickets. I cannot stress this one enough, and really I shouldn’t have to, but I checked about fourteen times to make sure i had the most important thing packed safely: the tickets.. Despite the fact that I’ve never lost tickets to any major event, I’m constantly double and triple checking because I’m so certain I’m going to leave these at home. Seeing as I have both tickets and the car camping pass, I would be in deep shit if I didn’t double check.
  2. Layers. Things I didn’t know before going last year include the fact that the sun will scorch your bare shoulders if you dare to taunt it with bare flesh, and yet by midnight in the desert if you don’t have a jacket you’ll be colder than a white walker freezing into a million shattered pieces. Nas brought out Lauryn Hill at the end of his set which was amazing, but just minutes prior to that I had been contemplating heading back to the tent due to insufficient coverage. I would have never lived it down if I had wound up giving in and missing the end of that set.
  3. Body suits & bathing suits. Ok, so I’m not lame enough for a flower crown, but I do have to get into the spirit somewhat. How am I gonna scream along with Drake in my regular everyday outfit? I’m a big fan of a body suit or one-piece under some shorts.
  4. Snacks, snacks, snacks. At music festivals I’m basically the mom who constantly has snacks in her bag, because you never know when hunger will strike. You’re surrounded by food, but you don’t want to have to drop $10 on a slice of pizza every time you’re feeling a little worse for the wear. So of course I tucked some granola bars and mini boxes of cereal in my bag. Last year I carried around cheesy crackers and granola bars all weekend, and convinced The Boy that we would want mini bagels and salami in the morning. I will forever consider it my greatest victory that he admitted I was right about needing food and snacks around.
  5. Willpower and an extra battery. The willpower is for when you want to send everyone snaps of how great Coachella is but you know your battery is gonna die if you do. The extra battery is for when your willpower gives out and your phone dies.

My bonus this year? I got a sun shower that I’m nerdily excited about because it means I can somewhat shower without having to wait in the insane lines for camping showers.

And of course, there are the things you can leave at home.

  1. Last year’s Coachella tee
  2. Wedges and heels (I want to weep when I see women in heels—you’re on a grassy field walking around for 12 hours!)
  3. Tanning oil (just a burn baby burn situation waiting to happen)
  4. Debbie downers
  5. Your offensive American Indian inspired headdress

See you on the other side, probably burned and slightly worse for the wear but happy as can be!

Can’t Sit Still

Today I made four different to do lists, three organizational spreadsheets, and scheduled an unending stream of touch bases and meetings for the coming weeks. On any other week that would make me anxious about all the things I’ve got to do, but right now I’m just feeling a wave of relief. Why? It means I’m finally sitting still long enough to plan.

For the last two months I’ve been on the go non-stop. Vacations, work, a festival, and a tragedy have kept me busy and moving so much that a free moment to lie in my bed and plan out my next few weeks feels like bliss.

I’ve always been a restless person and love being on-the-go, experiencing new things and visiting old friends. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some much-needed adventuring recently.

The breakdown?

  • Musical acts: 20+
  • Surprise appearances by Lauryn Hil or Jay Z: 2
  • States I’ve been in: 5
  • Old friends visited with: 10
  • Drinks while visiting old friends: ….
  • Comedy shows: 2
  • Unexpected reunions: 1

And then I realized…

  • Distance Travelled: 13,600 mi.
  • Days of work running on <5 hrs sleep: 8
  • Flight Legs: 9


These past two months have been a much-needed reminder that I also need time to decompress. As I’ve been traveling and asking people to fill my time with new activities I haven’t been very good about giving myself space to breathe.

So friends far and wide: I’m taking a break. I am committing to a few weeks–knowing me it wont be any longer than that–of time to relax. Reading, planning, cooking, sketching, and generally doing the things that make me happy and relaxed. What a novel concept.

That comes with the caveat that I’ll be traveling next weekend, because God forbid I sit still. But it’s for a great, and hopefully relaxing reason: my mom and dad’s 30th wedding anniversary. The Family will be schlepping from our respective corners of the map to Bryce Canyon for a weekend. They aren’t a particularly taxing or tiring bunch, plus it’ll help me knock 2 new states off my list on my quest to get to all 50 states.

And then I swear I’ll sit still. Until the next adventure arises?

A peek at a few of my travels

A peek at a few of my travels



Podcasts have come to the rescue since I’ve been in San Francisco, riding buses left and right. At home I’m so quick to hop in the car anytime I need to get somewhere, and in my car I always blast music (just a little too loudly). But here I spend so much time walking to the bus, waiting for the bus, riding the bus, I cycle through my favorite playlists pretty quickly. One solution is to get new music so I don’t get bored, and never you fear I’m all over that. But I also love to listen to books on tape or radio shows. Enter the podcast.

I used to be so wary of podcasts since in my mind they belonged to the realm of the nerd, sitting in front of his computer spouting information no one wants to hear. They fell in the same category as bad college radio. Obviously that’s not true, since there are podcasts on just about any subject you could ever be interested in.

Cheaper than a book on tape, and more varied as well, podcasts are like radio without the advertisements. Stories and music on demand, if you will. I don’t know why it took me so long to get on board with podcasts as brilliant option for commuting and traveling, but now I’m hooked. I can bop along to the music of All Songs Considered, or listen to Grantland writers discuss the weeks entertainment releases. When I was stuck in the Atlanta airport for 3 hours I listened to a podcast of the best music of the past decade, which included discussions and samples of the songs.

I realize this is a post that should have been written in 2006. Sue me, I’m behind the times. However, I’m happy riding the bus while listening to podcasts with a look of late-to-the-game wonder in my eyes as I’m fed the 40 minutes of entertainment I want.

A few of my favorite podcasts? I’m a big NPR fan, so I love All Songs Considered for new music and music conversations. This American Life, on the other hand, is great for some good stories. When I venture away from NPR I like the Grantland Network Hollywood Prospectus podcasts, although all of theirs are good, particularly for sports fans who don’t have all day to sit in front of Sports Center. Other channels I’ll download just an episode or two from, like TED or various yoga & wellness podcasts.

So for those of you who are laughing thinking “Oh Molly, it’s cute how she finally listens to podcasts,” do you have any favorites? Or better yet, any recommendations for how to pass the time on the bus?

Traveling in a post-9/11 world

I spent all of yesterday traveling and in airports, a rather strange place to be on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. I was struck by how much traveling has changed since then. We flew a good amount when I was younger, so I have a lot of memories of what it was like to travel in a pre-9/11 world. We would head out to the airport with snacks and drinks, like we would for any trip. My little rolling suitcase would be packed with everything I needed and I could bring it on the plane, even with liquids in it, because why would I not be able to? The tedious security lines were tedious because of moms with strollers and holiday travelers, not because of forced shoe removal. Just before the flight took off my mom would remind Will to power off his Gameboy and me my casette player or, once I upgraded, my walkman. During the flight I undoubtedly pissed off the person in front of me with my fidgeting and seat-kicking because I was bored of the books I brought and my CD kept scratching.

Yesterday as I got to the airport I begrudgingly paid $25 to check my first bag and another $35 to check my second, effectively raising the cost of my ticket $60 higher than the price I paid for my flight. I accepted with a shrug the fact that I had to throw out the almost full water bottle in my bag, and panicked that I might have forgotten to check my face cream. My fellow travelers and I scrambled to undo our laces and take our laptops out of our bags. During my layover in Atalanta I sat down and pulled out my laptop, only to find myself appalled at the lack of free wi-fi. A 3.5 hour layover alone and you want to charge me for wi-fi? I was incensed.

On the flight itself the flight attendents had to remind us 2, 3, even 4 times to turn off our cell phones and laptops until we reached 10,000 feet. And, of course, once we reached our cruising altitude we were able to buy movies, or, as the man next to me and I did, stream TV. Why should flying get in the way of me watching The Voice? And when Rachel Maddow came on we learned during our flight of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Libya and the Embassy in Egypt. When the flight landed I turned on my phone to an email telling me my bag had been mishandled and I would have to proceed directly to the Delta Baggage Service Office.

I’m not trying to say that one travel experience is better than another, but I really was struck by all the differences. In a post-9/11 world you can’t bring drinks to the airport but were a terrorist attack to take place you could watch coverage of it during the flight. We expect internet in the airport but no longer have the energy to complain about taking our shoes off. We can check all the bags we want and watch all the movies we want–but there’s a hefty price. I know a lot more has changed in the last 11 years than just wi-fi and liquids on planes, but I also realized that the changes that have taken place are nowhere more visible than in airports and planes.

How have your travels changed in the past 11 years?

Musings and a TED Talk: “If I should have a daughter..”

It’s yet another Friday at the end of another summer week and I realized I’m running out of summer. I need to get away, run to somewhere that’s not here so I have space to breathe and think and question. So New York City here I come. In the past few days I’ve gotten my travel plans lined up, with buses and trains and planes to catch for the next few weeks. But all those travel plans have given me the chance to realize what I’ll leave behind if I leave here. I want so badly to start a life, but I’ve been so eager to start it that I haven’t left myself time to be scared. Let the fear commence..

In the spirit of breathing and thinking and questioning (and being scared to live so far from my Mom), I thought I’d share one of my favorite TED talks. I was reminded of it today when someone linked to the video on facebook, and I had to go back and watch it again. The talk is from Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet who packs a punch. I absolutely love the pieces she performs in this, “B” and “Hiroshima.” “B”, the piece that starts “If I should have a daughter,” has always stuck with me, and I sometimes hope to myself that I’ll be able to find words half as wonderful as these to guide a daughter someday.

Remember your mama is a worrier and your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more. Remember that good things come in threes.. and so do bad things. And always apologize when you’ve done something wrong but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining. Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing.

And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.


Travel Tips: Working out on the road

As someone who has traveled a good amount I know it is all too easy to get to your destination and completely give up on being active for the duration of the trip. When I was in San Francisco there was no way I was going to run because the hills scared the living daylights out of me. I figured I was never going to be able to work out. It took me a good week there before I started considering different workout options, settling on a Netflix streamed workout video in my Chuck Taylors, the only sneakers I brought. Not ideal, but hey it got me sweating.

As good as I am at trying to think of ways to eat reasonably when I travel (unless cheese is involved), I rarely consider ways to exercise when I’m on the go. Which got me thinking, what is the best way to stay in shape when you’re constantly traveling? So I’ve put together a list of some of the best ways to work fitness into your travel routine without having to try to fit weights and a fitness ball into your carry on.

Seven Ways to Stay Fit On the Road

  1. Save space & be organized: As a general space saver I always pack socks and underwear rolled up in my sneakers. If you’re trying to conserve space and keep your packing organized, try putting your socks, sports bra, etc into your sneakers, and a pair of shorts near the top. That way if you want to go for a run you don’t have to dig through your bag to find everything.
  2. Pack smart: Maybe you can’t bring weights, but I bet you can find space in your bag for a jump rope or a resistance band.
  3. Use your resources: Staying at a hotel? Bring a swimsuit so you can swim laps in the hotel pool. Going to Philadelphia? Run the Rocky Steps. Okay so that’s specific, but you get my drift. Make the most of what’s around you.
  4. Plan for rainy days: You likely wont have access to a gym, so think of things you can do inside. If you’re a fitness junkie, bring a couple Jillian Michaels DVDs. Ditto for yoga or pilates–there are a million DVDs out there that make working out easy no matter where you are. And don’t forget about Netflix. A lot of the Instant View workout videos are cheesy, but they get the job done.
  5. Pin and Plan: Pinterest is chock full of great workouts that you can do just about anywhere. Put together a board of on-the-go workouts you can do, and you’ll have them at your fingertips anywhere you go.
  6. Get App Savvy: Don’t let your lack of knowledge of a city prevent you from having the run you want to have. Download the WalkJogRun app that helps you find tons of good running routes of varying lengths in various cities.
  7. Cut yourself some slack: This holds true more for those on vacations than those traveling for work, but remember that a lot of the exploring you’ll do in a new city will keep you active. Even if it isn’t the type of activity you traditionally think of as “exercise,” you can get a lot of movement into your day. Get out and walk through new neighborhoods, wander a museum or rent a bike to sight see. Just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it’s not exercise!