Travel Advice From Strangers

The one thing I want to work on is my confidence when alone.

I look like a badass with my mohawk (even better without shampoo!) and leather jacket, but the expression on my face– the averted eyes or the acknowledging eyes give me away. I.e. the creepy local at the Safeway blasting Lady Gaga next to me tonight .Moved my seat so angled away from him, as didn’t want him seeing what I as looking up. But he still saw, of course. And leaning over, asks me where I was trying to get to. And I said I was just looking.

I could have used help with directions– as I had never been in this town before– but I learned in Spain that you don’t let just anyone know where you’re trying to get to. Or that you’re a little bit lost.

“I can see your maps. Where you trying to go?”

I love being alone, exploring a city though. Just ened to learn more about an area before going– and learn how to blow off the inevitable creeps that find you like lint on your freshly washed clothing. The creeps who spot your overstuffed backpack and purse and pick on you due to your out of town look that betrays you as a traveling kid. So I didn’t communicate with Lady Gaga connoisseur, even though, of course, he walked that line between nice stranger/ creepy stalker when he put up my chair and table up for me as the Starbucks closed. I mumbled thanks and ran off into the Safeway to buy soap.

Later, I stop by the Co-op for the second time. This is more life my crowd. People at Co-ops are always trying to talk to the traveling kids, because they are wanderlust kids themselves. My cashier is an elderly, tiny little hippie woman. I ask her as I’m leaving, “You know where the bars are?”

She calls Andrew over, a tall hispanic cashier around my age. He gives me directions, and I thank him and her.

I turn to leave, pacing out the door with a flourish of mystery. Only to have the cashier calling back after me, “Hun, you forgot your soap!”

I had left my purchase there, on the counter.

“It’s going to be a good night!” I said, and they all laughed. And I headed out on my own again.

I realize it’s where you get the advice from that counts, not just any advice. It’s okay to be picky, especially when alone. People working in stores is always a good bet– especially when multiple people are present. It’s like they are their own references for you to check them out. Travel tips.

And if possible– find a hippie co-op for trust and taste.


On the whole, don’t walk close to doorways and alleyways on dark empty streets. Check out the doorways and sidewalks in front and behind you as you walk. But don’t look nervous, be confident and learn how to give off the impression you kick ass for a hobby. Be aware of cars on the street, and pepperspray in your pocket doesn’t hurt. Leave your backpack in the car, and only bring the essentials in your bag. Having a flip phone in plain sight also implies you’d be a shit target to rob. But don’t text when alone, be off phone when in area alone.

Don’t drink more than one drink if you have to walk back by yourself. Don’t have more than one drink in an area you don’t feel good about in general, ever. Be on your game, and learn the area and the people there with caution.

Decidedly, a successful night out by myself. Reminds me what it’s like to travel again. All of this groupthink and grouptravel really kind of steals my fire. And then to have the fear put in me again on a night like tonight, in a town I know nothing about, it makes me realize it’s wise to invest in reliable travel friends.

Lessons learned tonight:

1. It’s okay to blow off creeps when you have any vibes at all. No one deserves a second chance when you’re feeling vulnerable.

2. Get directions and nightlife advice from your local Co-op

3. Your judgement is always best.

I went to the bar that the Co-op boy told me about– creepy wweird and empty on a Saturday night at eight pm. Not that strange in the isolated area we are living, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other options. So I started walking back the way I came, with new eyes. Trusting my judgment.

And I saw a bright and cheery Mexican fast food diner with a Dos Equis sign on the door. And I headed in.


I had a great, uninterrupted and unselfconscious writing session. Lit up diners with beer are my new go-to solo writing trips.

Too much to think about? Go to a place where no one speaks English and there are couples coming in and getting piles of chips and salsa.

I sat down with my Dos Equis, listened to the Mexican music and looked out at the dark street outside.

I can always find a safe space. I can always find an inspiring space.

We all can.

We all deserve that.

Never settle.

What matters to me tonight and onward:

Simplicity, Safety, Satisfaction and Stretching.

My four S’s.

I want to minimize (Simplicity). I have too many things going on, to the point where I am beginning to do nothing because I can’t do it all. It’s better to forget about some ideas, and carry through on a few than make the list too long, and then watch Hulu all night because don’t want to look at my overwhelming list of expectations for myself and my life.

I want to be safe, and become aware of what I need to be aware of. I’m going to create a safety checklist to bring with me on my travels, and use daily. Especially when moving to new housing or area. I want to be aware of my surroundings, aware of the world and being smart in it. Not letting fear hold me back. Finding the brightly lit Mexican diner open until 10 pm and getting a 4.25 bottled beer and a table to write.

Mexican music and tv blasting. Dark world outside.

I want to learn what is ookay and not okay for me to do. I want to always leave wanting more. Never too much, always inspired. I’ve got an agenda now, at the age fo 24. And all these people I live with who don’t understand that or are jealous of that, they can deal with it. I’m not your playmate, I’m a woman on a mission. And it’s taken me this long to find my mission, and you are not going to sidetrack me now. I might have to fight you every night on it, but in the end, let’s be honest. I like fighting you on it a little bit. I need you to be around me, and ask me out every night. Even though I always say no, it’s nice to know you’re there. And it makes me stronger in my purpose when I have to take the initiative to do it all on my own.

Tonight I realized that no one is going to judge where I spent my four dollars– whether it was on a burrito or a beer- either way I gave them money in exchange for a table to write at. The girl I bought the beer from left work five minutes after I got there– so really who was going to judge me? Who was I going to impress by buying a burrito as well? Only get what you need, and never feel guilty for taking that. People will let you know if there is a problem, but most of the time, there isn’t. We make our own problems in our minds.

Satisfaction: I want to be happy with how I live every moment of life. Every moment. I don’t ever want to feel like I am trapped into a track- that I am stuck in the path I’ve made for myself. I don’t believe in that. I believe that you make your path every single fucking day that you are alive. And that is where true beauty lies, when you sit down and think about it. It’s never too late, it’s never anything but your own self holding you back from getting to where you need to be.

The options are out here, it’s just about taking those leaps of faith. Knowing that falling is going to happen, but in the end, what you are learning everytime you fall is how you are not going to fall in the same way again.

And that’s what I’m learning out here, in California.

That’s what I’ve been learning ever since I turned 18.

Two years of hell– not knowing where to go or what to do. Falling all over the damn place.

And then after that, I’ve just jumped straight into the wind and let it carry me. The scariest thing to me was continuing with the status quo, and it still is. That’s why I am never going to do the same thing or live in the same place for longer than a year or so. I need that constant movement and that constant challenge to myself– because that is where I find all four of my S’s.

And I know this isn’t true for everyone– not everyone is made for travel. And I’m not made for it all the time, either. But facing my fears is essential to me, not settling is essential to me.

And so. I continue to believe in the leaps. I need the leaps. I live for the leaps. I am the leap.

I’ve learned that thinking about the future and planning it out will not make you happy in the future. If you are not happy, you will not be happy later, regardless of the change in circumstance. Happiness is mindset as well as circumstance. And if your mindset is not set on creating happiness for yourself, your circumstances will never change. And if your circumstances change but your mindset does not, then it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing. You are what you think.

Every moment satisfied.

I ask myself this everyday– am I working toward something that I want?

When I started this year– I wasn’t sure what I wanted. But everyday I gain a little more perspective in that are.

And so the leap.

Sometimes you can’t even think about what you wan. You don’t even know. You’ve just got to run toward chance. You’ve got to believe in yourself. You’ve got to make it yourself. Think outside the box. Get outside your comfort zone.

And that’s where the stretching part of my four S’s comes from.

You should always be a little bit uncomfortable when you’re satisfied. You should be pushing yourself in the direction you want to be comfortable in. Continually upping the ante.

Still simplicity, safety, satisfied but  also stretching. Feeling the burn as you push toward the person you are daily becoming, for your entire life.


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