For those who are new to the blog, it’s become tradition to write a post every year for my birthday. Since it is so close to New Years, it just so happens to be the best time to reflect upon the year as a whole. There was actually so much that happened in this one year alone, it is hard to even grasp how much has changed. Instead of writing from Philly or in an airport terminal, I am writing this on day 10 of quarantine from my tiny studio in true 2021 fashion.
I may be addicted to astrology TikTok, but I’ve been fascinated with the idea of a “Saturn Return.” It takes Saturn about 29.5 years to complete a full orbit around the sun. A “Saturn Return” refers to Saturn returning to the exact place in the zodiac that it was when you were born. This means everyone ages 27 through 30 is currently experiencing Saturn align with its original placement in your birth chart for the first time. Again, take what I say with a grain of salt as my knowledge is 60 second TikTok videos.
A Saturn Return marks a period of intense change, teaching us lessons about adulthood in our third decade. It is often marked by big life changes such as breaking off important relationships, moving cities, career moves, or really anything that would change your life. Whether you believe is astrology/zodiacs or not, I think most people can choose certain timeframes in their life to look back and evaluate. It’s like how we evaluate our past year at New Years, but instead in 27-year increments.
Sure, all of Taylor Swift albums were re-released as Taylor’s Version with bonus tracks, but my year had so many other positive changes. It was a year of upheaval, constant changes, and for the first time a very intense look inward. It was my first full year of being single in over 7 years. I moved states 3 times, and changed jobs 3 times. I moved to NYC alone during a pandemic and have never been happier.
Right before the pandemic, my friend and I made a pact to each other that from now on we were going to love ourselves and make decisions based on that alone. It had already been a rough year leading up to quarantine. I remember feeling so overwhelmed and down, just breaking down and not really sure where to go next. I realized in the process that I truly didn’t love who I was or what I was doing. I was simply existing and seeking the accolades everyone else deemed important. As Taylor Swift puts it, “if you never bleed, you’re never going to grow,” so that’s what I started to do. I started to bleed out. I started seeing a therapist, broke off my relationship, quit my job, and moved back home. One could say it was very “Saturn Return” of me.
I then started serving and bartending at 2 places in Philly, working every day to save up more money as I tried to figure out what I was going to do next. I died my hair purple. I took a road trip to a Kentucky cave by myself. I was a girl in an indie movie staring pensively out the window trying to find myself on a journey I didn’t realize was the journey until it was all done (I know…basic).
On the side, I had written a feature film during quarantine based off my TV pilot, “Lady Parts.” A friend and myself decided we would self-produce the project and make it ourselves. During all the moves and working multiple jobs, we somehow managed to get an LLC established and crowdfunding site up and running. Any donations are still greatly appreciated. If you cannot donate, please share the links with friends and family on social media. It would be the best birthday present you can give!
You can donate here: www.ladypartsfilm.com
Then in August I got a job offer in NYC. I had dreamed of living in NYC ever since I spent my 10th birthday there. I don’t know what made it seem so magical. Possibly every movie romanticizing the city? The metaphor of starting from scratch and making it big? No matter what the reason, I had a day to find an apartment and move out. There I was again, moving to a new city, for a new job, living alone, and attempting to start a whole new life. I truly thought by 27 I would’ve had it more together, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I think cities are what you put into them. I was so nervous to start over in terms of learning my way around and making new friends. As time went on, I found that the more open I was being, the more I would receive in return. Is it terrifying meeting up with strangers you met on social media to see if a friendship can blossom? Yes. Is it terrifying going out alone and striking up conversations? Yes. Is it worth it? Every time. This move, I put my heart into it and I cannot even begin to say how thankful I am for everything it has given me.
The past year’s birthday blogs have always been so focused on meeting a benchmark. Did I think by this age I’d be married? Own the Dyson v10 vacuum? This year I really didn’t ask myself any of that. Instead the only question I kept asking was “would this decision make me happier?” There is no benchmark, only false goals that were put in our heads as we compare to everyone else around us. If it took a full Saturn Return for me to realize all of that, well so be it.
Now, I type the final words of this post on my last day of quarantine. I am very lucky to have only had mild symptoms, a negative test result yesterday, and a cozy apartment to stay in and not infect anyone else. I may be going crazy in this closet studio, but it will truly be a 28th birthday I will remember forever.
Here is to another cycle around the sun. May your Saturn Return bring the upheaval you’re looking for!
Until next time, please enjoy this really awkward photo of me from the Color Factory NYC…
I went to New York for the first time on my 10th birthday, situated in that spirited time between Christmas and New Year’s on December 28th. After seeing the Blue Man Group and eating a sundae the size of my face at Serendipity, we were off to see the blinding lights of Times Square. I remember looking out the cab window as if I were the main character in a film quickly falling in love and daydreaming into the city haze. I shouted “I’m going to move here one day,” to my family in the cab as I began exiting. I shut the cab door on my Britney Spears inspired pink pleather jacket and the cab sped away. The jacket ripped and my face fell into the mysterious puddle next to the sidewalk. If only my 10-year-old self knew how many times you’d need to get knock down before you reach a goal. Luckily at 27 I’m finally living out that lifelong dream and moved to NYC this past weekend.
For anyone who has been following this blog since its start (shout out to my 2015 OGs), you’ll be happy to know I’m sleeping on a real queen bed, in a safe apartment, and eating more than rice cakes with assorted nut butters every night. New York is expensive, but a couple years have added to my collection of materialistic things.
I typically write a blog post every year on my birthday from some airport terminal bouncing between states for the holidays, but alas I am 7 months late. Too much happened in one year. I haven’t had the mindset to even put words down the past months as my mind is always racing. This year has bought forth a ton of major changes and it seems to keep making 180s every month. During this past year, I’ve moved 3 times between 3 different states, changed jobs 3 times, and ended a 3-year relationship. Please tell me what the number 3 means because it’s been showing up a lot.
Just this past month alone, I had to uproot my life again. Finding an apartment in NYC was a mad house. There were crowds of hopefuls lining the open houses and, on my way, to tours I’d be informed it was already taken. I was working two jobs the past 4 months bartending and serving and only had one day off to secure a place. Moving alone sucks. Not only do you not get to split the rent, utilities, or groceries, but you also bear the burden of setting it all up yourself. Since I only had 48 hours, I’m quite impressed with what we were able to get done.
Also, quick reminder to please treat service industry employees with patience and respect. These people are serving you during a pandemic, usually short staffed, and trying their best. I thought maybe after a pandemic that customers would be kinder and more understanding, but instead I’ve seen impatience and disrespect. I’ll get off my soap box now, but felt it was an important reminder.
I’ve stayed a bit more quiet than usual about all the moves (other than my Instagram posts the past couple days). After living alone during a pandemic (that we are still very much in please get vaccinated), I began realizing the scariest part was actually being alone with my thoughts. It was the first time I truly had to sit down with myself and ask some very tough questions that usually get swept under the rug of my busy life.
This year I’ve committed to self-love. I know it sounds corny, but it’s been a hard goal. As a great friend of mine always says, “sometimes self -love isn’t pretty.” I think we imagine taking care of ourselves as bubble baths with red wine in hand (although that does work too), but in reality, it’s making choices that put you first. It’s those pesky things like setting boundaries, saying no, and making changes when things aren’t working. For the first time, even through this shitty year, I started loving myself (also therapy is great and helped a ton – let’s please keep normalizing this as well).
I always think back to that little girl looking out the cab window at the city lights. I never imagined New York becoming a place where so many of my major events would happen, good and bad. I spent a summer interning here. My memories were filled with cockroaches, no AC or windows, and sitting alone in Washington Square Park. (See more on the cockroaches here) I also used to fly to NYC every other month from Alabama during college to see a specialist. At the time we couldn’t figure out why I was in so much pain and it took 3 years just to find him. You can read all about it in my past blog: Bonnie’s Bed Post. That specialist is the one who ended up performing surgery on me after graduation. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. For the longest time I associated New York with disappointment, heartbreak, and hurt. What once was my dreamy vision of a magical city, had become the stark reality of falling out of a cab into murky waters. The spark seemed to have died and I moved on to Los Angeles and eventually Birmingham.
After 5 years, I’m back in the city that I felt was no longer waiting for me (sorry Taylor Swift – it is not in fact waiting for me). I’m hoping this time it’ll be a bit more magical. Maybe I am romanticizing based off New York TikTok videos, but I feel really excited about this new journey. I find myself reinventing again, coming back stronger, and already a better version of me. I still believe the magic will be there and I can again see the city lights as if I’m falling in love. For now, I’ll be starting my new job as coordinator at Light Iron and trying out everything my new block has to offer.
Until next time, please enjoy this very flattering photo of me enjoying snacks…
“I believe cities have personalities. They tell a story. They somehow exude a feeling.”
Last month I completed a year-long goal, where I would do a new thing that I could only do in Birmingham each week for a year. I called the project “52 things to do in Birmingham,” but shortened it for the hashtag (#52thingstodoinbham). If you are confused by the name, remember there are 52 weeks in a year and I am doing a new thing each week for a year.
The idea came from a friend of mine in Los Angeles, Julia, who had done a similar challenge in Los Angeles. A month before moving to Birmingham, I realized in my 2.5 years in LA that I had never hiked to the Hollywood sign. How could I have lived in this city so long and missed out on one of the biggest sites to see? I was so busy and wrapped up with school and working that I had left most of the city undiscovered. Just as Julie finished telling me about all the amazing things she discovered in LA, we made it to the top of the Hollywood sign before sundown to take in the view. Then just like every other city in the world we celebrated with endless soup, salad, and breadsticks at Olive Garden.
Two months later I was sitting in my new Alabama apartment, unsure what to do with my time. I did not know the area, had not started work yet, and did not have any friends in town. My furniture was 2 weeks late and I was stuck sitting on my blow-up mattress, with no internet, re-watching Gilmore Girls for the 10th time on my phone. I drove to the O’Henry’s coffee shop in downtown Homewood to use their internet and finally got some move-in paperwork started to switch over my car registration (that could be a whole 52 things to do in itself). Instead, I thought of my hike to the Hollywood sign and Julia’s LA challenge and began researching things to do in Birmingham. From that moment forward, 52 things to do in Birmingham was born.
I got in my car the next morning and drove downtown, pulling over to take in the sights and sounds, reading the plaques about the city, and talking to strangers along the way. Not too long after, I had my first day of work at my new job. Luckily all the furniture had arrived by then too.
Making friends in your 20s after college is extremely difficult, especially when you have no base, such as high school friends in the city. I’m just a Yankee, who doesn’t like sweet tea, trying to not sound strange using “Y’all.” Already feeling like a fish out of water, finding connections and friendships was going to take time.
I believe cities have personalities. They tell a story. They somehow exude a feeling. Even while I was traveling abroad, I hold this statement to be true. You can learn all the history, see all the sites, and eat at every 5-star restaurant in town, but nothing can describe the feelings you get when beaming about a city. What was it that made cities have that feeling?
Then in March, we got the news that we would be working from home due to COVID-19. Museums, restaurants, and sporting events all got shut down. My list of 52 things suddenly became near impossible. I went home to Philadelphia for a couple months (working from home) to overcome the loneliness of quarantining alone in a strange city. I thought that my goal of completing the 52 things was going to be put on hold till 2021.
I returned to Birmingham in July, ready to find creative ways to safely do Birmingham things. I would have to do multiple things in a week to reach 52 by the end of October. This included some hiking spots, takeout food and drinks, and some social distancing. As the months went along, I realized what it was about cities that I longed for. It was the people who experience the city with you. My fond memories of all the past places I’ve lived have nothing to do with the city, but the people who made it a second home.
The one thing this challenge forced me to do, was get out of my apartment and attempt to make those connections. Whether this was pre-pandemic heading to the bar, or during the pandemic and asking a new friend to go on a social distance hike. It forced me to become part of Birmingham’s story. A character (dare I say main character – okay not really) who was trying to make sense of the world around them during the craziest year of them all.
During the year that is 2020, I’ve found myself lonelier than ever before. At the same time, I have never felt more like myself than ever before. Although so many terrible things were happening, it was a year of so much growth and realizations. I started re-connecting with old friends over zoom, I made some tough life decisions, and truly started to work on myself as a human being. The make-shift toilet in my back seat from my last post should have told you everything you needed to know about all of that.
No matter where you live (or currently find yourself quarantining), I would highly encourage you to try a “52 things” challenge there. You would be surprised by how much history and culture you will learn as well as how many inspiring people you will meet along the way.
Below is a list of everything that was included in the 52 things to do in Birmingham challenge. All photos and information can be found by searching the hashtag #52thingstodoinbham on Instagram and Facebook.
Here are some things that did not make the list, but I totally did and forgot to snap a photo:
- Trim Tab Brewery: We actually came here after my job interview and some other times before COVID.
- Back Forty: We literally came here for work lunch and game nights all the time before COVID since our warehouse is next door.
- Saw’s BBQ: I ordered takeout during COVID but only had pics from Rodney Scotts.
- Rainbow tunnels: Our work building was next to them and I just never posted about it. They are really cool, so definitely look up some photos.
Until next time, please enjoy this TikTok I made about the election week…
2020. The year I made a backseat toilet out of an old mixing bowl and duct tape. The year I got adult braces. The year I started doing yoga every day, only to still not be able to touch my toes.
I haven’t written a post on here in a long time. I know that some of what I’m about to write is getting a bit personal, but it’s unprecedented times and great writing is always personal.
I look back on that first week of quarantine, filled with zoom moon circles, panic buying toilet paper, and learning the workflows of working from home. It feels like years ago. At the time I was scared to even step outside my apartment. I’d open my door to get some “fresh air,” then shut it after 5 seconds, in fear that I’d catch corona. I’m a very paranoid person. There were some days where I would be so glad I lived alone with no kids. I’d dance about my apartment, trying new recipes, watching Tiger King, and calling up old friends. Then there were other days, where it would get so lonely and even the tiniest inconvenience would lead to a day of depression, anxiety, and eating cereal for every meal.
With all this in mind, I’m extremely lucky to still have an apartment, a job, and a support system of family and friends. During this pandemic, it’s important to remember we are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat. While some are struggling to steer their yacht, others are barely keeping their piece of driftwood afloat. Regardless of the boat you’re on, there is a storm, a giant storm outside. As the commercials keep reminding us, it’s unprecedented times. Yes, you can get a car with 0% APR financing and no down payment right now, but also there is a freaking pandemic! There is a monumental election. There are murder hornets. There are protests worldwide. If you find yourself crying and eating cereal all day, unable to work. It’s okay. There’s a lot going on. You’re not working during a pandemic, you are trying to work during a pandemic.
I finally hit the point of loneliness about a month into quarantine and decided it was necessary to travel back home to Philly for a bit. At the time we had no idea how long the quarantine would last. I was working from home every day and knew I would have to drive 14 hours straight from Birmingham to Philly with few stops to make it work. There were no masks available in stores at the time. I had no idea if gas stations or rest areas would be open. I did what any logical person would do and spent an hour creating a backseat toilet just in case everything was closed and I had a bit too much coffee. I even took extra toilet paper and something for the smells. If you don’t know me, I’m an over-prepared, neurotic, A-type person, who always goes above and beyond. Yes, you probably hated me in group projects. I also crafted masks from coffee filters, a headband, and string. Looking back, the masks were probably not effective at all. Speaking of toilets, I wrote a whole post dedicated to them, which you can read here: Lost in Translation and Toilets
The day of the drive, I woke up at 3am, chugged coffee, and went on my way. I hate driving at night and the earlier I could arrive back in Philly the better. To my surprise gas stations and rest areas were all open and not too crowded. For the entire 14 hours I only stopped 3 times. Each stop was perfectly calculated for bathroom and gas. I actually didn’t eat the entire 14 hours. Before you gawk at me, please realize I have Invisalign trays and eating requires removing them, flossing, brushing my teeth and the trays, and putting them back in with rubber bands. Driving alone and being afraid of bathrooms, meant that it was just easier to not eat. The second time I did this drive, I realized I was being ridiculous and that it was perfectly acceptable to pull over, eat and brush my teeth, while spitting up on the side of the road. It was not my shining moment, but it was better than passing out from starvation.
What I thought would be a couple weeks home, turned into 3+ months. It was the first time in years I spent that much time living at home. My mom and I started doing daily morning yoga. I got to go on social distance hikes with my extended family. I even got to social distance visit my grandparents. As strange of a time it was, I am so thankful I got to spend all that time with family.
Also, my dad found his panini-press/waffle maker grill combo from the 60s and decided we needed to use it every day. We may have made an Instagram account dedicated to the grill. You can follow @mydadsgrill for the wholesome content we all need right now.
I also went through a 2-week phase of learning wood working. We got a table saw and I made 3 blanket ladders. I struggle with the idea that I have to be constantly productive. Especially at times when I am alone. I could blame it on our capitalist society, the fact that I’m a millennial stuck in the storm that is 2020, or just my anxiety in general. I felt like I needed to be doing something, whether it be personal writing, fitness, cooking, networking, zoom social life, or cleaning every minute of every day. It’s exhausting. All the things that used to distract my normal tendencies were suddenly stripped away. I have to come to terms that spending an entire day watching reality TV and ordering food is completely acceptable right now.
In July I got word that we were going to be back on set (or course with safety protocols in place) and made plans to get back to Birmingham. Now that we understood more about COVID, I decided I was going to stop halfway and take my time. For some reason I still have the make-shift toilet in my back seat. I just know if I throw it out, I’ll get stuck in a crappy situation on the road (literally). I drove back, stopping in Bristol to stand in both Tennessee and Virginia at the same time (like the Geico commercial). I have driven through Virginia on I-81 so many times, that I can tell you exactly how far in you are based off the giant cross you are seeing. It’s truly my superpower now.
With my new knowledge of road tripping during COVID, I even took a trip to Orlando to visit Chad and family. It was about 8 hours straight and somehow, I ended up in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour, even during a pandemic.
I think the hardest part of 2020 for myself is feeling so out of control. As a person who loves order and color-coded schedules, not being able to plan has been the most frustrating part. You can’t predict work, social activities, travel, or really anything. Finally, you must live in the moment and be alone with your thoughts. It’s the most terrifying place. My thoughts.
Then I downloaded TikTok, learned to make honey cake, and bought several candles from Target. I had become the meme of the dog sipping coffee in a burning room while muttering “I’m fine. This is fine.” Like I mentioned earlier, some days you are a crying hot mess and others you are cracking up over a zoom happy hour. Still my thoughts were there. They would never escape. It was the moments of silence that got me. Just the other day my power went out for an hour and suddenly I had no internet, TV, or cooking to distract me. I panicked. Was this seriously the thing to make me break down? I did what anyone would do. Light candles, created a TikTok video and made a to-do list for when the power came back.
Things are starting to feel more “normal.” As the months go on, we learn how to just live with this “new normal.” We are able to be on set, but just wear masks and keep crews/casts small and socially distant when possible. I safely social distance hang with friends in town. I take walks and keep up with me at-home yoga. I even started up #52thingstodoinbham again. To learn more about 52 things, you can read my post All by Myself (in Birmingham). It’s definitely way more challenging during a pandemic, but I started something and I want to finish it. If anyone knows any COVID friendly things to do in Birmingham, please message me with ideas!
I also finished writing a feature length screenplay during quarantine. I re-worked my TV pilot, “Lady Parts,” into a 100-page script based off my time getting vaginal surgery and moving back home. You can read my previous blog posts, Bonnie’s Bed Post, The Circle of Lady Parts, as well as the TV pilot table read, for more information on that. Obviously, it’s not 100% accurate to my life and I changed quite a few things, but regardless I’m really happy to have it all written out. We even did a live zoom table read. It was probably the most nervous I’d been in a long time. Something so personal that I wrote while isolated was being read aloud for the first time.
The part that was so cool to me was seeing so many people from so many different phases of my life all together on one zoom call, reading aloud a script I wrote. I have lived in over 5 different cities in the past 7 years and traveled to over 25 countries. I went to undergrad at Alabama, interned in both NY and LA, lived abroad in Ireland, moved back to Philly for a bit, moved to LA and went to UCLA, and now I’m living in Birmingham. Over that time, I’ve met so many people and done so many things. To see people from each of these parts of my life all together as a Brandy Brunch looking zoom call was the coolest thing. As much as 2020 has completely sucked, the way technology has evolved to connect us is worth noting. A good friend once told me that people are the most important things in your life. This was one of those moments where I truly felt that coming into fruition.
I have a habit of moving place to place, traveling about, and never living long enough in a location to have roots. It’s a mix of fear and my constant need for change. The pandemic has put a lot into perspective. Mainly that I did have roots in every location I touched. Whether I noticed them growing or not, they were there. The people I had met in each move. The skills I had picked up with each change. I was a forest, unable to appreciate the seeds I had planted until now.
2020. The year I proved to myself I can drive 14 hours in one day alone, while learning more than I ever needed to know about the Taylor Swift discography. The year where having face masks to cover up my braces actually was a blessing in disguise. The year that I’ve gotten closer than ever before to touching my toes.
Until next time, please enjoy these photos of Stella (my sister’s dog) celebrating birthdays with my family members. Over the course of my time home, I got to help celebrate quite a few quarantined, social distant birthdays, including Stella’s birthday!
Recently I’ve obsessively been researching travel to another country. I want to go to 30 countries before turning 30 years old and am currently at 26 countries at the age of 26 (I guess you can say I’m on my way). Unfortunately, the past year was extremely expensive. I moved across the country for a new job and spent so much on moving expenses alone (Who knew moving a mattress could be over $1000…not me). I found myself at a new job where I would have to wait awhile before earning a significant amount of PTO since I’d have to use my only accrued days for visiting family over the holidays. Plus, I just turned 26 and now am paying a lot more for my own health insurance. This also includes expensive adult braces to fix my TMJ issues that I’ve been putting off for 2 years.
On a side note, I made a joke about losing weight on Invisalign, since you have to take them out to eat or drink anything but water and you get too lazy to take them out. The official Invisalign twitter account decided to reply and I don’t think they understood my humor as you can see in the tweets below.
Soon, I found myself searching travel credit card sign up bonuses like crazy, including a search on the Facebook group called Girls LOVE Travel (#GLT). Organized by Haley Woods, Girls LOVE Travel is a global community of over 1 million active and aspiring female travelers providing resources and empowerment to one another through safety, socializing and support. What I love about the group is that you ask advice on any travel question you may have, but can easily search the group as someone has already had the same question as you. Also there are lots of people sharing their travel stories and photos of their journeys. I find it fascinating that all of the members can lead such different lives, but traveling has such an impact for each and every member.
Sometimes I get lost on the page, imagining my next travel adventures. Recently, I’ve been noticing a lot of people asking for recommendations on a place I either currently live or have lived before. For myself, I grew up in Philadelphia, but lived in Los Angeles for a bit, and now live in Birmingham, Alabama. I can usually spit off a couple things to do off the top of my head, but found that I really didn’t know about some of the hidden treasures of my own hometown. I was learning more from the comments of these recommendation posts than I had ever learned by actually living there myself.
I find that I got so into my work or school routine, that I barely made the time to explore my own city, only yearning for the next time I could hop on a plane. The irony is that I was dying to get far away to go on an adventure, when there were plenty of adventures in my own town just minutes away. I think we all get stuck in this mindset that a “travel trip,” has to be a plane ride away to some exotic location, but a travel trip to me is really about the adventure. You don’t have to go far away to see beautiful nature, a quirky museum, or to eat great food.
Not to say that I still don’t want to go on a big trip this year and mark off a new country, but I do have a new appreciation for the city that I currently live in. I moved to Birmingham only 4 months ago and have already done so much! If you do not follow my blog (which why wouldn’t you), I am doing a challenge called #52thingstodoinbham, where I try something new every week that you can only do in Birmingham, Alabama. You can also follow along by searching the hashtag on Facebook or Instagram (@shake_ur_bonbon). Already I have completed 21 things out of the 52 on my ever growing list. Not only did I learn more about my new city, but I have had some amazing adventures and met some great new friends along the way. Isn’t that what travel is all about anyways?
I constantly feel this need to get away and travel. I think it is a product of just being in my mid-20s and so unsure of what the next 5 or even 10 years hold. From one side I feel this pressure to do everything as soon as possible. That I need to reach my goals and travel across the entire globe as soon as possible as if somehow time will run out at any moment. On the other hand, is this grandma inside of me telling me to slow my roll and maybe just take a full night of doing nothing but watch Chopped. I always somehow end up looking up cheap flights and planning trips I never go on. Even during study abroad I was overwhelmed at the thought of hitting up so many European countries, when I could have spent 6 months in Ireland alone and still not have done everything. No matter what I was doing, I always just felt this need to travel or plan a travel trip to look forward to, but I am still learning how to stand still. I’m learning how to enjoy the moment and the little things that make each day an adventure.
Okay before I get all mushy on here (to be fair it is close to Valentine’s Day) I’ll wrap it up. Until next time, please enjoy this photo of us keeping safe during a tornado warning…
If you are interested in learning more about Girls LOVE Travel, check out the links below:
- IG: Instagram.com/girlslovetravel/
- FB Page: Facebook.com/girlsLOVEtravel/
- Store for Branded items: https://www.promoplace.com/glt-store
Girls LOVE Travel (GLT), was founded by Haley Woods on Dec 30, 2015. Girls LOVE Travel is a registered trademark with the USPTO and the GLT Logo is copyrighted. Girls LOVE Travel, LLc. is filed as an S Corp with the US government. Unauthorized use of the GLT name, logo or likeness to create merchandise, trips, or spin-off groups/subgroups will result in removal from GLT and all of its subgroups.
It seems that another year has passed. Not only is my birthday today, but in 3 days we will finish another revolution around the sun and toast champagne to 2020. Every year on my birthday for the past 3 years, I have written a blog post while waiting to board a delayed flight to Orlando from Philadelphia. Each time I get sentimental because of the time of the year. We are supposed to list out our goals for the new year and reflect back on how we did this past year. It’s hard to judge, when so much has changed just within the past couple months.
This year feels a bit different. Maybe it’s because it’s the first year that things actually start to get worse as you age. At 25 I could rent a car and my car insurance went down $40. Now at 26, I have to get off my parent’s really great insurance and get my own high deductible BS plan. Also, I’m just tired, all the time. I guess I really just need the new Adele album or something to get me through the new year.
What I am finding to be the most difficult is the constant change. The moving around, the uprooting, and the traveling. I swear no matter how many flights I have been, I never have enough miles to get anything for free and I’m just constantly in debt. If you read my prior blogs, you will know at the beginning of this year, I was working a night shift (4pm-midnight) and then gradually in the spring, I went back to 9am-5pm with a promotion. Things were finally starting to balance out. I had my routine down and I even found a yoga place in LA I could afford once a week. Then I was offered a job as a comedy writer/producer in Birmingham, Alabama. In October I packed up all my things, drove cross-country, took a risk and started over yet again.
I think we as humans are like trees. When we enter a new environment, there is little keeping up standing still. Most of the time you don’t have friends, family, or any communities. It seems as if a simple gust of wind could easily move you to another nearby forest. Then a couple weeks go by and you start to get situated in your new apartment, hanging up photos and artwork, and you finally get comfortable at your new job. A couple more weeks go by and you start to meet some new people your age, and take the leap to leave your apartment on a Saturday night. Suddenly the roots grow a bit deeper in the ground, stabilizing your base within the forest. As time went on I didn’t realize how big my roots had started to grow in Los Angeles, until I uprooted them from the ground and planted my tree in a completely new city. The good news is that it has been a couple weeks for me and my roots are slowly taking place, at least enough to hold me steady if a strong wind (or perhaps tornado in Alabama) swings my way.
So now I sit again in the Philadelphia airport with my free birthday Starbucks drink, typing away at how I think the past year has gone by. In an essay I wrote for the UCLA Professional Program application, I wrote that “scar tissue was like the knots in wood; nature’s way of dealing with stress put into a system.” At the time I was talking about overcoming a recent surgery, but now I see it as more than just scar tissue. As humans we adapt to whatever scenario we are thrown into. No matter the stress put in our system, we find a way to adapt and grow even stronger. In a small-scale way, I am just another person trying to figure out what I want in life, but growing even stronger with every change. So here is to another year of big changes not for myself, but hopefully for everyone out there reading!
For anyone who follows me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have already seen my ongoing challenge #52thingstodoinbham. Every week I have to do something you can only do in Birmingham, Alabama that I have never done before. This can include everything from food, drinks, hiking spots, museums, or even just points of interest. Although I would love to do one thing every week, it has been hard with the holidays and weddings taking up some of my weekends. I am already at #day11 of the challenge and I can honestly say it is helping so much to learn my new city. Not only am I going to all different areas of the city, but I am learning so much about the city and its history. Feel free to go check out the hashtag, share the posts, and send me any tips for things to do around the Birmingham area.
Now I must go board my flight, but until next time please enjoy this photo of me getting a bit tipsy and joining a zydeco band with a washboard and spoons on Bourbon Street…
As most of you know, I recently uprooted my life to Birmingham, Alabama for a new job. I have moved a lot in the past 7 years, so much, that I have not stayed in the same apartment for over a year in the past 7 years. Over the span of those 7 years, I lived in 6 different cities. Like most of you, my life was a constant mess of stress and a full schedule. For the past 2.5 years in Los Angeles, I filled my time with a full-time job and night classes. I spent every moment busy and any free time writing.
For the first time in my life, I took a step back. I had start climbing to the top, but I was unsure it was a climb I wanted to be on. I was not sure who I was anymore. I was simply a mass of matter getting through the craziness of each day.
Fast forward to driving cross country and moving into my first single apartment, and crazily shopping for furniture and anything to fill the walls. Then a week passed and the craziness all stopped. I finished moving all the furniture and unloading the boxes. I had cleaned the apartment 5 times over. It was just me, alone in my very clean apartment and for the first time in a long time, I had what people would call “down time.” I actually found myself with a lot of it.
What do I do with my down time? Surely, I have to have hobbies outside of work and writing. Right? I came to the scariest conclusion of them all, something I was scared to admit, but I no longer knew myself. I had no hobbies anymore, or worse I did not even know what I was interested in anymore.
People told me to go on Meetup or similar sites to find a group and go out and meet people with similar interests. What did I even like to do? All I’ve been doing in stressing over work and school for so long that I forgot what it was actually like to plan something for the pure purpose of fun. What did I enjoy doing other than stressing myself out?
So, then I went down a rabbit hole of looking up things to do and meet up groups and it is a struggle out there. For one, as a girl alone in a city that I don’t know, there are just some things I don’t feel comfortable going to alone. There are just some other groups that I know I won’t like. For example, the skiing group. I am sure you are all lovely people, but I found out at a young age that even the bunny hill was a disaster for me. The promise of sipping hot chocolate in the lodge only worked to get me to go back one time too many (just ask my mom how the Girl Scout ski trip went and you’ll know). Also, some sites are not for meeting friends, they are confusing dating sites so be careful folks.
In my strange google searching about meet up groups and events, I came across a quote from Carol Burnett tonight that reads, “only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” I have no idea the context in which she is speaking, but the quote stuck with me. No one is going to give me some magical beans that would just fill all the time. If I’m not willing to go out there and do it for myself and find things that made me happy, then nothing will ever change. I would be forever stuck coming home to my terribly cooked dinners, re-watching Gilmore Girls for the fifth time.
I re-read a blog post I wrote on my 25th birthday, which also coincides with the new year because they are 3 days apart. Yes, people forget about my birthday due to Christmas and New Year’s, and if you’re reading this I am now expecting double gifts because I get gypped some years (just kidding – but am I?). Anyways, I made a promise to myself that I was going to make decisions solely on the purpose of putting my happiness first. In case you are wondering how it’s going, well I just uprooted my life and don’t know what I am doing (so like really good I think).
So, now it is time. I will be leaving my house to try activities I have never tried next week in hopes that I like one of them. I am terrified to go do something completely new with complete strangers in a city that makes no sense to me still, but here we go. Here is to turning 26 soon and still having no idea what I’m doing. Updates to follow.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me on the set of my first video with It’s a Southern Thing…
The finished video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXhSPLcVfvs&t=1s
Well friends it’s official, I signed a lease and now live in Birmingham, Alabama. Just when I thought moving to Los Angeles with no job or place to live would be difficult, I actually found this move a bit more infuriating. The first move, I had no furniture or kitchen supplies. I bought most stuff there and packed my car with clothes and my beloved air mattress. This time, I had things to worry about. I had a bed frame, box spring, and a mattress! I even had a dresser. This was my first experience hiring a moving company and so far, I am in an empty apartment, with no internet, barely any furniture, awaiting all my belongings, with an ETA that is over a week off from the move in day. Oh yeah, the internet is still not up.
I’m currently writing from a local coffee shop I found down the block. It is actually quite nice. Shout out to O’Henry’s Coffee. Meanwhile, I’ve spent the whole day on the phone trying to set up everything else. After only two mental breakdowns, I think I’m in an okay place considering I just uprooted everything. I guess you will need to ask me after I go to the DMV next week for my mood. I think tonight, I will do my favorite activity of staring at a blank wall, trying to fall asleep on the new couch I had to buy just to have somewhere to sit and sleep till my stuff arrives. Granted, I was going to buy a couch eventually, but my credit card thinks otherwise.
I sounds like I’m ranting, well because I am. Moving totally sucks. I’ve spent all my money and can’t even watch Netflix in my own place until the internet decides to show up. I am not sure if I just blocked out the memory of moving all my stuff to Los Angeles, or if it really was not as bad. On the bright side, my shower tub was fixed and my water is turned on so I can take a shower. Also, the electricity is on and I can use the kitchen. In terms of my stuff not arriving, a quick trip to Target for a towel, some plates and other kitchen things can last out the week. Side note: I now live 2 minutes from a Target and Fresh Market and will spend all my time there. If you have not been to a Fresh Market you have not lived. I used to go there for fun in college (I had no life as you can tell).
This is my first time living alone. I have always had room mates, but now that the rent is cheaper down south, I finally decided to live alone. It is really weird. You come back inside and no one is there. You go to the fridge and everything is yours. Even the common space has only your decorations or things. This is my first time ever having to even purchase a TV, TV stand, couch, matching chairs (I have never had 2 matching chairs till now), and a rug. I truly thought all of that would fill the place, but alas it still looks very empty. If it weren’t for the spending money aspect of it, I really did enjoy getting to pick out furniture. If someone wants to put me on one of those decorating/design shows on HGTV, I will not fight you. I will also give you my Venmo.
For the past days my mom and dad have been down in Alabama helping me move. Sadly, since the moving company messed up and none of my things are here, there was only so much we could set up and unpack. Thank you to both of them for taking the time to help me down here. I don’t think I could have done all of this alone. They both left for Philly this afternoon, and then that’s when it hit me. I am alone. Silence. No one in this place, but me (and well the techno music coming from the upstairs unit). I felt like Liz Lemon in the pilot of Thirty Rock, where she chokes alone in her single apartment. I’m fine. We are all fine.
I know so many other people go through this every day. People move every day. People live alone every day. At 25 I thought I’d be better equipped and emotionally ready, but I am still terrified. I guess it is time to start discovering the area and going outside the apartment. It is way easier to write that than to go out and do it. I still have so much to get done, but now I am just awaiting other things to happen.
Once I am more settled, I want to do something to force myself to get to know the city (and possibly meet some friends along the way). A shout out to Julia, who actually did this in Los Angeles and gave me the idea. She did a new LA only thing every week. Whether it be a museum, park, shop, or even a dining experience, it had to be something new each week that was LA specific. I thought it was an amazing idea, especially for someone like myself who is new to a city. With this in mind, I may start 52 things to do in Birmingham, which is basically me just doing something new in the city every week that I can only do in Birmingham. If we can count Vulcan as my first week that would be great! Don’t worry you’ll read about it in the next paragraph. I may need to wait until I am a little more settled in, but I do plan on starting this and keeping the blog updated with each new thing. If any Birmingham friends want to join please let me know as you can tell I am very lonely at this time.
On a more light-hearted note, we visited the Vulcan Statue and park in Homewood, Alabama. It is a suburb of Birmingham, where I now live. It is a giant sculpture of the Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, that is a symbol of the city’s iron origins. There is a museum to walk around that tells the history of Birmingham and its role in the industrial revolution. Since we are children, we played the scavenger hunt meant for children through the museum. Highly suggest the scavenger hunt!
The Vulcan sits atop a hill and you can take the stairs or elevator up to see views of the city. One admission ticket works all day so you can even go back at night to take in the views with some wine and beer in hand. The park is also gorgeous and features a great walking/biking path.
Here is to new adventures in a new city! It can only get better once the movers arrive this weekend!
Until next time, please enjoy the most important view of the Vulcan statue…
As many of you know, I have just arrived in Birmingham, Alabama for a new job. I have spent the last few days road tripping cross country from Los Angeles with my mom. We had the pleasure of visiting 8 states over the course of 5 days. I had done parts of this road trip before as I have moved quite a couple times, but this is my first time doing the road trip while having a blog (so now you get to hear all about it, but I promise I’ll keep it fun).
The first day we left bright and early from Los Angeles and went all the way to Flagstaff, Arizona. It amazed me how long it took just to get out of Los Angeles (you know traffic and such), but once you are out of the city, the landscape is gorgeous. You are surrounded by mountains and deserts. One thing that really stood out to me as the days continued was how much the landscape changed day to day. It felt like it would happen all of the sudden, but maybe it was because I was too invested in my Spotify playlists to really pay attention. I sometimes forget just how big and vast our country is.
Some people here may know that Route 66 is decommissioned and you can no longer drive it all the way from Santa Monica to Chicago. It is now replaced mostly on the southern route by I-40. Even the last time I did this trip, I did not know much about Route 66, other than the famous song about getting your kicks, and that there were diners along the way. This time, I really wanted to look up the history behind the infamous road and truly understand the oddities we were seeing along the journey.
Before Route 66, there were no roads interlinking major cities, only some country roads between small towns. While legislation for public highways first appeared in 1916, Congress enacted a plan for national highway construction in 1925. The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926 and it soon became the nation’s principal east-west link. The road connected the main streets of rural and urban communities and for the first time most of these small towns had access to a major national thoroughfare. Now small farmers could transport their goods to major cities across the US. By 1930, the trucking industry had come to rival the railroads for preeminence in the American shipping industry.
John Steinbeck’s classic novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” calls Route 66 the “Mother Road.” The book, as well as the film, immortalized Route 66 in the minds of all Americans, as an estimated 210,000 people migrated to California to escape the dust bowl. From then on, the road came to symbolize a road to opportunity. I may dare say a road to the American Dream.
By 1938, Route 66 was reported as a continuously paved roadway, ready for all weather. Now that this all-weather road was ready, Army captain, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who found his command bogged down near Ft. Riley, Kansas, while on a coast-to-coast maneuver, was about to get the inspiration for a new system of transportation. The War Department need improved highways for rapid mobilization during wartime and to promote national defense during peacetime. When America became involved in World War II, the War Department wanted to use the west for military training bases because of the geographic isolation as well as the dry weather. Route 66 helped to facilitate the single greatest wartime manpower mobilization in the history of the nation.
After the war, Americans were now more mobile than ever. They could leave behind the harsh winters up north, and head down Route 66 to relocate. This is the same time the popular phrase, “get your kicks on Route 66,” appeared in the famous song by Bobby Troup and Tommy Dorsey. Later, it was released in 1946 by Nat King Cole. Store owners, motel managers, and gas station attendances recognized early on that even the poorest travelers needed food, water, gas, car maintenance and a place to rest. It was no longer the military bringing in all the money, but now the tourists.
Sadly Route 66 does not have a happy ending (I did tell you it was decommissioned at the beginning to be fair). Soon, the overused road became too narrow and deteriorated to drive on safely. The same public lobby that gained popularity for Route 66, now was creating its demise. Poetic if you ask me. Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his second term in the White House and was very impressed with the German’s use of the Autobahn, or national highways crossings their country, that allowed individuals to drive with speed and safety at the same time. Congress passed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which provided the finances for a national interstate and defense highway system. By 1970, almost all segments of the original Route 66 were bypassed by a modern four land highway. For most of our drive this was I-40.
Now that I have given you a history lesson, I want to focus more on the symbolisms of this road. It was the first-time people from one part of the country could even get goods and services to another part of the country hundreds of miles away. More importantly, it was the first time, everyday people, could take a road trip, and make the decision to move for an improved life. As you drive down I-40, you pass many relics of what used to be along the route, including broken down gas stations, foreclosed buildings, old cafes, and entire ghost towns. While intriguing, I also found it quite sad to see a booming industry fall and crumble, causing all the little towns that spiked from Route 66, to suddenly fall out of existence. Like everything in life, something new and improved always comes along and the others around it will fall. The new ways are constantly pushing out the old ways in an endless cycle.
For me, it was realizing that I had the privileged of road tripping across country to take a job in another state. Unlike times of the past, I was able to drive safely and speedily across 8 states in 5 days. It is crazy to think that before interstates and even before Route 66, none of this would have been possible. Although the dreams of those small towns are now standing as ghost towns, the idea of the road to opportunity still keeps its inspiration. I have driven this route 3 times and each one has brought opportunity just in the sheer fact that I am able to travel with my car. It has also connected people on a different level. Not only do you just know the people in your small town, but now you can travel to any US city and meet people across the nation. The most interesting part of the whole adventure was meeting people across the way and seeing how much we all have in common even if we live hundreds of miles apart. Before I continue going on about roads forever, here are the actual attractions we stopped at.
Our first major stop was Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch. It is a pit stops that features tree shapes with bottles and antiques. A fun place to walk around and take pictures. No bathrooms though. Afterwards we stopped in Kingman, Arizona, home to a famous Route 66 diner, Mr. D’z. The town is filled with Route 66 murals and even a Route 66 museum. We also stopped at Area 66 in Arizona, that claims to have been the sight of an alien crash landing. There is a museum (yes, we did have to pay to see it) and I am bound to secrecy. I do believe in aliens if anyone was wondering. Finally, that night we got to Flagstaff, Arizona for some rest.
The next day we headed to see the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, we had rain for majority of the day and night, but we did not let that stop us from seeing the sights. As we chugged along, we stopped in Winslow, Arizona to stand on a corner (if you don’t know that song reference, then we need to have a long talk). After we made a pit stop at the Little Painted Desert Park. It wasn’t really a park if you ask me. It was a dirt road filled with pot holes, that led to a cliffs edge with beautiful views of the colored desert. There was no guard rails or parking and if you weren’t paying attention, your car could literally just drive right off the cliff. Since we weren’t trying to pull a Thelma & Louise, we continued on to the Petrified Forest. As I said earlier, it was raining all day, so we had to drive most of the park and only get out for short periods to get photos and views. That night we made it to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was also our first time change and really freaked us out as the GPS changed before we came to the realization ourselves.
That next morning, we headed to the old historic part of Albuquerque. It is filled with cute shops, restaurants and buildings. We walked around (may have bought more candles, do not judge) for a bit and then had a mini pit stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Of course, we got some Mexican food and did some more shopping. Then, we were on the road to Amarillo, Texas. Once we crossed into Texas, it was the first time the landscape changed drastically. It was also luckily our last time change of the trip. Before dark, we snapped a photo of Cadillac Ranch. Another classic Route 66 roadside attraction, featuring Cadillacs stuck in the ground covered in the spray paint of many tourists over the years.
The next day was our longest drive. We first stopped in Shamrock, Texas. It was yet another small town that still had some parts of the original Route 66 that ran through the main drag. I guess we can say we did drive on Route 66. The town has a piece of the famous Blarney Stone from Ireland (except I did not want to kiss this one without a Lysol wipe). The town is also the official Saint Patrick’s celebration city of Texas. Along with this, the town has U Drop Inn, an art deco gas station/diner from the 1930s that used to be a stop along 66. Even Elvis once sat at a booth at the café. You may also recognize the iconic style of the stop from the Pixar movie, Cars, which took inspiration from Shamrock, TX for the design of Radiator Springs. We had to quickly make it through Oklahoma (no time to stop really) in order to get to our hotel in Fort Smith, Arkansas before dark.
That next morning, we had some amazing maple pecan lattes from a local joint called the Fort Smith Coffee Company. Then, we headed out to Little Rock, Arkansas. First, we went to the President Clinton library and museum. Although interesting, it was more intriguing to see Central High School. If you are unaware of The Little Rock Nine and the famous desegregation of the school, I highly suggest you educate yourself. It was horrible to think this did not happen so long ago, and really made me see how much further we still have to come as a nation. After Little Rock, we drove into Memphis, Tennessee for the night and were able to go out on Beale Street. It reminded me a lot of Bourbon Street, filled with neon lights, open alcohol carry, and lots of tourists. A shout out to the amazing police officer who helped my mother and I get away from three creepy middle-aged men trying to hit on us. He was a true gentleman and every man should try to help women who they see in uncomfortable situations.
For our last day of the road trip, we stopped in Tupelo, Mississippi. Our first stop was to Queen’s Reward, a local meadery. For those who don’t know, mead is in fact alcohol, that is created from fermented honey. All it requires is honey, yeast, and water, and it’s delicious. Queen’s Reward uses only local Mississippi honey and provides tastings and even mead slushies. It was amazing getting the run down from the owner herself. Afterwards we went to see the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The attraction has the actual 2 room house (one bedroom, and a kitchen) that Elvis was born in. You can also go inside the church Elvis attended as a boy as well as a museum full of relics and paraphernalia. I am not a huge Elvis fan, but it was awesome to see the humble beginnings of where it all started.
From Tupelo, it was only a short drive into Birmingham. We arrived Friday evening and were excited to finally stay put in the same location for a couple days. Luckily, we were able to find an awesome apartment in the Homewood area of Birmingham today and we will start the move in process in the next couple days. It’s time to continue down the mother road of opportunities! A huge thank you to my mom for coming on this road trip with me and always supporting my dreams. Also, a shout out to my dad who is helping move the furniture and set up internet out here in Alabama. Roll Tide!
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of a questionable neon sign on Beale Street….
Please also enjoy this photo of Cali girl achieving her greatest accomplishment to date, fitting both her favorite balls in her mouth at the same time…