As we all know, 2016 was a crazy year- a whirlwind of WTFs, PADS (Post Alcohol Depression Syndrome, aka Sunday Scaries), and FFS (FerFuxSake) moments. But we made it, so on to the next!
Last year, I moved back to America from Australia, started a job in the city, left said job, started a new job at my former company, commuted to NYC from CT for 3 months, lived out of my suitcase, found an apartment, and completed my dream of having an NYC zip code. In between these adventures I also drove across the country with a long time friend, nearly peed myself driving through what I thought was a tornado in Kansas (we’ll get to that later), camped out along the way, camped out at Coachella as well, stayed in a dreamy airbnb in Palm Springs afterwards, went to London, FINALLY made it to Canada, and went back to London to finish off the year, (as you do).
The first big action item of my year was, of course, moving home from Aus. It was a tough breakup, and I have to say it was me, not Aus. But my visa was expiring and I felt like I was meant to be closer to family and friends once again. However, that is not to say the Melbournites (just made that up) I met were not my family and friends. My coworkers had absolutely become a family to me, and I attribute the happiness and the genuinely grand time I had there to them. Thank you to my Encore family – words will never be able to express how much you all mean to me!
My friends in Aus were just as special, but a different breed of special. A let’s-surprise-Alex-by-paying-for-her-tattoo-before-she-knows-she’s-getting-a-tattoo kind of special (read: crazy). For the record, I submitted and got the tattoo. Instead of the rhino riding a skateboard Melbourne Tram symbol they hoped I’d get, I chose a drawing by my friend Taylor, from a card she wrote me the day I left Bali to head to Australia on my own. It’s three little elephants walking, and it has more meaning than just a love for the gentle beasts. To me, it’s a combination of so many things- the carefree feeling we had having quit our jobs to travel around Southeast Asia, the confidence we found from actually doing it, the fulfilling feeling of being entirely lost but not afraid, the companionship of friends with whom you’d shared these incredible memories with. But G damn, did that tattoo hurt. If it wasn’t already obvious, you have a lot of nerve endings in your feet, and obviously not a lot of fat/muscle/ANYTHING in between your skin and bones. So obviously I decided to stick an electrically vibrating pen straight through the sensitive spot.
When I did finally board the plane from Melbourne to LA, I was an absolute wreck. My eyes were so bloodshot and puffy I looked I had been attacked by hornets who only sting directly on your eyeballs. I was suddenly funemployed again, but didn’t have a real plan. Continue traveling or make my way home and settle down for once? Keep on gypsy-roaming, or pay off the credit card debt I had amassed by being an extreme YOLO artist in Aus? So I did what any free-spirited gen Y-er would do, I booked a ticket halfway to halfway answer my questions. I would get from the west coast back east somehow, but I would figure it out as I went.
This “strategy” somehow worked out perfectly. I’ve always wanted to drive across the country, and suddenly had a friend who would be in San Diego at the same time I would be and wanted to do the exact same thing. Next thing you know, we were traversing Route 66 in a solid all-weather Ford Fiesta. Our first stop was the Grand Canyon. We camped outside a few miles from the North End (North side?) and I mildly slept, convinced that coyotes were right outside our tent about to eat us.
From the GC we went to Albuquerque, my first time stepping in to New Mexico. I have to admit, I enjoyed the city more than I thought I would. It was very funky, and had an authentic feel to it. It was like a hipster Brooklyn without the pretentious hipsters. (I also couldn't stop thinking about how High School Musical was set in Albuquerque).
Before heading out of NM, we stopped for lunch in Santa Fe. It was a cozy little spot with fresh Mexican served with a local American twist. Next up was the lovely state of Kansas. We drove through Oklahoma, so therefore I am counting my visit to OK completed. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Dodge City, right next to the Chili’s our host recommended (as it was the only bar that stays open past 10pm in the entire city). We had the absolute pleasure of meeting THE Deputy Sheriff in the morning, who greeted us as we ate breakfast, and told us the many wonders in the history of Dodge City. This includes, but is not limited to, killing 10,000 heads of capital per day. Yes, you are reading that correctly – PER DAY. I nearly threw up. I’m 100% sure the phrase “Let’s get the hell out of Dodge” comes from this godforsaken city in the middle of America.
Luckily, after Dodge City, came Kansas City, MO, a more civil place where humans do not breed millions of cattle. We stayed with my friend Stephen, who I met studying abroad in Spain back in college. We had a brief stay in KCMO but I loved it! Great BBQ, chill people and a somewhat busy city.
We spontaneously changed our route after KCMO to visit another friend of mine from Spain. Nick lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and I was happy to check off Arkansas from my list while also having a reunion con un viejo amigo. For those who don’t know, Fayetteville is the city where the University of Arkansas campus is. And everything to do with Walmart and the Walton family. At one point we checked out the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It was free and had some interesting architecture, but what was surprising was the amount of famous paintings inside, too. Go Arkansas, get yo culture on girl.
With our tastebuds now craving more barbecue, we decided the obvious next stop should be Memphis, TN. We feasted like we'd never feasted before at Corky's BBQ. Now ever the barbecue connoisseurs, we knew the next stop had to be Nashville. I can safely safe it is one of my all time favorites. It's got everything I love - live music, great BBQ, warm weather. The energy there is so buzzy, I couldn't get enough. We ate at Jack's and I knew I was no longer going to fit into any non-stretchy pants. #WORTHIT.
Next up was Asheville, a beautiful little nugget of a city in rural North Carolina. It’s all good things hippie and outdoorsy and crunchy granola barefoot or jesus sandal-wearing (Birkenstocks) people. We tried to camp that night but quickly realized we should’ve booked a campground beforehand. Everything, and I mean literally everything, was full. We ended up at a Ramada Inn which was fine, but far out of our previously-made budget. Our main activity in Asheville was visiting the gorgeous (and massive!) Sierra Nevada brewery out there. I love that city and am craving to see a bit more of it.
Our final stop on the road trip was an accidental pitstop in South Carolina, just for the heck of it. We jumped out of the car in need of a break from the car and wandered on a hiking trail near a lake. It was gorgeous and quiet and the exact opposite of Dodge City, which made me happy.
We ended in Wilmington, NC, an adorable beach town with perfect weather even in the early spring. I checked off my bucket list of making a cross country trip, and realized I still needed to figure out my next moves job-wise. I was in no rush, so I picked up a book, grabbed a towel and headed to the beach. Some things you simply cannot rush.