Music Festivals as a Solo Act

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One of my favorite decisions from my early 20s was uncharacteristically spontaneous. After graduating from college, I decided to go to a music festival that summer with the idea that I would live a little before heading to grad school. I had never been to an overnight music festival, nor did I know anyone who planned to be there, but I went for it and had a fantastic time. Before you follow in my footsteps and plan a solo trip to a festival, here’s the things I learned from my solo journey to Manchester, TN for Bonnaroo in 2017 and 2019.

Pick your festival wisely. One of the reasons I felt comfortable going to Bonnaroo solo is the festival’s reputation for “good vibes”. And I learned very quickly that the folks who enjoy Bonnaroo genuinely are the nicest people. Multiple times throughout my adventures on the Farm, people would come up and check in on me, whether I had ever seen them before or not. Spontaneous deep conversations were common and of course everyone on the Farm loves a high five. Before you venture down to any festival by yourself, check the reviews online or with friends; not every festival has the same reputation.

Volunteer. For both my trips to Bonnaroo, I volunteered through their C’roo program – I was given free entrance to the festival, free showers, free meals for shifts worked and all of my shifts were over before the festival even really began. 10 out of 10 would recommend it. Plus, I befriended my neighboring volunteers who became friends that I still talk to regularly. If you’re on your own, the structure of the volunteer program can help you meet people (especially if you’re a little more introverted like I am).

Make your schedule. Most festivals post their schedules in advance for you to peruse, others might post online the day of or give you a printed schedule the day of. Whatever the festival’s system, pick your “most see”s and make sure you know where you want to be and when. Once you know those, be flexible with the rest. One of the great things about festivals, instead of a classic concert, is the opportunity to stumble upon a great new band you never would have heard of. If you only see the bands you came for, you might miss out on the next big thing. But if you find yourself floating from stage to stage based on what your neighbor’s cousin’s best friend recommended, you might be disappointed in your experience. Find your balance.

Use social media to your advantage. Now, once you get where you’re going, you may not have great service. Which is totally fine – you’re at the festival for the experience, not for free time to play solitaire. But I’d highly recommend posting on social media that you’re planning to go. Share the line-up or post a picture of your packed car. Maybe someone you know will see it and be there. Or maybe you’ve just inspired someone else to go too. Once you’re there, meet up! Even if it’s just for a show or two, it’ll give you a chance to hang with someone new. I ran into a former resident from my R.A. days in the bathroom line at Bonnaroo, met up with a friend I met in Australia, and spent most of my second festival with a friend I met volunteering the first time around.

Lastly, don’t forget to check in! Tell your roommate or your mom or just someone you trust where you’ll be. Check in before you leave, when you arrive, during the festival, and when you’re headed home. Even though it’s not as crazy as flying around the world alone, it is still a good idea to keep someone informed, just in case.

Burnt

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Sunburn, an unfortunate side effect of beautiful summer weather, and I have a long and storied past. Last summer, as I sat there covered in aloe (thank you Nationals baseball for this particular set of burn lines), I figured I would pass on how my super Irish skin and I handle sunburns.
Hydrate or die: my solution to most things is to drink some water. After a full day in the sun, your body needs refreshment. And when my skin is in need of nourishment, my insides will appreciate hydration as well.
Lather up early and frequently: the second I think I might have a burn, I cover myself in lotion. I’ve had burn lines show up a day or two later so I do not trust my skin to give me timely warning on a sunburn. I step in the door, shower off any grime and cover myself in lotion or aloe or whatever is available. And I reapply constantly – when I wake up, on lunch, as soon as I’m home again, and once or twice more before bed.
Mix it up: everyone’s skin is different and I find that my skin loves lotion but isn’t too keen on aloe long term. I also vary my lotions because sporadically one will burn or will not do the trick or I’ll hate the smell, but then the next time around it might be the perfect blend. It’s always an adventure to find the perfect combo for my skin. (Pro tip: stick your aloe in the fridge. It’ll feel even better)
Loose fitting clothes: based on past mistakes, avoiding tight fighting clothes is key to surviving a burn. This is the perfect time to ditch bra straps and leggings and opt for flowing dresses and linen shirts. Keep the air flowing and the clothes away from the skin.
Lastly, pack sunscreen next time. I’ve built the habit of wearing a moisturizer with sunscreen everyday but carrying sunscreen in your purse or car makes it a thousand times easier to remember to apply. And then reapply throughout the day. Bring a hat or an umbrella and stay in the shade.

Extroverting Introvert

Travel, Uncategorized

Every once in a while, I’ll express stress or frustration about having to put myself out there in order to experience even slight success at what are sometimes the most mundane of challenges. My mother always reminds me to “get my extrovert on” and get it done.

The concept of extroverts and introverts is really not as clear cut as defined. My personality type requires time to myself to recharge and I am unlikely to throw myself into a conversation with someone I don’t know. However, life sometimes calls for being an extrovert. You may need to make new friends or ask a question or throw yourself at the mercy of an extrovert in order to survive your new surroundings. It can be overwhelming.

One of my favorite things about travel is meeting new people. That’s particularly challenging for me but oh-so rewarding on the tail end.

In order to successfully adventure as an introvert, I’ve collected goals for myself that allow me to get the most out of my travel experience.

Don’t sit down. The temptation after traveling somewhere new is to sit down on your bed and maybe take a little snooze. Don’t. Firstly, you’ll end up asleep and jet lagged. And secondly, you’ll miss out on meeting people. Especially if you’re in a study abroad program or in a hostel, people tend to be excited and open to meeting new folks from the second that arrive. Take advantage of that excitement and roll with it. You can sleep later.

Smile. I know it’s such an American thing to do, but it works. Maybe you’re sitting in your first day of class or hanging in the common space of your hostel – keep your head up and at least a mildly pleasant expression on your face and you’ve increased your chances of an extrovert taking pity on you.

Keep yourself disconnected. It’s really tempting to just sit on your phone with your head down and your headphones in, but that’s just closing yourself off. I’ve mentioned that disconnecting helps with easing homesickness before. If you’re not attached to your phone at all times, maybe someone or something will catch your eye.

Go to those awkward meet and greets. I know no one wants to partake in the horribly uncomfortable experience of sharing your name, hometown, and a fun fact about yourself. But sometimes that’s what you need to do. Most folks at that kind of event, whether it’s welcome drinks or board game night at the hostel, are looking to be social – seize the moment.

And lastly, accept that sometimes you’ve just gotta be an introvert. Traveling or moving or starting something new, all of these are great ways to learn about yourself and spend some time looking inward. Who are you? What makes you happy? Everyone (introverts included) would benefit from a couple of minutes of time alone to self-reflect. And that’s okay. Not everything about life has to be overwhelming.

Exploring Georgetown

Hometown, Uncategorized

One of the perks of my current living situation is the proximity to one of the cuter parts of DC. Georgetown is literally across the water from my apartment and is walkable. Georgetown is pretty impossible to drive to and isn’t Metro-accessible, which can make it a pain in the butt to visit.

Getting there: I find the easiest way to get to Georgetown is to take a little walk. You can park your car at Rock Creek Park and wander over along the waterfront or you can find parking in Rosslyn and walk or take the free Circulator bus across the river.

What to do: The main attraction of Georgetown is the shops along M St. There’s anything you could want from Kiehl’s to Nike to Starbucks. It’s also always rotating, so you may visit two months apart and see new shops where another had previously been. I’m not a huge shopping person, but the window shopping opportunities are good and there’s plenty of people watching. (Warning: good weather means people and Georgetown can get packed, especially during tourist season.) I love a good wander, so I’d recommend ditching the main road and taking a stroll up the hill towards the cute houses there or down the hill towards the waterfront.

(In the winter, Georgetown Glow lights up the night and the waterfront hosts an ice skating rink for your winter activities.)

Where to Eat: Farmers Fishers Bakers has a great brunch if you’re in the mood. Skip Georgetown Cupcake and get a sweet treat from Baked and Wired instead. And if you want a bit of history with your meal, visit Martin’s Tavern.

Bonus Bits: Georgetown University is right there – it looks a bit like Hogwarts… And the House of Sweden (home to the Embassy of Sweden and the diplomatic missions for Iceland and Liechtenstein) is on the waterfront. Both host events that are open to the public if you’ve interested.

Just Down the Block

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I started the New Year off with a bit of chaos – I moved apartments. I am still in the DC area and I’m not going very far at all. I literally moved two blocks down. The move was a bit of a mess. There was miscommunication with my old apartment and of course it rained. I had assistance from All Star Movers (they’re actually saints and the quickest movers in the DMV) and my lovely parents (though one half was sidelined with injuries). Bits and bobs were moved over the week and my plants got special treatment in their transportation and will now enjoy a sunny spot in my window.

I find moving stressful. Partially because there are so many “what-ifs” and partially because its the end of an era. I’ve moved every year (if not twice a year) for the past six years. Mostly it has been from my parent’s house to college and back or into a suitcase to Australia and back. Things have been accumulated (mostly plants) and things have been tossed (r.i.p. the black leather chair that was older than my parent’s marriage). And I try to prepare, but can never quite get it right.

But I found a few things helpful in making the moving process slightly less anxiety-inducing.

One: start packing before the moving truck arrives. This seems logical and yet you’d be surprised. I started putting non-essentials away about two months before I was set to move out. Then I stopped buying food about two weeks before my move. The week of my move, everything went into bags or boxes, one night at a time. The few days before my move, I did a capsule wardrobe challenge, using only ten items of clothing and packing everything else. And the night before, my loving mother and I broke down my bed and pushed everything the movers would be lugging about into the living room for easy access. It worked. There’s not a whole lot that was left to be dealt with after the movers left and things are packed in a semi-organized fashion.

Two: give yourself wiggle room. It’s tempting to move out the last possible day of your lease, but having a day or two or a week overlap to move helped me stress less about getting everything done in that deadline. I could spend three days moving my plants and my last bits over, rather than three hours. When it started snow/raining, I didn’t have to power through.

Three: cry in advance. I knew that I would end up crying (and I did!) but I figured getting some of those stressful emotions out of the way before the movers arrived would be helpful for all involved. So the night before, I watched a movie I knew would make me cry and I let it out. And then in the morning after picking up my apartment keys, but before meeting with my parents, I cried again. And voila! No tears during the actual move.

Four: let the professionals do their job. Other than bits and bobs and plants, we let the professional movers handle the tough stuff. They figured out how to get things into and out of the two apartment buildings and they carried the heavy things.

Five: know when to quit. There’s a certain point in my day when I have to acknowledge I need to rest. As an introvert, I know that too much socialization will eventually mean hitting a wall of exhaustion that can only be fixed by time alone. After a stressful day of moving, I needed to acknowledge that everything wasn’t going to be put away right then and there. I could rest and handle what was left over the next few days (see tip two).

Can I just say I’m happy I don’t have to do this again until next year?

Starting Fresh

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It’s almost the new year and it’s almost a new decade. So it’s time to leave some baggage behind. I know everyone loves spring cleaning, but I find the end of the year to be an incredibly satisfying time of the year to kick anything that isn’t sparking joy to the curb.

First things first: emails. I hate having notifications for emails. So I’m clearing my inbox. Anything that needs responding to, gets a response. Any ads or coupon codes are get marked as read – if I need them, I can always search for the brand or store later. Anything that sends me hourly emails, unsubscribe. I will not start the year with a little red bubble next to my email app.

Then on to social media. Almost yearly, I go through my social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and clear out the people I just don’t care about. Maybe it’s someone who I was friendly with years and years ago or a comedian I followed and have regretted following ever since or a friend’s ex. Whoever it is, if I don’t love seeing their posts, they’re gone. If they aren’t sparking joy with their content, unfollowed. No more hate-liking or skipping through three hours worth of concert video posted to their stories. If I don’t know them, they’re gone. (And anyone I can’t avoid – i.e. coworkers, family members – gets muted. They don’t have to know.)

Next up, moving on to more physical things. My car becomes a dumping ground for bits and bobs. I’ll be starting the year off with no receipts waded up in my cup holders. Nothing in my trunk. And a full tank of gas. Because I’ll be moving in January, I’ll also be stealing my parents’ shop vac to clean up the evidence of many a fast food stop.

My apartment stays relatively uncluttered and will end up being cleaned and organized when I start packing, but I’ve got a couple of things that need sorting.

It’s so easy to fill a kitchen with half-eaten bits and bobs and then still have nothing to eat. So the last few meals of 2019 will be sourced from what I already have. That bag of chips from that party two months ago will be eaten (or tossed once I realize they’re stale). Anything in the fridge that’s past expiration date will be dealt with. The freezer will be explored and it will reveal whatever I’ve stuffed in there. Basically, I’ll have to come to terms with all my impulse Safeway purchases.

Like most proper adults, I receive mail. This mail usually relates to bills, information about my work benefits, catalogs I’ll never read, and cards from my mother that I never dealt with. Fortunately, I’ve only been adulting for about a year, so it hasn’t accumulated to an unreasonable pile. Yet. So I will be sitting down to sort through what can be recycled, what can be shredded, and what should be nicely filed. Because most of this paper lives on my bedside table, once it’s clear, I’ll actually be able to keep important things next to my bedside like my phone, my glasses, and a candle (or three!).

Speaking of candles, I’ve been burning candles for about a year now and I’ve gone through quite a few. At some point, I considered dealing with the empty candles, getting all the wax out, and reusing the containers. But I’m lazy and they’re in the way. So I will instead just be recycling the containers and moving on. Once those have been cleared of my shelf, I can justify my purchases of more candles!

If you’re like me, you went a little crazy during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and you bought new clothes. Unfortunately, my closet isn’t big enough (and currently has a hole in the ceiling from my upstairs neighbors’ water leak! Yay adulting!). So I’ll be downsizing. I’ve done this many times before but I’m excited to clear out the things that don’t fit or that I haven’t worn in a year or that just aren’t my faves anymore. Don’t worry – they’ll be donated (first to friends and then to a local charity shop).

Lastly, I’ll be clearing my head. (Yes, I went there.) It’s one thing to get rid of physical clutter (the piles of unread mail) or the electronic clutter (the unfriendly “friends”), but emotional clutter is draining too. Especially in the middle of the most exhausting time of the year. An hour or two of journaling. A yoga class or a run in nature. A mediation session surrounded by candles. A hike in the wilderness. A mental reminder to let it go.

It’s a new year, a new decade. Why carry shit with you that you can leave behind?

December in DC

Hometown, Uncategorized

No, we don’t really get snow. And yes, most of the city seems to disappear for the month. But DC in December is still a lovely place to be.

Last year, I happened to get a tour of the White House during the holiday season, but there are plenty of accessible (and mostly free!) options for a festive December in DC.

The National Christmas Tree is lit, with smaller trees representing each of the states (and territories!). My favorite part as a child was always the massive Yule log (because it was warm after being outside freezing!).

The National Botanical Garden gets festive as well. There’s a model train display and this year’s theme is botanic gardens from Hawaii to Maine.

Less flora, more fauna? Head to the National Zoo for ZooLights! Most of the animals will be snoozing, but you can wander amongst the light displays of all your favorite zoo friends.

Speaking of lights: Georgetown lights up for Georgetown Glow. The curated lights display takes you on a path through and around Georgetown with different installations. Each year brings different artists and different spots for the area to light up each night.

Maybe you don’t want to drive all the way into the city? Old Town Alexandria is always a lovely place to visit, but in December it definitely keeps its charm. The first weekend in December is the Scottish Walk supporting the Campagna Center. (There’s always plenty of pups, too!)

My personal favorite part of the holidays is a good Christmas market. Luckily, there’s one on F Street. The Downtown Holiday Market features local artists and crafters, as well as food stalls. It’s a great stop for a last minute Christmas gift and reminds me of London at this time of year.

Have you got any festive plans for the month of December?

Dark and Dreary Days

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The first time I experienced some form of seasonal depression was when I moved to Indianapolis. I think the onset was from a series of factors: suddenly experiencing “real winters”, stresses from being far from home and on my own, and a lack of structure in my day to day life. Whatever the causes, it hit me hard.

So when I went to Sweden and lived through only a few hours of cloudy sunshine a day, I had to start finding small ways to elevate the symptoms of my seasonal depression. With the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer and my toes now being permenantly frozen, I’ve started to reintegrate some of those seasonal cures into my daily life.

First thing: getting up. The hardest thing for me when facing long dark cold days was getting out of bed. Wrapped up in my warm blankets, tucked away from the world, I was (and am) happy to wallow. Up and out of bed, and I have a better chance at a good day.

Next thing: comfy and cozy. If I’m planning to leave the house for the day, I make sure I’m wearing my comfy and coziest clothing. It’s hard to be happy when you’re freezing and you can’t feel your toes. It’s time for all the warm sweaters and tights and scarfs. If I don’t need to leave the house, I pull on my fuzzy socks and a nice sweatshirt and grab a nice blanket to wrap around myself. (I can also recommend a humidifier and plenty of moisturizer – dry skin is no fun.)

Let there be light. The bridge between comfy and cozy and this next step is hygge. Maybe you were part of the craze a few years ago when everyone jumped on the idea, but the general gist of the Danish hygge is you wrap yourself in the comfiest thing you’ve got and plant yourself next to some candles or the fireplace and it makes everyone better. The Scandanavians know what they’re doing. Light a couple candles, stick your toes near a fire, and light up your space.

If the sun can’t do its job, artificial light will just have to do. My mom gave me a Happy Light last winter and in using it every morning while I put on my makeup, not only am I able to actually see all the wrinkles and zits on my face, but it wakes me up and genuinely puts me in a better mood. Rather than sitting in a dark room staring at a computer or phone screen, I’ve now got multiple string lights and lamps throughout the space and have become fond of mixing my candle scents. Basically, anything I can do to bring light into my room during the dark and dreary months, I do.

Seek the sun. I’ll admit there’s few things like sitting inside of a library or an office and seeing a beautiful day outside. Maybe you don’t have the ability to skip work and soak up the sun all day, but I like to force myself outside on sunny days, regardless of the chill. I treat myself to a purchased lunch if it means I get a few blocks worth of sunshine at its peak. I’m also trying (and sometimes failing) to catch those last few rays on my way home. Rather than racing towards my bed, I go to the next metro stop over or I go grocery shopping right away – essentially holding on to the sun for as long as I can.

Force some friendships. One of the hardest parts about living in Sweden those first few months was saying goodnight to everyone at 3 p.m. and then sitting alone in the dark for hours. The winter is a great time to visit museums (I tell myself and yet we shall see) or encourage friends (and/or your mother) to do silly seasonal activities for the ‘gram. Anything I can do to get out of bed and see other faces means I’m spending less time alone in my own head.

And lastly, acceptance. It is okay to not be okay. Some days are good. Some days suck. It’s okay to accept that not every day will be amazing. But I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad I’m here. And I’m glad summer is just around the corner, right?

(Disclaimer: I’m no doctor. Everyone is different and this is simply my approach. If you need help, talk to your doctor or call 1-800-662-4357.)

Homesick

Hometown, Travel

When I moved away for college, I didn’t have a whole lot of homesickness. Flying across the world didn’t spark constant sobbing sessions of wanting to return home.

I think there’s a couple reasons I avoid what for many can be a debilitating limitation to their exploration of the planet.

The first was that home, as in the physical location of my house, wasn’t that important to me. I love my bed and driving down the GW Parkway and I love my belongings, but I have very little attachment to my home of 20-something years.

Maybe I spent too much of my childhood driving to and from school or maybe location wasn’t as important as memories. Either way, it’s nice to go back but not something I crave.

Another reason I avoided homesickness was avoidance. If you’re too busy to be homesick, you won’t notice the time and distance from your home. From the second I arrived in Indy or Sydney or Stockholm or London, I was busy.

I had things to do and people to meet and bags to unpack. I had a couple of stress/frustration/fear/PMSing sobs, but never felt horribly homesick.

Yes, it was tough to go away – but I wanted to go. I wanted to go to college and I wanted to study abroad and I wanted to get my masters and I wanted to travel. Those plans and the excitement attached kept me going.

The third reason I avoided homesickness was that I digitally detached from home. Yes, I texted my mom to let her know I arrived at my destination and yes, I sent the occasional text to a high school joking about some song I heard playing, but I avoided phone calls and FaceTime sessions for the first six weeks. I also didn’t go home a week in. It gave me a distance that allowed me to skip the wallowing in leaving home and focus on the exciting part of being in new places and meeting new people and learning new things.

I love my home. And I love my family. And I love returning there (even if my nice bed is no longer there and I sometimes end up on the couch…). But I also love my new home and my found families and the experience of going far far away. It’s just as much an adventure to return home now as it was to leave. And when it’s time to leave again, the excitement returns all over again.

Winter Essentials

Travel

It’s getting chillier here and I’ve even considered putting on a scarf once or twice. (Disclaimer: it’s definitely still 70 degrees here on a regular basis.) But the cooler temps had me thinking about what I always pack when traveling in colder climates.

Maybe you’ve got a trip to Scandinavia planned or maybe you’re visiting family in Upstate New York. Either way, I hope my essentials might be helpful for your packing needs.

Like I mentioned before, I love a good scarf. My particular favorites have been a big red blanket scarf (R.I.P. – if anyone ever sees one on the DC Metro, let me know.) A good travel scarf should be thick enough to actually keep you warm, should be large enough to wrap around you like a blanket or to create a nice pillow for you. I also recommend getting one that’s somewhat colorful – every photo from my time abroad in Europe included my black winter coat and my bright red scarf. It added a pop of color to my otherwise all black ensembles.

I mentioned my black coat above – I highly recommend a light weight puffer jacket for winter travel. I believe mine is from REI but I’ve also heard good things about the Uniqlo versions. Essentially you want something that will keep you warm, will layer nicely over thicker sweaters, and that you can smush down into nothing when packing your suitcase. Some of these puffer jackets come with a little bag that they smush into. Can 10/10 recommend these for travel – especially if you’re going between temperatures.

I dream of thick sweatshirts and cozy sweaters, but unfortunately they’re quite heavy and unless you’re going to the Arctic Circle, they might be overkill. Instead I would recommend packing layers – lots of layers. The trick to layers is to start thin and work your way out. A thin turtleneck or a tighter tee shirt can be worn on their own or under another thin sweater. That next layer should be thin enough to layer under your coat but could also be worn on its own. I’m a big fan of a thin sweater over a dress with tights. And we all know you’ll be popping in and out of museums and restaurants, so you want to be able to take off layers as you’re reintroduced to the warmth.

I like tights under dresses (and under pants when it is particularly cold), but nothing beats a thick pair of socks. If you’re planning hikes or a walking tour, your toes might get chilly. Grab a thick pair of socks or two and throw them on. Your toes will be happy (and if they’re good quality- warm and dry) and you won’t feel the chill quite as much. I’ve got good pairs from REI in the past and they’re the best.

If you are planning on thick socks, make sure they will fit in your boots. Personally, I don’t think a pair of hiking boots is necessary to wander around Paris in the winter but you’ll want a nice pair of flat boots for your travels. I recommend a black pair that’ll make you look chic and European, while also going with everything you’re bringing for your trip. Top tip: wear them around the house or to work a few times to make sure they’re extra comfy before you go.

I bring a well-stocked purse with me in the winter – Chapstick is essential (this one’s my favorite), hand lotion is nice. A good moisturizer with SPF is key. (You can get sunburnt even in the winter!) Sunglasses are also helpful – especially on windy days. Hand sanitizer will keep you from getting sick, but just in case cough drops and emergency Day-Quil are also good to have around in the winter. I also try to take Vitamin D supplements because lack of sunshine really does on a number on me.

My last essential is my phone to double check hours – a lot of touristy spots have different hours in the winter. Double check before you go!

What are your winter essentials? Please let me live vicariously through your trips – where are you heading this chilly season?