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Travelling Across the Country | 14 Random Things I’ve Learned After a Year
A Crazy Idea: Travelling Across the Country… “Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.” _Inception, 2010 This all began as an idea. A simple idea given freely, without expectation. The suggestion from a friend. And actually, I’m 99% positive he truly believed I would say no. Which I did. At first. And at second. But at third…I considered. I strongly considered. More importantly, I visualized. Which completely works, by the way, so try it when you doubt your ability to do anything. I saw myself in new places. I saw myself smiling as I tried new things. I felt my heart thumping in my chest at the possibility of flying multiple times a year. I freaked out. More than a little. Best indication that I should try travelling across the country. Of course, I didn’t tell him at first. lol. Instead, I took my time coming up with several different plans to travel and photograph and blog. I read extensive blogs about blogging. I researched travel bloggers across the globe. I researched ticket prices and hotel deals. I armed myself with everything (I thought) I needed to know…and then told him… One year, several flights, 11 states (and D.C.), countless cheat meals, a growing blog, and a lifetime of experiences later? My life is completely different. So…to my friend, who knows exactly who he is…thank you. Sigh…you were right. Damn it. lol. Wander.Focus.Love Took me about six hours to come up with my blog name. Six, long, agonizing hours. During which I gave up about five times. Threw pens at the computer screen. Ripped through loose leaf papers. Cried. Considered that perhaps, I was going crazy. Swore. Swore again. Swore some more. Then I prayed. Put two words, wander and focus, together inside a heart. And prayed again. Wander, of course, for the travel. Focus for the photography I’d lost passion in. Love for the hope that by travelling across the country, I would fall in love with photography again. And after I created that concept, I never questioned my name again. Creating the blog, on the other hand, took considerably longer… Like, a week in a half longer. lol. I cannot count the number of blog posts I read about how to start a blog. No offense to all the posts I read, but, none were as detailed as I needed them to be. Essentially, you need to read several posts made by several authors in conjunction with each other. No one post gives you EVERYTHING. Also, you’ll need YouTube tutorials to show you how to do all the things these blogs are suggesting to you. Unless you’ve created a blog or website before and know how to speak the language. Which I didn’t, at the time. Even now, I’m not fluent, but I can grasp the concept of the conversation when I hear it. lol. But on May 25, 2017, Wander.Focus.Love went live. Complete with email, subscription guidelines, a PO Box, and three social media accounts ready for sharing, following, and posting. What Have I Learned Travelling Across the Country? After a year travelling across the country? I’ve learned so much that one single post couldn’t possibly contain it all. I started my list in May 2017, right after I came back from my first trip. And after each new place, I add more. I’ve learned so much about myself. About travelling. About blogging. About solo female travel. I’m no expert, but I’m no longer a novice. My list is…long. But, I’ve condensed the list to 14 random things that have stuck with me after a year of travelling across the country… 1)Bring headphones with cords. May 2017. First up in my year travelling across the country? Washington D.C. Not my first flight. Not my first time to D.C. So you would have thought I’d have known that I did not have data (and therefore Bluetooth connection for my headset) 30,000 feet up. lol. But…I wasn’t really thinking. I hadn’t really gotten my planning skills as sharp as they are now. I have a routine that I’ve developed over time–mostly from errors made over time. First mistake? I neglected to bring headphones on my flight to D.C. Leaving me in sad, somber silence for nearly 2 hours. Now, I could have paid for wireless service (I fly Southwest 90% of the time), but…I’m cheap about some things. Wireless service up in the air is one. Now? I keep a nice set of headphones in my backpack at all times. They never leave the backpack unless I’m on the plane. If I’m not, I use my headset. That way, I never lose the headphones. Ever. 2)Download all musical content to play offline. May 2017 This plays off of the first mistake. Remembering that, without data, without wireless, I have no access to internet. Meaning, no ability to stream music on any app that I own. Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal. Nothing. I now make a habit of downloading music while I wait for my flight. Perfect solution (and a free one) that allows me all the music I love on my short and long flights. Of course, if you fly Delta, they provide in-flight music. They stream it. I didn’t know this however, until May 2018. 3) When bringing a laptop, make sure it’s easily accessible. June 2017. My trip to Indianapolis, IN marked the first time I would fly with a laptop. After the newly implemented rules about flying with electronics. Remember, airport security terrifies me. I had a routine, but the routine had never included a laptop so…I got a little thrown off. Confession: I hate wasting time, mine or others. So I don’t like holding up lines unnecessarily. Any line: drive through, lines at the bank, at the DMV. And definitely not at airport security. But, I definitely held that line up taking forever and a day to pull my laptop out of my bag and placing it in a tray. I felt horribly self-conscious, like a person who’s never flown before and has no idea about the rules so she wanders around clueless hoping a nice agent of TSA will take pity on her. That’s not what happened. Lol, but now my laptop has its own special place in my backpack. Along with my tablet, it comes out swiftly, in less than two seconds and I move on to the next thing. Of course, now I rarely fly with a laptop. Saves time. **also, the new TSA guidelines specify that all electronics larger than a phone MUST come out. So if you travel with a DSLR like I do, make sure it’s also accessible.** 4) Always pack an umbrella. June 2017. Because when it rains, it pours. Indy cried her eyes out at my arrival and though I brought rain boots, I forgot the umbrella–crazy right? How can I call myself a planner? Like the headphones, the umbrella lives in a perfect pocket on the side of my backpack and it stays there so I never lose it. And I haven’t. Not in the last year, at least. 5) Know where to park before you start. July 2017. Worst part of Charleston, SC? Parking. Hands down. Honestly, you’re better off Ubering or Lyfting everywhere. Or walking. Because parking is crazy. Not just in Charleston. But Isle of Palms, Folly Beach. All those beautiful surrounding islands have horrible parking. Unless, of course, you know where to go… And Summer 2017, I didn’t. So I drove through downtown Charleston around 8pm desperately searching for a parking space so I could eat dinner on King Street. I searched for about 15 minutes, actually. But I did not succeed. And so, I did not eat…on King Street (I ate in my hotel room). Tip? Charleston has several parking garages downtown. Small charge but completely worth the hassle when you’re going anywhere near the Historic locations. Parking on the street is also allowed, but highly difficult in the evenings, on the weekends, or on a game day during any sports season (college town. lol.) 6) Plan where you’re going to eat. Then make plan b, c, d, and e. August 2017. Especially if you’re visiting a highly popular and ridiculously populated tourist city. Like New Orleans. Now, by this time, my planning skills have sharpened. I feel like a pro. Travelling to one of the food capitals of the country doesn’t scare me… I know exactly where I want to eat, have meticulously sat down with a pen and paper and mapped out where to go. I’m ready… Except, when it comes to ordering my po-boy. I planned on Johnny’s Po-Boy. But, I neglected to check the hour of operations on the weekend. Needless to say when I finished up my tours and finally decided to eat dinner, I ran brutally into a closed door. lol, not literally. But I still look back none-too-fondly and wonder about the sandwich I never sampled. 7) When you travel North, check the weather forecast. Always bring layers. September 2017. Chicago. Towering buildings with glittering facades. Beautifully blue river dissecting the city. Bustling crowds on every corner, huddling around the crosswalk. And of course, the iconic windy air. Gentle at times, but typically a fighting force that pushes against pedestrians as they rush to their destination… And I knew this. I brought long sleeves blouses, pants, and a jacket. The high was beautifully sweet in the 60s…but when night fell? That sweet slipped painfully into chill. Now imagine this chill in the middle of the river…without the protection of those towering highrises. lol. I remember my teeth chattering I shook so much. In retrospect? A heavier jacket, hat, and a scarf would have changed my entire world. 8) Learn to let go… October 2017. Out of all my lessons learned from travelling across the country, this was the hardest lesson to learn. And came from a spectacular opportunity. I applied for a new position in my agency just weeks before my Charleston trip in July 2017. I remember those first fantasies of living in the vivid colors and tempting scents. Waking up on the river. Crossing the Ravenel Bridge to work…but they were just fantasies. Until September 2017. When I got the job in Charleston. Surreal meets reality. So this GA girl had three weeks to scout out a new residence, arrange for transportation, and move my entire material world to a new city. Moving isn’t cheap…so my plan to fly out to Arizona in October? Cancelled. I mourn Arizona weekly. I wouldn’t change my decision to put her on hold, but I still wonder what could have been… I visited a local fair in Middle GA instead. To say a proper goodbye to the city that raised me. 9) Not every trip has adventure. Make your own excitement. November 2017. Raleigh, NC. Another trip that wasn’t originally planned. Memphis, TN was my goal. But, I did not anticipate the drain my new position would have on my body. So I changed the trip last-minute from a flight to a road trip. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself, because I did. But I hadn’t thoroughly planned out each event, each restaurant, each day. I knew where I would reside. That’s it. lol. But Duke University caught me by surprise. By sweet surprise. Duke is the standard for what I imagined all universities to look like. And to a Potter Nerd? The university provided the best backdrop for a potential Hogwarts! 10) BRING A BATTERY PACK!!! December 2017. So, if you read my post about my Winter in Florida, then you know the story. If not? Long story short: I went to Busch Gardens in Tampa. Bright colors, excited screams, the sharp screech of rollercoasters on metal, the sweet smell of baked, fried goodness. I enjoyed myself… Until I realized my phone was on 8%, I was in the middle of the park, and needed my cell phone to...