Month: July 2013

The Weight of The World

“How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… you start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks, then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV… the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home… I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office… and then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your brothers, your sisters, your children, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack, feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.”

Up In The Air (2009)

I’m not sure if I can ever say it quite so eloquently or quite so sadly as George Clooney did when he played Ryan Bingham in “Up In The Air,” but after the last few days in the hoopla of the final and rather surprising selling of my house, not the only house I’ve ever lived in but certainly the most significant, I can say that I agree with our handsome friend.

Traveling is a funny thing. When we’re on the road, we depend on the little we have on our backs. Which is probably why many of us sweat wondering what we’ve forgotten, double-checking for our phones and our keys and our credit cards and if you’re me, a pair of ear plugs and extra underwear. By the end of a trip, as much as I always love the destination I had the pleasure of visiting, I’m always a little relieved to be free of this stress and to be back at my house, my house, where everything is where I put it and everything is comfortable, familiar, and ordinary. In a life of uncertainties and insanity, it is this ordinary, this average, that is effortlessly grounding. 

However, when you have to give the place you live to someone else, a total stranger, your life is at ends with itself. When I think about someone else who I don’t know and never will know sitting in the exact place I’m sitting in now, closing a broken window that is mine and running down hallways that are mine and stumbling into doorways drunk that are mine, it makes me pretty uneasy.

Unfortunately, this is the way of the world. I’m a 22-year-old postgrad living in my mother’s house so quite honestly, I have zero say in the matter, and rightly so. I can’t make my family and my childhood toys stay in a place that I would desperately love to move out of just so that I can always know that they are there, my life, my ordinary, waiting patiently for my return on a particularly gloomy weekend.

It’s at this point where we have to ask ourselves: How much do I weigh? When your house is gone, when your life is gone, you have to restart. You have to look at your life and arm yourself with what items, what memories, and what people matter, and you have to create a new home within yourself.

And this is travel. When scavenging the open road, we don’t have our comfy beds and our mother’s cooking and the safety of our locked windows at night. Instead, we will stay in unfriendly rooms with people we will never see again and we will pack our toothbrushes up after using them. In this way, what we do in our travel is what we must do in life when it is time to reevaluate, move on, and restart. We create homes inside ourselves while packing as little as we can possibly fit into our patched backpacks.

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Because, as always, for an impenetrable shield, stand inside yourself. 

How To Be Homeless

As of today, I can confidently say that I am a semi-functioning, fairly responsible, well-on-my-way adult. I know how to boil water, I do my own laundry (and nails), and I have a full-time job that I have to wake up obscenely early for. However, adulthood notwithstanding, I still insist on acting like an absolute homeless person from every Friday at 5:00 pm to whenever I happen to wander my way home on Sundays, obviously in time for dinner.

Being that Long Valley sucks, I make my way to (anywhere else in the world) each weekend, relying on cheap food, draft beer, sleeping bags in the trunk of my car, and the extreme generosity of my poor friends to make my way through this three day nonsense fest. Luckily for you, dear reader, I’m about to share with you how to make your time on the road as easy as a casual day at home.

1. Sing for your supper. Literally? Well, you can if you want to, but if the sound of your voice makes dogs cry, then I more mean along the lines of making it worth the while for your friends. Yes, they love you– they’ve been with you in the good times and the bad, the sober and the not-so-sober. However, even still, your hapless body on their couch drinking all their soda isn’t the most pleasant of sights. So, do what you can to help them out. Offer to drive, insist on paying for their drinks, tidy up their room while they’re in the shower. Don’t take the fact that you’re technically a “guest” for granted– guestdom doesn’t exist until one of you actually has money. In the meantime, you’re a good-for-nothing freeloader, and remember that and act accordingly. Be the one who leaves their living room cleaner than you found it.

2. Make their friends your friends. There’s one thing I can say for certain – the person who stands in the corner sipping on a Ginger Ale is never the person invited back for a second visit. Your friends may love you, but they don’t want to babysit you. They don’t want to be the one who has to entertain you. Even if they, or the night, isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, pretend you have been best friends with their friends for years. Be chatty, ask questions, and be friendly. Remember that unlike people you meet at school or at work, this is your one shot ever to win someone over that you probably won’t ever see again, but your own interaction with them will prove a lot to your friends who don’t want to be the one feeling guilty because you’re off moping on the other side of the bar.

3. Don’t just hand over your dollars. When on the road, it’s easy to drop money on stupid stuff because you feel like you’re on vacation. If you’re off every weekend like me, you’re probably not on vacation. This makes it imperative that you do not constantly splurge on nice food or constantly forget your toothbrush and have to buy new ones. So scope out that free beach, bring a couple snacks that can possibly work as small breakfasts, and for Christ’s sake bring water so you don’t have to keep buying those overpriced $2 bottles. A little extra planning pre-trip goes a long way.

4. Scope out free things. Once again, with a little extra planning, you would be shocked at how much free stuff you can snag. For example – this weekend, I casually walked by the beach patrol stand and sort of used the beach shower alongside brightly-dressed families on vacation as my daily shower. Nbd. Getting dressed in the car and doing your makeup in public bathrooms is all in a day’s work.

5. Don’t be afraid to get a little scummy. When living on the road, you can’t sweat the small stuff. Would you rather be changing in your room than in the backseat of your car in a crowded parking lot in broad daylight? Yeah, probably. But consider all your options, and when that’s your best bet, shrug it off and remember that we’ve seen it all anyway. Think logically, figure out who you can bug and where you can go to get what you need, then take it with a grain of salt and act confidently and unapologetically.

Living out your car isn’t the most glamourous of things. Your car quickly becomes full of garbage and sand, as well as every outfit you could possibly need, and you can often be found with your hair piled on top of your head and carrying a lot of bags. Scummy? Sometimes. Tiring? I would say so. But exciting? Always.

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I don’t know why but I feel that this photo is very relevant

Travelista

All kinds of lifestyles inevitably bring forth different types of dress. You live in the South? You’re probably rocking some sun dresses and cowboy boots. You party in the city? I can guess you’re running around in bright, metallic shirts and skirts and high heels. You’re hanging at the beach? If you wear clothes at all, then it’s probably perfectly acceptable to stroll the street in your bikini.

And, fittingly, those who choose to roam the world have developed their own sense of style for themselves. It doesn’t usually consist of bright colors, any sort of elevated shoe, or jewelry that could attract a mugger. However, one thing it does do is notify the world that you’re in the road business for the long haul. Here are some key pieces to help you pick out those who don’t know where they’re sleeping tonight:

1. Crossbody bags, not purses. I don’t want to say “purse,” because the world “purse” in itself implies something cute and compact. Crossbody bags are great because for some reason, they never run out of space to stuff your water bottle, extra pair of underwear, and random piece of bread. Oddly enough, even though they probably cost under $10, they also tend to last years on years helping you tote around town.

2. Many, many elastic hair ties. Don’t let the name fool you- hair ties aren’t just for hair, although they are handy for when you suddenly decide to jump into that lake or need to take a run for your money, literally. However, they’re also pretty great for tying up your skirt, cinching a too-big shirt, and securing the tops of bottles. Who would have thought?

3. A most-likely stolen watch. For most rogue wanderers, a cell phone, especially an international one, is probably out of the question. There’s too many fees, too many risks, and let’s be honest here, it’s probably not going to make it home in the first place. However, a scratched up hand-me-down watch is perfect for blaming when you miss the train once again.

4. Shirts from the side of the road. One time I was making fun of my sister and calling her own style “hobo chic,” in which she confidently told me, “You found that shirt you’re wearing on the side of the road.” Actually, in truth, MY FRIEND found that shirt on the side of the road and gave it to me. This isn’t the point. Soft, worn clothes that have seen the world have character! Stories! Plus, when you fall in the dirt you won’t mind nearly as much.

5. Stacked jewelry, also most likely stolen. For some reason, even though stacked jewelry attracts muggers and thieves, wanderers love this junk. When running the world, we want to take something with us, and God knows we’re not taking a magnet. Instead, we buy something little and glittery, something that feels almost magical and can be carried without being carried.

When you’re on your next family vacation, take a look around. If you see someone wearing all of these things and looking a little soggy, chances are that right now, they’re already scoping out their next bed.

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New Jersey: Only the Strong Survive

Following Super Storm Sandy and leading into the summer, most New Jersey beachgoers were hesitant about what the season would bring and what the aftermath of the storm would mean for all of those who call the shore home every single weekend from June to August (and probably September… and maybe October). And, even though that “Stronger than the Storm” song that always plays on the radio is especially annoying, the message remains just as relentless as New Jersey itself.

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The world was trained to be New Jersey haters. I’m not exceptionally mad about it, mostly because I know that they’re jealous since we boast beautiful beaches, bustling city life, precious little hometowns, and picturesque mountain ranges. However, I am happy to see that following Sandy, the world stood by us and, like siblings, were the ones to have our backs when  just weeks ago they were making fun of us for being a wee bit smelly. No biggie.

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This past weekend, I hung out in Bay Head for a few days, making some pit stops in Seaside Heights and Island Beach State Park. Last week, I chilled in Asbury and Neptune for a little, and next week, I’ll be in Belmar and Long Branch. Finally, I’ll finish out this precious July in Wildwood and Cape May. When you love the beach, nothing can keep you away.

Throughout the trips to our shore I have been on during the past few months and my awesome time living there once again from January to May following my return from Italy, I have seen people wrought with disaster, their homes and lives in absolute shambles after a devastating storm. I have seen people living in hotels, applying for assistance each and every month, camping out at my own Monmouth University. However, the silver lining is that in New Jersey, you don’t see people crying and complaining about it. They take action. They rebuild. When driving down those streets still filled with rubbish, you’ll also see them filled with people collecting money for relief efforts, men at work repairing fallen homes, and people busy doing all they can to make their lives normal once more. The Jersey Shore Summer will never be diminished by a little rain. 

People often complain about the East Coast’s fast-paced lifestyle, where we are constantly working, maybe a little too much. But when this comes to the threatening of our own lucky lives in this great state, we jump to the scene. We do all we can to help our neighbors, to report on what’s been done so far in recreating our lives, and rebuild the homes and places we had so many memories in before that slut Sandy tried to take them away.

So take that, Sandy. You picked the wrong state to try and squash. New Jersey: Stronger than the storm… and anything else that comes our way.

What are some of the stories you have heard or experienced about New Jerseyans rebuilding in the aftermath of Sandy?