GIRL ON THE MOVE

OR HOW TO SURVIVE (AND EVEN ENJOY) TRAVELING ALONE

Have you ever watched a movie where the protagonist wanders through an airport, the perfect soundtrack playing behind them, in the perfect outfit, content even among the throngs of people angrily pushing their ways through to their gates?

Yeah, that’s me.

Look, you can call me odd, call me wrong, call me completely naive to the worst frustrations of traveling, but I’ve lived all up and down the east coast. In the past five years, I’ve taken trains all along the northeast corridor, braved a seven-hour bus ride from Philadelphia to Boston, flown two days before christmas, been stuck on the tarmac at an Amsterdam airport for three hours, and road tripped from Richmond, VA to Fairfield CT to St. Augustine, FL and back to Richmond in a two week period. I have seen some awful rides and experienced a few truly just bad moments.

But traveling? It still feels wonderful to me. Even as I write this, I am sitting next to a broken chair in the Philadelphia International Airport, waiting on a budget airline flight to visit my parents for a few days. But I sashayed here all the way from my West Philly apartment, and it’s gonna take something pretty horrible to ruin my mood.

Travel is 85% attitude. So how do I keep positive? Here are a few tips:

  • Obviously, you want to wear something comfortable. But going even a step further than that, wear something that makes you feel good. I’ve noticed my fair share of pajama-clad patrons trudging their way through the terminals, and it can be really tempting to just put on your rattiest tshirt and call it travelwear. Somehow, it always feels better to be in a nice pair of leggings, a well-fitting top and comfy shoes. When I’m proud of the way I look, I feel less self-conscious being surrounded by the hundreds of other people waiting for their flights.

  • In a similar vein, wear your hair down. Unless a ponytail is your absolute most comfortable hairstyle, avoid it. They always end up giving me a headache, and no one wants to deal with air cabin pressure or sunlight blaring in from a train window if their head’s about to explode. So if your hair might be a little unruly (or greasy), I suggest investing in a few beanies or baseball caps. And if you’re having a great hair day, then let it fly (literally!)

  • Park smart. If you’re flying with checked baggage, put as much as you can inside that suitcase (especially any liquids or your laptop, if you can part with it). This will make getting through security easier. And the lighter your carry-ons, the better you’ll feel. Not checking bags? Make sure that whatever is heaviest is in a backpack or something else that distributes weight evenly. Assume you’ll be walking and standing a fair bit, so the more you do to save your shoulders and back, the longer you can do without popping an Advil.

  • Curate your playlist. I am a big believer in the power music has over your mood, and songs that are calm and contemplative are my go-to for long travel days. I save my playlist down to my phone before I even leave my apartment, and from the moment I lock the door to the moment the plane touches down, I know I have that perfect soundtrack. I especially like to listen to some of the cheesy, uplifting ballads right as the plane takes off, and girl-power, lets-cut-to-the-chase-and-kick-butt songs right as we land. Trust me, there's no harm in imagining your own little world as you fly.

  • When you get to the airport, get some food. And water. And park yourself as close to an outlet as you can manage (most of the time you won’t be able to, so remember to have everything charged. Pee before you sit down. Get settled- pick an end seat, so that you don’t get squished between two large groups. Have some movies loaded up, or work to dig in and get done.

  • Remember that no one is out to get you. TSA agents, flight attendants, even other passengers also have good days and bad days. Greeting someone with a smile or a small, innocuous conversation can really make a difference. You get nowhere being grumpy or blaming others, and I can’t even tell you how many of my trips have been saved by someone being kind. And yes, airport security can suck, but they’re just doing their jobs, and if you follow the rules and greet your security agents nicely, you’d be surprised how much more smoothly you get through the line. Kindness breeds kindness.

  • Be patient- you will get there. There’s no need to push to the front of the line or even to be the first person off the plane. Ask yourself, is it really going to make that much of a difference if you get off the plane before the person across the aisle from you? Hint: it’s not, and you’ll look like a jerk jumping out in front of them. I personally don’t even get out of my seat until the people around four aisles in front of me are leaving. I might get antsy, but I’d rather stare out the window or people watch than stare at the seconds pass by on my watch.

 

Maybe I was raised to love travel. Maybe I just lucked out that I have the sort of temperament designed for traveling. Or maybe I can survive the worst of it all because I've always found joy in flying.

Despite the pitfalls, the fear, the frustration and annoyance and endless waiting- isn't it amazing how we can travel? Start the day in one place and end it in another?

I have to go. my flight is boarding.

MAKE ART HISTORY COOL AGAIN

OR HOW WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY EFFECTS TODAY

Have you ever thought about how people from the 1800s lived? What they thought about? If they were anything like you?

Maybe you went to a museum, tried to stare at paintings and furniture and just… didn’t get it. After all, the visuals look very different than today. Fancier furniture, fluffier clothes- men in tights (but to be fair, we’ve got men in skinny jeans). It feels like it’s ages away.

The first art history course I took in college was painfully, frustratingly dull. ARTH 101 was a survey of Ancient to Medieval art- not exactly the coolest subject to begin with, and taught by a professor who seemed to be stuck in the same time period he was teaching about. And besides, being an art history nerd wasn’t exactly the best way to Make Friends and Influence People™ as a freshman in my first term of college, so I focused on more interesting opportunities, like laying in bed until 12:30pm every day and going out for pizza at midnight.

I received a well-earned a C in the class, and vowed to avoid ancient art at all possible future junctures.

The class had reinforced everything I had been taught by society about art history- the past is long gone, boring, and irrelevant. But I could not have been more wrong. Art history is a series of recycled trends, constantly reused and reinvented. It is old and new at the same time, and each new generation of artists is constantly speaking to their forefathers, saying “I can do this better.”

Think about it this way- artists today are working in the Contemporary era. What does that even mean? Contemporary: “Belonging to or occurring in the present.” So not exactly impressionism, or fauvism or cubism. Any art made today (or in since 1960, where some art historians define the beginning of contemporary art as a period) is basically just labeled ‘of the moment.’

But all art ever made was ‘of the moment.’ What came before Contemporary art? Modern art. Which is also just basically saying the art is current. And hundreds of years before that? The renaissance. Renaissance literally means “rebirth.”

What I’m trying to say is that art has always been about here and now, even when here and now was a century ago.

And I know, you stood at the museum and tried to see it. And you read the little tombstone next to the painting or chair or sculpture and said “yeah, okay,” and you went home and promptly forgot all about it.

But guys. Art History is awesome.

It’s all just stories, stories about life at certain points of history, stories that ask Big Questions™. And those questions are the same ones we’re asking today, about Love and Hope and God and Despair. Most of us just aren’t taught how to read them, because they’re written in a language from Then, and we only speak Now. They’re puzzles, full of references we might not know yet or images we aren’t used to seeing anymore. Little mysteries given to us to solve.

I’d like to tell you some stories, if you’ll let me. Stories from the Renaissance, from the Modern era and even stories about Contemporary art. I hope I can do them justice. I hope I can speak your language. I hope they feel new again.

Or at least, I hope I don’t put you to sleep.