one unforgettable road trip

this past april i went on my first road trip and since then i've been in love with them. as a person who thrives on the feeling of endless freedom, there is nothing better to me than being out on the open road, surrounded by beautiful landscapes and bright blue skies.

not knowing what my future holds for me in the northeast, i made it my goal this summer to go on as many road trips/vacations with my loved ones as i possibly could because in my heart i know - once i leave home, i'm not coming back.

my best friend danielle and i set out for cincinnati last friday morning to meet up with my other best friend, will. our plan was to spend the night in cinci, head out to indianapolis saturday morning, stop for brunch/lunch, and then make our way to chicago where we'd spend the night. sunday we'd do the tourist thing and then head back to cinci to record a podcast (which never happened), before heading back to philly on monday morning (which sadly did happen).

out of all the years danielle and i have been friends, we've never been on a vacation together. we've taken a couple day trips down the shore (philly/jersey talk for going to the beach) but we'd never taken an actual trip away from home, so to say we were excited for our first real vacation together was an understatement.

from philly to cinci is about an 8 or so hour drive and hours 1-5 seemed to go by pretty fast. we caught up on a lot of things going on in our lives, SUNG a lot of songs (we are FOR SURE starting a band), and stopped only a few times because one of us has a bladder the size of a ladybug (i'll give you a hint - her name begins with a D).

oh, and we out ran 3 tornado's but who really counts those sorts of things?

we arrived in cinci around 5ish and naps were very much needed. it's exhausting dueting and telling jokes for 8+ hours let me tell you. after we rose from the dead, we took in some of the finest cincinnati sights. we got the best view of the skyline (after i was tricked into believing cincinnati doesn't have any skyscrapers *emoji eye roll*) and then i got to experience the best chicken wings of life. i've tasted many a chicken wing in my day but nothing compared to the chicken wings i had that night.

we made friday an early evening ... and by early i mean we went home because one of us NEEDED to watch Live PD (i'll give you a hint - her name starts with a D).

saturday morning will picked up the rental and off we went to indy. 

neither danielle nor i had ever been in the midwest before and i was surprised at just how FLAT everything is. from cinci to indy i swear it was just one straight road. not a bend, not a turn - nothing. just one straight, flat road. it's possible i could have missed one or two between my concert performances or storytelling but I'm pretty sure i would have noticed the car doing something abnormal.

we made it to indy just in time before one of our bladders exploded and the hunger pains started to get really real. after lunch we adventured on the river walk and took in some sights. we didn't want to stay too long because chicago was waiting on us but here are some pictures i took while there (p.s. i'm obsessed with my polaroids from this trip!)

after we left indy will told us he wanted to make a pit stop in gary, indiana. he told us he had a surprise planned but we didn't think anything of it. will is a google earth nerd so i just chalked it up to him finding something interesting on there he found and wanted to see.

en route we drove through 10 miles of a wind farm. nothing but straight spinning fans on a stick creating mad energy. i'm still rather confused as to how they actually create energy and where the energy goes or what it energizes. i know i asked the question but i also know i didn't listen to the answer (*kanye shrug*). i got real pictures on my phone of the wind farm but i got some polaroids of them too (i wanted to focus on polaroid pics for this trip).  

(if you put your face real close to the screen, close one eye, and hold your breath, i promise you'll be able to see a fan on a stick in that first picture)

it wasn't until we got in gary and turned down some sketchy road that i remembered michael jackson is from gary. as soon as i said that will got a huge smile on his face and said he was taking us to see the home michael grew up in. when we pulled up i was shocked to see how small it was for how many people lived in it!

 the home has been made into a beautiful landmark/monument/memorial (not sure what the proper term for it is). it's completely fenced off with a couple engraved stones in the sidewalks, a statue of children playing in the yard, there were signs, flowers, and notes that fans have left hanging on the fence and street sign, and beautiful gardens surrounding the whole property.

it was an awesome surprise to say the least and after we left there, we drove around gary for a few (the little bladder-haver had to pee again).

when i'm away visiting other cities i love to take in not only the beautiful, touristy sights but also the REAL sights. the places regular, every day, not as fortunate people live. i think it's important to see both sides of the spectrum in order to stay balanced in a world where society likes to only paint and portray the pretty pictures.

i was absolutely stunned to see the homes and living conditions in gary. the homes were so tiny and damn near falling down. in philly we have not the greatest of neighborhoods where some of the homes aren't in the best conditions but they are NOTHING compared to what the homes look like in gary. it almost felt like a crime that human beings should even be allowed to live in them. i saw houses similar to them when i was in jamaica a few years ago but jamaica is a third world country - indiana is in the middle of the united states!

driving through the city certainly made me reflect on many different things in my life - where i come from, what i've been blessed with, where i'm going, the lives and experiences of my fellow human beings, and how our surroundings play a gigantic part in our outlook on life.

after we left gary it was off to chicago! chicago had had a rough week right before we got there. there was an obscene amount of shootings in like 4 hours (or something crazy like that) so before leaving, i was told chicago was a super dangerous city, to be careful, and that it's like the wild wild west. i think people forget we too live in a city where people say the same things about philly and while we haven't hit that many shootings in that many hours, we aren't the safest city in the country either.

i was excited to see what chicago looked like, what the energy felt like, what the people dressed like (fun fact: i love people and fashion watching!), and what the FOOD tasted like! but before any of that could occur - a nap was very much needed for the ones with names that start with the letter D!

saturday night danielle wasn't in the mood to hit the town so will and i were on our own to explore. we ended up at this cool little bar that had the best tater tots in the world. i don't really remember much else about the place (or the name of it) besides the taste of those tater tots. after dinner we adventured around downtown along their river walk. i don't know if that's what it's really called but whatever it was - it was fucking gorgeous. 

i had to stop a few times that night just to look up at all the buildings and the lights and take the moment in. we really are miniscule in a world so big and there is so much life out here and i can't help sometimes but to feel like i am missing out on it all. i know it's impossible to be everywhere at the same time but as i looked around at everyone and looked at the buildings and the cars driving past - i would have never known any of those things existed if i wasn't there in that moment with them. i just can't help but wonder of all the other moments and people i'm missing out on by being in a place (philly) i have completely outgrown.

chicago is beautiful. period. there really isn't many other words to describe the physicality of it other than beautiful. it is GIGANTIC and being an east-coaster and living in philly and having spent a decent amount of time in new york, i'm rather used to big cities, but chicago is another level of BIG. and i could not get over the fact that there is a beach on one side of the street and a full blown metropolis on the other side. that is just so bizarre to me! 

the difference (i found) between chicago and new york though is that when you step out onto the concrete in new york - you feel instant energy. new york has this electricity about it that is undeniable. i didn't feel that in chicago. maybe it's because i didn't spend that much time there or because i didn't get to see the entire city, but no matter how much time you spend in new york, where you go, or what you do - you feel that vibe and i just didn't feel it in chicago.

same with philly. there was a time i was madly in love with the city. when i was in college i couldn't wait for the day i could afford to live in the city. i spent every bit of time that i could within the city limits and while i don't feel what i once did for it (for reasons i'll talk about later), that electricity was undeniably felt every single time my feet hit the pavement. 

we spent all morning/early afternoon sunday touristing around chicago before heading back to cinci. below are some polaroids i took in chicago. the one of the bean is my FAVORITE. 

we had 5 hours of travel time to talk about any and everything - and trust me we did. i think it’s super important to be able to have not only fun and silly conversations with your friends, but also deep, sometimes uncomfortable conversations as well.

as humans that come from different walks of life and different upbringings, that view life from different perspectives due to their different experiences, i feel the best people to learn from are the ones who aren’t afraid to have those conversations, but also those who are willing to LISTEN and learn from others thoughts and perspectives as well. 

as i continue to grow (especially over the course of this summer), i find myself asking a lot of questions. i find myself asking the people around me questions that not only make them dig a little deeper into themselves to find the answers, but also that make me do the same.

one of the things i am working on within myself is to not be as guarded. i find with me being so guarded all the time, i tend to exist on the surface and that leads to having very surface, meaningless relationships or interactions with those around me. mind you - i’m not looking to make a slew of new friends or find a new social circle to dive into, but i do not want disingenuous energy around me and in order for me to ensure that doesn’t happen - i have to lead with genuine intention. 

the conversations back to cinci (really the whole trip) were hard, but they were also interesting, thought-provoking, and made me reflect on my own thoughts/beliefs. being able to go into those mental spaces with people you trust, people you know will hold no judgement against you, and will still come out of them full of love and understanding is a beautiful thing and i could only wish more of the world was able to do that. 

we made it back to cinci and had plans to record a podcast on who knows me better - danielle, my BFF who factually knows me inside and out or will, who circumstantially/situationally knows me better than i think i even know myself. however, the exhaustion was very real so we settled on some white castle and netflix. side note: if you’re looking for something new to watch - the rachel dolezal documentary was FASCINATING and the amy winehouse documentary was heartbreaking but a MUST SEE

monday morning it was time to head home. i hadn’t thought about home once since i left. all summer i have been traveling and every time i was away i never once thought about what was going on at home. I didn’t care what i was missing at work, what activities/holidays i wasn’t present for - nothing. the only things and moments that mattered to me was the one i was in and i saw nothing outside of that. it wasn’t until i got in the car and got back on the highway that reality hit me - and boy did it hit.

and HARD. 

below are some polaroid shots i took on the way home. ohio and west virginia (where we drove through) were rather boring visually plus we drove through a CRAZY storm, but once we got through pittsburgh - it was nothing but beautiful mountains and sky until we got home!

i’m a bad communicator so i’m going to try and explain the feeling and emotions i had/have the best way i can.

i strongly dislike the person I am in philly for various reason that can and probably will be a whole different blog post(or maybe podcast!).

in a nutshell, i feel like philadelphia's negative/hateful energy, entitled attitude, and it’s ignorant inhabitants have completely drained me mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and creatively, and in order for me to “survive” (and because i naturally have an overabundance of pride and firey passion/attitude), i became a lot like those in my surroundings. and the more i get to know who i am, the more i trust myself, the more i fall in love with myself, and allow my true self to shine, the more i realize that this person i am when i’m home is not at all the person i truly am nor the person i want to continue breathing life into. 

with every new adventure i go on, every new city i visit, and now it’s becoming with every deep conversation i find myself in, or even beautiful landscape i’m surrounded by -

i find myself feeling like i’m flying.

i feel like i’m free to just be.

free to be my authentic self. free to be happy. free to be unguarded. free to be emotional. free to be curious. free to explore. and it’s the greatest feeling i’ve ever experienced in my 31 years on earth.

it is my greatest fear to feel caged in - by people, in places, under circumstances, or different situations. i fight it tooth and nail and i purposely avoid situations that i feel could potentially lead me into something i can’t easily get out of. it’s one of the main reasons i don’t want children and adds to why i find marriage to be a great idea and awful reality. any form of attachment means i can’t be at my highest potential of freedom and that gives me an anxiety i can't put into words. 

getting in the car that monday, staring down the open highway, snapped me back into a reality of heading back to a place that i used to call home that now just feels like a cage.

for three days i was a bird. flying high, flying free, and in 8 hours i was going to be back in a fucking cage. i’m not usually a crier but the waterworks were real that day and thankfully i had danielle to help me through it.  

i know my current situation isn’t permanent and i am in the works of making major moves however here comes the mind fuck.

with my recent growth, i have made it my mission to remain very conscious of the moment i am in and to stay present in it. i try not to get too far ahead. i try not to think too deep into things that have not happened yet (which has made a world of a difference with my anxiety). i try not get lost inside my head because then i end up missing the only moment i’m guaranteed - the present one. to waste time worrying or overthinking experiences i don’t know i’ll ever live to see is a waste of the one i am living and i don't want to do that to myself or to my experience.

i've been doing a great job overall since i've declared it my mission, however in that moment where i felt like i was heading towards solitary confinement, it's hard to see anything else but the bars of a cage. it's hard to rationalize or have positive conversations with yourself about what's coming when you've spent the last 3 months constantly repeating to yourself "you're not promised a next year. you don't even know if you'll be alive next year so live right now. do what's best for right now and worry about next year next year.

i've never been great at balance. i'm an extreme's kind of gal - it's either black or white. it's either yes or no. it's either here or there. it's never grey. i can't ever walk the middle of the line on anything so i can be very hard on myself, especially in times when things aren't going the way i want them to. i am my own worst enemy most days and thankfully i had off tuesday from work so i had an extra day to let my mind recuperate from all it's coitus (*emoji eye roll*).

i wasn't awake for most of it but for me, sleep cures most things. i did spend some time wondering if this was how i would feel every time i come back home after a new adventure. if every chance i get to fly ends like this - what kind of mental turmoil will that spin me into?

what i do know though is that it won't ever stop me from going. it won't ever stop me from flying.

i feel like i am so close to finally taking flight - real flight. 

i feel so close to it that the air is begging me to just jump so it can take me to where i'm supposed to be. 

this trip changed my life for reasons i didn't know needed changing.

i wasn't even expecting to go and experience anything monumental. my intentions were to go on a road trip with 2 of the closest people to me and enjoy their company, have an adventure, and make unforgettable memories. who knew that in 3 short days, reflection of the caliber it did would happen. 

in fact, i think all 3 of us needed the trip in 3 different ways and none of us knew it until it was over. there is such beauty in that (and sadness that it's over) and i'm ever so thankful that i got to experience it with them.

there are 4 people in my life that could reach their hand out and touch my heart.

danielle and will, you are two of them.

i am eternally grateful for your friendship, your love, your loyalty, your protection, your guidance, your patience, your understanding, and your unconditional love. thank you for giving me memories i'll be able to keep with me wherever i fly to. there is nothing in this world i wouldn't do for either of you and know that as long as oxygen fills my lungs, you will always have me in your life and in your corner. i love you deeply. 

***

this trip was my last one for the summer - sadly. i have no trips planned for september (yet) and then it gets a little crazy again come october. 

i encourage you (if you have the time and means) to get out of town for a weekend. it doesn't have to be far. hell, the ride back from pittsburgh is BEAUTIFUL. i didn't think i'd see anything prettier than driving to nashville but the way home from pittsburgh is stunning. but get out for a weekend. go explore life. go live. and i mean really live. not just exist. meet new people. ask questions. be curious. educate yourself on something you've always wondered. take pictures. smile. laugh. sing in the car at the top of your lungs. make up stories about the people in the cars you pass. there is so much life out here, so much happening. don't miss it by staying cooped up in your own little world. 

***

if you've made it this far, congratulations (and thanks)!  it's taken me a week to write this blog post just because i wanted to make sure i included everything plus getting the pictures together was a project in itself. but let me tell you how OBSESSED i became with my Fuji Instax Mini on this trip.

2F039C29-C15C-48D8-9968-CC3DB0A1B001.JPG

i've had this little gem for quite some time (i have the instax mini 8 however there is a newer one out now) but this is the first time i've ever taken it with me on an actual vacation and it was literally PERFECT! it's so tiny that it fit perfectly in my purse on saturday night when will and i hit the town, and also in my adventure bag for when we were out touristing.

the best part - my phone battery wasn't eaten alive by the constant picture taking!

i'm an instant gratification chick so there really isn't anything better than taking a picture and watching it pop out in front of you. danielle was my polaroid picture holder on the trip and with the mini's - you don't have to shield them from the sun or not touch the face as they develop - they just do their thing on their own!

if you love a good adventure and want instant pictures to freeze the memories you make, the Fuji Instax Mini is a MUST have. click the link below to check it out in my Amazon store as well as the exact same carrying case i have for mine (holds my camera, extra batteries, different color lenses, and extra packs of film!

- UPDATE 8/21/18 - i added the lenses i have below as well for those who have asked! i love being able to switch up the colors in my shots - the greens and blues are my personal fav's!

++ as an amazon associate i earn from qualifying purchases ++

let me know if you want me to do a separate blog post on tips and tricks for shooting with a polaroid (because it is a little different).

after this weekend i feel like i have become a polaroid taking pro! 

oh, and if you haven't listened to the latest eleven:thirty podcast episode (thirty & single in the city of brotherly love)

a new episode will be available soon! 

love & light, 

IMG_3749.jpg