How to Drive Across the Country and Not Go Broke or Crazy

DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not serve as any hours of driving lessons, no matter how long it takes you to read.  Please head to your local drivers’ ed for actual driving lessons.  If you can’t drive a car, maybe you should find a friend who can or plan something else, like a bike riding trip.

Having driven from Massachusetts to California earlier this year (I’ll write about the actual trip sometime, I promise!), I realized I learned a lot about how to save money, be safe, and just overall not fall victim to any disasters along the way.  Nomadic Matt has a great blog post specifically about saving money, and I might have some overlapping advice.  Plus, considering I have the longer drive ahead of me, I could find out that I actually know nothing and this is all terrible advice.  Fingers crossed that isn’t the case!

HOUSING

  1. Use the Couchsurfing app to save money.  If you haven’t heard of it, this app connects you to people who will open their home to you and let you sleep on their couch, air mattress, or if you luck out, a bed!  Fo free!  Beware that if you are just looking for a place to crash and keep to yourself, this is not where to find it.  People on CS are sociable and love to hear about your travels, talk about their own, and just meet new people and bond in general.
    • It might sound creepy at first, but every surfer has to leave a review about the host, so you can read all of them to calm yourself.
  2. Reach out to people you know, or people they know, around the country.  You’d be surprised how many of your friends and acquaintances will be happy to hear from you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to use different Airbnbs in the same city.  I didn’t learn this on purpose, but I stand by it.  When I was in Nashville, my friend Alora (aka freewheelinalora) and I stayed in a nice spot pretty close to downtown.  However, I was planning on continuing my road trip the morning after her flight, so I found a cheaper option about 20 minutes outside of the city that was aimed at travelers looking to break up their drive.  Not only was it cheaper, but it also got me away from the city and potential traffic the next morning.  If you don’t mind shuttling your belongings around a little, I recommend finding a no-frills room for your last night (or even couchsurfing!).
  4. Outside of cities, try to camp when possible, because it’s fun, and Couchsurfing options in rural areas ARE creepy.

FOOD

  1. Cook your own food as much as possible.  This I cannot stress enough.  So much of your road trip budget will be on food, and there is so much room to save.  Whenever I book an Airbnb, I make sure the host allows kitchen access!  If you are with a friend and on a more “vacation vibe”, remember that you can still go out without eating dinner out.  Even if you just have a light meal at home, you won’t be as hungry when you’re out and won’t need to order as much food.  Or buy oatmeal or bagels and eat breakfast there before you head out!
    • If your friend is a bigger spender and you feel weird about talking about money, suggest wanting to cook a meal in because you miss your typical meals or are getting sick of the heaviness of restaurant food.
    • If you have a copilot, make a plan to cook your food a certain number of times per week or per destination.  (However, you should definitely have a conversation about budgeting and finances with your road trip partner, and communicate about it openly to avoid tension.)
    • This point supports my advice to use Couchsurfing, because often hosts will love a home-cooked meal as a thank you for letting you stay.  Hotels don’t have that!
  2. Along that same vein, order inexpensive meals/drinks when you go out.  Cocktails are pretty much the same wherever you go, but trying local beers can be exciting while also saving you a few dollars.
  3. Don’t eat fast food.  Actually, you can really only learn this for yourself.  Every once in a while, especially at the beginning, you’ll be really excited about all the junk food at your fingertips.  However, after eating comes more sitting in the car, and you will feel gross.  Get it out of your system when you feel you need to, or reserve it for emergencies (low food supply).  I recommend buying pre-made salads at grocery stores, but be careful to not OD on chicken caesar like I did.  Since I’ll be on the road for longer this time, I hope to come away with more of a strategy on how to keep produce around while on the road.
  4. My advice sounds like I’m telling you to be miserable and not have fun, but it’s mostly out of concern for your budget and stomach.  Obviously try local favorites and live it up!
  5. Bring a gallon of water (or a few) so you don’t die.

THE DRIVE

  1. Before you leave home, go to your auto repair place and get your car looked at.  Get an understanding of how much different services cost.  It’s important to get this information from someone you trust, like the place you go back home or a family member or friend, so you know if someone is trying to take advantage of you if you have to get something fixed on the road.
  2. That being said, remember that your mechanic’s job is to sell jobs and make business, so he/she will likely suggest a few different jobs to do.  However, if you aren’t sure, keep in mind that if something happens on the road, you will NEED to get it fixed, i.e. once it’s broken, you will not have the opportunity to say no the price (within bargaining reason).  Plus, if you don’t do what your mechanic suggests, any time you hear a weird sound or smell something, you will be haunted by the job you didn’t get done to your car and convince yourself that your car is going to break down right there in the middle of nowhere.
  3. Don’t make every day a long driving day.  It can be miserable to feel like you’re running behind schedule (for check-in times at campsites or Airbnbs) and you can’t stop spontaneously to look around or move your body.
  4. Download a bunch of audiobooks.  If your library at home has a way for you to do it online, like through Overdrive, it’s the best!  Just make sure you test out the narrator’s voice beforehand, because a voice you don’t like can make you not want to listen to the book (my sister’s advice).  That happened to me twice.
  5. You will think this is a great opportunity to finally listen to Radiohead’s entire discography, but you will not do that, so make sure you download music you will be able to scream-sing every word to, because you will do that for hours.  And hours.

MISCELLANEOUS

  1. When going out, I follow my brother’s rule of always walking or taking public transport to the destination, no matter how annoying it is.  Then on the way home, get a Lyft, but not an Uber because remember they have some sort of connection with Trump.  (I need to look into that more.)
    • This is also a general life tip.
  2. Talk to the people around you.  Literally everyone will think it’s cool that you’re doing a cross country road trip (and if you’re a girl going solo, like I am, then people will think you’re insanely brave, which I can’t tell if I like or not).  Lean into it and talk about yourself, because YOLO, but also listen to their stories, because you can learn a lot, meeting new people is fun, and you’ve probably been thinking about nothing other than this road trip for a while now and you’d like to think about something else.
    • This is also a general life tip.
  3. Every once in a while, just… clean the car.

Poetry

The most valuable thing I have developed over the past 22 years is an open mind.  Actually, most of this development has occurred in recent years as I become more of an open person and realize how much there is to learn in the world.

Having an open mind is, to me, being open to new ideas, new knowledge, and most importantly, change in yourself and others.  For example, I used to say “I hate country music,” “anything but country,” etc.  Country music is typically NOT my jam.  But in the past four years or so, I’ve decided that I don’t want to have such stagnant, unwavering preferences.  Especially ones rooted in hatred.  I don’t want to “hate” anything, except fascism.  (I’m kind of kidding here, but seriously, fascism isn’t cool and I don’t like it.)  I would be comfortable saying “I LOVE yoga!  I LOVE the Red Hot Chili Peppers!  I LOVE eating chips and salsa!”  because of the innate positivity, and I wouldn’t feel embarrassed later if I stopped loving yoga or the Red Hot Chili Peppers or eating chips and salsa (also, not likely).  However, I decided that if I one day loved a country music song, or artist, or the entire genre, that I wouldn’t want people to give me a hard time about it because I had bragged about my hatred about it!  Maybe it’s unfortunate that my desire to not hate something stems from how others perceive me, but hey, I got there.

(Also, since when is hating something cool?  If I could respond to high school me saying she hates country music, I would say, “I really don’t care about what you hate.  What do you love?  What makes you so happy and excited and thrilled?  Great, now take the energy you spent telling people you hate country music and rolling your eyes and put it into that.  Also, sorry to have to break it to you, but you’re going to like the song ‘Cruise’ by Florida Georgia Line.”)

Now, you’re probably wondering how the title of this blog post – “Poetry” – ties in.  No, it’s not because I think my writing is so eloquent and ornate that I’ve decided that this entire post is a long poem.  It’s that another way I stubbornly resisted change in myself, or rather was prepared to, is that I have always known that “I am a math/science/foreign language person.”  English and History have never been my thing.  Historical prose confuses me, which makes reading and enjoying historical documents or even recent classic novels a chore.  Shakespeare goes right over my head, and trying to make sense of it would make my chest tighten in stress.  I really like the big picture of things, and outlining facts, so History class was never as bad, but senior year I chose to study Economics from the history department for a reason – it was the most likely to involve math.  Math is much easier for me to make sense of, and solving problems is exciting to me.

While it’s really awesome that I love math and Spanish and physics, it’s unfortunate that I felt as though I needed to put down other skills in order to enjoy those.  Luckily, in my practice of yoga I have come around to poetry and how it can exist in my everyday life (e.g. meditation).  I am amazed by how writers can get the most out of words and use each so purposefully and with such depth.  Even if a poem takes me a couple of reads, I choose to admire its beauty, truth, and power rather than be anguished by any confusion it may cause me.

While having a strong sense of self and feeling passionate about our identity is empowering and valuable, I also think it is limiting.  My yoga teacher said something the other day like, if we spend our whole lives going for what we want, and avoiding what we don’t want, then we’re trapped and limited by our own minds.  For who decides what we want other than us?  If you spend your whole life avoiding what you’ve decided you don’t want, you close yourself off to so much.

I still think I am better at math/science/foreign language, but I don’t let that define me or discourage me from learning more about history or reading classic novels and poetry.  History is something I don’t know nearly enough about, so I am trying to learn more through podcasts (specifically Stuff You Should Know).

I would especially love to exercise my creative muscle and write my own poetry.  I really enjoy writing on my blog, and while that isn’t poetry, there is some creativity there in choosing what to say and how to say it.  I’m going to start writing poetry every once in a while (in my journal, not here!), because what do I have to lose?

I hope I’ve inspired you to lose a stagnant part of yourself, and not be limited by your own mind.  Even if it’s something small, try something today that you have, for one reason or another, decided you don’t want, can’t do, or wouldn’t succeed at.

What IS Post Grad Life? Pt. II

The Internet is on the edge of its seat, and here I am to deliver on my pledge to you: Part II of my post-grad story!  Beware, I’m covering 7 months of my life here, so it gets pretty lengthy.

I left off saying what my post-grad plan HAD been – to stay on the cape over the summer and move to Boston in the Fall.  At the end of May, my dad and I packed up my items from my adorable, treasured apartment in Dupont Circle and said goodbye to my bestie/roommate/soulmate Maddie, and drove north to Cape Cod.  It was a sad drive, made only slightly better by stopping at Chick-Fil-A.  I had convinced myself that I wanted to work at a certain restaurant, so the next day, a gray, blustery day, I went there and asked the person at the host stand for an application.  She was actually the owner of the restaurant, and after filling out the application, she saw that I lived on her street!  A couple minutes later, I had a job as a hostess and would be starting the next week.  Success!

While I was happy to have a job, especially at the place I wanted (a nice place, not too fancy but not too casual, with a large local and tourist draw), I was pretty bummed for the first part of the summer.  I have an issue with living in the moment, which I constantly am checking.  Although, I do think I should go easy on myself, specifically in this situation because I had just graduated college and was experiencing a pretty drastic change.  I recently read a quote by @lamise on Instagram (a yogi I just started following), that says

“They say that when one door closes, another opens.  
But the problem is we spend too much time grieving over the closed door,
that we don’t even notice
the new door that has opened.”

 

When I read this, I instantly could relate.  When school years would end and summer would begin, I would mourn the end of the school year and rob myself of enjoyment until I got over it (with no effort, just time).  Then I would mourn summer’s end as school began again, homework settled in, and the air cooled.  Over and over, this cycle would repeat, and I have only recently tried to actively fight it and live in the moment.

Anyway (at this rate I will have to add a pt. III to this saga), I really struggled at first in the summer because I was missing aspects of college that were so different from my present – mainly the social fulfillment.  When I came to write this, I actually almost forgot that I was so bummed at the beginning of the summer because I ended up loving it.  I made so many friends at the restaurant I worked at, swam in the ocean all the time, and had many gin and tonics.  Peak season on Cape Cod is truly a wonderful time.  My cousin got married on Labor Day weekend at my grandparents’ old farm in Maine, the next weekend my sister and I traveled to Dewey Beach, DE for my now-sister-in-law’s bachelorette party, and at the end of September my brother got married!  Before we knew it, my sister was engaged as well!

With all these exciting events, the end of the restaurant season was coming quickly – closing day was October 15th.  I knew I wasn’t ready to apply for full-time jobs yet because I felt too lost to pick what I wanted to do for my whole life.  One thing I loved about the restaurant business was that it opened me up to another way of living.  It brought me out of the typical GW-and-other-private-college cycle of interning and taking classes, having internships over the summers, and lining up work for after graduation.  The solace of knowing I had done what was expected of a GW student wasn’t enough for me to want to do it.  I don’t mean to bash my classmates that did find a job after graduation, or to imply that every student that did got some bottom-of-the-barrel position that they hate.  I know plenty of people who moved onto new adventures in a different city, doing a job they love and worked hard for, and being financially supported by it.  Plus, I loved my internships and jobs and was completely part of that cycle.  However, it was nice to see that oh, people support themselves and live in other ways and are happy too.

Because the restaurant is only open seasonally, many servers go to Florida for the winter and work at restaurants there.  My lack of plan was obvious, and one server said I should move in with her in Sarasota!  I hadn’t thought of doing that, but in need of a plan, I grasped onto it and decided I would go!  My sister’s wedding was also coming together quickly (she had a four week engagement!), and soon after were Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I decided that I would go after the holidays.

After the restaurant closed, I got a seasonal sales position at Old Navy.  I had never worked in retail (besides selling sweatshirts at the restaurant!), so I didn’t really know what it would be like.  I’m going to have to save more details for another blog post, because I have a lot to say about it!

As time passed and I thought about my plan to drive south to Florida more, I realized I wasn’t sure.  In fact, I never had been sure, but I was coming around to admitting it.  My friend wasn’t cutting me an unheard of, amazing deal on rent that instantly convinced me, so I really gave it some thought.  If I was going to live anywhere for four months, did I want it to be Sarasota?  Not really.  No offense to Florida, but it didn’t speak to me.  However, I thought, I had never been to California.  I thought it would be a perfect time to experience the west coast, avoid a New England winter, and sort of get the itch out of my system so I could be close to my family and not constantly want to live far away.

With the help of Craigslist, I quickly secured a place to live in downtown Santa Barbara.  Why Santa Barbara?  You might ask.  Well, I was quite “citied-out” from living in Washington, D.C. for four years, and I liked living in the beach community that is Cape Cod.  In early October I had also bought a used 2004 RAV4, which in hindsight was not the brightest plan, considering I didn’t know what I was going to do after the restaurant closed.  It worked out though.

Then came the fun part (well, it was all fun, but this part especially), which was planning the road trip that would get me there.  I’m going to leave off here, because I could write about my road trip for ages!  Get excited!

One Good Thing

Sorry to lead my readers (reader?) astray, but contrary to my last post advertising a “part II” next, this is not that post.  I am just too inspired and can’t let what I presently have to say escape me!

Something I am hyper-aware of and constantly worried about is if I’m being lazy.  I really value being productive and active with my time and body, so I detest falling victim to laziness.  Let me rephrase that – LETTING myself fall victim to laziness; GIVING IN to laziness.  Because laziness is a choice.

I realized today that I haven’t been in a bad mood – “bad” encompassing all things anger-, stress-, sadness-related – in a long time. Weeks?  Months?  I don’t ever say “I had a bad day” because, well, I don’t.  Everyday has the potential to be great, and a great day can include badness.  Plus, they’re 24 hours long!  Maybe my life is too cushy, but barring tragic events, there isn’t anything that can destroy 24 hours.  Anyway, I realized I haven’t been in a bad mood in so long because I was in a bad mood.  I was stressed about this or that, really this AND that, and it all compounded and made me anxious, angry, and upset.

EVERYONE HAS THESE MOMENTS.  I cried and let myself cry, really leaned in there for a bit because it felt good, and I let myself mope for approximately three minutes.  And then I said “it’s going to be ok”.  Part of my brain had, in those three minutes of crying/moping, thought to say that already, but another part of my brain shut it down because it was too soon.  Clearly, from what I have laid out here, admitting it is going to be ok can take work.  Crying and moping and deciding that everything is the worst is, unfortunately, an easy thing for humans to do (I have no scientific data to support this, please just go with me).  It takes work to say actually, things will be ok, because I will work through this.

Following this moment, I thought again about everything I had to do that was weighing on me, and here’s where the title works in:  I decided to think about them one at a time, and just do one good thing.  Ok fine, I will call this two good things.  Because even though it is extremely minor, I don’t want to discount the influence this had on my day:  I changed into get-work-done clothes and most importantly put on sneakers.  This sounds silly, but when I have sneakers on I DO THINGS.  Sneakers are for doing.  My second good thing was I cleaned my room, like really went for it for an hour.  And these two good things, even really just the one, got the ball rolling and my day has been spectacular.  My room looks amazing, I did other house chores, I did yoga and found I can do a pose I never thought possible, I had a great lunch, and then when I saw a yet-uninhabited length of time in front of me, I decided to go for a walk.  But then I decided “well, why don’t I run?” and then “I can do a sprinting workout!”  And now I feel like a million bucks and am so excited for all the fun yet to be had this evening and tomorrow and my whole life.

My point is, if you are in a bad mood, even if it has been going on for a long time.  Hours.  Days.  Weeks.  The past year.  Realize that it’s not your fault, because like I said, admitting it will be ok takes work.  And I’m sure the amount of work required varies from person to person.  My disposition tends to be positive, even more so in the past couple of weeks since I have been exercising more.  That’s not to say I don’t have minutes of stress when I’m late to something, or the occasional disappointment in myself or something else!  However, I think everyone can say “it will be ok” and not give into the mope (or after giving into the mope).  You are stronger than you think!  Everyone can then go on to do their one good thing. Get the ball rolling.  Let saying “it will be ok” propel you to your one good thing and spiral into a day of good (great!) things.  You have one beautiful life, and it’s not too late to remember that!

Examples of one good thing:

  • Stepping outside (no matter what you have on this very minute).
  • Smiling at yourself in the mirror.
  • Wearing fun shoes/earrings/that shirt you never wear.
  • Putting on YOUR get-work-done clothes.
  • Calling a loved one and telling them how you feel.
  • Standing up.
  • Doing some squats.
  • Brushing your teeth.
  • Putting on a bra if you wear one.
  • Drinking a glass of water (we’re all dehydrated).
  • Making a sign to protest Donald Trump.  Truly invigorating.
  • Doing that one chore you hate doing.  You will feel so much better.

 

Have a great day!

About Me

Hi!  My name is Cindy.  Welcome to my blog!

Before you peruse my posts, I’ll introduce myself:  I’m 23 and graduated from the George Washington University in May 2016. I grew up in Massachusetts and have since returned, driven around the country for four months, and returned again!

When I’m not blogging, you can find me doing yoga, cooking, exploring, spending time with my family and friends, listening to music or podcasts, reading, running, watching a movie from my list of 102 classic movies I must see, getting too hyper from coffee, laughing at something, swimming in the ocean (if it’s the right time of year), or making a cocktail (if it’s the right time of day).

It means a lot that you’re reading my blog, so thank you!  I’d love to hear what you think about any of my posts, so if you have anything to add, share, critique, comment, say “I thought that too!” or “Actually I think…” to, let me know in the comments!

I’m so grateful for this life and I’m happy I get to share it with the Internet.  Here goes!

What IS Post Grad Life?

In a word?  Weird.

Feelings really vary person to person – some people are happy in their new roles, and others long for a campus and the ease (not including classes!) of college life.  Rather, each individual’s balance of the many feelings vary.  According to what I have witnessed, there are many factors, besides personality differences, that influence the balance to varying degrees (pun intended).

Some of these factors are size of school attended, location (i.e. rural, suburban, urban), level of involvement in campus activities, plans after graduation, and living arrangement after graduation.  For example, the shift from living in a dorm or apartment with friends and being independent from parental control to returning to living at home with parents takes a toll on some more than others, but overall is jarring, can feel suffocating, and is a reversal that isn’t really supposed to take place.  Not saying that moving back in with the folks is a bad thing (I did it, so it can’t be wrong!  Right…), but in life we are meant to become more and more independent; at home it is easy to cast aside learned self-sufficiency and re-adopt a childlike role.  The real conflict is that it is pretty much impossible to revert to that role and forget all the freedom and independence we were used to for so long.  No, Mom, I don’t want to tell you where I’m going, I should just be able to leave!

My explanation for the feeling of just graduating college is to imagine going from years of routine and planning, always knowing what the next step was and how to get there, to having endless options.  Because even though there were options about which college to go to/which student org to join/which part-time job to get, it was a limited pool.  With our endless options, many of my friends had a full-time job lined up for after graduation or got one soon after, but more didn’t or pursued another route.  That’s me!  That’s me!

I’m very lucky to have been able to return home to my parents’ house, and I know not everyone has that privilege, so bear with me when I say this: I didn’t really want to have a job lined up for after graduation.  Not only was I extremely busy my senior year (#LiveUpTo62), but I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do and I was overwhelmed.  While everyone was stressing out about employment, I applied to two full-time jobs for after graduation.  That is the most half-hearted job search I’ve ever seen.  I didn’t hear back from either but I wasn’t fazed, especially since I was, as previously mentioned, extremely busy (see previous parenthesis link).

My plan was to return to Massachusetts, this time not to my childhood home (I cleaned out my bedroom over spring break senior year… Woo sprang break!), but to my parents’ now-permanent home in Barnstable, which is on Cape Cod.  In my head I was going to get a job at a restaurant on the cape, apply for jobs (part of me wanted Boston, but part of me wanted a yet-unexplored [by me] city), and hopefully get one by the Fall.  Part of that happened: I got a job at a restaurant on Cape Cod – the restaurant I had hoped for, too!  But OOH BOY did my plans change.  Where am I now?  Am I still on Cape Cod?  Boston?  Grad school?  Abroad?  Stay tuned for my next post to find out!  (Or look on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook.  Or even LinkedIn.  But stay tuned for the story!)