Next week I leave for Pennsylvania. I have a one-way ticket and I haven't booked my flight home yet because I'm not exactly sure where I'll be in order to fly home. This is the most fly by the seat of my pants traveling I have ever done.
My normal schedule used to be a 4 day work week with long hours in order to enjoy a 3 day weekend. I realized that I was working approximately 16 days with 12 days off each month. Why not consolidate the work time and combine the days off? It's ultimately still the same amount of work, the same amount of clients, just on a slightly different schedule.
To test it out, I've done 3 weeks of work with 10 days of play. Gradually moving back to 16 days of work with 12 days of play. Eventually, I'd like to shift to 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off.
My boyfriend, who I refer to in my writing as The Drifter, is a writer and works remote allowing for full time travel across the U.S. in a Casita travel trailer. My time off is perfect for lengthy trips to fly out and meet him. Work. Travel. Repeat.
In my last blog post, we were road tripping for my birthday. Dallas to New Orleans to Memphis to Hot Springs and back to Dallas. An awesome loop if you have the time to enjoy it. After the birthday loop, we paused for a few weeks and then took off for Nashville, Tennessee. Since then, we've spent time in North and South Carolina as well as Georgia.
Lately, I feel like I need to explain myself to others for the life style I have chosen. The amount of time I dedicate to my life in Texas versus the amount of time I choose to spend exploring other places with The Drifter. I realize this is not the norm for most people but when have I ever done anything normal?
I want to write about the places I've been but not in the traditional sense of a travel blogger. (Where to eat, sleep, shop.) I want to write about my favorite unexpected events and the simple pleasures that can only be experienced in those areas. Like the way the jasmine smells in Savannah in May and the way the cool air feels on your skin while laying on a blanket at Crater Lake in Oregon while a blanket of stars covers you from above. Sensory memories. That's the good stuff.
This past March marked my 15th year as a cosmetologist. To the fellow stylists that inspire me and the clients and friends that I have met over the years, you contribute to this life of mine in more ways than you know. I am grateful for the route my career has lead me on. I am absolutely in love with the space I have created at The Studio but I won't allow it to limit me. I am grateful for the connection that I have with The Drifter and nothing has made me happier than getting to travel across the country with him.
Everyone has their own idea of what success looks like. This is mine.
Seven years ago, I took a solo trip out to San Francisco, California to meet up with my best friend as way of getting over my fear of flying in an airplane. My flight left on Easter Sunday. A day for me that symbolizes new beginnings. It was definitely the start of something. I can honestly say that trip played a huge role in where I am for many reasons.
One of the days I was there we drove out to Muir Woods. While we were circling the visitor parking lot, I noticed a young couple towards the back.
I will never forget the sight. The young woman was cutting the guys hair right there in the parking lot.
It was clear that they were road tripping out of their van. From what I could tell they were loaded down with everything you could possibly need to live on the road. I knew nothing of vanlife back then.
I remember thinking "How awesome is that? I wanna be that girl."
They could have been in college enjoying their Spring Break or classic hippies living out of a van. It didn't matter to me. They looked happy and free and in love and that's what I wanted.
Fast forward seven years and here I am with The Drifter. Happy. Free. In love. We don't quite live out of a van. Our setup is a bit more accommodating for our needs.
We are currently in Memphis, Tennessee. We spent the first part of this trip in New Orleans, Louisiana. Two extraordinary cities for a music lover like me.
The last day we were in New Orleans, I noticed that someone was looking a little shaggy. The Drifter's cousin camped next to us and he happened to have a set of hair clippers...
I thought of the couple in Muir Woods. I never even spoke to them. It's interesting to think of the affects we have on those around us. I hope that wherever they are now, they are still as happy and free as they appeared that day.
It's funny how things play out. I am now officially that girl.
My word for 2016 was Clarity. The quality of being clear. I wanted to get clear about my goals and what was truly important to me. I wanted to communicate clearly. I wanted to clear out physical and emotional clutter in order to simplify.
I haven't written a blog post in months...
In August there was a mold issue in my apartment that led to an immediate relocation to my aunts house in Rice, Texas while my belongings took up residence at Public Storage until I could figure out a new plan.
I've spent the last 4 months living out of my suitcase/storage unit/guest bedroom of my aunts home.
I have also spent the last 4 months in Oregon, Montana, Yellowstone, Utah and California with The Drifter.
In this time period I was also waiting for completion of the final stages of construction for The Studio.
There was a lot going on. No wonder I didn't write a blog post.
I was in transition.
This was my vision board for 2016. Now here I am in Rice, Texas on the eve of New Years Eve reflecting on everything Clarity has meant to me.
Earlier this year, I had surgery to remove a cyst on my ovary. They took the entire ovary out instead. "Cleared" that up, alright!
I've simplified everything from my wardrobe to my finances by clearing out unnecessariness.
As far as goals, it is clear to me now that I want a life that includes The Studio so that I can dedicate myself to the business I have created balanced with adventuring across the country with The Drifter on his travels.
It is also clear to me that having my own space is as essential to my being as traveling is. (Maybe some day an Airstream or a tiny house will provide both for me.) Home to me is a place of restoration and grounding. It is a place of self care. Sleeping in your own bed. Preparing your own food. Your favorite coffee mug. Your favorite spot to snuggle up. It is these simple pleasures that most people take for granted.
I recently found an apartment in the downtown area of Ennis available in February. This will allow me to have all of the perks of urban living right near The Studio. I can walk to work, to meditation class or yoga class, the bank, the post office and a few local restaurants. It is the perfect home base for me when I'm in Texas.
Once again, I have been shown that when I get clear about what I want and when I make decisions based in alignment with my goals, what I need shows up for me so clearly it practically slaps me in the face.
I heard Rob Thomas's, "Little Wonders" for the first time in a long time and was reminded of how much I love that song.
"...let your clarity define you in the end..." is one of my favorite lyrics.
In 2015, my word was Drift and it brought me The Drifter. 2016 brought me Clarity for sure. I haven't chosen my word for 2017. I still have one more day to decide...
Happy New Year and Cheers to another journey around the sun!
According to Facebook, on this day last year I created and posted my first blog.
One year ago.
I started this blog sitting in the living room of my apartment in Dallas, Texas. As I write this, I am sitting in a coffee shop in Florence, Oregon. It is August and I am chilly. Such a strange thing for a Texan to say.
In the last year, I have experienced more clarity than I believe I have ever had in my entire life. I am opening my own salon and gallery, The Studio. I have designed the logo to look like a travel stamp because my intention is to create a life balanced with the two things I adore the most. The art of hair dressing and exploring the world.
I have arranged my work schedule so that I am in Texas working in the salon for 3 busy weeks and then I take off for 10 days to travel with The Drifter. I then come back and repeat. I have become the master of finding cheap airfare. (Tip: Get a Southwest Airlines credit card so you can earn free flights and download the Kayak app: Traveled to Belize for $68 round trip. Boston $11 round trip. Denver $99 round trip. It's crazy right?!)
When I created this blog it was because I wanted to document and share all the interesting sychronicities that I can't help but notice. I have a fascination with mermaids and I had pink hair at the time. Life on Land: Tales of a Mermaid. Made sense. I have enjoyed sharing my experiences and travel stories as well.
It has been a lovely trip around the sun inspired by the places I have been and the people I have encountered.
I never would have imagined that this would be my life. I am beyond grateful for my friends, my family, my clients and the opportunities that have presented themselves along the way.
It's no secret that I love to travel. I have fantasized about sharing my experiences with someone that I adore. My dreams have now become a reality thanks to The Drifter.
He is currently traveling the western part of the country in his Casita trailer for an undetermined amount of time. We spent last week exploring Colorado.
The Drifter is all about being off the grid and finding remote camping spots. I would say he succeeded with our first stop. Let me set the scene.
We were somewhere west of Boulder and the road we were on gradually changed from pavement to gravel to a rugged dirt path while climbing up a mountain. It was a slow climb up and even though the view was totally worth it, the sweat from my palms made my grip on the door handle a little slippery to say the least. This was going to be home for the next 2 days. There were actually signs that warned you that you were in fact in bear country and to be aware of mountain lions.
I was as far from my comfort zone as we were from civilization.
"How would I get down from here if something happened to him?"
"What if a bear can smell our peanut butter and claws it's way through the windows while we sleep?"
"What if the trailer slips off the road on our way down and pulls the truck down with it?"
I felt extremely vulnerable on the side of that mountain. I absolutely enjoy solitude but up there, I did not want to be left alone. I found it hard to truly relax because I like control and that was something I had very little of. We had no cell service and I have no knowledge of how to drive a vehicle down a mountain, much less one that has a travel trailer attached to it.
I had to talk myself out of fearful thoughts and remind myself that I was in an incredible place with a wonderful guy and I was perfectly fine. The sunsets were magnificent enough to calm my nerves but your mind can really mess with you in situations like that.
There were a few other brave campers that made their way up but for the most part we were on our own. We cooked meals, kayaked and enjoyed our time together. I never saw a bear or a mountain lion. Some birds and chipmunks were the only wildlife around.
I have written before about how I haven't always been as adventurous and I used to get very anxious in unfamiliar situations. I surprise myself sometimes at how much that has changed. There were literally times during this trip when I would tear up out of pure happiness because there were moments that seemed unreal to me.
The rest of the stops on the trip weren't nearly as remote and I loved checking out different areas. Golden, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Buena Vista.
One of my favorite little towns was Salida, CO. We roamed the streets and checked out a local bar with live music. I spotted a wall mural and had to take advantage of the perfect photo op. The word DRIFT. (For those of you who know the story of us, this will make sense. If not, go back and read The Mermaid and The Drifter.)
I knew then I was exactly where I needed to be with exactly who I needed to be with.
The Drifter encourages me, inspires me, supports me and I admire him so much. He says you're only afraid of what you don't know.
"Do one thing everyday that scares you." -Eleanor Roosevelt
The lesson: Keep on drifting and avoid feeding the fears.
I spent the past weekend at Retreat In The Pines in East Texas. My mom is the massage therapist for the retreat center so I could tag along and spend some time with her as well as participate in the weekends events.
It was right up my alley. Delicious homemade meals, wine, dark chocolate, journaling, yoga and meditation, all in the company of like-minded women in the middle of the woods in a log cabin. To say it was amazing is an understatement.
There were 11 women total from all different areas. Dallas, Tulsa, Austin, Houston, Galveston. There was even a traveling nurse from New Hampshire. Our ages ranged somewhere between 25 and 65. It was like adult summer camp.
I love getting to know other women. That's probably why I love my career so much. (I connect with men too but it's different.) It doesn't matter your age, your history, your marital status, your job...we are all the same. We ultimately have the same worries, fears and insecurities. The more I am around other women, the more I realize how connected we truly are.
On Friday evening at our first yoga class, I found my spot on a pink yoga mat next to a girl around my age. (I'll call her Al because it's kind of weird to write about people you've just met.)
The next morning after breakfast and my 2nd yoga class next to Al, my mom walked up to me and said "Guess what I just found out?" To which she didn't give me a chance to respond. "Al knows Drew!!!" (Drew is The Drifter, the guy I'm currently dating.)
Turns out that Al lives in McKinney and works with Drew's best girl friend from college in Dallas. Her mom lives in the same neighborhood as Drew's bestie and they had all hung out a few times and she knew that he had been dating a girl named Stephenie who was a hair stylist in Ennis. Al attended the yoga retreat with her grandmother who happens to have 3 other grandchildren who graduated from Ennis High School.
In case you're not following this, there were only 11 women who attended this retreat, one of which was my mom. It's not like there were hundreds of women from all over the DFW metroplex attending the same retreat center on the same weekend and most people are not familiar with Ennis, Texas. Is it not odd that of all the weekends I could have attended this retreat that I would pick the one that Al would be at with her grandmother? And did I mention that she does not practice yoga? She had attended 1 yoga class before coming to the retreat. What compelled her to book a yoga retreat and bring her grandmother is still a mystery to me.
I have no idea yet why I met her but I have no doubt that there is a reason. For the rest of the weekend, we got to know each other and talked about meeting up after work sometime. She had an adventurous spirit just like me.
I started this blog because I found a quote that said "Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." So that is what I have done. Coincidences. Connections. I see them. I am aware of them. I can't help but find deeper meaning and symbolism in them. I can't always make sense of these things but it doesn't make them of any less importance.
I recently broke out my old school CD case and have been listening to some 90's jams. Alanis Morissette is still a rock star to me. She said it best..."Isn't it ironic? Don't ya think?"
The lesson: I have said before that maybe I just over analyze everything and some may agree but I have made peace with this and I find comfort in the daily sychronicities that show me there is a higher power at work that perfectly orchestrates the events that occur in my life. This weekend was no exception.
The last few weeks have been a blur. I have wanted to write about what's been going on but until recently I haven't felt well enough to do much of anything. A piece of me feels like a wuss because there are plenty of people in the world going through much tougher stuff than me but I suppose we are all allowed to be down and frustrated sometimes by events that are out of our control.
My biggest New Years intention for 2016 was to get health insurance for myself. It's such a grown up thing to do and most women my age either have it through their job or their husbands job. I don't have that luxury. It was going to take time and some research for me to get insured and I kept putting it off.
I'm pretty good about following through with goals. My coverage began in February. As it turns out, I had a cyst on my ovary that needed to be surgically removed.
I was under the impression that it was a simple procedure. I would take a few days to relax afterwards and I would be good to go. My mom went with me and we joked about how flattering my outfit was and had a photo shoot in my hospital room. It's not like I was looking forward to it but I figured it had to be done so I tried to make the best of it.
Little did I know that I had endometriosis, the cyst was larger than my uterus and that my right ovary would need to be removed altogether. I suppose it is a common thing in the medical world but it is not common to me. I woke up from surgery on (Not so) Good Friday and have been processing this news ever since. The last few weeks have been physically and mentally exhausting.
When I was ten, I had an appendectomy so I have a scar on the right side of my stomach. Now I have 4 more. There's one hiding in my belly button and 3 more evenly placed among my lower abdomen. Basically it just looks like I got scarred up in the process of removing my mermaid tail in exchange for legs.
I really am The Little Mermaid.
My mom came to stay with me for nearly a week. She did my laundry, bought my groceries, took care of Sebastian and loved on me the way only a mama can. My dad and my step mom brought me an Easter basket of goodies and my dad made me laugh so hard, I had to send him home because it hurt too bad to giggle. He reminded me that laughter truly is the best medicine. My Aunt Pam came up and brought me food and calls frequently to check on me. She's my other mother in a lot of ways. My neighbors made me pasta and homemade cupcakes. I had calls and texts filled with love, get well wishes and lots of fun emojis.
The Drifter has been amazing as well. Apparently your ovaries control your hormones and I'm out of balance at the moment. Poor guy! He's been so understanding. My friend Brooke went with me to my follow up appointment last week because I was anxious about it. She doesn't live close and it was not convenient for her in the slightest but she made the trip and I am so thankful for her.
I have felt so loved.
I've had to rearrange my work schedule and slowly resume my normal activities. It's been a challenge because I'm used to hustling and staying active. It has forced me to slow down. I'm still not quite myself but I feel better everyday.
This experience was completely unexpected. It doesn't matter that I eat healthy, practice yoga, drink water and get enough sleep, this was going to happen. What it has made me realize though is how important it is for me to take care of myself anyway.
The lesson: There will always be things that are out of my control but I want to be mindful about the daily choices I make and how they effect my body, my well being and my life. And it's a good thing I had health insurance.
-The mermaid with scars to prove it.
A few weeks ago, I got together with a group of girls and we did a photo shoot for The Community Journal. We were told to dress in bohemian, gypsy inspired clothing. It was going to be a fun afternoon with friends so with no hesitation I said to count me in.
A few images in particular that were to be captured were of a "Traveler". They gave me a bag for a prop and I had my ukulele case so I took off walking like a traveling gypsy along the train tracks that run through downtown Ennis as the camera snapped behind me.
I had no idea at the time how these images would speak so clearly to the place I have been in my life. A crossroad.
I wrote recently about my desire to travel and about my bittersweet feelings of leaving Ennis. I talked about Ennis in terms of the sweet, supportive boyfriend who could possibly give me everything I've ever wanted if only he had my heart but I sometimes have a wandering eye and think that maybe the grass is greener...over there. (Where ever there may be.)
What I have come to realize is that change truly is inevitable.
Everything in my life is different from how it once was. My friends, my hair, my car, my body, my views of the world, my place of business, my relationships, my taste, my thoughts and opinions, my residence. I could keep going but you get the point.
The only thing that hasn't changed at least in the last 10 years besides my phone number, is the undying passion I have for the work that I do.
Somehow it has survived it all.
My work as an artist is the one and only constant in my life.
I call myself an artist instead of a stylist because stylist doesn't encompass all that I am on a mission to do. I want to create. Create a style for someone that makes them feel their best. Create a color formula that perfectly enhances someones natural tone. Create bonds with unlikely strangers. Create opportunities for personal growth. Create an environment that feels good and relaxing and more than anything I want to create a life around me that inspires others to live in their most authentic way.
I thought for some reason that I had to decide between my business in Ennis and my longing to experience life in other places. I have come to the realization that I don't have to choose. I can have both.
I am proud to announce that I will be opening my own business in downtown Ennis in July. I have decided to call it The Studio. By definition, a studio is an establishment where an artist works.
This will allow me the freedom to work in a space that suits me in a town that supports me so that I can create the life that I desire filled with business opportunities and personal advancements. My wanderlust has not changed either. The inspiration and knowledge I receive from spending time in other places and cities is essential to my being and keeps me focused.
I can work and travel. I will keep all the details about this next adventure to myself until I have more to share.
They say life is about balance. (Whoever they is.) I have found mine and I know I'm on the right track.
Sometimes, you just need a break, in a beautiful place, alone, to figure everything out.
Last weekend I had the urge to take a drive. I was in need of the kind of clarity that can only be found in solitude.
Solitude is the enjoyment of your own company. It gives you space to reflect without distraction or outside influence.
I recorded this video about my trip and I wish it wasn't 10 minutes long but since I have no knowledge of video editing, it is what it is.
I could have called up a few girl friends and pulled together a last minute Sunday brunch and talked out all the things that were on my mind over a carafe of bottomless mimosas but that would have just been a distraction.
Sometimes you simply need solitude.
First stop. Zilker Park. Austin, Texas.
I was serenaded by Woody. Apparently he can be found playing his guitar and harmonica on any given Sunday in the park.
I found peace and broke in my hiking boots at The Slab. Marble Falls, Texas.
14 hours and 500-ish miles. Longest day trip I've ever taken in my life.
I love that I have the freedom for days like that. I love that I date a guy who supports and respects my desire for independence and I love that I have friends who would gladly hop in and tag along for the ride.
Thanks for loving all my crazy.
I just recently celebrated a birthday. I've had 32 of these now. Thirty-Two.
It is not what I thought it would be when I was 17.
My teenage mind imagined I would be a working woman making plans and cupcakes and a weekly grocery list for my family. Evenings would be spent reading bed time stories and playing "This little piggy" with my mini-me's toes before falling asleep next to my husband while talking about our upcoming trip to Disney World.
Married with children. That was 32.
I may have just described the lives of a lot of women my age but it's definitely not mine. Hopefully there's still some playful sex in there somewhere but maybe not. I wouldn't know. It's not my life.
If the 17 year old version of myself only knew how wrong she was. Fifteen years later, I am not married and the desire to have children seems to have been replaced with wanderlust that even I don't understand. I am often torn between my desire to travel around like a gypsy and the familiar comforts of home.
I want coffee at sunrise on a cobblestone street and the view of a sunset from the balcony of a villa. I want to stare into a campfire surrounded by stars in the desert. I want a hot air balloon ride with picture perfect grassy hills below. I want to swim naked in the ocean if only for a few minutes just to say that I've done it. I want the smell of pine trees mixed with the odor of my hiking boots which haven't been used yet but one day they will be broken in and worn out and that's the scent I have in mind. I want the sound of chatter in an unfamiliar language followed by the sound of laughter. I want to kiss someone and dance in the rain like they do in the movies. I want to stay in a hostel. I want to see the view of an incredible city from the window of a helicopter.
Venice. Greece. Arizona. Ireland. Hawaii. Colorado. Spain. Oregon. Paris. Just for starters.
I don't know where this longing came from. As a child, I didn't travel that much so it's not that I was raised this way. I didn't pay much attention in my geography and history classes so it doesn't stem from the study of other places. We were constantly moving when I was kid so you would think that more than anything I'd want to create a life somewhere and stay put. Not the case at all. At least for now.
Ennis is my hometown. I basically grew up in my dad's restaurant. B.J's Cafe. Best chicken fried steak in town. I learned to drive by cruising Ennis Avenue with my friends on Friday nights. I moved away after high school but I quickly returned to be with my first love. I opened my own salon on my favorite brick paved street at the age of 24 which lead to meeting my very best friend who came in as a new client for a haircut. I have created my life around this community.
When I talk of moving or traveling for extended periods of time, I know my clients get a knot in their stomach because there's nothing worse than the first time you put your hair in the hands of a stranger, cross your fingers and hope for the best. It's almost worse than a break up but there are plenty of talented hair stylists in the community so I'm sure they will find their rebound stylist.
The thought of completely disconnecting from Ennis is bittersweet. It's like a relationship with a really nice guy who would give you stability and support you in anything you do but for some reason you can't fully give him your heart. It's easy and it's comfortable and you don't want to start all over again with someone else because what if the new guy is an asshole!?!
But what if he isn't?
What if he's amazing? You'll never know if you don't follow your heart, right?
I was recently asked how I would feel about my writing being published for the community and if I would be willing to write fun stories about my perspective of life in this town. I want to say yes but how can I when I feel this way? It's a great place with plenty of potential for growth and development and I have no doubt that plans are in the works and wonderful things are in the future for Ennis. My business is there but my heart is not.
My 2002 Senior class quote was "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future." Most of my high school memories are a blur so I can't believe I even remember that. It couldn't be more true and fitting for me now.
I guess in a way this is my notice. My one-year notice. If I say it out loud, if I type here for you to read, it makes it real. My apartment lease is up in February of 2017 and that will also mark my 3 year anniversary of working independently as a stylist at Tisha & Company. It was my intention after I closed my salon to make travel a priority while still accommodating my clientele. I have done that. I want to set a new intention now.
I know that people will have questions. I don't have the answers. I'm sure when the answers reveal themselves, I will be compelled to write about it.
I sometimes refer to my life as SteviTV...Stay tuned.
"Cause I'm still the girl from Golden
Had to get away so I could grow
But it don't matter where I'm goin'
I'll still call my hometown home."
Kacey Musgraves, Dime Store Cowgirl