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i left nyc to travel the world alone

Culture
illustration by liz riccardi

and you should, too

My World, My Words is a series of first-person essays featuring totally unique, inspiring personal experiences unlike anything you've heard before. The most interesting stories are also often the most overlooked, so we're on a mission to find them and share them with you. Written by people from all walks of life, these essays will move you in ways you might not expect—and that's the point.

Two years ago my life was chugging steadily along in the way I had always thought it was supposed to when I was struck by the sudden realization that everything was all wrong. I had an okay job, was in a serious relationship, and lived in a nice apartment with three roommates I didn’t totally hate. But one day I woke up and something had shifted and I didn’t want any of the things I had. That’s simplistic, obviously, but it’s also honest. I don’t know why the yearning to leave took root, but once it wormed its way into my head I couldn’t let it go. 

I felt selfish and ungrateful, but I also felt resolute. So after a few months of crying and quitting and crying and breaking up and crying some more, I left everything behind in favor of an adventure. I didn’t think I was looking for anything in particular; I figured I’d make it all up as I went along.

When you don’t make a solid plan, it’s easy to focus on hypothetical fears. I find this to be true whether I’m planning an afternoon date or a weeklong road trip or the next decade of my life. I purposefully didn’t want to plan for my spontaneous journey, but that did allow for some fears to wiggle their way into my brain as I was getting ready to leave. The most pervasive one was about loneliness. I was part of such a strong community in the life I was leaving behind–how would I find something similar on the metaphorical road? What would it be like to be entirely alone?

As it turns out, that’s a question I can’t answer. A lot has happened in fourteen months of movement, but the most important thing is that I’ve found the thing I did not know I was looking for, the thing that makes it easy to keep going every day: I’ve found a seemingly endless community of women who are all traversing paths entirely of their own creation. We are all over the world, and the strength of our support for one another as a group and as independent travelers is powerful.

*

I recently took a solo day trip, spending six hours in a car by myself, singing loudly into the silence as the radio wouldn't pick up a signal for most of the trip and I didn't want to use up the battery on my phone by playing music. I chose songs I know by heart, making my way through most of Taylor Swift's 1989 then moving on to Ani DiFranco's entire opus, giggling to myself as I made up the words I couldn't remember and screeched through the high notes I couldn't hit, pausing only to fumble with my water bottle or look down at my handwritten directions to make sure I didn't miss the turnoff. I was the only car on the road, Route 138 in Oregon, for most of the trip. This time of year the scenic byway is lined with tall green trees and intimidating snow-capped mountains. A couple of hours in I saw Diamond Lake on my left, a sparkling jewel below the concrete road. I followed the signs to a viewpoint, got out my car, stood on a picnic table, and stared at it for awhile. 

I let my thoughts wander, but my mind kept coming back to a singular phrase, thumping in my chest like my very own heart: This is your life. This is your life. This is your life. I nodded to myself, affirming the statement. "Yes, this is my life," I said to no one. Then I got back in the car and drove a little further, all the way to Umpqua Hot Springs, my destination for the day. The whole drive, I felt like I was getting away with something, like what could I have possibly done to deserve this adventure, this gift from the universe, this magic? How did things work out so that these sprawling days filled with wonder are, indeed, my life?

*

I remember waking up on a thin mattress on Ronen’s cold tile living room floor one Tuesday morning last January and taking a minute to register exactly where I was: Israel. Mitzpe Ramon. The desert. Ronen’s apartment. It had been less than a month since I’d left Boston and it was still surprising to wake up in a new location almost every morning, my embarrassingly large backpack at my feet and my headlamp inches away from my face, as if having access to a physical light at a moment’s notice might help if I woke up feeling lost or scared. I never used the light–I don’t tend to wake up in the middle of the night, and on occasion when I did I found my eyes quickly adjusted to the dark–but I liked having it close to me. It’s funny how we rely so much on objects when we really only need ourselves. It’s funny how hard it is to give up those objects even when we learn that lesson. I suppose it’s one we need to keep learning, keep reminding each other, keep teaching ourselves. 

On that particular Tuesday, as I felt the cold seep through the mattress and my blanket into my pores, I reminded myself what my Tuesday mornings used to look like: racing to catch the subway, settling into my office, logging onto my computer, preparing for another day in my routine. I had no idea what this day would bring, only that my new friends Ronen and Raye and I were going on a hike. I let myself relish in the delicious unknown.

On the opposite side of the room, Raye was burrowed deep in her sleeping bag; from my angle on the floor I could peer between the legs of the small coffee table and see her face, half obscured by her dark hair. It was very early but the sun was already coming through the window, bathing the whole room in a buttery yellow glow, and when Raye felt me staring at her and opened her eyes, they gleamed bright blue like the ocean. She was awake instantly, smiling wide and filling the room with infectious laughter. 

Raye was the first traveling girl I fell in love with, the first one who struck me with her confidence, her self-assured stance, her wholehearted belief in herself, and also in me. She had been flying solo for so long, since she was 16, and simply being with her made me feel like I could do it too. I have felt this rush many times since then, when I met Hannah, Talia, Ruth, Charlotte, Jackie, Sigrid, Carrot, Chance, Jess, Katrina…the list goes on. The list is infinite. There’s something magnetic about the fearless, badass women exploring our world, some charisma that draws me in. The feeling is not unlike a crush. I am just so in love with every single wild adventurous woman. I love them not just because they are rad and brave and fun and good company, though they are certainly all of those things, but most of all I love them because they inspire me. This is my life, they all seem to be saying steadfastly, their hearts thumping along in rhythm with my own.

*

I left Boston at the end of December 2013 with a plane ticket, my aforementioned large backpack, and a few vague ideas about my hopes and dreams for the future squished between too many pairs of socks and leggings. I wanted to see new places, meet different people, spend more time outdoors, learn skills that required my hands and my heart. Mostly I just wanted a change. My friends told me I was brave and inspiring; scared and uncertain seemed more accurate. What if I'm stupid, what if this is all a mistake, I scrawled in my journal on the plane ride to Israel, where I would spend the next three months. It was not a mistake. I don't regret a single day of this unknowable adventure. 

Dozens of women have approached me over the past fourteen months, wanting to bounce their ideas about solo travel around. I love talking about adventures, love hearing what these women want to see and do, how they want to live. I always tell them yes. Six months in Asia? Yes. A weekend road trip to California? Yes. Two weeks to visit your grandma in Ireland? Yes. Everyone’s circumstances are different and it’s a privilege to be able to travel at all, but when someone has worked out the practical aspects of going on an adventure and just needs the final mental push to take the leap, I want to always be the woman telling other women, yes, yes, yes. I am braver because of all the women who have said yes to me, who have taught me to say yes to myself. I want to share this secret with as many women as possible, because I don’t know why it’s a secret. There are so many reasons not to say yes to the adventure, and yet. You should. I want you to. If it's at all possible, do. This is your life. And we all deserve this magic.

For more My World, My Words, check out:
What It's Like To Be Genderqueer At An All-Women's Naked Spa
We Lost Our First Apartment In The Hurricane

Photo by Handout / Getty Images.

From selling probiotic supplements to picture frames and umbrellas

A Kardashian-level of success doesn't happen overnight, and it certainly doesn't happen without proper planning. Kim Kardashian West clearly knows this because, according to TMZ, she has already filed for trademark protection on the name of her two-week-old baby, Psalm West. From personal appearances and entertainment services to probiotic supplements and scrunchies, she is leaving no stone unturned in terms of possible business opportunities.

Apparently, all of the Kardashian parents file these kinds of trademark protections for their kids even if the businesses never come to fruition. It's done as a precautionary measure to keep others from profiting off of their name and to make sure that, should they ever want to start a business, they don't have to worry about someone else getting to it first. The sheer length of this list speaks to the huge earning potential of baby Psalm, who can't even control his own neck muscles yet, let alone go into business. Still, this brings a whole new meaning to "securing the bag."

Below, a list of all the things Kardashian West is seeking usage rights for.

Hair accessories

Barrettes

Bands

Bows

Clips

Ties

Ornaments

Pins

Scrunchies

Chopsticks

Twisters

Wrap

Hair extensions

Ornamental novelty pins

Entertainment services

Personal appearances

Skin care

Probiotic supplements

Toy figures

Doll accessories

Computer software

Clothing

Baby bottles

Furniture

Strollers

Beverageware

Swaddling

Blankets

Skin moisturizers

Lotions

Creams

Bubble bath

Fragrances

Body powders

Shower gels

Body oils

Skin serums

Nail polish

Nail polish remover

Nail care preparations

Puppets

Puzzles

Toy jewelry

Toy cameras

Toy food

Bath toys

Baby gyms

Playground balls

Electronic action toys

Baby bouncers

Baby changing tables

Baby walkers

Pillows

Mirrors

Cushions

Picture frames

Playpens

Baby carriers

Cosmetic bags

Toiletry cases

Duffle bags

Umbrellas

Clocks

Watches

Key chains

Calendars

Books

photo albums

Stationery

Stickers

Writing utensils

Collectible trading cards

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Well, actually it's crocodile, but she looks out of this world so...

Winnie Harlow walked the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday on her way to a screening of Oh Mercy!, wearing a showstopping gown.

The sheer black dress featured green embroidery on the front and back, which Ralph and Russo confirmed was in the shape of a crocodile. She belted the dress with a black crocodile skin-like belt and finished the look off with some strappy heels. She didn't leave it at just that. For beauty, Harlow packed on full lids of sparkly purple eyeshadow. She kept her hair sleek and simple.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Though the brand says otherwise, as Game of Thrones fans, we'd like to think the embroidery is reminiscent of a dragon's skin. Not to mention, Harlow looks out-of-this-world beautiful in it.

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Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

That denim kimono!!

Marion Cotillard shut down the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday at a screening for Matthias Et Maxime. Instead of an extravagant gown that's expected of the event, Cotillard wore a matching black crop top and shorts. Despite wearing an outfit I typically don to a hot yoga class, she looks incredible. She completed the look with an oversized denim kimono, a statement necklace, and heeled booties.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

At first, I was drawn in by the crop top and hotpants duo, but, after looking closer at the kimono, it's clear that it's the real scene-stealer. The floor-length Balmain piece was decorated with artful rips and dragon motifs. I would like to live in it.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Let's all bow down to the Khaleesi of Cannes.

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Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.

"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help"

Singer Billie Eilish is continuing to open up about mental health, this time in a new PSA video in partnership with the Ad Council and Seize the Awkward.

In the video, Eilish insists that "it doesn't make you weak to ask for help." She doubles down on the importance of asking for help, and stresses the importance of friends and family being there when their close ones reach out and checking in on them as well. "You should be able to ask anyone for help, everyone has to help someone if they need it." According to Eilish, there have been times when someone reached out to her at the exact moment she needed it, and it helped.

It was particularly refreshing to see Eilish acknowledge that there are things she still doesn't know and has to learn about her mental health. At the very beginning of the video, the interviewer asks her to reflect on her mental health journey, and all Eilish can do is let out chortle. "I think when people hear, 'Remember to take care of your mental health,' they think that everyone else is, and that is not at all accurate," she admitted. "You know, for me I'm trying to learn still to make sure that I stay okay."

Check out the PSA below.

Billie Eilish On Mental Health & Friendship | Ad Council www.youtube.com

Photograph via @kimkardashian.

"#NotOnMyMoodBoard"

Kim Kardashian has definitely been accused of borrowing a design now and then. But when Instagram influencer and Kardashian look-alike Kamilla Osman claimed the entrepreneur copied her birthday look for a Met Gala after-party, Kardashian was not going to let it fly—and shared plenty of photo evidence to shut down the claim.

Fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada first noticed Osman's claims on Instagram and shared side-by-side images of Kardashian's Cher-inspired outfit designed by Mugler and Osman's dress. "Never get confused with who 'inspires' who. They won't give you credit but they will copy," Osman wrote on her IG story. "I designed this dress for my birthday last year. Nobody had a dress like this was an original design."

Kardashian responded by posting the true inspiration behind her look: images of Cher, in similarly sparkly, plunging-neckline dresses and wigs, and of model Yasmeen Ghauri walking a Mugler show in the '90s. In fact, the only similarity between Osman's and Kardashian's looks is the bodycon mini-dress style, which the two are not the first to wear. Among the images, Kardashian included a blank slide with the hashtag "NotOnMyMoodBoard," making it clear that this was in response to Osman's claims.

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Though I am with Kim on this one, Kardashian does have a history of co-opting other people's work. From being sued over her Kimoji app, to claims she copied makeup palettes and perfume bottle designs, to being accused of copying Naomi Campbell's entire style, it's far from the first (and probably, far from the last) time Kardashian's name will be mentioned like this.

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