September 13, 2023

What Lives In My Bag? A Lazy Person's Guide to (Not) Packing

As far as I can tell, there are two types of packers in the world:

Type 1
  • Starts pulling together outfits and packing a little bit at a time weeks before the trip
  • Has a detailed packing list and checks items off as they go
  • Has tickets, hotel reservations, and any important travel documents printed and/or saved digitally in one organized location
  • Has a trip countdown and a to-do list with a timeline. Knows exactly what needs to be done each day leading up to departure.
  • Plans to go to bed on time or early to make sure they are well rested for the journey
Type 2
  • Lives by the mantra “There’s still plenty of time before I leave”
  • Thinks about outfits and maybe buys a few new pieces with time to spare, but puts off actually washing and packing them
  • Has had a packing list at some point in life, but is convinced it is all committed to memory and therefore does not need to be written down or checked off
  • Does laundry at midnight the night before the trip
  • Pulls an all-nighter to finish packing
  • Has to finish unpacking from the last trip hours before leaving on the next one
  • Realizes at least one missing item once it’s too late to go back

Personally, I'm the one that tries to be responsible and print important documents, but not until 2am the morning of the trip when I inevitably discover my printer is out of ink. I guess you could say I’ve spent most of my travel life trying to pull off Type 1 accuracy on a Type 2 timeline. And while that generally can’t be done, there are a few shortcuts that I’ve found work well for me as a chronic procrastinator.

For years, the final steps in my travel prep routine included brushing my teeth, doing my hair and makeup, and then cramming all of those items in my bag right before leaving. One day after forgetting my toothbrush and having to buy one at my destination, it occurred to me to just leave that extra one in my bag for next time. It's something I'm sure savvy travelers have been doing forever and I'm just late to the party, but it led me to another realization: If I could buy an extra toothbrush and leave it packed forever, what other things could I cut out of my packing routine by doing the same?

Welcome to my favorite packing hack: With the exception of clothing, just buy two of everything and never unpack it. The end result is I'm perpetually about 35% packed, and I cut down on 1) the chance that I'll forget something and 2) the extra time it takes to pack those items.

So here it is, the list of things that permanently live in my bag and save me valuable packing (and sleeping!) time every single trip:
  • Toothbrush
  • All liquids/toiletries
  • My makeup bag & everything in it
  • Over the counter medicines
  • First aid supplies
  • Hairbrush & hair accessories
  • Hair straightener
  • Phone charger & external battery
  • Travel umbrella
  • Packable rain jacket
  • Passport (Obviously I don't own two of these, I just never unpack it, so I can't forget or lose it)
That's right, I have a home hair straightener and a travel hair straightener, I own duplicates of every item in my makeup bag, I have home bandaids and trip bandaids, two sets of medicines, and sometimes I leave my shoes packed if I know I won't use them between one trip and the next (my Chacos live in my bag every January to May). The lazy person in me absolutely loves waking up 15 minutes later on a travel day, brushing my teeth, doing my hair, and walking out the door with all of that stuff left on the counter instead of scrambling to pack a wet toothbrush and praying I remembered my phone charger.

Which type of packer are you, and what's your own favorite hack?

May 23, 2023

Hanson Day 2023

Do I even need to write a blog post about Hanson Day this year when Hanson released a perfectly accurate summary on a t-shirt?

I bought it immediately, but I also couldn't help making a few adjustments to reflect my own Hanson Day 2023 experience:

We may joke about chair duty, but HDay from the volunteer side is still a lot of fun. I'm often asked if I like helping out or if it's hard or if I miss having more free time, and the truth is we all give exactly the amount of time we are willing to put in. Nobody's required to give up their hard-earned vacation, and we all know what we're signing up for. I absolutely miss having more time to spend with friends that I didn't get to see a lot, but that's always true no matter what city I'm in or how long we had together. And as we discovered years ago, learning the logistics of stacking chairs efficiently in a confined space with a time limit is as good a bonding exercise as any to make new friends. Now we have the added bonus of hanging out while we "work".

In between holding doors and faux chair complaints, I made sure to max out every free moment with events. This year I attended HTP Live, Karaoke, Underneath Acoustic Revisited, the ST Leader Dinner, Grace Unknown, the Hanson Day concert, the Neon Ballroom Dance Party, the scavenger hunt, and the gallery and store. There's a reason "sleep" didn't make my t-shirt edit.

HTP Live
I enjoyed HTP live a lot last year, but this year's will hold a special place in my memory thanks to Isaac. He made a simple joke that fell flat(...ulence. Yes, his joke was as bad as the one I just made and on the same topic. Something about "Ripping in the Wind") that left him red-faced and practically crying laughing trying to get back on track. We were all dying laughing right along with him in the crowd even if his brothers were looking at him like they couldn't believe they share genes. You do you, Isaac. I can confidently say that whole segment was a gas. One day I'll have to tell him my own story about misreading the first two tracks on Underneath as "Strong Enough to Break Wind."

The reporters did a great job as well and got Hanson to give a few answers I had never heard before. They talked about their process of choosing themes for their fan club EPs and revealed that they gave each other characters/personas while writing No Sleep for Banditos. We knew Zac didn't wear pants for the recording (a fact that he kept bringing back up at HTP), but we didn't know it was because Taylor created a pantsless character for Zac to portray. Who knows what other gems are hiding behind the scenes of these writing sessions?

I say it every year, but I'm kind of obsessed with how supportive the crowd is for this event. You can forget every word or sing in a terrified whisper and rest assured, these people will have your back. Doesn't matter if you're 12 hours away from yelling at each other in line later, you're still gonna be besties shouting the same lyrics in 3 minute increments all night. The overall atmosphere is like drunken kumbaya vibes with random bursts of Isaac, and it really is a good time whether you wind up on the stage or just hang in the crowd.

I was too occupied to pay attention at times, so I’m sorry if you absolutely killed it and don’t get a mention. Here are a few highlights:
  • Isaac opened with “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors and closed with a spontaneous cover of Semisonic’s “Closing Time.”
  • Most memorable moment goes to watching Isaac agree to play Ken for a group that chose “Barbie Girl”….and then slowly realize what the song is actually about while he was on stage.
  • Isaac clearly enjoyed joining a fan that chose “Hero” by the Foo Fighters. He said he had spoken with them about it earlier in the day and seemed genuinely excited to share that moment on stage and bring it all full circle.
  • Round of applause for the fan that brought Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” into the mostly pop mix.

Scavenger Hunt
The scavenger hunt was a new event this year that involved a mix of checking into physical locations around downtown Tulsa and completing tasks on to earn digital pins on the website. Despite the fact that I mostly cheated (all the applause for whoever decided to gift us a hints page AND a solutions page), this felt like a fun little detour down memory lane as I checked into and walked past so many places from the ghosts of Hanson Days past. The best part was running into two fans we didn't know while doing the first physical checkin, and then we just sort of adopted each other for the next hour and joined forces to get as much done as we could before having to split ways for the next event. We made it through15 clues wandering the sidewalks of Tulsa with perfect strangers, and while I'm not sure finding good company was the objective of the scavenger hunt, maybe it should have been.

It made me think I'd love to see a photo scavenger hunt in the future that encourages a bit more social interaction. Take a photo with people from at least six different states at the center of the universe, find two fans wearing the same Hanson merch, etc. I don't think it could be a paid event or award everyone prizes, but it would be a fun way to meet new people and get a few Hanson mentions on social media as well if you hashtag all the photos. 

Underneath Acoustic Revisited
I missed the Underneath tour era, so I was really excited for the opportunity to hear these songs in the acoustic "in the round" setting. The performance did not disappoint, and I can't recall a single messed up lyric or missed note from the entire show. The sound and performance quality were genuinely flawless. "Believe" was stunning, and it's probably weird to say that "Penny and Me" was another standout with how many times I've heard it live (106 according to hansonstage), but it was oddly great and somehow managed to sound and feel more special than hearing it on a regular tour. My favorite song of the entire trip, though, was getting to hear "Rip it Up," which I tried to request once years ago but never heard live until this moment. I suspect I may never hear it again, and it was a really fun era-appropriate way to end the set.

A few other observations:
  • "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade" while sitting still in a chair is an actual crime.
  • The "in the round" setup was a great idea, but the capacity felt too large to pull it off. I would have preferred breaking the event down into several significantly smaller sessions old school Hday style, or just increase the capacity to fit everyone and put Hanson on the stage.
  • They should have dragged their "Dirrty" cover out of the vault instead of adding in TTA. It's a totally off the wall opinion, but tell me you disagree.

Grace Unknown
I was on the fence about attending this one and dragged my feet on tickets right up until the deadline. It's not that I thought there was anything wrong with the event concept, but to be completely honest, the topic falls into the same category where I put museums and nonfiction, aka- things that I recognize have value but do not interest me personally. I finally decided that whether the outcome was being pleasantly surprised or being sufficiently educated for any future fan commentary on the event, I ultimately didn't want to miss out. Thankfully, "pleasantly surprised" won in the end.

Isaac and guest speaker Charlie Baker talked about the importance of framing the way we think and how we shouldn't be asking ourselves "What is the meaning of life?", but instead ask "What gives my life meaning?" They discussed how we're not meant to carry the weight of the world or solve all of life's problems, but our time is better spent focusing on the people and things in our immediate world. Overall it felt like an exercise in the power of positive thinking and of being self aware of our own reactions.

I also really enjoyed Isaac telling us about an experience where he had a gut feeling about calling a friend and how it turned out that the friend was going through a tough time and really needed that call. I've been fortunate enough to be in the crowd a few times in the past when Isaac chose to share a more personal anecdote, and he has a real talent for storytelling and connecting with people in those moments. He's great at making you feel like he is sharing something special with you on a personal level while also making 300 other people feel the same.

At the risk of undermining every valuable thing that was said during the event, I have to admit my favorite part was when a random adorable husky snuck out of the backstage curtain trailing a long leash to ask us for pats and attention before being slowly reeled back in right before the lecture began. For a brief excited moment, I thought we were going to get to discuss the joys of therapy dogs. Puppy snuggles totally help give my life meaning.

Hanson Day Concert
I want to have great things to say about this show, but the somewhat embarrassing truth is I'm about two sentences away from pausing to check hansonstage to remind me what they played. I know the show opened with the new EP, but I was too busy to stream the new EP before the show, and it's always hard hearing a brand new song in a live setting where I'm going to miss at least 40% of the lyrics and be distracted by the crowd. The other thing I remember without phoning a friend is that the encore was weird. Literally. And that felt pretty anti-climactic to me.

*opens new tab, consults setlist, returns with slightly jogged memory*

Okay, so I would also like to give a shoutout to "White Collar Crime," which despite slipping my mind always gets my adrenaline going. It was my favorite of the night. I'll also add an honorable mention for "Tonight," which probably would have ranked much higher in my memory if there hadn't been some distracting things going down in the crowd near me at the time. I don't think the setlist was bad, it just didn't include any particular "wow" factors this year in my opinion, and they're usually pretty good at throwing in a few good curveballs at HDay shows. (for example, I don't need to consult hansonstage to tell you they played "Boomerang" last year!!) For what it's worth, though, I love being up close and feeding off of the energy of the band and the crowd around me, and I was near the back for this one. I think being tired, far away, and having the option to sit did me zero favors, and I hope my own personal mediocre experience won't be too Debbie Downer for anyone who had the time of their lives. There's still nowhere else I'd rather be.

Neon Ballroom Dance Party
This year's dance party was probably my favorite one yet. I loved seeing all of the fun bright clothing everyone chose (A+ to Hanson for coming through with the blacklights!!), and my own outfit snowballed into some sort of accidental neon Barbie look. Walking into Cain's with another wig-clad friend felt a bit like Romy & Michelle walking into their high school reunion.

My favorite part of the night was when a small dance circle of maybe 7 friends kept growing until we had a circle of probably 20+ random fans all cheering each other on and taking turns dancing in the middle. Thanks for jumping in on the fun if you joined! You all have better moves than I do; I'm just here for the sequins.

It's Time To Go Home
I'm pretty sure there's a direct correlation between my sappiest endings and how soon after the event I write them, because post-show magic does have a shelf life. "Day after" posts are when you get two paragraphs out of me on how flawlessly Taylor played a song I've already heard 40 times. Two days in, my opinions still feel shiny and new, and I'm rushing to finish before I can spoil them by reading others. But sometimes life gets in the way and I find myself at the end of my 6th workday in a row with my still-packed suitcase and unfinished blog. Four days ago I might have been tempted to spin you a cheesy conclusion about how the scavenger hunt is a great metaphor for every Hanson Day where we show up unsure of what we're going to find or how we're going to pull it off, but happy for the experience along the way. Today? I'm just going to wrap up the end of Hanson Day and what comes after on this concise shirt. If you think this is a "Weird" ending, blame Hanson; they did it first.

January 11, 2023

Back to the Island 2023

Before I even left the resort this year, I was already hearing people praise Back to the Island 2023 as the best one yet. The feedback I’ve heard so far is overwhelmingly positive, and while I’m not sure I would label it my personal favorite, I would agree that it has probably been the smoothest event yet where everything consistently went well overall. The music was well-rehearsed and varied, the weather was decent, the food was better than usual, the fans were relatively calm, and the staff went out of their way to make sure we were happy. There are a lot of little ways things can go sideways at these events (hello, cold showers and food poisoning), but we didn’t experience any of them. In the words of Isaac Hanson via Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah!

Island Vibes

I don’t know if it was due to the new mix of people that attended (with lots of first timers) or if maybe we’re all celebrating the lack of Covid testing and travel restrictions from last year, but whatever the reason, this year felt a lot more chill. The guys were able to mingle a bit more without being mobbed for selfies, and even the occasional cluster that formed around them waiting for a moment of conversation was nothing compared to the absolute swarm I remember forming around Zac in 2018 when a show got rained out. Taylor didn’t mingle much from what I could tell, but maybe his brothers will put in a good word about our behavior and he’ll feel more comfortable next time.

I think partial credit for the overall relaxed and happy vibe also goes to the resort staff, who in my experience were nothing short of wonderful. They were all smiling, friendly, and attentive. I didn’t get the feeling that they were fed up with us and hating their jobs, which is more than I could say for the Level staff at the Melia at times. I had a really nice conversation with one of the food servers at the buffet who seemed genuinely interested in knowing if we could tell that they were happy to have us there. I gave him an honest yes and a thank you for helping make it an enjoyable experience.

Full Band Shows

The first show was my personal favorite. It stayed mostly upbeat, had several lesser played album songs that I was happy to hear (Get Up and Go, Make it Out Alive, Musical Ride, Watch Over Me), and you can never go wrong with “Sunny Day” during an island vacation. My favorite part, though, was the medley at the beginning of the show. They played “Three Little Birds” with “Stir it Up” into “Back To the Island,” and the whole thing had a very mellow, slow tempo reggae feel. But then the reggae subtly morphed into more of a country vibe, which left me wondering what was going on, and suddenly, right in the middle of covering “Back to the Island,” I heard the unmistakable opening to “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. I think it has to take the place of #1 most random song to ever happen at a BTTI, but it was so, so good and honestly my favorite part of the whole trip. It put me in a great mood and set the bar high for the rest of the shows. I tried to tell Hanson how much I enjoyed it during the M&G photo but fully blanked on every identifying aspect of the song in that moment, so I ended up thanking them for “that song in the middle of “Back to the Island” by the Soggy Bottom Boys.” I’m sure they understood. 🤣  

The second show felt like it had an unspoken fan club theme, and I suspect it's the fan favorite. Highlights for me were "Somebody That Wants To Love You," "Running Man" (which has become incredibly rare in the last decade), "Stop Me In My Tracks," and "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" featuring Zach Myers. The setlist was top-notch for stat seekers looking to add to their songs heard live list, but I think the crowd around me ruined some of the potential magic. I stood maybe 6-7 rows back on Taylor’s side at the “end” of a row and managed to have just enough gaps between heads that I could see. That changed when Zac came forward for the acoustic set and multiple people (including several tall men) came out of nowhere for a better view and filled in all of those gaps. I'm usually team "let tall people have good spots too" because they can't control their height any more than I can control mine, but that opinion doesn't extend to choosing a good spot in front of someone else halfway through the show.

Unpopular opinion: I'll take the same people in front row for every show over people casually wandering up to third row mid-show any day. At least I literally know where they stand and can plan accordingly, unlike nomadic drunk person #5 who's moving around like the ground is lava and the only path to safety is to carefully guide three friends into every sightline I ever thought about having.

There were also a lot of phones held way above heads in my vicinity at this show. To leave you with a visual, it wasn't my first time seeing "No Matter The Reason" live, but it WAS my first time seeing "No Matter The Reason" live while also watching a man brush his teeth live on FaceTime. Can we please not?

The last show was mostly RGB themed, which I fully expected to happen at some point. I probably would have swapped the order and made it the first night, but that’s just a minor preference and I don’t call the shots. I didn’t get any new live RGB songs out of it, but I loved the random inclusion of “Dying to Be Alive,” and it was fun to hear Hanson cover “Don’t Worry Be Happy” for the first time. I always forget what a great whistler Isaac is and am impressed every time I hear it. 

It had nothing to do with Hanson, but I can’t leave out a particularly memorable moment that happened during “If Only.” I know I’ve said the service was amazing, but what I haven’t said yet is that it was almost too good at times. Servers were constantly weaving in and out of the crowd with drink trays, and I got asked a minimum of 10 times per show if I wanted something from the bar, even though my answer was “no thank you” every single time. It was a bit much, tbh. Anyway, early during “If Only,” I see a single brave, unsuspecting server start to squeeze his way to the dense center of the crowd while balancing a tray of drinks. I lost track of him before I could see what happened, but all I could think was “That’s not going to end well.” I hope for his sake that he emptied that tray before the harmonica hit.

Solo Shows

This is the part where I remind you that I’m a 10 year attendee and that my expectations for BTTI have been adjusted accordingly. I’m fully aware that it’s not possible to shock me with brand new experiences and song debuts every single time. I can love Isaac’s performance of “Hallelujah/Amazing Grace” and Taylor’s “Sound like Joy,” but that gut punch, butterfly-in-your-stomach “is this moment really happening?” feeling only comes once, and in my case, both were in previous years. I still loved hearing the songs and have zero complaints about the solo shows, they just didn’t send me into gushing fangirl overdrive like I know Hanson is capable of once in a while.

My favorite part was getting to hear "Climb", and even though I heard it once years ago, it took me a moment to figure out what Isaac was playing when he pulled "Make it Through The Day" out of the vault. The timing of the shows meant we got to watch the sun set during Zac and Isaac's sets, and there's really nothing better than standing on the beach watching your favorite band play while the sun goes down over paradise.

Side Events

Family Feud may not be my jam, but at this point it feels like an inevitability that I need to accept. A friend made a comment about a Hanson version of Family Feud, and I think there’s some potential there. Make up some Hanson related questions and use Hnet members to poll as the audience.

Name a reason that Hanson would be late to a concert.
Name something embarrassing you might do during a M&G.
Name an item you might have to borrow at BTTI because you forgot to pack it.
Name a behavior you don't want to see at a concert.

I don't know that there are enough good questions to get two game nights out of it, but I feel like if we're sticking to Family Feud for the long haul, there must be a way to refresh it.

That's not to say I didn't laugh and enjoy parts of it, and I think the whole crowd walked away with a handful of new "inside" jokes with the band. There were definitely a few "you had to be there" moments. 

As for the dance party, I’m all for letting it stay a pool party forever and think themed is definitely the way to go even if they switch it up. I didn’t get in the pool this year, but give me a reason to pick out cute beachwear and I’m down (I’m just more down if the pool is heated). This year's dance party felt the most active with the most people attending/participating and visibly having a good time over previous years. I don't know if that's because it was moved forward a day and people didn't need to worry about packing or not being hung over on a plane, or if there were just more people at BTTI this year so the crowd was fuller. Either way, it was a good time, and the addition of an acoustic set at the bonfire with AMMM the final night kept me from being disappointed about not having anything to do after the show.

Allen Mack Myers Moore

Speaking of AMMM, I just want to drop a quick mention that I enjoyed them as special guests and appreciated all of the fun covers that they did during their set and during the bonfire. I only got to see them twice on the RGB tour, so I was glad for another opportunity. They were talented, entertaining to watch, and seemed genuinely happy to be there.

Gag Reel

If you've been near me at a BTTI in the last several years, you've probably seen me perched on an island-shaped pool float. Last year, I left my beloved island at the resort, so I had to find a replacement. Enter: 72" watermelon raft. It was the perfect size to lay on, but as a 62" person, I can assure you I did not think things through in terms or transporting it once it was inflated. After one rigorous trip of carrying it all the way down to the beach by myself from our room in the farthest building, I finally realized it would be easier with a friend. We devised a simple way to attach my roommate's ice cream float to it and just carry the two together. It worked well enough, but I'll definitely find something more to scale next year.

But lugging it from one end of the resort to the other was just the start of my watermelon woes. My second day using it in the ocean, I was floating next to my friend, other Holly, who was reading in a lounge float that leaves you mostly submerged. I was lying down, eyes closed and halfway asleep when I heard her begin to scream. I picked my head up just in time to witness several small fish jumping out of the water around/on her and one land directly on her chest while she’s desperately flailing her arms to shoe them away. I barely laughed once before I felt something moving on me and looked down to realize that several fish had jumped right up onto my float and body. For those keeping track, the screaming Holly count is now at two. (To her credit, Rachel also caught a spontaneous float fish, but simply tossed it off and went back to relaxing).

I’m not afraid of fish, but it was such an unexpected jump scare moment that I swear I levitated and flew right off of my float and into the water without even realizing that my brain had made the involuntary decision to jump ship. At the last second I heard someone shout "your sunglasses!" because yep, I noped out of that watermelon fishnet so fast that I forgot sunglasses even existed much less that I was wearing them when I dove into the safety of more fish. Pro tip: when three fish are on you, diving face first into a school of a hundred more isn't the answer. Adrenaline and intelligence aren't always linked.

So other Holly ran out of the water while someone helped me retrieve my sunglasses from the ocean floor. Everyone around us was in hysterics including me, because once the shock wore off I realized how utterly ridiculous the whole thing must have looked. There's actually more to this story, but I'm going to drop a link to other Holly's blog and let her tell you the rest. I’ll never forget a moment of it.

If you think I'm done talking about the watermelon, bear with me a moment longer. As you can imagine, Holly and I and several other friends made camp in the pool the next day. Safer, right? I wanted a few photos laying on my adorably inconvenient watermelon since I knew it was my last time using it. When I flipped from my stomach to my back, one of my friends said “Holly, where did you get that bruise on your leg?” I sat up and looked down to a horrifying discovery: my legs were totally discolored with large black marks. Turns out if you lay on a painted float with sunscreen that isn't fully dry, you run the risk of turning the entire thing into a giant ink pad. My legs were covered in watermelon seed prints. The view from the back was worse, but I ran away to clean it before it could set, so there's no photo evidence. Suffice it to say that mistakes were made, lessons were learned, and my watermelon is now, as the saying goes, "sleeping with the fishes."


I can't end without mentioning the fact that this year, we got to celebrate 10 years of Back to the Island. I took a moment to look back at my photos from BTTI 2013, and while I'm lucky not to suffer from FOMO (or rather, my FOMO is so intense it keeps me coming back), the nostalgia is real. That first resort no longer exists; we couldn't go back if we tried. A lot of the smiling faces next to me in those photos are no longer fans, and some, no longer friends. We'll never get to relive the mild chaos of Zac's first tie dye session, and I think it's safe to say that Isaac's days of being coerced into doing the Soulja Boy dance while mixing us drinks are long gone.

A lot can change in a decade, but it's not all bad. They've added the unique experience of solo shows that you can't get anywhere else. We got upgraded from Taylor cooking us fish to Taylor DJing a massive pool party. I've grown from being anxious about my first international trip to feeling like dancing in the Jamaican sand at a Hanson show is my second home. I've learned that the key to my happiness is overpacking swimsuits, that the rain never lasts long, and that there's nothing quite like being in a resort full of people who "get" you and the band. If you attended this year, the first year, or any (or every!) one in between, thank you for being a part of the experience. Happy anniversary. Here's to many more!

November 8, 2022

RGB Tour: Rio de Janeiro

How do you kick off a post for a city that has so many things going for it? There was Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, some of the world's most famous beaches, swimsuits and snacks on practically every corner, and a guaranteed M&G with the band. Dear Mickey: here's a relocation address if you want to maintain the Happiest Place on Earth title.


In all seriousness, Rio de Janeiro's reputation as a beautiful travel destination is how we landed on doing the back half of the Brazil tour. As soon as our flight landed, we went to our hotel to drop off our things and immediately set out to see Christ the Redeemer to maximize the best weather day we got in Rio. We skipped lunch to avoid losing sightseeing daylight, and I have never been victimized by stairs so quickly in my life. Really poor life choice there, but thankfully I had an emergency granola bar in my bag, and the payoff of the view was totally worth it. Naturally, we found a hidden escalator on the way back down.

It was incredibly busy, and what you don't see in everyone's carefully angled Instagram shots is the absolute swarm of people just out of frame. It's impossible to put your arms out in the traditional "I'm mimicking Christ the Redeemer" pose without hitting at least three people on each side. It was a little surreal to see such an iconic statue in person at full size, but what I didn't realize is that a big part of the appeal (for me, at least), is that the area around the base of the statue also serves as an elevated lookout with a 360 degree view of the entire city. The cute monkeys chilling on the electric equipment taking chips from a couple of brave tourists were a bonus.

After Christ the Redeemer, we Ubered straight to Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain. Christ the Redeemer offers a clear view of Sugarloaf, and vice versa, so it was neat to visit both in the same day and get to see the differing panoramic views of the city and to be able to look out and say "I was on that peak earlier!" Sugarloaf Mountain has a lower level called Morro da Urca, and you travel between the two by cable car (cue Song to Sing lyrics, but thankfully the cable was just fine). We stayed late and got to spend our first evening in Rio de Janeiro watching the sun set over the city from the top of a mountain, and then stuck around to see the night time view of a million city lights. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day, and I know I will never forget it.

Days like this are absolutely why I do what I do. I wish I could package it up in a little box and gift it to anyone who doesn't "get" why I travel for a band. I got to hear my favorite songs, meet my favorite band, and stand in the middle of one of the natural wonders of the world all in a 24-hr period. When I think about it like that, I want to ask right back, "How could you NOT?"

The Meet and Greet

Oh man, this show. So many words ahead.

So back in January, I attended Back to the Island. For anyone who may not be aware, BTTI always includes an individual photo with just you and the band, and this year, they canceled photos at the last minute. To make up for it, they offered every BTTI attendee the opportunity to choose one show on the RGB tour to receive a free concert ticket and photo makeup. I chose Rio de Janeiro because it seemed like a great way to ensure meeting Hanson in a country where I know it's virtually impossible otherwise, and I'm always down to get a photo with them in a fun new place. After years and years of watching other M&G groups gather at doors and enter seamlessly with a staff member, it did not occur to me that the language barrier might actually be an obstacle. I assumed we would show up early with our passports, find the rest of the M&Gers in front of the venue doors, and we'd be fine without even saying a word.

But when we showed up (exactly on time and not early at all thanks to traffic), the venue and box office were inside a mall. The line was outside in the parking lot nowhere near the venue entrance, and not a single fan with a M&G was in sight. After a pretty terrible attempt at a conversation with box office staff, I understood just enough to gather that we needed to take a right past the box office, and the place we needed to be was in between...something I didn't understand and something else I didn't understand. So we took a right, saw an exit, and the only thing that made sense was to go outside where the line was. I stopped and asked multiple people if they knew where to go for the M&G via a translation app, and at least three of them told us it's impossible to meet the band. We finally found a few girls that knew what M&Gs were and tried to help us, but they didn't know where to go and hadn't seen anyone else with one, either. We finally went back to the same box office staff member who told us to go right, and after another communication fail, he finally physically left the office and walked us to where we needed to be, which ended up being only a few feet past where we had taken an extreme wrong turn and exited the building. By the time he dropped us off, we were very late, they were already calling M&G names, and only two people were left ahead of us. We cut it incredibly close, but thankfully we made it.

The guys were kind as always, and we were given a moment to speak to them with just the two of us before taking our solo photos. I considered asking to hear "Truth" because the "Truth" and "With a Little Help From My Friends" pairing is the one thing I regretted missing the most on this tour that I never got to see, but I decided that it didn't feel right making a song request in a place that sees Hanson so infrequently. (I also had a weird feeling about not wanting to mess up the chemistry of the last setlist of the tour and wanting to let things just play out naturally, but maybe that's going too deep). Instead, I fangirled about seeing waterfalls and thanked them for their time before heading a stampede that miraculously did not send me into a faceplant even after hurdling a ton of randomly spaced steps in the dark.

The Show

One thing I've failed to mention until now is that in Brazil, doors don't open an hour before the show; they open TWO hours before the show. At our first stop in Sao Paulo, I joked that an extra hour of silence is better than an hour of some past openers, but by Rio I was ready for any musical distraction to help pass the time. The fans around me made no attempt to keep personal space for those two hours, and suddenly it made sense why we saw multiple girls passing out and getting pulled over the barricade at several of these shows. Also, for what it's worth, I don't condone squeezing your way to front row after it's full, but here's a freebie tip if that's your style: when you're picking where to go, probably don't choose the spot between two people who obviously came together. I'm no mathematician, but I don't need a probability formula to tell me that your odds of success would've been much higher if you'd simply tried my side that was further from the stage and had a stranger next to it.

And finally, the show. During our brief accidental visit to the line, we were given printouts of the characters from the Don't Let Me Down video (I got an angry looking Reggie Willie head that I prayed wouldn't escape my pocket and make an uninvited appearance during the M&G) and instructed to use them during DLMD. Ironically, Hanson chose to open with that song, which was completely out of their usual order. I have no idea if they were tipped off or if it was a coincidence, but I kind of enjoyed being able to aggressively wave Reggie Willie at them every time they wanted us to fist pump.

During the solos, Isaac opened by saying he was going to play a song that hadn't been played much on the tour, so I immediately started recording with happy memories of Brasilia's surprise "Greener Pastures" on my mind. What we got instead was the absolute cheesiest speech I have ever heard in my life about how women are castles that deserve to be guarded or won or whatever knight-ish imagery can induce the most vomit. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally happy for Isaac and his "put a ring on it" skills and am genuinely glad he has a love that inspires him to put it in a song and share it with the world. I'm sure it resonated deeply with someone just like I'm sure there's a song out there that gives me goosebumps while someone else yawns. I don't even dislike the song, I just can't cheer and swoon with sincerity for a speech that goes out to "all those old-fashioned guys and girls looking for that special forever kind of love".  If people had real-time captions, mine would have been flashing *stares in single.* Also, I did ten shows and heard "For Your Love" at five, so I should really know by now not to trust anything he introduces as rare.

The stark contrast I can't help making here is when Taylor started introducing HIS solo. I honestly did not mean to stack these two moments up for a good brother/bad brother compare and contrast segment, but Isaac, if you want to take notes, here's a pen. I'm not sure how to get you access to Taylor's apparent ability to read my mind, but we'll work on it. Anyway, Taylor started introducing his solo by talking about how he was going to play a song he couldn't stop thinking about all day and about how important the words and the meaning are, and the whole time I'm thinking "It can't be Truth. I'm not that lucky." But then it WAS "Truth," and I'm standing there grinning like an absolute lunatic because they're playing THE SONG while also regretting not mentioning it during the M&G because Taylor probably would have appreciated if I verbalized a thing he was already thinking. They'll never see this, but I still want to say thanks to Taylor for going with his gut feeling, because his gut feeling was also my gut feeling, and that feeling was utter happiness by the end of "With A Little Help From My Friends."

The rest of the setlist was more or less the usual for this tour, but every song was so full of energy, and I really didn't want it to end. "I Don't Want To Go Home" was certainly a bittersweet and true way to finish things off. After the final bow, all three Hansons jumped down off of the stage and grabbed hands down the entire front row, and our non-existent personal space became even smaller as arms shot out all around from everyone trying to get a moment of Hanson's time. I gave up trying to save the inches between me and the barricade and figured I might as well give the girls behind me their best shot. The guys were so gracious, grabbing as many hands as possible and even making two rounds going all the way down the line and coming back up it again. When they were almost done, I looked down and was mildly horrified to find that I was bent pretty far over the barricade from the force of the crowd, and my shirt was pulled dangerously low in the process. I literally couldn't move to fix it until Hanson cleared the area, so I spent the final moments of their goodbyes with an arm slung awkwardly over my chest. We said goodbye to a sweet fan we met in the M&G line, and then it was over.

Beach, Please

We had one extra day after the show, so I put it to good use exploring the beaches. In the spirit of discussing exposing more skin than usual, I have to give a shoutout to Brazilian beach culture, which I really admire because it feels like such a body positive place. We saw a wide range of coverage from tiny thongs to swim dresses and oversized t-shirts on people of all shapes and sizes, and none of it felt out of place. If you know me, you know that I'm a little bit obsessed with swimsuits. If you know me well, you know that I'm always hunting for styles that will cover my backside, a goal that gets harder and harder with current trends. When we decided to go to Brazil, I challenged myself to temporarily let go of my usual quest for modesty and embrace a "When in Rio" mindset. I bought a cute little Brazilian bikini, and while I'm probably not going to roll up to the next BTTI in a thong (you're welcome), it was kind of freeing to let myself not worry that I was showing too much skin or what some random stranger might think, even though I was quoting a modified Twilight script in my head half of the time as the palest person on any given beach.

"Your skin is pale white and ice cold. I know what you are."

"Say it."


But I digress. Liberating beachwear excursions aside, we also Ubered to the furthest stretch of beach and walked three miles from Leblon to Ipanema to Arpoador and back to our hotel on Copacabana to squeeze in as much beach sightseeing as possible. We tried to watch the sun set from Arpoador rock, but it was so cloudy we couldn't see much. I'm just grateful the rain held off until we got on our red eye flight back home.

So that's it. I came home and had to go back to normal life with work and bills and no infinity pools and no Hanson shows. I guess that's the trade off so I can hopefully earn the money and time off to do it all again somewhere else with a new set of songs, new tourist destinations, new experiences, and a few of the same friendly faces along the way if I'm lucky. If you feel like you're being spared my usual super cheesy endings, don't worry, I've saved you some:

It's called pão de queijo, and trust me, it has just the right amount. 

November 2, 2022

RGB Tour: Uberlandia & Brasilia

Me: "When I get to Brazil, I'm going to make the most of every moment. No show lines, no American food chains, and no wasting time in hotel rooms when I could be sightseeing."

Also me, "Sightseeing" in Uberlandia at 3pm after eating lunch at Outback:

Listen. It was hot, we were exhausted, and Uberlandia isn't exactly a big tourist destination. It may now top the list of most random places I have ever seen Hanson, though to give it some credit, I did manage to see the Statue of Liberty there, despite having never seen the one in the U.S. (Go ahead, random person in my future. Ask me if I've visited the Statue of Liberty. Why yes, I have! In Uberlandia, Brazil.)

We had a great time at the show, and I felt like Hanson did a decent job of changing up the setlist from the night before. To be completely honest, I went on this trip expecting the setlists to have a lot of singles and little variation. I left with the mindset that I was chasing new places first and Hanson second, and happy as I am to see a Hanson show, I really did not expect to be wowed by the setlists. These guys proved me wrong. The acoustic songs were different every night, and I'd say there were at least 4-5 setlist "surprises" at each show. In Uberlandia, I got to hear "Wish That I Was There" acoustic, "On and On" as a Zac solo, "Deeper," "Watch Over Me," "You Never Know" (all the heart eyes for the piano), and a totally unexpected resurrection of the "Low Rider/Ooh La La La" mashup.

I also enjoyed getting to hear "Rambling Heart" again and Taylor's little speech at the beginning that applied to plenty of us in the room that night:
 "It's a new song about an old idea, and the idea is this moment, right here. Who's seeing more than one show in Brazil? I know there's a few travelers here tonight. This one's for you guys."


The following night in Brasilia, his speech expanded to something so similar to what I've written here a dozen times, something probably every touring musician, every traveling fan, and anyone following a thing they love on the road has felt before:
"It's about this, here, tonight, and this strange trip of traveling across the planet, getting to do something you love, and walking into a building you've never been and somehow feeling right at home."
When I relayed this quote to my travel partner, she joked that it's true because she feels more comfortable walking into a Hanson show in Brazil than she feels walking into a grocery store at home. I strive for this level of painful accuracy in my blog, and man, did that observation strike home 🤣. Excuse the cheesy moment, but I'm so grateful to have found a band and a fan community that can create that kind of safe and happy space for me literally anywhere in the world. Thanks, Hanson, for inspiring the girl that can't be bothered to drive ten minutes across town for groceries to fly ten hours across the world when the opportunity arises, and for making it feel like home when we get there.


Our trip to Brasilia felt a little bit like a return to Jamaica simply because we booked a Level room in a Melia resort. It was there that I got my first (and last) taste of Brigadeiro, a Brazilian sweet primarily made of chocolate and condensed milk, and O-M-G was it good. If you ever make it to Brazil, do not skip out on the Brigadeiro. 

We spent an embarrassing amount of time at malls because we had three days to kill, there were three within walking distance of our hotel, and I was absolutely determined to find a swimsuit. Spoiler: I left this city with three shirts, no swimsuits, and lots of ice cream receipts. There were miniature McDonald's "sobremesas" ice cream stands on pretty much every floor of every mall, so you could hardly walk away from all of them without stopping. I also tried a "McBrasil" burger, which tbh nobody needs, but I was intrigued by the menu of country-based burgers. Let none of us be surprised that the "McUSA" was covered in bacon. (P.S. Brazilian Starbucks' carry a Brownie Latte. We've all been missing out.)

My favorite thing I did in Brasilia, though, was visit the national park. Parque Nacional de Brasilia is home to several walking trails, wildlife, and its biggest draw--a giant pool that's manmade but filled by a natural spring. We only got to do a short trail and visit the larger pool, but the weather was perfect and really made for a beautiful day of relaxing in Brazil's capital city.

As for the concert, the Brasilia show surprised me, too. I was shocked when Isaac pulled out "Greener Pastures," a song I was convinced I might never hear live since I wasn't in L.A. when Mac made a guest appearance. Zac soloed "Wake Up" again and gave another beautiful performance. I know my biggest hope for this tour was to hear as many new songs from RGB as possible, but my real favorite moment of the night was when they closed the show with two of my forever favorites: Give a Little and Tonight. I did not remotely expect to hear either one of them on this tour and suddenly felt like I'd been missing them both terribly the moment the opening chords began. "Tonight" seemed like more of a tour closer than a way to close out the second to last show, but I loved every moment of the unexpected ending.

I also have to give a shoutout to the fans that organized handing out red, green, and blue ring lights at this show. While we were waiting to go in, we were given little blue battery operated rings and a sheet of instructions to turn them on during "If Only." I've always loved seeing what crowd collaborations fans have come up with at several international shows in past years, but have never had the opportunity to participate in one myself. Thank you to the fans that organized this and for including us in a fun surprise for Hanson! 

October 27, 2022

RGB Tour: Sao Paulo

For anyone interested in the backstory, the planning that led to me seeing Hanson in Brazil went something like this:

"So flights to Brazil are cheap right now. What if we went there?"
"Haha yeah, that would be wild."

And then, just out of curiosity (traveling fan famous last words right there), I looked up how much a flight to Brazil would cost me since it was relatively cheap for my friend. The answer was too much, but then I looked up rewards travel, and I had over double the amount of air miles needed for a RT ticket. Instead of paying $2,000, I could use miles and pay just $40 in taxes. Honestly, how could I not

After we had our concert tickets and our main flights to Brazil, we started researching things to do and places to sightsee. One place that kept jumping out to me on every list was a place called Iguaçu Falls, which is the largest waterfall system in the world with 275 drops spanning 1.7 miles around the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Unfortunately, it wasn't near any of the cities we were planning to visit, and while we did have two days off between shows, the flights were too expensive and too time consuming to really justify the extra trip. I let that dream die and decided to make the most of each city instead.

Then, just a few weeks before we left, I stumbled onto a comment that said the falls were only a 1.5 hr flight from Sao Paulo. We were only coming in one day ahead of the concert, and I didn't really want to sacrifice seeing the city and rolling up just in time for the show, but my travel partner introduced an important question that had never occurred to me: Could we fly to Iguacu falls and back in one day and still have the entire day of the concert to see Sao Paulo? 

So we did a super crazy thing that had about dozen different ways it could have gone wrong and ruined all of our plans, but magically it did not. Our 10 hour flight into Sao Paulo landed at 5:15am on the 14th. We then caught a taxi to our hotel, dropped off our luggage, caught an Uber right back to the same airport, boarded a 9:30am flight with a different airline, spent about seven hours seeing the Brazil half of the falls, then flew right back to Sao Paulo on a third airline to a different airport around 7:30pm. I don't actually know how I got off of a 5:15 am flight after around 22 hours of travel/layovers and then got on another flight and hiked an elevated mile or two, but I have zero regrets. The views of those falls were worth every ounce of stress and exhaustion.

In addition to the hike, we booked a boat ride that took us out into the river surrounded by lush green rainforest and falls on every side. I could practically hear the Jurassic Park theme song in my head and felt like we were floating right into a different world. No amount of rain gear or planning could have kept us from getting fully drenched, but not only did I get to see Iguacu falls, I got to go straight into them. I'd do it again a thousand times over.

We used up every moment before doors the day of the show wandering Sao Paulo and trying to make the most of our limited time in the city. We walked around Avenida Paulista, got a few pairs of Havaianas from the flagship store, and left behind some of the cutest swimsuits I've ever seen because I hardly expected to see the best options of the trip in the first store I walked into. Lesson learned.

Our last stop was Ibirapuera Park, where I attempted to order a Coke, and our waiter repeated back something that sounded like "Cocoa?" I nodded, because honestly I'd drink whatever they bring me, so with a 50% chance I'm about to be served hot chocolate, I just went along with it. We get our food, my friend gets her drink, and a lot of time passes without me getting a beverage. I decided to give up and find a drink elsewhere later when it finally came. We died laughing.

Not-so-pro-tip: Apparently "Coco" is Portuguese for "Coconut." A fact I now know.

We showed up at the venue just before doors to the largest line I have ever seen at a Hanson show. It took us several blocks of walking to even find the end of it, and every inch we walked was covered in semi-aggressive bootleg merch vendors. I have never seen anything like it and wish I could have taken a photo or video to capture the scene. They REALLY wanted me to have a light up flashing RGB cup on a lanyard, okay? In the end we bought RGB ribbons to tie around our heads because it felt wrong not to join in the festivities, and the lady that sold them to us only raised the price by R$5 when she realized we were American. I'm in no way fluent, but I know what's happening when you say "cinco" in one sentence and then hold up ten fingers when you realize I speak English. I'll consider it a foreign transaction fee.

We entered the venue to the widest front row I have ever seen in my life and managed to get on a corner of it on Taylor's side way past the piano. If I only have one takeaway from doing the Brazilian shows, it's that going to a show in Brazil is like attending a Sing-a-long version of a Hanson concert. Everyone was singing loudly almost the entire time, and I actually loved it. You could feel the passion and the love in the room, and it was exciting to be part of it. There's also something really unique and special about standing in a crowd of people you can't easily communicate with, but the moment the music starts, that all falls away and is replaced with a connection that transcends any language barrier. Music really is a universal language.