May 30, 2014

Thirteen Quotes that "Get" Music & Travel

I’m a lover of words, music, and travel; it’s the trifecta that led to this blog in the first place. I’m also constantly on the lookout for that perfect sentence someone else has already constructed, whether it’s a great lyric, a quote from a book, or even just a really ingenious tweet (major props if you can actually find the perfect words in 140 characters or less).

A few years ago I hit the road for an entire month of tour and needed to pack a notebook to write down addresses and expenses. I wanted something cheap that could get ruined in a trunk or on a wet sidewalk without being a big deal, so I skipped the ornate, overpriced Barnes and Noble travel journals and went straight for a replaceable 88 ¢ composition notebook at Wal-Mart with the intent to make it my own. With a little internet research, construction paper, and glue, I had the perfect unique travel journal for under $5. It’s cheesy and lame and covered in handwritten quotes about travel and music that I absolutely love.

So if you love music and travel like I do, here are 13 quotes where someone else already nailed that perfect description:

  1. “Half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness.”
    –Ray Bradbury

  2. “I have found that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” 
    Mark Twain

  3. “Little by little, one travels far.”
    –J.R.R. Tolkien

  4. “Do you think I’ve gone ‘round the bend?”
    “I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret—all the best people are.”
    Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland

  5. “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”
    –Benjamin Disraeli

  6. From The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien:

    The Road goes ever on and on
    Down from the door where it began
    Now far ahead the road has gone,
    And I must follow, if I can.
    Pursuing it with eager feet,
    Until it joins some larger way
    Where many paths and errands meet.
    And whither then? I cannot say.

  7. “I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts, like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart.  Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene…a necessity for me—like food or water.”
    –Ray Charles

  8. “It’s not down on any map; true places never are.”
    –Herman Melville

  9. “Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here.”
    –Albus Dumbledore

  10. From “The Vagabond” by Robert Louis Stevenson:

    Give to me the life I love,
    Let the lave go by me,
    Give the jolly heaven above
    And the byway nigh me.
    Bed in the bush with stars to see,
    Bread I dip in the river—
    There’s the life of a man like me,
    There’s the life forever.

    Let the blow fall soon or late,
    Let what will be o’er me;
    Give the face of earth around
    And the road before me.
    Wealth I seek not, hope nor love
    Nor a friend to know me;
    All I seek, the heaven above
    And the road below me.

  11. From “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:

    I shall be telling this with a sigh,
    Somewhere ages and ages hence
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

  12. “The first music you really fall in love with is more than just music. It’s something that clicks in you beyond the song; it’s a message or image that causes you to jump in and not let go.”
    –Taylor Hanson

    And lastly, the unsourced tweet. I have no idea where it originated, but I couldn't leave it behind:

  13. A fan isn’t someone who has been there since the beginning; it’s someone who will be there until the end. 

May 25, 2014

Hanson Day 2014

Hanson Day/Hop Jam 2014 was by far the busiest experience I’ve ever had in Tulsa. Over the course of the weekend, we were treated to:

I took approximately negative four pictures this trip. Here's one of
the Hop Jam area filling up hours before the show.
-Individual lectures by Isaac, Zac, and Taylor
-Group photos
-“State of the Band” talk by all three brothers
-Full-length fan club exclusive show
-Afterparty DJed by Taylor
-Free public show at the Hop Jam festival
-Beer tasting & food trucks
-I  Hanson pop-up store
-Are You Listening art gallery
-Underneath Acoustic Live movie screening
-Fan Club & Street Team dinners
-Bowling (I passed on this one because I’m cheap and I can’t bowl)
-Blue Dome Arts festival
-Mayfest (I passed on this one because there are neither two of me, nor more than 24 hours in a day)

The lectures provided a rare glimpse behind the normal Hanson curtain. Isaac showed us alternative arrangements to several songs from Underneath punctuated by a really goofy sense of humor and lots of chicken jokes (yes, chicken humor). Zac had the guts to use pre-selected audience suggestions to record a brand-new song right in front of us that he wrote in like an hour. (You try telling a room of 1,000+ girls to “Shhh!” while you’re recording!) And Taylor’s photography lesson wasn’t really a behind the scenes look at their music process, but it was neat to watch this really talented musician do something else he loves for once.

I found this great typewriter key necklace at the
Blue Dome Arts Festival. I also found that if your
name begins with an "H" and you're a Hanson fan,
people will assume you got it for the band.
As expected, the fan club show was my favorite part of the weekend. It’s always a little weird to stand front row and rock out to a song you’ve never heard before when you’re so used to knowing every little inflection of every word in every verse. My initial reaction to the new EP songs was that “White Collar Crime” should be played as often as possible, and maybe back to back with “You Can’t Stop Us” some time if Zac’s lungs and arms can handle it. My door is always open for “Down,” “Stories,” and “Sunny Day.” And perhaps the biggest surprise of the night for me was just how much I got into “Waiting for This,” which I’ve heard about a million times in a million places, but it just felt so familiar and fun and right in that moment. It belonged on that setlist. The afterparty felt a lot like a bad prom in a good way—complete with the awkward wallflowers and a crowd sitting idly in the bleachers, but with the added bonus (for some) of alcohol actually being allowed. It was an event about us and not the band.

I don't think anyone knew what to expect for Hanson's first attempt at hosting a beer and music festival, but based on the thousands of people that showed up and the fact that ALL of the craft beer from all vendors sold out, I'd say the first annual Hop Jam was a major success. The 21+ area was packed full the entire time it was open, just wall to wall people filling the street wearing cheesy beer glass lanyards (I'm looking at you, Isaac) and hoping to discover a great new taste. I'm sure many of them found it in MMMhops.

My weekend was packed with Hanson, friends I didn't get to see enough of, and some really good macaroni & cheese (Joe Momma's FTW!). I will never, ever (EVER) complain of having too little to do in Tulsa again. All jokes and fake whining aside, it was a great time and I’d do it all again. Let’s be honest—I will do it all again.

You can check out some other perspectives about the weekend by Miranda from The Good Groupie here and here, and one from Melanie Kristy here.

At the risk of sounding sappy, I’m incredibly proud to call myself a fan of a band that works so hard at what they do. I don’t mean to be a suck-up, Hanson-can-do-no-wrong kind of fan because let’s face it, something will always go wrong (and sometimes “Hanson Time” feels like it has its own daylight savings time to push even “soon” yet another hour behind). Despite any potential negativity, it comes down to this: my favorite band rocks. I love their willingness to try new things, and their risk to branch out from what’s safe, known, and expected to put together something bigger and better every time. They throw themselves into everything they try full-force with undeniable enthusiasm and passion, and it's a formula that hasn't failed them yet. They’re some of the most hard-working people I know, and I haven’t even touched the topic of music yet. Say what you will about them or about me for that matter, but I couldn’t have picked a better group of guys to support.

May 14, 2014

Keep Calm and (Only) Carry-On: a Backpack Review

The Jansport & me in Jamaica, 2013
My trusty blue backpack has been with me through a lot of space and time. Together we've seen four time zones, three countries, and perhaps the furthest distance by now—the 7th grade. It’s held everything from sleepover PJs and Shakespeare anthologies to a full week's worth of clothes crammed into spaces you would never expect it to fit. It has truly been larger on the inside and an excellent companion to have by my side. If you’re nerdy enough to get the Doctor Who references, then you also know that there comes a time to say goodbye to every great companion. With one strap tied together and the other slowly ripping out of the seam, the Jansport has reached its limit.

Knowing how long it lasted and how many places it went, I set out to find the perfect replacement, a bag to make Mary Poppins proud. I took to the internet and researched travel backpacks, then familiarized myself with prices and styles and compiled a list of qualities I wanted out of my new companion:
  • Carry-on compliant. The non-negotiable bullet. If it measured more than 22x14x9, I closed the tab.
  • Flexible/No wheels or internal frame. I wanted something pliable that could be shoved under a seat if necessary or squished a bit in a full trunk.
  • No dedicated laptop space with extra padding. This one made the hunt a lot harder. I don’t normally travel with a laptop and a lot of the backpacks out there have built-in padded laptop compartments that eat up valuable packing space.
  • Capacity of at least 34 Litres or 2100 cubic inches. i.e., no smaller than my old Jansport.
  • Two large compartments. Why do all the backpacks out now only have one large compartment? Oh yeah, because of the dedicated laptop space.
  • Cute. I know, now I’m just being picky, but if I’m going to spend a decent amount of money on something I intend to use for years, then I get to add “cute” to the list.

The Solution
A backpack where the only thing larger than the capacity is the name: the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior. It met all of the above requirements and had the added bonus of being on sale (so naturally I added a set of hideously charming gummy bear packing cubes). I found an extra coupon code plus free shipping, and the decision was made.

The Test
So exactly how much does it hold? I'm packing for its maiden voyage, and tomorrow we set out for a five-day trip to Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains, the rain comes out of nowhere, and if you're lucky the sun will make a quick appearance too--and that's just on Thursday. I planned outfits for every day plus a few backups, laid it all out, and hoped it would all fit.

The Conclusion
The capacity is excellent, but you have to be careful not to fill it to beyond carry on capacity. I will never use the expanding option if I'm carrying it on a plane, but the luxury is there if you can afford the added space. In general I travel with a carry-on bag and an extra (empty or mostly empty) tote bag that will fit under a seat so I have room for any items I might acquire on the trip. Everything on the packing list fit inside the backpack, but I opted to put the denim jacket and extra purse in the tote instead to cut down on some of the bulk. Even with the extra purse, jacket, and my filled regular purse, there is still plenty of room for me to come home with more things I don't need in the tote.

For anyone considering this bag AND packing cubes, I would recommend the small or slim cubes. Though the large cube does fit inside this bag, it fills the largest space completely, which to me is the equivalent of packing without one. The medium fills most of the inside and the small fit nicely with room to spare in the outer pocket.

The jury is still out on durability and comfort since I haven't left yet, but I'll update when I get home next week with a recap of the pros and cons of taking it out for a spin (as well as a new dorky picture, I'm sure).

Update 5/23/14: 

With everything listed above, the packed bag weighed in around 20 lbs, so I'm not going to lie to you and say it was a pleasure to carry and felt like nothing on my back. It felt like, well, 20 lbs going for a piggy back ride (it was sort of reminiscent of my days working with toddlers, only it didn't demand Skittles or kick me in the spine). And on the way home after I had spent all weekend lifting and moving things? It felt more like 47 lbs on my back, but then again I really can't blame the fact that I'm out of shape on my luggage choice.

In the positive column, it DID help me catch a connecting flight I fully believe I would have missed if I was lugging a suitcase. I landed in Atlanta around 9:10 PM. My connecting flight departed at 9:47, which means boarding began right around the time my first flight landed. My connection turned out to be two terminals away, and then an escalator and EIGHTEEN gates down from where the skytrain dropped me off. No moving sidewalks, no shortcuts, just a small, tired girl with a big backpack and very limited time. I pulled my usual move of weaving quickly in and out of slower pedestrians and managed to land myself in the boarding line just as my zone was called, and I did it all without taking anyone out by dragging a suitcase behind me. I'm sure there are many more tests for it to pass before I fully embrace it as the permanent replacement, but it served me well this weekend and I stand by my backpack choice.

Do you have a great travel bag? Tell me about it in the comments!