Tag Archives: Postcards

What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?

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I stay busy.

Between writing and scheduling blog posts, staying in touch with friends, reading, and creating art, I barely have time to wash the dishes, exercise, or meditate. However, in Facebook groups for vandwellers and other internet resources for people who live nomadically, I regularly encounter people asking for advice on what to do now that they aren’t working full-time, permanent jobs. Some people have never had free time before, so they’ve not learned how to entertain themselves. Others are fine as long as they’re moving from place to place and seeing new things, but if an injury or lack of money means they have to sit on public land or in the same town for a week or two, they’re bored out of their minds.

For all the nomads who are trying for the first time to figure out what to do with themselves and for folks who want to try something(s) new, I offer ten activities to fill your time now that you own your life.

#1 Explore the public library. As may have been evident from my post 10 Ways to Save Money on the Road, I’m a big fan of public libraries. Even if you don’t have a library card, you can probably hang out away from inclement weather; use a computer to surf the web; read books and magazines; view art; and attend free movies, concerts, lectures, and classes.

Some public libraries will issue library cards to nonresidents. If you can score a library card, you may be able to enjoy books, music, and movies in the privacy of your own rig.

I encountered this Little Free Library in my travels.

#2 Read! I’m also a big fan of reading. If you can’t borrow books from a public library, get books from Little Free Libraries. Find inexpensive books at thrift stores and library book sales. If you’re staying in a campground, check for a library in the clubhouse or office.

If you rather look at photos and read short articles, acquire magazines instead of books. Magazines can often be had at thrift stores and library book sales for 10 cents or a quarter each–if they’re not outright free. Maybe you have a friend in another town with a magazine subscription who will put together a care package of back issues and send them to you via general delivery.

If you don’t like to read, but you do like to listen to stories, consider audiobooks. How cozy would it be to lie in your bed and have a talented voice actor read you a bedtime (or nap time) story? If you like the classics, Open Culture offers links to over 900 free audiobooks. For more options, Book Riot offers a list of “11 Websites to Find Free Audiobooks Online.” These are all legal audio book options.

#3 Listen to podcasts. Similar to audiobooks, you can listen to podcasts while driving, cooking, folding laundry, or cleaning the rig. Some podcasts are educational; some are entertaining. You can learn all about finding free podcasts in a 2017 Wired article called “The Beginner’s Guide to Podcasts.”

If you’re wondering what podcasts I like, read my post about my favorites.

(Note: When listening to podcasts or audiobooks, use headphones or make sure your volume is low enough not to bother others. Folks who go into the wilderness to hear birdsong don’t necessarily want to hear what you consider entertainment.)

#4 Learn to do something new. If you’ve always wanted to (fill in the blank with an activity of your choice), but never had the time, your time has come. The Instructables website shares directions for almost any DIY project, craft, or van-home improvement project you can think of. You can learn a lot on YouTube too. I taught myself to macramé hemp jewelry, and The Man learned how to replace drum brakes by watching YouTube videos, so I suspect most folks could use YouTube to learn a new skill.

#5 Play a musical instrument. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a lapsed musician, use your spare time to play an instrument. The Man carries an acoustic guitar in his mini van so he can play whenever he gets the urge. Coyote Sue often practices her flute while boondocking on public land. If space is at a premium, go for something small like a ukulele, a piccolo, a kazoo, or a harmonica. If you’re lacking space and/or money to buy something, remember, your voice makes music too.

(Note: As with podcasts and audiobooks, please make sure your musical endeavors don’t disturb others. When camping or boondocking on public land, let the sounds of nature prevail.)

I whipped up these postcards from collage fodder Coyote Sue sent me.

#6 Write Letters. Don’t think you have to be a great writer to wrtite letters to your friends and family. Trust me, your people will be so excited to get what I call “real mail,” they’ll barely care about what you write. If you’re too shy to write to the adults, write to the children. Kids always seem super excited to get mail.

If you don’t think you have enough to say to justify writing a letter, send a postcard. In tourist towns, I usually find postcards costing between 20 and 50 cents each. At thrift stores, I’ve found postcards as cheap as a nickel each. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to the place on the postcard. People like pretty photos, even if you’ve never seen the landmark in question.

If you need a creative project, make your own postcards like I did.

#7 Keep a journal. If you don’t much like writing, make it more like a log book where you record where you stayed, what you did, weather, gas mileage, or any information you might want to remember later. If you rather draw than write, sketch the trees, the people you meet, the critters you see.

#8 Get artsy–or crafty. Find ways to get in touch with your creative side that don’t require lots of materials or tools that take up too much of your precious space. Paint watercolors the size of postcards. Make collages. Decorate the

This is how Coyote Sue has been decorating the inside of her rig. She gave me permission to use this photo.

interior of your rig. Sketch your campsite. Make jewelry. Make your own greeting cards or postcards. Sculpt with air-dry clay. Whittle.

#9 Learn how to use the camera in your smart phone. With today’s technology, you don’t need a fancy schmancy camera to take decent photographs. Most cameras let you use filters on your photos; adjust contrast, sharpness, and exposure; crop your image; and doodle right on the picture. With all these bells and whistles, you can take a decent photo and turn it into an awesome photo. Of course, if you don’t know the basics of composition, you’ll want to learn that too, courtesy of ePHOTOzine.

A good place to start learning to use your camera phone is an article by Photography Concentrate called “Smartphone Photography 101.”

#10 Get close to nature. If you’re on public land, put on your sturdy shoes and go for a hike or a little walk, if that’s what you’re up for. Sit still and listen to the birds sing. If you’re in a city, get closer to nature in a park or arboretum. Learn to identify the trees, flowers, and/or medicinal plants in the area you’re in. At night look up at the sky and find the constallations. Paying attention to the cycles of nature could keep a person occupied for days, weeks, months, or even years.

I got close to this nature while boondocking outside Natural Bridges National Monument.

I hope this post inspires you to try some new things and figure out what fun activities make you happy as they fill your free time. Feel free to share what you do to stay busy in the comments below.

I took all the photos in this post with the exception of the one of Coyote Sue’s rig decorating endeavors, which I used with her permission.

 

Postcards

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I love to send postcards to my friends. It’s something I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. Whenever my family traveled (infrequently), my goal was to find the least expensive postcards and send them to people I cared about.

As an adult, I still like to send postcards, especially when I want my friends to know I’m thinking about them but am too busy or tired to write a real letter. I like to find inexpensive postcards at thrift stores, so my friends often get mail featuring gorgeous color photos of places I’ve never visited.

I also like to make my own postcards. IMG_6710

The last time I was in Las Vegas, the Activist and the Poet offered me a thick stack of cards from events that had already happened. I took them, figuring I’d eventually use them in some art project.

IMG_6711Recently my artist pal Coyote Sue sent me a fat priority mail envelope stuffed with collage fodder (as she called it). I played with the magazine clippings for nearly an entire day, sorting through them and filing the images I planned to use in future collage projects. Many of the images were bigger than I typically use in collages, so I decided to make postcards too.

The first step was to cover the words printed on one side of the postcard. I used sticker labels I had on hand. (I don’t remember where I got the labels, but I always look for stickers at Goodwill Clearance Centers, where I pay for my purchases by the pound. Sometimes I also find stickers cheap at small-town thrift stores.) Although the stickers did not totally block out the printing on the postcards, once I wrote on the stickers, the printing was pretty well obscured.

Next I found images to cover the other side of the postcards. I used my paper cutter (also given to me by the Activist IMG_6714and the Poet) to make (more or less) straight cuts to remove the excess paper around each image. (I could have done this more quickly, easily, and accurately had I marked the images with an outline of a postcard before cutting. I was too lazy to get up and fetch a writing instrument, so I ended up doing more, less accurate work. Learn from my mistake!)

After an image was cut to the proper size, I put glue on its back side. I used glue I had on hand, something I’d bought for some project I worked on a couple of years ago. (Whenever I use glue, I end up with it on my hands and lots of other places I don’t want it. I’m convinced people who attend fancy art schools learn the secret of clean glue use. Lord knows I’ve never figured out the secret.) Once the glue was on the back of an image, I stuck it on a postcard, rubbed it IMG_6715down flat, and made sure the edges and corners were firmly in place.

The last step consisted of letting the glue dry.

With minimal work, I ended up with a stack of postcards at practically no cost to me.

Whenever I’m at thrift stores (especially thrift stores offering excellent prices), I look for materials for art projects, including postcards. IMG_6716Magazines are the obvious choice (many of the clippings Coyote Sue sent were from issues of National Geographic published in the 60s), but small calendars are also good finds. I recently made postcards from the nature scenes in a small calendar of images from Yosimite National Park.

I particularly enjoy using materials that other people might look at and consider trash. Making my own postcards is a fun way to stay in touch with friends while keeping discarded items out of the landfill or recycling center.

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These are some of the postcards I made from collage fodder and cards from an event that happened in the spring.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Tourist Day in Las Vegas

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When The Poet and I were in communication about the things I wanted to see and do in Las Vegas, I sheepishly admitted I wanted to visit the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop where The History Channel program Pawn Stars is filmed.

I can’t remember when I first watched Pawn Stars. It was probably in some crappy motel room when my then-boyfriend and I were trying to distract ourselves (and each other) from our ridiculous, relentless fighting and our steadily deteriorating relationship. Then, a couple of years ago during a house sitting gig, I watched a Pawn Stars marathon, half-hour episode after half-hour episode all day and into the night. The marathon sealed the deal: I was a Pawn Stars fan.

I enjoy the show’s focus on items of historical significance. Unlike Hardcore Pawn , which I remember focusing on the antics of the wacked-out customers (and not-quite customers), Pawn Stars really does attempt to teach some history. Sure, some of the sellers featured on Pawn Stars are a little zany, but colorful characters do make for good entertainment. And while familial bickering is a subplot of every Pawn Stars episode, it always takes a backseat to trying to educate viewers via the items brought into the store.

When I realized I’d be in Vegas and the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop is in Vegas, I decided I wanted to see it. I was a bit embarrassed to admit this desire to The Poet. First, it seemed like such a stereotypically tourist thing to do. What next? I imagined The Poet wondering. An Elvis impersonator extravaganza, topless showgirls, and all night at the blackjack tables? Also, I didn’t know which side of the TV wars The Poet was on. Some of my friends think all television is soul sucking and mind mushing, while others think a person who doesn’t watch TV is weird. What if The Poet judged me harshly?

I told her in the letter I sent outlining my Las Vegas interests that of course I didn’t expect her and The Activist (her husband) to accompany me on my visit to Gold and Silver. I told her I’d go alone, at some time when they needed a break from being hosts and tour guides. So I was a bit surprised when The Poet told me The Activist wanted to accompany me on the pawn shop visit, unless I needed special alone time there. I assured her I didn’t need to go alone, that I wasn’t on some kind of a pilgrimage. (I’m not that kind of fan.) I told her I’d be happy to have  The Activist along.

The day we went to the pawn shop started with a peace vigil.

Every week, members of the Las Vegas  peace community hold a vigil in front the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse at 333 Las Vegas Blvd.

…a group of people stand with signs about peace, about the cost of war, asking people to honk in a sign of solidarity if they’re in a vehicle. This particular vigil has been taking place for over ten years. It is very friendly and encouraging.

In warm months, we stand on So. LV Blvd. near Clark. In colder months we stand on So. LV Blvd. near Bridger.

It was a pretty low-key affair the day I attended. About seven of us held signs with various peace slogans on them. The youngest women in the group held the sign that read “Honk for Peace.” She got a lot of honks.

After an hour, the peace group split up and The Activist and I walked The Poet to a coffee shop called The Beat  on the corner of  6th and Fremont. In the back of the coffee shop is a large area with art displays and The Las Vegas Zine Library (LVZL). We poked around back there for about half an hour, then The Poet settled in to write while The Activist and I went on our excursion.

We walked down Fremont Street to get to Las Vegas Blvd. Fremont wasn’t very busy since it was a Wednesday morning. I did the tourist thing and took some photos.

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And since I was playing tourist, I took some photos of the wedding chapels we passed on the way.

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I mean, if getting married in a ceremony with the “KING” is good enough for Rock Star Jon Bon Jovi, it must be good enough for me. (The question is, is Mr. Bon Jovi still married to the lady he wed in the Graceland Chapel?)

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While we walked, The Activist told me he was glad to have a reason to go to Gold and Silver. He said he’d wanted to check it out since he’d moved to Vegas, but none of their other house guests had expressed any interest in visiting the place.

We approached Gold and Silver from the parking lot side. There weren’t many cars parked there, but there were several guys in orange vests monitoring the lot and the people in it. I wondered if they only allow people with items to sell or pawn to park in the lot.

During my preliminary research, I’d read there’s sometimes a line to get into the shop. I was glad to see that on this day there was no line outside and we wouldn’t have to wait to get in.

I’d also read online complaints from people who’d expected to see the actual stars of Pawn Stars–Rick, The Old Man, Corey, and Chumlee–and were disappointed when the guys weren’t in the shop. Give me a break! I’d never expect the stars of a big History Channel program to be standing around to chitchat with the riffraff. Maybe in the earliest days of the show, a visitor might run into one of those guys in the shop, but now? Forget it! Those guys are big shot famous people. They probably only come around for filming and probably stay in the office until the cameras are ready for them. I would have been astounded to see one of the show’s stars hanging around in public.

When The Activist and I approached the entrance, there were three other tourists (a family, perhaps, and by their accents European) blocking the sidewalk while taking photos of each other. Ugh! I don’t like to be the kind of tourist who gets in the way of other people, so I decided I was not going to be taking a lot of photos.

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This is my one tourist photo from Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, the outdoor sign in front of the store.

The Activist and I went inside, and I was shocked by how small and…shabby the store looked. On TV, the shop seems spacious and glamorous, but in real life it looked something like a warehouse lit with fluorescent lights, the merchandise on display crammed too closely together.

The first thing The Activist noticed and pointed out to me was a display case full of the same model of Rolex watches. Why were they all the same?

As we made our way through the store, we saw a lot of collectible coins and currency, jewelry, art, items I guess would be referred to as “collectibles.” I didn’t see anything that even mildly piqued my interest, but I’m weird that way.

At the back of the store was a life size cardboard cutout of Rick folks could stand next to for a photo-op. No one was doing that.

One area of the store was filled with Pawn Stars souvenirs. One could buy the book Rick wrote. (Until the moment I saw the book in the store, I had no idea it existed.) One could buy dashboard bobble heads representing the guys on the show. One could buy Pawn Stars magnets and keychains and ink pens. (They almost got me with an ink pen, but I told myself sternly that I did not need one.) There were several Pawn Stars t-shirts to choose from displayed on the wall next to the cash register and its bored-looking cashier. There were even wristbands with the words “Chumlee Is My Homeboy” stamped on them. And then there were postcards.

I love postcards. I probably came to love them when I was in middle school. Whenever my family went on one of our infrequent trips, the first thing I wanted to do was buy postcards. Then I’d spend as much time as possible ignoring my family and writing out postcards to send to my friends back home. Now I look at thrift stores for postcards from places I’ve never been. I send them to friends when I don’t have enough to say for a whole letter.

I wanted to send postcards from Vegas, but I hadn’t seen them for sale anywhere I’d been. I thought if there were Pawn Stars postcards, maybe I’d buy some and give my friends a good laugh about what a tourist I’d been.

When I was a kid, I was thrilled when I’d sometimes find 10 for $1 postcard deals, but those days are long gone. Now 4 for $1 is a good deal for postcards, and 2 for $1 is about normal. (I did buy postcards with local historic scenes on them for $1.50 each when I was in Trinidad, CO, but that was partly because they were the only postcards in town and partly because the guy selling them was my friend’s friend on whom I had a tiny crush.) I know I probably wouldn’t get four Pawn Stars postcards for $1, but I figured 50 cents each would be ok.

I turned the rotating rack until I found the few remaining postcards. They were kind of boring, but they would do. Then I saw the price tag: $2 each!

Are you fucking kidding me?!?

Where do they get off charging two bucks for their postcards? Even when I bought postcards of my own photos from Vistaprint 100 at a time, I only paid 20 cents each. Certainly Pawn Stars gets a better deal than that.

At that point I was over the whole Gold and Silver experience. I’ll continue to watch the show (and try to figure out how the cameras make the store look so big and upscale), but I won’t be giving them any of my money…Greedy bastards…

On the way to lunch, we were stopped in traffic right in front of the driveway to the Bonanza Gift and Souvenir Shops.

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Hey! I called from the backseat. Can we stop here so I can get postcards? I’ll be real quick.

 My friends indulged me, and we pulled into the parking lot. I jumped out of the car and went in one of the many doors. Right inside was a rack of postcards. The price? 3 for 99 cents. The price was right for me.

Several of the attractions mentioned in this post are on the Jen Reviews list of 100 Best Things to Do in Las Vegas. Bonanza Gifts is #18.

If you’re going to Las Vegas and have a bigger souvenir budget than I did, check out this Tripedia article about the Top 7 Souvenirs to Buy in Las Vegas. Elvis jumpsuit, anyone?

I took all the photos in this post.