Tag Archives: travel

Chester Minima Carry-on Suitcase Review

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I hadn’t had a suitcase in decades.

I got my first (and only until now) suitcase when I was a sophomore in high school. I’d written an essay and won a trip, and now I needed to pack my bags so I could board an airplane for the first time in my life.

I do not come from a nuclear family of travelers. We did not take a yearly vacation. We occasionally spent weekends at the beach or stayed overnight at the home of one of my grandmothers. I usually packed my little girl necessities in a tote bag.

My father had a small suitcase he used on the rare occasion of a business trip. It must have been deemed too small for my week-away-from-home needs because one day I came home from school to find a massive piece of luggage waiting for me. It was brown and made of some synthetic material. It certainly had room for a week’s worth of clothes and shoes and contact lens solution.

I went on two more major trips during my high school years, and my big suitcase came with me. It was cumbersome and heavy and lacked wheels. I left the suitcase behind when I went to college, but collected it from my parents when I went away to summer school in Europe. I stuffed the suitcase with enough clothes, toiletries, and textbooks to last six weeks.

After the trip to Europe, the suitcase fades from my memory.

In the ensuing years, when I went on a trip, I packed my things in duffel bags and backpacks. Suitcases seemed unnecessarily heavy, bulky. Of course, sometimes I found my backpack was wet or dirty when I pulled it out of the baggage compartment under a Greyhound. I wondered if the tiny lock holding the zipper pulls together was really protecting my gear from thieves. Did I need a suitcase to protect my belongings from liquid and dirt and unscrupulous baggage handlers?

A couple months ago I was approached by a representative of CHESTER

a NYC-based lifestyle brand dedicated to making travel more seamless…with carry-on luggage.

Black carry-on bag with wheels stands on pebbly ground
The Chester Minima carry-on bag has a polycarbonate shell and weighs just 7 pounds empty.

The representative asked me if I was interested in a partnership with CHESTER. He said he’d send me one of the company’s suitcases if I agreed to review it. Heck yes! Of course I let him know any review I shared would include my honest opinion.

According to the CHESTER website, all of their suitcases feature a

polycarbonate shell designed to be lightweight, ultra-durable and waterproof, yet flexible enough to expand and absorb external pressure, eliminating dents and dings.

My suitcase is the Minima. At only 7 pounds (before I stuff it with my travel gear), it is very lightweight. Seven pounds is lighter than a gallon of water!

The Minima measures 21.5″ x 13.5″ x 8.5″ including wheels. According to the Travel + Leisure article “Airline Carry-on Luggage Size Restrictions: What You Need to Know” by Lindsay Tigar,

[t]hough you might find an inch or two of a difference with various airlines, the standard domestic carry-on luggage size is 22” x 14” x 9”, which includes the handle and the wheels.

I’m pretty excited that my CHESTER bag fits within the standard domestic carry-on luggage restrictions. I haven’t flown for a long time (not since my dad died in 2016 and I had to make a quick trip down South), but I like knowing that if I have to get on an airplane, my bag can travel in the cabin with me.

Of course, if you need a bigger bag, CHESTER also offers the Regula suitcase. Meant to be checked, the Regula weighs a bit more at 9.5 pounds and measures 26″ x 18″ x 11″ to give you additional room for your gear. (Wondering what your other checked luggage options might be? Check out these reviews of the Best Checked Luggage 2019.)

When I pulled my Minima from the box it was shipped in, the first thing I was excited about was its wheels. After dragging along a suitcase with no wheels, followed by years of lugging a variety of backpacks on my shoulders, I was glad to finally be able to pull a suitcase smoothly by my side. The Chester website says that both the Minima and the Regula have “quiet, 360° multi-directional double spinner wheels.” These wheels are supposed to glide effortlessly over a variety of terrains.

Closeup of suitcase's built-in combination lock and luggage tag
Both the Chester Minima and Regula come with a built-in, TSA approved combination lock. The owner of the suitcase sets the combination.

The second thing I liked about the Minima was the built-in TSA approved lock. The CHESTER FAQ page says,

CHESTER’s integrated TSA lock uses zipper pulls to secure your luggage from unwanted access. Authorized TSA personnel will always be able to open your case for inspection, if necessary.

Of course, TSA approved locks aren’t necessary for travel. According to the article “Common Questions About TSA Approved Luggage Locks,”

…you are not required to have a TSA approved luggage lock on your bag to fly.


You can use any luggage lock you want but if your lock is not TSA approved, then if the TSA does search your luggage, they have the right to cut off your non-approved TSA lock because they do not have a key to open it.


By using a TSA luggage lock, you can avoid having your baggage lock cut off because the TSA has a key to open your suitcase.

I like that the Minima’s lock is built in. When I’m ready to travel, I don’t have to try to remember where I’ve stored the tiny little lock and the tiny little keys that go with it. I’m glad that if TSA decides to search my bag, an agent can use a key to open my lock and won’t have to damage my property. I appreciate that I can also set the combination to my own three digit code. WARNING: Write your combination down, or be sure you remember it. When I went to unlock my Minima three months after setting the code, I couldn’t remember what three digits I’d used, much less what order they were in. Ooops! I had to try over two dozen number combinations before I hit upon the right code!

The Minima is currently available in seven colors (black, charcoal grey, aluminum grey, ocean blue, sky blue, pink, and sand); the Regula in two (charcoal grey and ocean blue).

Chester luggage is covered by a 10 year warranty. WOW! That’s confidence. The company explains,

[t]he CHESTER is covered by a 10-year limited warranty, which covers any damage to the shell, wheels, handles, zippers, or anything else that functionally impairs the luggage…If anything breaks, we will fix or replace it.

Another great feature of the company is their return policy. CHESTER offers a 100-day trial. Again, the company explains,

We are confident in our product and want to give everyone the opportunity to make sure they really love their luggage before they decide to keep it, so we offer a 100-day trial (if purchased through our website). If at any point in the first 100 days you decide it’s just not for you, return it for a full refund—no questions or gimmicks.

Suitcase is unzipped and lies open with one compartment fully visible.
The Minima unzips and offers two compartments for packing.

All of these features are great, but you’re probably wondering, as I was, how much will the CHESTER Minima hold? Unfortunately, I wasn’t taking a real trip anytime soon, but I was going to spend the night at a friend’s place. Even though I wasn’t going to be away from home for long, I did get to pack my Minima and try it out.

I unzipped the Minima right down the middle and folded the bag open. I had plenty of room for my slippers, fuzzy leggings, sweatshirt, socks, undergarments, long sleeved shirt, hat, toiletries, sleep mask, and a couple of notebooks.

The nice thing about this little trip was having the opportunity to test the Minima in the snow. When my friend picked me up, the bed of her truck was full of snow! Well, this thing is supposed to be waterproof, I thought as I tossed the suitcase in the back of her truck. When I unzipped the bag nearly an hour later, nothing inside was damp, much less wet.

Once we got to my friend’s place in the mountains, I also got to pull my suitcase through the snow and test those “360° multi-directional double spinner wheels.” They worked great! The Minima glided through the snow with no problem.

One side of suitcase is packed full of clothes.
In this side of the Minima I packed a sweatshirt, three long sleeved shirts, a short sleeve shirt, a tank top, a pair of pants, a sleep mask, and 5 pairs of socks.

Packing for my short trip really didn’t allow the Minima to show me all it could hold, so I decided to pretend I was going for a longer trip and pack as if I was leaving tomorrow. I was able to pack all of the following items in my Chester suitcase:

  • flannel pajama set
  • pair of Crocs
  • long skirt
  • pair of pants
  • sweatshirt
  • 3 long sleeve shirts
  • short sleeve shirt
  • tank top
  • pair of tights
  • 3 bras
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 5 pairs of underpants
  • 2 bandanas
  • toiletry kit
  • sleep mask
  • brush
  • comb
  • can of dry shampoo

Note: I’m a big gal, and I were big clothes. Smaller people with smaller clothes are going to be able to fit even more items into a bag from CHESTER.

I was disappointed when I couldn’t fit my hiking shoes in the Minima. Although they are not boots, they were simply too tall to fit in the Minima without getting crushed. I decided I’d pack the Crocs instead. Those shoes had just enough give to allow the barrier to be zipped over them.

Photos shows how cloth barrier goes over packed clothes and has a zipper compartment of its own.
Clothes pack into the main compartment, then the barrier zips closed over it. The barrier also has a zipper compartment where I packed my underpants and bandanas.

Each cloth barrier has one or more zipper compartments built in. Those compartments give a bit of additional space for packing, but really hold only a minimal amount. I found packing bras and underpants in those compartments made the most sense.

Once items were packed into the slightly bulging middle zipper compartments, I was afraid the suitcase wasn’t going to close. However, once I pushed down from the top, the sides of the zipper came together, and I was able to slide the zippers with ease. The zipper pulls locked in place, my suitcase was secure, and there were no bulges or bumps.

Suitcase is covered,, but top does not lie flat.
After packing, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to close the Minima.

Even fully packed, I was able to lift my Minima over my head to mimic sliding it into an imaginary overhead bin.

Overall, the Minima is a great suitcase. I can easily fit a weekend’s worth of clothing in it. Depending on where I was going and what activities I would be participating in, I could probably get enough for a week or two into it if I was committed to rewearing clothes. It rolls easily and smoothly, and it keeps my clothes dry in the snow.

I can’t wait until I can take it on a real trip.

If you want to check out the Minima or the Regula suitcase, please use my referral link. (https://chestertravels.com/ref/RubberTrampArtist/) If you click on that link and buy a suitcase within 45 days, I’ll receive a commission. Thanks!

The fully zipped Minima suitcase lies on its side on a bed.
Fully packed, I was able to zip the Minima with only the slightest pressure to the top.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free, gently used Minima suitcase from CHESTER in exchange for this review. I only review/recommend products or services I use personally. This review reflects how I honestly feel about the product. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This post also contains a sponsored link.

I took the photos in this post.

Tips for the New Traveler: How to Handle Your First Big Trip (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post by Catherine Workman is all about how to have a great time on your very first big trip. You’ll get tips on everything from packing to getting your vehicle ready for the road. If you are a new traveler, this post is a great place to start planning for a successful trip.

Photo via Pixabay

Traveling across the nation or to a new country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. Such a trip can offer a chance to be independent and strike out on your own. A big trip can be a bit overwhelming, especially for folks who’ve never been away from home for an extended period of time. Not only is there homesickness to worry about, but it’s also important to try to prevent or plan for any travel issues that might make the trip more difficult. 

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to plan for your journey and stay safe, calm, and on-budget the entire time. Start making preparations well ahead of time so you can find the best deals on accommodations and activities, and get to know the details of your chosen mode of transportation. For instance, if you’ll be driving, make sure you understand your insurance policy and research the rules of the road along your route, as laws vary by state.

Here are a few tips to help get you started on your journey.

Become Familiar with Your Insurance Policy

If you’re going to be driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to review your insurance policy before you leave, especially if it’s time for renewal. If you’re still on your parents’ plan due to age, that’s probably your best bet cost-wise. If you’re switching to your own policy, note that if you’re younger than 25, your premiums could be high. However, if you’re at least 20 years old and have four years that reflect a good driving record, you might be eligible for a discount. If you already have liability coverage, now is the time to consider expanding that coverage, especially if you’re hitting the road for an indefinite period of time. You want enough insurance to protect yourself financially (repairs, medical bills, etc.) should you get into an accident. You also want coverage that will reimburse you in the event of storm damage or vandalism. When you’re far from home, you’ll be glad to know you’re covered no matter what happens during the trip.

Get to Know Your Vehicle

Taking a road trip can be great fun…until the car breaks down in an unfamiliar city. You can save yourself a lot of grief and hassle if you do some research on your vehicle before you leave. Find out all you can about your vehicle, including gas mileage and interior space. If you have the manual that came with your vehicle, read it cover to cover.

For safety purposes, you should also know how to check your car’s battery, tires, brakes, A/C, and electrical system before you travel, to ensure that nothing needs to be fixed or replaced. If you don’t have the skills to check everything before you go, drop by your mechanic’s shop and get the vehicle a check-up before you hit the road.

It’s especially important to do some homework if you’re going to rent a car, so read up on the pros and cons regarding your options.

Decide On Transportation and Accommodations

The two costliest aspects of most trips are your transportation and accommodations. Fortunately, if you are staying in the US, you are not limited to flying or driving long distances. Don’t count out traveling by rail or bus if you don’t want to drive. Similarly, if you can give yourself a few extra days, you can make the drive part of your adventure. You also have many accommodation options at home and abroad. Instead of a hotel, look for private rental. While these will not always come with the conveniences of a Marriott or Hilton, you’ll have access to a kitchen and plenty of space to relax.

Budget Well

Taking a trip of any kind can become costly, so it’s crucial that you budget and remain on track as closely as possible. Take into account the true cost of the trip, from your meals to your accommodations, and look for discounts online that will help you save money on your expenses. Keep in mind that it’s best not to travel with a lot of cash, but if you do, learn how to keep it safe. Always have an emergency contact in case you lose your wallet or have your purse stolen. 

Pack Like a Pro

No two types of trips require the same attire, gear, or accessories. Make sure that your suitcase is filled with only the items that you will actually need for your excursion. If you are going to the beach, for example, two swimsuits, an extra pair of flip-flops, and plenty of sunscreen are a must.

A mountain hiking vacation will necessitate things like hiking boots, an emergency poncho, a weather-proof backpack, and, most importantly, a compass and paper map so you are prepared if your phone’s GPS goes off-line. No matter where you go, you will need your ID and, if you are traveling out of the country, a passport, which you should apply for at least three months before your departure.

Don’t Be Afraid of Last-Minute Travel

Conventional wisdom says the sooner you book, the better off you’ll be. While you can usually get great deals by booking months ahead of time, there are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy a last-minute getaway without paying a premium. When you get down to the 72-hour-ahead mark, call your preferred accommodations, airline, or other transportation and ask if they have discounts on open seats. Waiting until a few days before is also a good way to get rock-bottom prices on cruises, especially in the off-season when stateroom availability is plentiful.

Expect the Unexpected

When you’re traveling to a new place for the first time, it can be surprising to see and experience so many differences from home. Keep in mind that each area has its own personality, and you may have to adjust to new cultures, new food and drink, and new languages depending on where you travel to. If you go into it with an open mind, you can ensure a good time and lots of great memories. If you have an issue with stress, panic disorder, or anxiety, bring along comfort items, and consider using meditation to help you relax.

Traveling a long distance for the first time can be liberating and fun, but it can also be stressful, especially if you suffer from anxiety or if you’ve never been away from home for an extended time. Take precautions to ensure your safety is a priority, and plan well in advance so there won’t be any surprises when you’re away from home. A little planning can go a long way!

Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in a while. She travels to boost her physical and mental health.

Why a Motorhome?

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Green mile marker sign with a 6 on it is in the foreground. A motorhome is driving away from the camera, towards the mountains.
Why would anyone want to live in a motorhome?

In the time between selling back our land in southern New Mexico and settling on our new property a little farther north, The Man and I used our New Mexico State Parks annual camping pass to bounce between Rockhound State Park, Pancho Villa State Park, and City of Rocks State Park. During the two months we state park hopped, we saw a lot of rigs come in and later leave the campgrounds. Motorhomes mystified The Man.

Why would anyone want to live in one of those? he frequently wondered aloud, then went on to list a litany of motorhome problems. The terrible gas mileage was always on the top if his list, followed by the fact that unless the motorhome residents towed a vehicle, they had to move the entire rig every time they wanted to leave the campground. Some days I’d chime in about the expense of tires (information I’d learned while doing research for the post “The AdVANtages of Living and Traveling in a Van“) and the challenges of parking and backing up such big rigs. (With the exceptions of most Class Bs, even a small motorhome is way bigger than anything most people have driven.)

One day I got to thinking about why folks might want to live in a Class A or C motorhome. Of course, every nomad’s story is different. Some people are given their rigs, either from someone who doesn’t want to mess with RV travel anymore or from someone who has passed away. While selling a motorhome that was inherited might be the best plan in the long run, doing so could take time and cause aggravation. It might be easier for someone to simply live in a motorhome that falls into their lap.

Other people specifically choose to live and travel in a motorhome, and I’ve come up with ten possible reasons why.

#1 Motorhomes can be really spacious. Depending on the floor plan, motorhomes can offer a lot of room to move around. People who are accustomed to living in a big space may have an easier transition to life on the road if they start out in a roomy motorhome.

#2 In addition to space in general, motorhomes have plenty of headroom. If luxury is never having to hit your head, motorhomes provide luxurious accommodations. For folks who are tired of vanlife because they can’t stand up in their rig, motorhomes must be quite enticing.

#3With lots of room should come lots of storage. Cabinets and pantries and cupboards, oh my! Motorhomes even tend to have closets with space for hanging clothes. For rubber tramps who aren’t ready to downsize any further, a motorhome might be attractive because there’s space for all the stuff.

#4 For travelers who want a rig akin to a conventional home, a motorhome could be the way to go. For starters, motorhomes often have a separate bedroom. Vans, of course, have an open floorplan, as they say in the real estate business, but I’m astounded by the number of travel trailers I’ve seen with the bed practically in the kitchen. For anyone who wants privacy for sleeping (or other adult activities), motorhomes with an actual bedroom can be quite appealing.

#5 Motorhomes tend to have a separate bathroom too. Pipes are already installed, so there’s running water in the sink and shower and toilet too.

#6 A person who lives in a motorhome never has to haul a camp stove outside to cook because there’s a kitchen in the rig! Not only do cupboards come with the package, as in the bathroom, pipes are already installed, so running water is a no brainer. In addition to the convenience of a sink (or even two!)  the kitchen in a motorhome usually boasts a properly vented stove and sometimes even an oven!

#7 Quite important as a safety feature for many nomads, motorhome living allows the driver to get from the front of the rig into the living space without having to go outside. Some folks don’t mind leaving their tow vehicle to enter their travel trail or fifth wheel, but lots of people appreciate the peace of mind they feel when they can stay inside and go directly to their living space. This access to the living space also means someone can hop into the driver’s seat and pull out of a parking spot at the first hint of trouble without having to step foot out the door.

#8 Having its own motor means a motorhome needs nothing to tow it, as does a fifth wheel or travel trailer. When buying a motorhome (or receiving one as a gift), one need not worry about tow packages, engine capacity, gear ratios, weight limits, or towing capacity. While some motorhome RVers do tow (an often small) car or Jeep or pickup truck behind their rig to use on short trips away from the motorhome, that sort of towing is purely optional.

#9 Folks living and traveling in motorhomes don’t have to deal with the hassles of towing, While motorhomes are large and sometimes tricky to drive, they’re only one piece of equipment. There’s no sway of one part of the rig while going down the highway. There’s no need to worry about part of the rig coming apart and rolling away. While backing up a motorhome is not without its challenges, at least there’s only one piece of equipment to worry about. (Of course, these advantages of having a motorhome go out the window if a smaller vehicle is being towed behind the rig, but as mentioned before, such a situation is totally optional.)

#10 Finally, if a motorhome is not towing anything, there’s no hassle of hitching or unhitching.  I never gave much thought to hitching up a trailer until I found myself in possession of a travel trailer. It’s a lot of work. It requires a tow vehicle to change position inches at a time to get everything lined up correctly. It’s a real pain in the neck! Upon arriving at a destination, the trailer should be unhitched so as not to put undue pressure on the tongue and tow vehicle. Of course, this means everything has to be hooked up again when it’s time to go. I can understand the appeal of a motorhome which demands no such process.

So there you have it—ten reason why someone might want to live in one of those. If you live in a Class A or a Class C motorhome, I’d love to hear why you picked it and why you like it. Also, feel free to tell us what you don’t like so much about motorhome life. I don’t have personal motorhome experience, so please share yours!

I took the photo in this post.

Traveling Successfully as a Recovering Addict (Guest Post)

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Love to travel but worried that being away from home is going to make it difficult to stay sober? Today’s guest post from Patrick Baily gives you plenty of tips for staying sober on the road.

Man Wearing White Shirt, Brown Shorts, and Green Backpack Standing on Hill

Traveling has always been a part of life since I was a child. When I started working, I was able to afford to travel to more distant places with family and friends. However, when I started on my path of recovery from drug addiction, I had to live differently than I had in the past. I had to do things differently when I traveled too.

I realized things needed to change during a trip when I almost lost my life. It was a good thing my family was around. I decided to stop traveling and get myself into the 12 step program for addiction. Now that I can handle myself so much better with the help of the skills I learned during my stay in a rehabilitation facility, I have put on my traveling shoes again.

My first attempt was a fairly short drive away from home. I tested my resolve to stick to my sobriety with an overnight stay at a familiar resort near my place.

At first, I was really scared because I had a lot of memories there. A lot were good ones, especially with family and some friends, but I cannot deny there were also days I would rather forget connected to my drug addiction. Thankfully, I learned in my 12 step program that I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge what happened before, learn from it, and improve.

So I pursued that overnight stay in the resort cautiously with my family around. This trip led to another, and I slowly traveled farther away.

As I progressed with my rehabilitation I came across some good reading on solo traveling. I was now ready to take my yearly summer break to the next level.  I was going to a place I’d never been, a place my soul had always wanted to set my foot.

This was just one of the places I wanted to visit. I wanted to make this first long solo trip a success in hopes it would be the start of successful travels throughout my life. I packed light but full of learning from my 12-step program and my friends from the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings I attended.

First things first. I packed my journal where I record my 12-step

Journal Book

experiences. I cannot and should not go without it because it is my map to sober days ahead. It reminds me of my successes and why I should stay sober throughout my trip. I bring it with me because I do not want to fail, not this time, not ever again!

My desire to complete the whole trip clean and sober led me to consult with my therapist and doctor. I wanted to make sure they knew where I am going and what I would be doing so they could be only a call away when I was traveling.

I requested they help me prepare a plan that I could follow while I was away.

  • I asked them what necessities to bring; I only wanted to bring what was safe for me.
  • I downloaded a 12-step app on my phone in case I needed more resources during my travels.
  • I made sure I had contact numbers of my therapist and doctor, so I could easily reach out to them.
  • I also made sure they had my emergency contact information: my family, friends, and sponsors. I made sure this information was accessible to my support people.
  • I brought along a map. I don’t mean the ordinary kind you can buy of the streets of the area where you are headed. I have learned that it is not sufficient to know the landmarks and the sights to see in the country. It is vital to know where you can be when you are done savoring the beauty of the area. I highlighted the places where I could be safe and stay sober.

I also made sure that I knew the times and locations for all the NA and other 12-step meetings in the area. That’s always good information, but I did not settle for that. Awareness is not sufficient. The people would surely welcome me when I walked into their meetings and introduced myself as one of them, but it is different when someone looks for you to remind you they are there waiting for you. I knew that I should have someone who would be ready to usher me to the meetings.

Your tired feet will have to rest for a while and the safest resting places are with the people who know your battle. Having bottles all around you can be disturbing, even if you don’t have an addiction to alcohol. I should stay away from addicts and temptations and spend time with those who are sober enough to guide me.

So, I contacted a few local people ahead of time. I got to know them, and they me even before meeting. Our initial conversations showed me that they know the country well. They shared other spots to visit that I didn’t find on the Internet.

The best part of our initial contact was that it gave them ample time to arrange their schedules to fit mine. They offered to tag along on my travel. They were very generous to open up their lives so that I could safely visit their country’s beautiful sights.

At first, I was hesitant because I knew it would take so much of their time. But then again, I needed to be surrounded by the right people. It is a nice feeling when someone is looking forward to meeting you. I was also ecstatic to meet them.

People Forming Round by Shoes

They were also excited that they will be meeting others in the area whom they have not met before. We have created a nice little group of addicted individuals—not to feed our addictions to drugs or alcohol but to enjoy our lives sober.

I was all packed, light but full. I was determined to remain sober, yes, but I also to find the adventure of a lifetime, to go to places I had never been but where my soul has always wanted to be.

I was free and I could travel with my 12 step program for addiction in my pocket.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Read more of Patrick’s writing on his blog and contact him at baileypatrick780@gmail.com.

Find Patrick on social media!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pat_Bailey80

Google+: https://plus.google.com/112748498348796236865

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-bailey-writer

Please remember that neither Blaize Sun nor Patrick Baily is a health care professional. Please consult a health care professional about your particular situation. This article is simply a starting point for your research. Only you are responsible for you.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-wearing-white-shirt-brown-shorts-and-green-backpack-standing-on-hill-672358/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-desk-electronics-iphone-1156683/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/brand-trademark-cobblestones-community-denim-pants-609771/.

Karen

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Photo of Black Flat Screen MonitorHer nametag read “Karen,” and she was our cashier at a Wal-Mart in a medium-sized city in central California.

The Man and I had popped into Wal-Mart to get a few supplies before we headed back up the mountain. The Man had a 12-pack of socks and a comb, and I had a bottle of hand sanitizer, a roll of paper towels, and a bottle of bleach. We usually go through the self-check line, but that morning I wanted my cash back partially in ones so I could feed the water dispensing machine. I knew the self-checkout machines would only spit out twenties, so I needed to deal with a human to get the bills I wanted.

Karen had completely white hair styled in a way that seemed old-fashiond even for a woman I presumed to be about 70 years old. She asked me if we needed to buy a bag, and I said no, we’d just carry our purchases out in our arms.

We’re not from California, I told her, so we forget to bring in our own bags.

(In much of California, stores no longer provide flimsy plastic bags for free. Shoppers can bring in their own bags or purchase paper bags or slightly more sturdy plastic bags at the register.)

You’re lucky you’re not from California! Karen exclaimed.

I told her we worked in the National Forest, and I must have told her we traveled too, because she asked me What’s your favorite place? I told her I’d just been to Moab (she looked confused, so I added Utah) and I’d liked it very much, and I said I really like Taos, NM too.

What’s your favorite place? I asked her.

She’d never been out of California, she told me.

Well, what’s your favorite place in California? I asked.

Home, she replied with a laugh.

Where would you like to go? I persisted.

I’m 82 years old, she said, much to my surprise. I thought she was a dozen years younger. I’m scared to go anywhere, she told me.

I’m always shocked when I meet people who’ve never ventured even into a neighboring state. I suppose California is big enough to satisfy a lifetime of wanderlust, but I wonder if Karen traveled even the state of her birth. I just hope she was content to stay at home instead of being held there by fear.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-black-flat-screen-monitor-811103/.

Greyhound Story #2 (Fried Chicken)

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I was living down south, in the land of my birth, when I decided to attend an anarcha-feminist gathering in Wisconsin. No one I knew would be there, so I would have a comfort zone expanding experience among strangers.

I didn’t have a car, and my job made my travel time limited. I decided to fly to Chicago, then take the Greyhound to a small Wisconsin town where I’d be picked up in a car and driven to the women’s land where the gathering would be held. I’d probably be the only woman flying to the anarcha-feminist gathering, but I decided to do it because I had the money but not the time.

Greyhound, Bus, Toys, Sheet, Tin Toys, Model, Model CarThe flight to Chicago was uneventful. From the airport, I took public transportation to the tiny Greyhound station which I think was downtown. I got on the ‘Hound at the appointed time, and we took off to Wisconsin.

The bus was full. At first everyone was quiet, but as time passed, a few people started talking to their seatmates or the folks across the aisle. I sat quietly and read a book.

As more time passed, passengers started getting restless. I could feel the shift in the energy as people started shifting their bodies.

When are we stopping? someone called up to the driver.

I need a smoke, someone else hollered to the front. The other smokers chimed in with agreement.

The bus driver named a town and said we weren’t stopping until then. The people who knew how far we were from that town groaned.

Knowing how far we were from cigarettes and food did nothing to soothe anyone’s agitation. If anything, people seemed more on edge.

We were on that bus for a long time. I know it’s hard for a smoker when the body says it’s time for a cigarette and s/he can’t have one, but everyone on the bus seemed to be growing increasingly disgruntled.

Then the women in front of me pulled out the fried chicken.Food, Eat, Diet, Fried, Chicken, Leg

One of the women was young, early 20s probably, and the other was a senior citizen, so I pegged them as grandmother and granddaughter. These women obviously knew the ropes of long distance bus travel because they were prepared to provide for themselves if the bus went a long way without a stop.

The hungry travelers who were waiting for a stop at a restaurant or a truck stop or a convenience store were not happy with the aroma of chicken wafting through the bus. The rumbling of the passengers increased. Those women were braver than I was; I would have never risked my fried chicken with that crowd.

Girl, give me some that chicken! the man across the aisle demanded. I thought he might be ready to start what the future would know as The Great Greyhound Fried Chicken Riot.

The people in the nearby seats held their collective breath. Would the women share their chicken?

This is not a loaves and fishes sort of story. No miracle occurred. The fried chicken was not multiplied to feed everyone on that bus. The women did share even one piece.

I wish I could remember what sassy words the young woman snapped at the man, but they shut him up and slumped him down in his seat while everyone who heard the words laughed.

The women ate their chicken while the rest of us waited for the driver to get us to a place where we could eat too.

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/greyhound-bus-toys-sheet-tin-toys-2758946/ and https://pixabay.com/en/food-eat-diet-fried-chicken-leg-2202358/.

Greyhound Story #1 (Surprise!)

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When I got on the bus in the Midwestern college town, nearly all the seats were taken. I pushed my daypack into the overhead bin and looked at the woman stretched out across both seats below. She got the hint and pulled herself entirely into the window seat.

She was a white girl, younger than I was, probably in her early 20s. She had lank blond hair down to her shoulders and flat bangs. She had the blank face of someone who’d already been on the bus for a long time.

Our first rest break was at a truck stop deep in the flatlands of Kansas. I used a flush toilet in the truck stop in hopes of avoiding the smelly, swaying restroom on the bus, then filled my water bottle with ice from the soda machine. I saw my seatmate standing outside, drinking a Red Bull.

Once back on the bus, I read, listened to music through my headphones, and dozed as the prairie passed outside the windows. My seatmate had nothing to say.

We had another rest break before we hit Colorado. This time the bus stopped between a McDonald’s and a Taco Bell. I dutifully used the flush toilet, put ice in my bottle, and bought two bean burritos for my dinner. I took my food back on the bus and reclaimed my seat.

When my seatmate returned, she had a Red Bull in her hand.

I wonder where she had to go to get that, I thought as I stood up to let her back into her chair.

It was dark when we stopped again. I did my routine of restroom and ice, looking forward to closing my eyes and trying to get some sleep while the bus rolled through the night. When I returned to the bus, my seatmate was already there, yet another Red Bull in hand. I didn’t see how she’d be getting any sleep.

That’s when she started talking.

She was coming from Chicago or Des Moines or Omaha or one of those other big Midwestern cities. She was going to Utah, to Salt Lake City.

Her speech was rapid, choppy, evidence of all the caffeine coursing through her veins.

Her boyfriend was in Salt Lake City. He’d moved there. She was going to visit him, to surprise him. He didn’t know she was on her way.

I kept my mouth shut. There was no sense discouraging her now. However, I wondered if surprising a boyfriend who’d moved halfway across the country was such a good idea. What if my seatmate arrived to find him shacked up with another woman? What if she discovered him satisfying his previously secret bisexual curiosity? What if he was doing drugs or dealing drugs or cooking drugs and she walked into the middle of illegal activity? Personally, I wouldn’t want to surprise a boyfriend (or girlfriend) living in another state. I’d want to give a person fair warning if I was on my way.

I don’t remember how I managed to untangle myself from her. Maybe I just told her I needed to get some sleep. When I closed my eyes, hers were still open, staring out the window into the darkness, the land invisible in the night. Every time I woke up, she was in the same position.

We arrived in Denver to make our connections just as the sun began to peek over the horizon.

I must have gone to the ticket counter to find out which numbered door to line up in front of. Although my seatmate and I were both going to Salt Lake, we were standing in different lines.

She approached me, yet another can of Red Bull in her hand. She was screechy and twitchy from some combination of exhaustion and caffeine.

Why are you in this line? she demanded. Aren’t you going to Salt Lake City too?

I must have mentioned to her that I’d be passing through Salt Lake on my way to the Pacific Northwest. I couldn’t tell if she was worried about me being in the wrong line or if she was concerned for herself.

I explained I was in the line the woman at the ticket counter had told me to get in. I conjectured we were in different lines because her final destination was Salt Lake City, and I was just passing through. My explanation seemed to satisfy her, and she went back to stand with her luggage. Shortly, we boarded our separate busses, and I never saw her again.

I’ve always wondered what she found when she knocked on her boyfriend’s door.

(Guest Post) RV Living: A New Reality

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Today I have the pleasure of sharing a post by Carolyn Rose, author of the blog Carolyn’s RV Life.

It was a cool autumn evening. The sun was lazily making its way down the western sky and the smell of wood-fires and home-cooking infused the air with familiarity and reflection. On my evening walk, I passed two children playing in a huge natural yard. I noted how different it was from the perfectly manicured postage-stamp size yards, hidden behind six-foot fences that I’m used to. In the San Francisco suburbs, children don’t just play out in the open like that.

I marveled at their carefree innocence from the other side of the street. They laughed and played and hung on a good-natured and patient Golden Retriever. Not a care in the world; they didn’t even notice me. I felt like I’d been transported back to simpler times.

Bronze Cowboy--Joseph, ORI’d parked my RV at the little league fields, a few blocks away, earlier in the day and spent the afternoon working and writing and enjoying peace and solitude. I was amazed that not a single kid came to the field to play nor nearby residents to walk their dogs. And I realized, it’s because here, in tiny-town USA (Enterprise, Oregon) everyone has a yard. Their little league field is for actual Little League, not a community yard where people who live in giant houses with tiny yards and neighbors within arms’ reach must drive to get some exercise and fresh air.

Spending the day in the tiny northern Oregon town took me back to my own Upstate New York roots – the ones I fled when I moved to San Francisco at twenty-one, and never looked back. Roots that I’ve spent my whole adult life running away from and denying. In my race to run from my past, I ran from myself. I ran from my predisposition toward a simpler way of life: where the streets aren’t always paved and the clerks in the grocery store know their customers by name.

As I hobbled over the cracked and crooked sidewalks, through old neighborhoods with normal-sized single-story houses (not super-sized McMansions), and inhaled the crisp home-town air, I realized how much living in a metropolitan area for nearly three decades had changed me. I’d forgotten how the rest of the country lives; how pure and simple life can be.

I was surprised at how comfortable it felt. Like I’d walked into a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special and a world where kids are innocent and free and old-fashioned kindness and community rules the day. I wanted to wrap the town around me like grandma’s handmade quilt and fall asleep in its warmth. scenic-bridge-joseph-or

As the afternoon turned to night, I meandered through the tiny town wanting to see and experience it all. I saw, through the lighted windows of cozy homes, quaint shops and tiny wooden churches with stained glass windows, what had been missing in my city life. Family. Community. Simplicity.

It dawned on me that my big city experiences and values had isolated me from the reality of what most Americans experience daily. I pondered the contentious election, and for the first time, I understood. I understood the fear. I understood the challenges that small-town America faces and how they feel like their way of life is on the verge of falling off the cliff. I understood how they view a sensationalized version of the events in our country – and the world – through their TV screens and it terrifies them. I understood how their serene and quiet lives seem threatened. And like the crackle of a fresh log put on a dying fire, my brain awakened to a new concept of reality. And a new awareness of how relative reality really is.

What a gift I was given that day. My new life as a full time RVer put me in a place I’d never have experienced in my old life.  My new, slower RV Life allows me to get out from behind the windshield and immerse myself into new places and not just fly past at 70 miles per hour. A new town isn’t just another double almond-milk cappuccino served up by the local Starbucks barista at an anonymous interstate town, but a real, live breathing place with history and community.

Joseph CafeI spent three days in and around Enterprise, Oregon. I talked to chatty coffee drinkers in cafes, friendly grocery store clerks and helpful mechanics. I got to meet real people, with real wants, needs and concerns. Real people, with families, friends and happy Golden Retrievers. Not nameless, faceless political ideologues or Facebook trolls. But real people.

What a wonderful life I get to have by stepping away from my version of reality, hitting the road and forging my own path and a new reality. My RV Life opened my eyes – and my heart –  to a community, which, on the surface seemed so different from my old Bay Area community, but at the core, was very much the same.

Thank you, Enterprise, Oregon, for letting me temporarily live in your town and experience your reality.

About Carolyn Rose:

Early in 2016, at forty-eight years, old, I sold everything I owned, bought a 23-year-old RV and hit the road with my dog Capone. I’d spent decades building a career and a company and chasing the American Dream. After hiking 256 miles in 26 days alone in 2015, I came to accept that the life I’d been chasing wasn’t what I wanted. I was tired of living a lie; working to buy things I didn’t really need and feeling trapped in a tiny Bay Area apartment.  I wanted space. I wanted freedom.  And as a marketing consultant, I was free to work wherever I wanted. So, I took the leap and changed my life!

To read more about my journey, you can visit my website at http://CarolynsRVLife.com for more information.

Photos were provided by the author.

Answers

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I recently offered my readers a chance to ask me questions. Today’s post consists of the questions submitted, as well as my answers.

Let’s start off with an easy one, shall we?

Dave asked, Pot pie or pizza pie?

While I would not turn down pot pie freely given, my choice will always be pizza. I would choose pizza over most anything else, except maybe ice cream.

Here’s another easy one, from Mary. Do you work for the state or federal government?

Neither. Of course, I am not working at the moment, but when I am working, it’s not for any governmental agency.

Now onto a question with a longer answer. This is a fun one.

Muriel2pups asked, Blaize, What would you do if you won a million dollars?

Funny you should ask, as I do have a plan, although buying lottery tickets is not part of the plan. Not sure how I expect to win if I don’t play…

Over the summer I noticed sometimes my coworker and I would talk about the possibility of some event or reaction and then the thing we talked about happened. I decided we needed to turn this ability to manifest into a million dollars. My coworker and I agreed to share any money sent our way by the Universe. So, if I won a million dollars, half of it automatically belongs to my coworker.

I have a handful of friends and worthy causes to whom I would dole out somewhere between  $200 to $5,000 each.

I would have my van repaired and overhauled in every way necessary.

I would visit Montana and Alaska.

Would I still have money left after that? I have no idea. I don’t have a clear concept of how much half a million dollars is. I guess I would probably do some socially responsible investing with whatever was left and try to live off that money while writing or making art.

Cindy had several questions. Let’s take them (and their answers) one at a time.

 I am pretty interested in the life out on the Mesa outside of the bridge in Taos. Have you ever lived out there? What did you think of it and what was your experience if you did.

No, Cindy, I never lived out on the Mesa. I have a couple of friends who do, one I visited a few times and one I house and dog sat for several times.

Like many neighborhoods, the Mesa is a mixed bag. There are people out there living in huge, seemingly expensive, “nice” houses. There are people out there living in shacks, old school buses, and homes they built themselves, piece-by-piece, over time. There are people out there living in structures somewhere between a mansion and a shanty. Some people on the Mesa use solar power, and other people have no electricity at all. Many people on the Mesa have no running water and have to haul their water home.

Two women I knew have been murdered on the Mesa in less than three years. For me, these killings put a dark cloud over the area’s visually stunning landscape.

Do you keep your money in a bank at all?

 Yes, Cindy, I do have a bank account. There was a time before I had a bank account when I kept my cash on me. Of course, I worried about getting robbed. During that time, I did not keep my money hidden in the van, in fear of the van getting stolen or towed.

Now I worry about a breakdown of the financial system which would leave me without access to my money. I suppose if the financial system breaks down, that paper’s not going to do me much good anyway.

Just a fun question. What is your favorite meal? Like if you could have anything to eat for dinner tonight what would it be? ..and your favorite dessert?

 If I’m cooking for myself, my favorite meal is some variation of brown rice, tofu, and veggies. I particularly enjoy blanched broccoli.

If the Lady of the House is cooking dinner, I’ll take gumbo!

If any food in the whole world could magically appear in front of me, I would go for boudin.

As for dessert, I don’t know if I’ve ever met one I didn’t like. Any sort of concoction with brownies or cookies or cake and ice cream would make me happy.

Camilla said, I was wondering why you never post a photo of yourself anywhere on your blog.

My privacy and security are very important to me. I don’t necessarily want strangers to know what I look like, so I don’t post photos of myself. The same goes for my van. While I don’t think I would be mobbed by adoring fans, I feel safer without my face plastered all over the internet.

Besides, what I look like has no bearing on my writing, my photography, and my art. I would rather you judge me on how I behave and what I can create rather than on how I look.

Louise asked, Do you think this is something that you’ll be doing for as long as you can or do you think that you may choose a more stationary life? Maybe I’m asking when/how/if you would choose a more permanent (or semi-permanent) place to lay roots for a while.

In “Truckin,'”Robert Hunter best explains my life as a van dweller:

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down

 When I’m stuck in one place, I want to hit the road. When I’m on the road, I think about the benefits of settling somewhere.

Don’t forget, I was mostly settled before I started my life on the road. I know what it’s all about.

But yes, I do think about settling down in some shitty little apartment, working some shitty little job, stuck in some city. I wouldn’t want to live in a city where I didn’t already have friends and a support network. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to live in most of the places where my good friends live. I’m not willing to work 8 hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year at some job that’s not doing much good for the world so I can take a two week vacation to visit people I love.

Also, I wonder if I could even get a real job these days. I’m a middle age woman who’s been mostly out of the  job force for seven years. Who’s going to hire me? It’s not like I have any specialized, marketable skills.

I do worry about getting older, about getting sick, about being injured. (I am very careful getting in and out of the shower these days.) However, I’m not willing to sacrifice my now for future unknowns. Maybe I will be able to work as a camp host until the day I die.

Sue asked a long and complicated question. I will try to condense it.

I’m sure you’ve thought about what you went through a LOT. And while you did think about them, did you isolate things he said and did, and then re-identify them from casual remarks into recognizable warning signs? In other words, have you learned to think about what people say and how they act so it will help you in future relationships?

One reason I don’t write much about my ex is because there are many aspects of both his and my life (and our life together) that would immediately reveal our identities to folks who knew us fairly well. I’m not interested in my ex finding me and contacting me, so I don’t share parts of our past that would lead him to me.

That said, during my relationship with him, I was mostly cognizant of what was going on. I don’t have to look back and say, Oh, that was a warning sign. I look back and remember how I knew at the time how some word or action was fucked-up shit.

So have I learned to think about what people say and how they act? I don’t know. What I can do now is identify fucked up men from a mile away and run in the other direction. (I could probably spot fucked up women too, but I don’t get as many opportunities.)

Brent asked, Blaize, I would like to know what you don’t have in your life that you would like to have.

While I have many close and wonderful friends, I spend most of my year far away from them. I’m lonely a lot. When I do visit, my friends have work, kids, relationships, a million obligations they can’t drop just to spend some deep quality time with me. I get it, but it’s difficult for me to feel fulfilled by friendship in passing. I wish I could spend more time with the people I love.

Laura-Marie asked me the following sweet question: how did u get so wonderful? i really mean that. what factors came together to form beautiful u?

Aw, shucks.

But I don’t feel wonderful! I’m grumpy and short-tempered and pushy and annoying. Anything good you see if because I am working against my natural tendencies to talk too much and make stupid jokes. I’m working against feeling irritated and wanting to have everything my way.

I used to do nice things for people because I wanted people to like me. Now when I do nice things for people, it’s usually because it’s the right thing to do. I try to treat people as I would like to be treated. I try to act like the kind of friend I want to have.

 

No Baggage

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No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering
Recently, the Divine Miss M had Amazon.com send me a couple of books. I hadn’t asked for the books or even heard of them until they showed up in my stack of mail. One was a novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I haven’t read yet. The other was nonfiction, a travel memoir called No Baggage.

In No Baggage, author Clara Bensen tells the story of the existential crisis she had in her early 20s when she concluded she might not be able to follow her bliss and live her dreams. Heck, she was barely able to complete applications to grad schools. She had a prolonged mental health meltdown and spent quite a long time wracked with anxiety and unable to eat much more than choked-down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

She slowly pieced her fragile psyche back together while living in Austin, TX, and decided she needed to start dating. She joined OkCupid, posted her own profile, and began looking at the profiles of men on the site with advanced degrees. She encountered the profile of an intriguing college professor and emailed him. They went on a date, immediately hit it off, and started having fabulous times together.

The first part of the book read a little much like a teen romance novel to me, and I was a bit turned off. I have to admit, I was more than a little jealous and a bit bitter. I haven’t met a decent, unmarried man to date in years, but this gal met an incredible man on her first try. (It probably helps to be young, thin, and live in a major metro area.) But I stuck with the book to get to the good part, where Bensen and her beau went on The Trip.

The fellow was already planning on taking The Trip when he met Bensen, then invited her to go along with him. While it was risky enough to go on a multi-country journey with someone she only knew a short time, the No Baggage of the title refers to no suitcase, no backpack, no tote bag.

Here’s what Benson took with her on the three week expedition: in a “small leather purse,” she somehow puts three pairs of underpants, a deodorant stick, a toothbrush, a retainer, a contact lens case, a pair of glasses, two tampons, an iPhone, an iPad Mini, a notebook, a pen, her passport, a tube of ChapStick, and “a stack of cowboy magnets to hand out as Texas souvenirs.” (There’s no mention of a credit card or traveler’s cheques or cash, so I don’t know how purchasing food and transportation tickets worked out. Maybe the money the guy carried was for both of them?)

Since I live in my van, I have fewer material possessions than most Americans, but I still have so much stuff! The part of me that makes do with less was intrigued by the minimalist approach to travel introduced by Bensen’s guy, but after all, it was only for 21 days, not a lifetime. I’m pretty sure I could make it on no baggage for three weeks, especially if I had a new love interest to keep me company. (I’d leave behind the iPad Mini–which I don’t even own–and the deodorant and the cowboy magnets, and take my water bottle with me.)

I like travel stories, and I enjoyed Bensen’s. I enjoyed her tale of spending the beginning of her time in Istanbul not knowing if she were in Europe or Asia. I liked hearing about the positive experiences with Couchsurfing.com, especially what happened in Turkey, when Bensen and her guy arrived unannounced at a dark train station, only to be met by a woman on a bicycle who said, “I recognize the hat from your Couchsurfing profile.” She was one of the many hosts they’d emailed, and she’d somehow known when and where to meet them, even though they hadn’t known when they might arrive.

The book was full of such stories of traveling serendipity. Some call it luck, and the Rainbow Family refers to it as “Rainbow magic.” Hikers of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails know about it too. Sometimes it’s as if the Universe is conspiring to get people where they need to go and make beautiful things happen.

In fact, this book is not just a love story or a travelogue or a treaty on minimalism. It’s also about coincidence and serendipity. It’s about What are the odds? and What are the chances? What are the odds that two people so well-suited to be together would meet on OkCupid and find a “weird, magical thing” happening between them? What are the chances a Couchsurfing host would appear exactly when and where she was desperately needed? Bensen’s guy “was in the preliminary stages of developing software to measure the experience of coincidence,” so they ended their three week journey with a visit to a “professor of Risk at Cambridge University…one of the premier researchers on the subject.” The book asks what causes the “connections between seemingly random intersections?”

The day before I finished reading No Baggage, I wrote a blog post partially about a road trip song by Dar Williams and partially about an idea of SARK’s about managing expectations. To illustrate my point, I told a story about a road trip I took in the late 1990s. In telling that story, I mentioned my friend who owned the car and did all the driving on that journey to a women’s gathering in an adjacent state. My friendship with the woman was intense during our time on the road, but mellowed out when we got back to the city. We still liked each other, but our everyday lives kept us busy, and we saw little of each other. When I moved away from the city the next year, I thought of her fondly when I thought of her, which wasn’t often. I could only remember part of her name, so there was no Googling her or looking her up on Facebook. And then suddenly there she was, driving through my blog post.

The next day I finished reading No Baggage on the afternoon of my day off, while lying in my bed with the back doors of the van open to the meadow. That was a good book, I decided after I’d read the last page. I liked it. I’m glad I read it.

Then I flipped the page and saw the heading Acknowledgements. I’m the kind of book geek who at least skims an author’s appreciations. I’m not sure why. I never see a name I recognize. Only this time I did. There among the four names thanked for their “generous feedback and critique” was the name of the woman I’d written about the day before, the woman with whom I’d shared a road trip and not communicated with for nearly twenty years. What are the chances of that?

I know in my heart of hearts that I’d not glanced at the last page of No Baggage and seen my friend’s name, not even for a split second. I know that Clara Bensen didn’t mention my friend in the book in any recognizable way, wrote nothing that would have made me think of her.  And yet, as I read a book about travel written by a mutual friend, I wrote of my own long-lost, seldom thought of friend and a time we traveled together. What are the odds of that happening?

I plan to write to  Clara  Bensen and tell her of this coincidence and our connection. Maybe she’ll tell me how to contact my old friend.