The Moleskin Experiment: Los Angeles

For me, life has always been about how much more I can pack in a day. As a traveler, nothing has ever been different. In fact, I was so good at packing in experiences in a day that I did it for a living.

For this trip – four plus days in Santa Monica, I didn’t do that.  There was Beyonce (which really, is a big enough plan, right) and my brother’s birthday. It goes against my very instinct to not plan, to go with the flow and to chill the hell out. 

I bought this Moleskin Los Angeles journal that's part of their city series. Each page is organized to help you plan and track your trip, with maps and space for notes about restaurants and sites. It's tabbed and lovely and when I bought it in another airport I had every intention of using in the way it was intended.

After landing, I went straight to the Ace Hotel to meet my friend Holly of Hip Sobriety (badass). And while writing down the name of the $10.41 green juice I'd purchased (welcome to LA), I got anxious. There was so much on my heart. I even put pressure on myself about how my handwriting looks in a damn journal. Welcome to my head. 

It was then the flash came -- hand the journal over to Holly at the end of the meal for her to write a message. "Write anything," I said. And with that, I no longer cared how many sites I could see, now many meals I could notate (OK I cared a little about that), how many vintage clothing stores I could hit.

And then the very best things started to unfold, a trip beyond my best laid plans. 

 Spotted on the PCH on the way to Malibu 

Spotted on the PCH on the way to Malibu 

The ground rules: I hid my work email from my phone.

I got up every morning to pray and meditate. (The beach a block a way helped a lot with that.)


These are things I need every day, and especially when I'm traveling. Here's a secret -- even though travel is my great love, it triggers my anxiety if I don't stay grounded. Solid mornings, lots of water, and consistent writing help me stay centered. And the prayer thing. So I asked God on day one: please help remind me I'm not alone.

What happened? I immediately met a sweet fellow writer and editor who asked me to coffee and wrote in my Moleskin. I waked onto a porch and meet a fellow Southerner (the Kentucky T-shirt gave it away) and spent an afternoon talking under the Santa Monica sun. I ate guacamole on a patio with a former intern who is soaring gloriously out here, and explored a Robert Mappelthorpe exhibit, visiting with another friend who now works at LACMA.

I relaxed -- really relaxed. I did all the things I wanted to do without having to plan. (Yes, on the last day, I even found the most amazing pair of gold Marc Jacobs high tops for a steal at a consignment shop. Separate post to come on that.)

Scratch that -- I didn't do anything, but instead just followed the flow of life. When I became tired I rested. When I needed a break from a party or dinner, I stepped away. For me, this was big.

Yeah it was vacation, and it was vacation in Santa Monica. How will I continue this surrender when I'm at home in Birmingham, where there's no beach, where there aren't endless days to talk on porches and collect stories in a Moleskin? Where there's laundry and deadlines and missing math homework and doctor's appointments and really hard things?  I don't know.

I have a rock in my pocket that I picked up on Venice Beach while staring into the vast Pacific Ocean. I picked up two actually and threw one into the ocean, pressing my fears and my stress and my past into it, returning it to the ocean. The other smooth stone comes with me, a reminder of the true serenity found in California. Found there but inside of me now, to be revisited every day. 

This life's not for me to plan. 

Just to trust the flow. Surrender my fears. Collect stories in my Moleskin. Be brave enough to share my own. 

This is Day 10 of 90 Stories in 90 Days. And yes I got behind on this trip but planning on catching up ... cause this city gave me a lot of stories.