Right after I got my drivers license I had a couple of girlfriends that wanted to go down to Orlando area. Reason? Warped Tour was down in the area where one of the girls family lived so we would be saving money. Turned out that I was the only one that had a vehicle so I ended up being in charge of driving our high school selves down to an area that I had never driven to before. I was also In charge of my friends and their lives. A seventeen year old who had just gotten her license was gonna drive to a big city area and with a stick shift. I remember all three of us being so happy. We were gonna see our favorite bands live, possibly get autographs and hear them at a cheap price. It was all day and we were gonna be able go buy our bands cds for a cheap price as well. So yes, this was what we wanted.
The day of the drive we were so excited we couldn't sleep. We all slept on the floor and talked all night along about how awesome the trip was going to be. By the time the morning sun was just coming up we got up too excited to sit still, make terrible omelets , and got them car ready to go. Once we got the ok from Dad we turned on the GPS and made our way down to Cassies father's house where we would be staying for the week. We chatted, sang, the other two girls slept while I listened to tunes, and we got food and beverages. Once we got about an hour out of town Cassie 's father called to check in and make sure we're ok. Getting updates, making sure I was going to speed limit, the usual of what parents do. Then we got to town and there were cameras everywhere. Every red light became known to me and we almost ran a few when we were on our way there. Close calls but nothing serious. After all you gotta learn to drive somehow. Right?
Not to long after we got through town we had pulled up to this nice little house that had two bedrooms, two bathroom, a kitchen and small living room along with very small driveway. Cute, tiny, easy to use and enough space for one or two people comfortably. We unloaded the car and made ourselves at home. We did a lot when we were there and a lot of it was the other two girls dancing and playing video games. I on the other hand felt good sitting on the sidelines. I'm not going to say though that it was all sunshine and rainbows. We had moments where we fought over very little and stupid things. I honestly think that we all were feeling pressure and we're taking it out slightly on ourselves at the time. We also had some unfinished business hanging around and a lot of the air was tense at times. Almost enough to cut like a knife but not enough to break skin. I remember feeling very haply when I was with them but I never truly felt wanted in the group. I felt very replaceable and out of sorts when I was with them. They had said several times that it wasn't like that and that I was wrong. I believed them.
From there it was calmed and we went to the concert. When we arrived we started looking around for the tents of our favorite bands, looking at merchandise, and figuring out times for where we wanted to go and who we wanted to see. With that we set out on our routes and started buying and getting in line. It was so busy and so hot. We did what we could to stay hydrated and cool. It was a lot to take in and even though Cassie and I had been to Warped before and knew what to expect, it was Kayla that was getting the experience for the first time. So we worked together to try and stay hydrated. For me that year, it was rough to keep from being overheated. The year before I had weighed less and I was more suited for that kind of event but in the year we had away from the concerts I had gained weight and hadnt been working out as much and I never did good in heat so my weight gain, heat, humidity, and not being hydrated all started adding up quickly.
But even though I was hot and sweaty I wanted to see everything I could. So we trudged onward. That year we got so many autographs. We got tank tops from falling in reverse and them all signed them, we got a CD signed by lead singer Ariel from Icon For Hire, we got loads of cds and memorabilia, along with photos with our bands and of some band members. We even got to see one band again and they were so excited we came back to their tent the next year and brought a new fan to enjoy the music with. It was quite nice to have a band be so happy about the growth of their fans and passion from their fans. It made me happy to be listening to their music. From all of that we even got to witness people jumping off the high wall that keeps the water and land apart and is used for hurricane season to keep water from flooding the area. People were jumping in and having trouble getting Back up on land. Someone even though a girl in and a guy had to go in and help her out of the water. It created a spectacle for us all to see.
With the concerts coming to a close I can say we had a successful year. We got to see out bands, take photos and enjoy our time listening to our favorite music, live. Music is powerful and it can make your life be filled with emotion. If you have never been to a concert go. You may feel the world that the music creates. A world that you have yet to discover.
I remember Niagara Falls so well that I can see it if I close my eyes. The feeling of going there, the anticipation, the "courage" it took for me to go there all alone. I had planned for months to go there and to see it. T hear the falls as they crash to the water down below. To go on the Maid of the Mist like my father did twenty or so years before. I wanted an experience. So for my nineteenth birthday I planned a trip to all kinds of places and I did it mostly on my own. For months I had people trying to pull me down and tell me that I shouldn’t do it by myself.
"Take a man with you"
"Don’t go alone, take a friend"
"You’re going by yourself?! No way would I let MY child go on their own to Niagara falls"
Well I got news for you, I did it. All on my own and without a "man" to "protect me". Honestly people these days just make me feel like the world isn’t ready to handle what future generations are going to do. Who knows, maybe go to space on a regular? Teleport to different locations? Bring back Hitler? Who knows. All I knew from then on out was that I wanted to do what I felt like doing and I wasn’t gonna let people decide if I should go by myself or not. So I planned my trip, set a date, texted those that I was going to see on the way there, and packed a bag. The week before I left I remember people making that final plea to not go by myself. I ignored them. It started to sound like buzzing in the back of my head and eventually you get to the point where you are tired of hearing people telling you what to do with your life. So for the next week I ignored everyone and everything and just set my sights on the road ahead.
The day that I left I first went to Mobile Alabama. Yea, I’ve been there several times and let me tell you, not a good location but, I had family there and I wanted to see them and celebrate my wonderful day of coming into existence with them. So that’s where I stopped first. I had some wonderful homemade food, wonderful company with people and animals alike, and of course a small cake that they bought just for me. It was wonderfully set and it made me happy that I got to spend time with two wonderful souls. There were laughs, pictures, food, and just kindness all around. The first stop was wonderful but by the next day I had to head on to the next. The goal was still far ahead and I wanted to make it there in the time I had so with great sadness I said goodbye to my two favorite people and made my way to Nashville Tennessee where an old friend of mine lived.
The minute I got to Nashville I got hugs, a beer, and smiles. Id been a year since I last saw him and he looked good. Healthy, happy, and still going onward towards his future. At the time he was going to college and just hadn’t been able to make it back to Florida to visit. Truthfully though I didn’t mind too much that he didn’t get to come back. It just meant that I got to go see him and for me that was a gold mine. The next day I spent it with him and we went and go tattoos at a shop of his recommendation. From there we then went downtown where we did some shopping, listened to music, and went to eat. At the restaurant, which was called Dicks by the way, I got warned of how there whole way of serving was to be as rude as possible. Without thinking I just shrugged it off and said that it wouldn’t be a problem. Then I got the real experience of Dicks. They threw napkins, slammed down our food, put paper hats on our heads with inappropriate things like "Hi I’m bubbles" and the person next to you would have a hat that said "I blow bubbles" and of course you’d be laughing at them because you can read it but they can’t until they take the hat off. It was quite entertaining. From there we then walked across the bridge and I got a lesson on the area while we both got to enjoy each others company. Truthfully it was a wonderful day and I was very sad to leave the next day but, I did have fun and I got to see an old friend.
The day after that I went to my brother’s house in New Palestine Indiana. Him and his wife both got a house not to long before and had told me I could crash there for however long I needed to. Once I got there I checked out downtown and got to walk the city a little bit. Cities aren’t really my thing though so I didn’t stay very long. Just long enough to see some sights eat some food and then go to my brother’s house. Once I got to their house I spent my time with the puppies and relaxed. When they got home we then went out to eat and once we got home they gave me gifts and we chatted. A nice warm place to spend time with family. A time that I won’t forget. I’m not very close with my siblings but I do know that any little time I get with them is worth more than the words can explain. So during that time I made sure to be attentive to the little things. To how they made me something delicious as a "cake". To how they kindly let me eat their food and bought me dinner. How I was taking up a bed for a night when they could have all said no. I think for them it was strange since I was by myself and I was only nineteen when I did the trip. It probably made them aware that I was growing up and that I wasn’t a kid anymore. Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend too much time with them as I probably would have liked but you take what you can get and it was still wonderful to see them.
From there I drove all the way to a KOA campground that was an hour away from Niagara Falls. For a night I stayed there and the next day I was on my way. Let me tell you something right now, Niagara Falls signs are not accurate in the slightest to those of us who HAVENT BEEN THERE, I don’t know how many times I had to turn around or I was unsure of where I was. My GPS kept getting turned around and it wasn’t getting any better the more I drove. After about an hour of driving in circles I finally found it.a real parking lot that was mostly empty but also free (other parking areas for Niagara Falls around about $10 to park). Once I let out my frustration and had calmed, I got out and started my journey to the Falls. The first thing I had to do was purchase a bracelet that would let me ride the trolley all day. From there I went to several different locations. The first was going to the falls and walking right up to them. You were given sandals and a free poncho with the purchase of a ticket and from there you went down an elevator and then came out to being literally right next to the falls. The second you stepped out of the elevator you were sprayed with water. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. They told you that there were different platforms you could go up on and you could go all the way to the top which they called the SPLASH ZONE and told us that if you went up there you could literally stand under the falls but you would be truly as soaked as you could in a very cheaply made poncho. Of course I ended up buying a waterproof camera and was taking pictures with it for most of the trip since I didnt want to ruin my real good camera. Lots of photos were taken and the experience was wonderful. Truly was spectacular. From there I then went to go check out some popular sights to take some pictures. They had several locations where you can "get your picture" taken with the falls behind you. After asking a complete stranger to take my picture I then discovered that I lost my shoes and spent half an hour of finding them and getting pointed in all kinds of directions and I got lost once again to the maze and misguidance of people in New York. Then the heavens were singing and I found them in the last shop I stopped at and they were returned to me. Thank Jesus for that. Afterwards I moved on to seeing if I could get a ticket to the Maid of the Mist. What they didn’t tell you was that the Maid of the Mist stops running around 6 p.m. Not steered away from my adventure I then moved onward to watching the sunset fall over Canada from the American side of the Falls and I even met a friend there. We chatted for a few hours and I took pictures until there was no more light in the sky. Eventually I had to part ways and from there I went to a hotel that was about $70 a night. Reason? Well I didn’t get to ride Maid of the Mist so I was staying until I did. So with that in mind I went to sleep and woke up in a hurry to experience the wonders of the boat ride. I again got lost finding my way around and once I found a spot to park I hurried to the ticket line, bought my ticket, went to the elevator and went down to the section where they handed out ponchos and boarded the boat. Once we took off I swear, I had never seen an experience like this one. You were so close you could feel the power of the falls underneath you. You could look up and see how strong the current was and just how tall the falls really are. I as memorized and I was so happy that I had decided to go, even though everyone else seemed to object the idea and tried to talk me out of it. The moment I saw the falls I knew that this was going to stick with me forever.
It still sits with me even now and if you haven’t seen the Falls, You should. It may just make you smile.
Ever since I was a little kid I have always thought that the world was so big and vast. I wanted to explore different parts of the world and see it with my own eyes. Yet I was always told that I may not be able to do that because the world has a set of standards we follow as a society. In order to pay for the things we want to do we have to do things we don’t want to do to have money to go places we want to go or spend it on things we want to own. To me that equation just didn’t make sense. Of course I wasn’t working yet and I was still small and defiant to the world and what it "wanted" me to do. It wanted me to abide to the rules and shift my personality to being submissive and give in to the way the world goes. It wanted me to give up so much of that freedom so that eventually I wouldn’t be able to taste it anymore. For years I wondered what that would be like. To loose taste of the freedom I so desired.
Once I turned sixteen I got my very first job. It was awful. I didn’t know what I was doing, the training was boring, the people were off, the place smelled and the manager was creepy but It was money. At the time I was also going to school and for me it was a lot for my brain to handle. Every time My dad would pick me up I would feel myself being drained emotionally. It was my first taste of the real world. I got to see how taxes came into play on a paycheck, I got to see what working was like, and I felt that pull to want to go home immediately. It was just not fun. My head was filled with all kinds of thoughts and I honestly just wanted to wish it all away. Working away wasn’t what I wanted.
The world though isn’t so easy to bend the rules for those who want to break the system. When I got let go from my first job I had to find another one immediately after that. Unfortunately it didn’t happen right away, it took me about eight months to get a new job. By then I was seventeen and had a drivers permit. From there the goal was to get a car and my driver’s license. I wanted a piece of freedom back and I fought my father to make it happen. I had gotten through the learning experience of driving a stick shift car, which was traumatizing but rewarding, and I was working at my new job pretty often. Yet I wanted to feel some piece of me was free. I was surrounded by adults in a world where I was learning that I had to work right then and there to make money. I was learning that the world isn’t as nice as we think it is. So, my father and I made a deal. Every month I had to pay him "car insurance" and the rest of my money I could use to what I needed or wanted. Yet at the end the goal was to get the Volkswagon to be mine. My car. My responsibility. My ticket to going where I wanted when I wanted to go. In a sense a small step towards regaining my freedom. For months I slaved away at this place that I hated working but the pay was good and I needed the money.
Then it happened. The job I hated so much but I tolerated closed its doors. Almost a month before my big day to getting my car and I was jobless again. But I had enough saved away to not have to worry. See the part I didn't share was that part of the deal for this "car insurance" was that half of what I owed him went in the safe and when I turned eighteen that money that was saved in the safe every month would then go to the car and having the title be under my name. I remember it so well. A month of being jobless gave me time to get excited about owning my very first "adult" item. A car. A beautiful car that worked like she was brand new and a car that I first learned stick shift in. Once that title was mine and "officially" became an adult I then planned to leave to go to Michigan to start a new life. Everything started from my father doing the right thing in trying to get me to understand that eventually I have to do what other adults do. Yet those words of wisdom being ingrained my brain also made me want to strive towards a different future for myself. I always say that my journey began when I left home for the first time, on my own, when I was eighteen and that is what started my traveling kick and its grown over the past three years. At least that’s what I say but, really it started with my own feelings of being trapped when I was a child. Always being told that the world was not going to bend the rules for just anybody.
Well that may be but, I know I will succeed in making my dream a reality and I will get what I want out of life, even if I have to fight everything and everybody to get to my goal. I will survive. I will succeed. I will be free.
There is a subject that always makes people uncomfortable. A women traveling alone to some place that is far, far away. People seem to think that saying that is unbelievable. Its crazy how few people in this commutative world all think the same thing; Traveling as a women is unsafe, crazy, and last dizzying. If I look back I can see why it would be so appalling. I mean there was more a chance of you disappearing without any communication before we made cell phones. Yes Cell phones are not available to everybody in the world but they are available to some out there. Having a cell phone changes a lot of things. It changes how we communicate, how we see the news, how we play games, how we can easily get lost in the world we see through our screens. The one thing out of those that is a most definite positive though is communication. Communication has never been easier and to have it is a blessing. Alongside that every time I travel somewhere by myself I make sure that someone knows when I will be leaving and when I am supposed to be back.
Traveling on your own as a women can sound super scary but for me it has opened my eyes to new things. It made me realize that driving to new places an be challenging when you are alone. Sometimes you get tired so you learn where to stop to get coffee and where you should just skip the town altogether because it’s a bad town you heard from a fellow traveler. Going somewhere alone teaches you how to manage your money while you are gone. Being alone means you don’t have someone to make sure you have enough or someone to pitch in when your short a few dollars. It means that you have to be in charge. It makes you slightly more independent.
You see more with your eyes then you do when you are with someone. In my time traveling alone I have realized how little I may have seen when I was with friends or family. When you travel with other people you cant really immerse yourself into the location your at. You want to enjoy the experience with the people you brought with you so you focus on them, what they are saying, or maybe the way their attitude will change. Sure its fun when you have other people with you and it can be cheaper but; in doing so you cant get to feel the environment your in. By traveling alone I have been able to step out of my comfort zone. I talk to strangers, I can choose where I want to go, I can enjoy a nice time with my body, mind and soul, and lastly I can take my time and rejuvenate myself.
Being afraid to do something new is normal. Listening to the stereotype is normal. But it is time to break the normal. Take that moment for yourself and step out of your comfort zone. Take a moment and go somewhere you haven't been to. Talk to the people. Have a drink. Listen. Smell. Feel the place your in and always, leave with at least one memento so that you can tell those you love back home how wonderful it was.
Step out into the world and see it with new eyes.
I just got back to my second home in Cartersville Georgia and I am bubbling with energy. Why? Well the reason is none other then you. I went to see you live for the first time and I have never felt like how I do now. The feeling is almost indescribable unless if you have experienced it yourself. Its almost like a soul touching feeling. I was maybe a couple rows from the front and I even met some new friends on this journey. With them beside me and conversing with me it just added icing on top of the cake so to speak.
See while you were making jokes about your song "Let Her Go" (and they were really good jokes) I couldn’t help but think of how awed I was at how interactive you were with all of us. Not many people who make it up in the music industry actually interact with the audience. You talking to us, joking, sharing stories, and just being real was such a huge thing and it made me feel like I was apart of something fantastic.
You have made so many wonderful songs that speak so many volumes to me. When Let Her go Came out I actually lost my best friend to an ex of mine. She was my perfect and ultimate friend. Someone who you cant replace in your life with just anybody. She was the one person who made me who I am today. In a way she molded me to be a person of character. I never saw myself as someone who was pretty or someone who could pull off tattoos, gauges, ear piercings, or anybody who could in general be interesting.She was the one who pushed me to be positive on myself and to be who I want to be. We were friends for two and a half years and I loved her all the way down to my bones. To her she's heard the story probably a thousand times from many different perspectives and she has moved forward and is in love and looking at a future with somebody at her side. It left me in the dark and alone. Even to this day I still feel that sadness inside but, thanks to you there was a little bit of light that stuck around. Originally she had introduced me to you and told me that I would like your music and that I should give it a go. So of course, I did and for a bit I wasn’t sure how to feel. It took a while of listening to your music to open up to the lyrics and get immersed in them.
Then when she was gone the song Let Her go really hit me hard. I don’t know how many times I have cried while listening to that song. I don’t know how many times I sang it until my throat was sore. I swear I lived off that song for such a long time. It helped me heal and as you released more songs it started to patch me up bit by bit. It was the same with Traveling Alone. I'm not sure what it was that caught me, maybe the title of the song and the relevance to my life as it is now or maybe it was the sound that hit me, to be honest I'm not sure. For me though it made me feel like things were finally moving forward in my life. Like I was doing so much better now then I ever have. I've found who I am over the past four years, I've started to grow more as I travel the world bit by bit and I've even started making friends out of strangers. To me that was all because your music gave a little bit of light I needed to let her go. To move onward and forward. I'm not healed completely or over it 100% but I am content with how I am and I am content with her not being there anymore. So I know this is cliché and you probably have read thousands of letters about how people were affected by your music and yea you may never ever read this but just know, I am forever grateful for that song Let Her Go.
So thank you for making music, it means I can continue to move forward and you were part of that process for me.
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