In my last entry, I wrote about some of my observations as an author who took herself on tour for the first time. Now, I am going to share with you a few things I did while travelling that kept me centred. I knew when I started this tour that I was going to essentially be “on” for seven days, which meant that I needed to remind myself to do things that would keep me balanced.
Pack for Success (Or maybe I overpacked, who is to say?): Deb Ohi has this very helpful post about how to pack for an author tour, with some excellent tools and strategies on how to pack. This was my go to when I considered what I was going to bring. Deb suggests bringing two good outfits that can be washed easily, but I knew I would be on the road every few days and not anywhere long enough to allow my clothes to dry (most of my things are cotton and need to be hung), nor would I want to spend my free time washing clothes. Instead, I chose to bring things that travelled well and could be mixed and matched. Also, travelling to the East Coast meant layers, as the weather shifts from cool to warm, particularly on PEI.
I decided to eat the carry on charge and take my medium sized Tracker suitcase and bring my Swiss Army bag as my second carry on for certain things (books, let’s be honest, I knew I would be bringing and buying books during my trip) and my larger bag purse for my computer and other items, packing a smaller purse in my suitcase so I didn’t have to take the bigger computer bag everywhere.
I made a list of everything I would bring, outlining which outfit I would wear for everyday.
I also knew there would be days I would have more than one event, so having something that wore well, or that I could change tops half way through the day was also important. For example, on the first Tuesday, I had the TV spot really early and then the Box of Delights event in Wolfville that evening. I brought two different tops for that day, but wore the same skirt. (I also brought my nicer sandals for these events, while bringing my berks for every day.) (See Have Fun! and Downtime is Necessary).
Other days I was travelling long distances to an event, so wearing something comfortable was essential. One of my favourite summer skirts is made of bamboo, so it wears really well. This was great to wear on the day I had a reading and then had to drive or fly. Again, one skirt, two different tops.
Fact is, except for a long sleeved shirt , I wore everything I brought–okay except the bathing suit. I’m not sure why I even bring a bathing suit, I never use it. We do need to be mindful of what we bring when we travel, given the stress of airports these days, coming ready and traveling light is important, but I also knew I would be in scenarios where I would not feel comfortable, so having a plan of what to wear helped.
Bring Talismans or Things that Remind You of Home or Ground You: It might be extra weight, but there are things I always bring with me when I travel so it feels like a bit of home, bring me back to self. This includes my journal (even if I don’t get a chance to write in it, which happened this trip), crystals–because they enjoy travelling–, tarot cards of some kind (although this trip I left them at home) and essential oils.
I’ve been using Young Living oils off and on for years and they have some excellent blends. You want good quality oils that don’t use preservatives or watered down by chemicals. On this trip I brought with me: Joy and Pan Away.
Wonderworks in Toronto also creates their own incense and essential oils . This trip I used Frankincense and Lavender oil to help me sleep. Part of my night/sleep regime is to also to use foot cream, because I was on my feet all day. I’ve been trying out the Sage Wellness products, and quite like their peppermint cream.
I’ve also wear this necklace with a charm from my great-grandmother, Bubie Merka, that she received from Pioneer Women for her work with them and a pendant that a friend of mine from work bought for me. When I put them on, I know I’m ready.
This trip, I found an excellent square compact travel kit with velcro pockets where I could keep my jewelry, crystals, oils and hair supplies.
If You Know People Where You’re Going, Make Time for Them: I’m very fortunate to know people in Halifax and
on the Island and one of the first things I did was create space in my schedule to spend time with them. In some cases, this would be the first time I would meet them in person. Yes, sometimes it could feel like a first date, but in my experience, it was more like picking up on a conversation we had already started online. I remained open, too, to the idea of meeting the writing community as I’m all about connecting creative people and having a supportive Canadian and International community of artists helping one another can only lead to more awesome.
I also got to explore the cities I was visiting and learn more about Montgomery’s connections to places, like Halifax. I’m very grateful to my friends who took time out of their busy lives to take me in, play tourist, and have me as a dinner guest. Sarah Emsley wrote about our travels in Halifax on her blog. I hope you’ll check it out.
Bring Snacks: Snacks are essential on a road trip, even if you think you aren’t going very far. Keeping oneself fuelled with healthy snacks will mean less accidents later on. I always stop at a health food store and get nuts and power bars, plus things like Kale or veggie chips. I might also take portable fruit, like apples, pears, or nectarines (something that won’t hopefully get squishy.) Also, if there are multiple events and no time to eat, then having snacks to keep ones blood sugar up is essential. I also made sure I brought water with me in my VCFA water bottle. If it was possible, I’d stop somewhere before an event. When I did the Indigo event, I went to David’s Tea and got myself my favourite blend, Alpine Punch, which I used often while writing MAUD. Having a tea that was refreshing (iced is the best) and reminded me of when I created MAUD, kept me focused.
Take Care of Your Voice: A few writers have informed me that after multiple school visits or events, by the end of the week, their voice is tired or gone. Writers spend most of their time not speaking–unless we are talking out loud to one of our characters–so when we are doing readings or giving talks it can take a lot out of us, both physically and emotionally.
But I forgot this. While, I had made sure that I always had water with me, or tea, to drink when I was doing a reading or talk, I didn’t always remember to actually take a sip. Making a mark on the page to pause and drink sometimes helps in this, but, again, I forget. By the third day of my tour, I woke up with a sore throat and realized how much I had been talking. My body was warning me that if I didn’t take care of my voice, I would lose it.
I suspect that actors and singers, people who use their voice as an instrument for their profession have conversations around this and do things to take care of it. When I mentioned this to a few performers they confirmed this observations. How else do they keep it in such good shape if you’re performing many five or six shows a week?
I remembered my vocal exercises from music all those years ago and started doing them in the bathroom. (I wonder what my friends thought when I started going “Me Mai Ma Mo Moo” while in the shower.) I also drank tea with lemon and tried not to talk unless it was totally necessary. I remembered to speak from my diaphragm (most of the time) and not my throat. All of this seemed to help and my voice stayed in good shape for the rest of the trip.
Down Time is Necessary: I had the good fortune of having friends who were willing to loan me a couch or a guest room and that meant a certain amount of socialization that I don’t do on a regular basis. I live a fairly quiet home life with my partner and cat, so there are days where I don’t really talk to anyone until he gets home. It was good to be in homes with kids and pets and shake me out of my comfort zone. I do get a lot from being in these short bursts of activity and I’m grateful for my friends for allowing me into their homes when they have so much going on.
Still, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t important for me to have boundaries for myself, to take moments to be quiet within so that I can be the best possible Mel I could be out in the world. It helped that I was doing a lot of driving and listening to podcasts and audio books (see section on Entertainment When Driving), which nurtured my creative self and also gave me moment to just be in story–or other people’s stories– for awhile.
One morning when I had a couple of hours before I had to be anywhere (and my friend knows this), I woke up and heard my friend and her family getting ready for their day, I decided to stay in bed and do some reiki and meditation. This gave them the space they needed to get started on what was an earlier day for them and for me to take the time I needed to rejuvenate. After they left, I listened to some music and had my breakfast, having quiet time (see Take Care of Your Voice).
I took walks and found time to write. When I was in Charlottetown, I had a few hours everyday where I could walk along the boardwalk and look at the water. I could have done more social media and promotion, but I decided walking (after being in the car for many hours each day) was necessary exercise and good to clear my head.
Although I didn’t write everyday (I was honestly too exhausted at the end of the day or I was taking in so much it was hard to focus), by day five I found I needed to write so I snuck an hour at one of my favourite places, The Kettle Black, and worked on a scene that I’ve been revising for one of my WIPs. I also snuck writing time on the plane on the way to Halifax and my last morning when visiting a friend in Riverport. Weirdly, while I knew I was doing something very important and I wanted to do it, part of me felt guilty for not writing. This alleviated that worry.
Entertainment While Driving: A shout out to my Facebook friends who gave me some of the most excellent recommendations of podcasts and audiobooks for my travels. I don’t mind long road trips as long as the weather is good and have good music to listen to. But when it more than a few hours, it is nice to have an audio book to listen to. When I was a kid, my parents would take us camping and they would listen to various audiobooks from the library and it did help make the time go faster.
I was generally on the road for about three to four hours a day, depending on how far I was driving and I knew I was going to have a lot of time on my own (which was good), but was going to need to stay awake and be entertained. So I asked those in the know what they listened to. I tend not to listen to a lot of talking podcasts and things because I write and the words would confuse things or I’ll miss something. This was an excellent excuse to learn something new as well.
Here were some of the things I listened to while driving:
- The History Chicks: Episode 91: Emily Post — did you even know she had written fiction? I had no idea. I listened to this while driving around Halifax. It was great and made me see how much I am fascinated by the first few decades of the early 20th century. Who knows who this will translate to work later…
- Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin: This was highly recommended by a few of my friends, particularly the interviews with Molly Ringwald and Sarah Jessica Parker. I ended up also listening to one he did with Julie Andrews and Kristen Wiig. What was interesting for me was listening to their journey to acting. Given where I’m at in the stage of “Will I ever get another book published?” this kinda sorta helped. Also, Julie Andrews!!
- You Must Remember This: While travelling last summer, the boyfriend and I had listened to the second season where Karina Longworth explores the rise and fall of MGM . I find MGM particularly fascinating because I love old movies, these ones in particular, and, yet, I know it wasn’t as sunny as the movies made things out to be. There is a story for me in this, I just don’t quite know what it is yet. So, I returned to it and listened to the final episode.
- Hamilton: Because. Hamilton. (Also, it is almost three hours. In case you were wondering, it turns out you can listen to about the first act and a half from River John, NS to Charlottetown, PEI.)
- Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can: I seem to like funny memoir-type reads that are light-ish, but have a bit of life lessons, “artists on a journey” type things.. I knew that Graham was also pursuing writing and, frankly, I was curious. This was most enjoyable and I highly recommend it. It helped to hear about some of her insecurities and willingness to laugh at herself. I kinda need to be better at this. This entertained me all over the Island. It was a good way to settle into someone else’s story between events.
- Makenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: I wanted a good story I could get lost in, but not too heavy. Highly recommended by Tiff over at Mostly YA Lit, who writes a great review about it, the voice was fresh, the cast was diverse, and it was an historical fiction I didn’t find myself thinking “oh, I should have done that!” (Which up until recently was what I was doing when I read historical fiction.) I started listening to this from Dartmouth to Riverport, NS and didn’t stop until Tuesday afternoon in Toronto.
It was a very rewarding week and having these moments of self care helped to keep me balanced, returning home to rest and rejuvenate–which I will talk about in my next blog post.