Stay Safe But Don’t Stay Home (Aunt Sassy’s Top 5 Solo Travel Tips for Women)

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While it sucks that we live in a world that we have to be so cautious,  it’s really handy for you that I’ve had some rough experiences while travelling so I can share my wisdom. You’re welcome.  Here are my top 5 solo travel tips for women……guys, you are also allowed to learn from this if you choose.

1. Take back ups of the important stuff.  Carry cash, and two credit or debit cards from different accounts. Keep one seperate from other stuff (keep one on you, one in your car,or hotel safe, etc) so you can access a way to get home if you are robbed, something is lost, etc. A prepaid VISA card works great too. If you are traveling by air, also take two forms of ID (passport and driver’s license) and do the same thing (keep them separate) to make sure you can get back on the plane. Also, don’t forget to let your bank or credit card company know where you are going to be before you go….sometimes they will shut your card off if they notice a bunch of random purchases in Mexico or if you are trying to purchase several hundred dollars worth of wine in Napa Valley (my bank obviously doesn’t know me that well if they thought was a weird purchase).  Getting stuck somewhere with no way to prove who you are or access to cash sucks….someday I’ll tell you about the time I got stranded in London with no money and had to barter for a pizza.
2. Keep your phone on you at all times. Even if you are just running into a rest area, keep your phone in your pocket. It’s your immediate line to 911 if you need help, plus if your car is stolen or suddenly explodes while you are grabbing a coffee, you again have a way to call for help (you also have a way to immediately call and cancel your credit cards if they are stolen in your car too….trust me on this.)
3. Open Your Eyes…not only will you experience more beauty around you, but you will also be more aware of any potential threats. You will also look stronger and less like a victim.  Be aware (and in awe) of your surroundings.  Eye contact is one of those things that can actually fend off potential threats because it doesn’t make you look like an easy target. Major exception to this is some Asian and Native American cultures and grizzly bears.
4. Make “Friends.” Whether you are staying overnight at a less than 4 star hotel, hitting a bar or restaurant in a strange city, camping out somewhere, look for opportunities to meet other people.  As a lone woman, you will often seem more approachable.  This becomes an awesome part of the experience, AND it’s safer. Not just cuz there is safety in numbers, but if people notice you and think you are friendly, you actually seem MORE aware and LESS victim material, and they will look out for you more as well. This can come in handy if you are getting hassled by creepy men (which are the ones you DON’T wanna befriend) or need to ask directions or recommendations for good places to visit while you are in the area.  You don’t have to exchange numbers and become best pals on facebook, but bond for the moment.  Someday I will tell you about the lady who bought me drinks all night in Ocean City, Maryland because she was so thrilled to find another solo woman travelling on her very first ever solo trip.
5. Trust your gut. Always. Try to figure out what you are concerned about if you aren’t feeling safe, but even if you can’t pinpoint it, just get out. You can, of course, avoid places like dark alleys and dingy parking garages, but sometimes they are unavoidable and frankly, even perfectly lovely settings can give you that hair standing up on the back of your neck feeling.  If you feel it, just get the hell outta there.  Go somewhere you feel safe. Do it calmly and do it quickly. Women’s instinct is a necessary awesomeness about us. Listen to it.

Again, Stay safe BUT DON’T STAY HOME!  Bon voyage!!!!

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Sometimes you can’t avoid dingy and abandoned parking garages when you take a wrong turn in an impulsive decision to go to Nashville for the evening.

Lina Sees Fat Aunt Sassy

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Ya know, when my sister first posted this pic, I immediately thought “Oh God, someone posted a full body pic of me on facebook” and then “oh, wow, I look so fat…no one should take pics of me sitting down like that!” and “why in the world am I scrunching my face up like that…it’s giving me ever MORE chins!??!!” And then I saw my beautiful niece’s face, laughing, lit up with delight and I quickly saw what she was seeing. She saw her hilarious “Aunt Sassy” getting hit in the face with bubbles and making one of those silly faces that Aunt Sassy always make, whether it gives her triple chins or not. She saw her Aunt Sassy sitting on the ground, getting down to her level, playing with her the way she wanted to play, not knowing that Aunt Sassy has been busting her butt the last few years to be more healthy and more fit so she not only get down on the ground and play, but maybe even get back up! She saw fun loving and beautiful Aunt Sassy not giving a hell about grass stains or achy muscles or messed up hair and she was filled with delight. She saw the real me.

Proof of Life

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Perhaps this is a bit counter-society, but I’ve been on a quest to learn to know and love myself, and in that quest, I’ve really started to notice the signs of my rapidly approaching 40’s on my body and face. I see these signs more on these lazy days when I skip the makeup, only wearing the smudgy leftovers of last night’s fun, because I never did get the hang of washing my face every night. The proof that I have lived and laughed hard are obvious in the wrinkles around the eyes, (which themselves are ongoing proof of my zest for life), the worn out pockets below my eyes are proof that I have worried and sacrificed and had many sleepless nights and made difficult decisions, the extra flab on my hips and chin is proof of a passion for cake and all things delicious, the frequent wincing and occasional limping in pain is proof that I chased adventure and got muddy last weekend, and the freckles and blotchy skin is proof that I chased life playing out in the sun. So, as I approach 40 (estimated arrival in  9.7 hours), I am definitely starting to see the consequences of aging. And I would not change a thing.  This is my proof of life.  Of REALLY living.

40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years

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1. Crying will get you anything you want.

2.  Never make fun of others.  Never ever.  It makes you a shitty pathetic shell of a person.  Plus it’s not nice.

3. Laughter really is the best medicine.

4. Sisters are your best friends for life.  Value them even when they annoy you.

5. Reading teaches you how to think.

6. Don’t grow out of having a vivid imagination.  Never stop wondering.

7. Food is important. Try as many new foods as possible.

8. It’s okay not to like things.

9. Tell someone about your nightmares out loud.  They lose their power when they aren’t left in the dark.

10. Don’t slouch.  Just because you are taller than everyone, stop trying to blend in.  Stand tall.

11.  Don’t spend so much time learning who to trust.  Instead, learn how to trust yourself.

12. You will always wonder what would have happened if you actually followed your childhood dream.

13.  Opinions, beliefs, and taste buds will change over time in your life.  Don’t hold so rigidly to the old ones, the new ones will open up new parts of your soul.

14. Learn how to really enjoy your own company.  YOU are the only sure thing that will always be with you.

15. Learn how to love your body.  It will accompany you to the grave and give you one hell of a ride on the way there.

16. Don’t ever be afraid to get your feet wet.

17.  Invest in good wool socks and waterproof shoes.

18.  Always keep your passport up to date.

19.  Always have a camera handy.

20.  Set goals for your life, your year, your day.

21.  Don’t be afraid to toss those goals out the window if you find better ones.

22.  Listen to music.  Every day.  As much as possible.

23.  Soup really is a meal.  If you don’t think this, you haven’t met the right soup.

24. Find one absolutely favorite dessert in the whole entire world and daydream about it whenever you want.

25.  Listen to and honor your parents.  But make your own choices.

26. Every woman should own a sexy black bra, one dress that makes her feel like Marilyn Monroe, and a power screwdriver.

27.  Walk as fast as you want to.  Walk as slow as you want to.

28.  Stop worrying so much about sentences that end in prepositions.

29.  Learn how to say “Thank You” in as many languages as possible.

30.  Eye contact and smiling is almost always the safest and most effective way of ruling your world.

31.  Always be aware of your surroundings.

32. Don’t worry so much about “finding your style.”  Create you own style and rock the shit out of it.

33. Coffee really is the elixir of life.

34.  Sex is insanely important.  Indulge as often as possible.

35. Buy red shoes if you want to.

36. There is magic wherever water and land meet.   Try to be there.

37.  Don’t spend so much time looking at the menu.  Just order the special.

38. Don’t ever regret anything.  It’s a useless emotion.

39.  Invest in a really good hammock.

40.  Birthdays should be celebrated.  Always.

41.  Always go an extra step from what is expected.

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Go It Alone.

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“Aren’t you scared to do that alone?!” I hear this question all the time. Usually, asked by other women who are either horrified or in awe (or both) of something that I decided to do as a woman, alone. All by my lonesome. Without someone else to keep me company. Without a man to protect me. Without anyone telling me where to go, how to get there, and what to do.

And my answer is almost always a confused “Why?” I don’t understand. Why would I be scared to do that alone? Sure, there are times when certain things are intimidating….for instance, I’m still not great at starting a fire by myself so it could be a cold camping trip, but I guarantee, if I don’t have someone else to do it for me, I’ll learn fast. I can feel a little self-conscious going into a nice restaurant by myself, but I’ve also learned that you often don’t need a reservation by yourself….they will always make room at the bar for a lone woman. You often get served sooner and you get a lot more attention from the bartender. Sometimes venturing out on a lone road trip seems a little lonely at first until you realize that you seem far more approachable as a solo woman and you will make friends quickly. Going to a movie by yourself ensures not having to share your popcorn. Traveling solo means you have to carry all your own luggage, but it provides you flexibility and speed dodging in and around people trying to catch your next plane. And please, suitcases have wheels now….I think you can handle it

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Now I realize that when another woman asks me “aren’t you scared to do that alone?” that she simply asking from her assumption that there are some things that women simply don’t do alone. Frankly, I think there is sometimes an assumption that, as women, we don’t ever actually want to be alone. Many of us like to talk. And talk a lot. And, preferably, that requires another human to listen, or at least smile and nod. But liking to talk does NOT negate the need for solitude. And quiet.

No one is surprised to hear that I am a rather loud person. For real. I might actually be the loudest person in the entire world. I live my life out loud. I even talk, giggle, and occasionally sing in my sleep. It’s who I am. Deal with it. But I need solitude. Lots of it. I crave it. I become unbearable to be around if I don’t get it. And I’m tired of people thinking that is strange. I hate that people assume I don’t love my husband enough if I would sometimes rather to go somewhere by myself. I hate that friends feel slighted and think I am mad at them if I would rather go shopping by myself. I feel bad when people wanna hike or run with me to support me, but I truly need that time of solitude or renewal. I feel guilty for being a bad hostess when I have to go take a nap with guests around just so I can chill out somewhere alone. But I’ve learned to do it.

I’ve learned that I need solitude. And I make it a priority.

But solitude doesn’t have to always happen while sitting alone quietly in the dark somewhere. (Although that is one of my faves too). Solitude and chasing adventure are not mutually exclusive.

I love adventure. I love thinking and daydreaming about places I wanna go someday, things I wanna do, and foods I wanna try. And frankly, in these daydreams, I am usually alone. Doesn’t mean I don’t ever wanna do anything with others, but when it comes down to it, Me, Myself, and I are a sure thing. My husband will probably always like to go backpacking with me or try out a new brewery, but we don’t always have the same work schedule. I have friends that love the opera and musicals, but they don’t always want to go to the same ones that I wanna see. And I LOVE road trips, but sometimes people just don’t wanna randomly and impulsively cram into a car and drive to Memphis . So guess what?! If others can’t or don’t wanna do what you wanna do when you wanna do it, DO IT ALONE!!

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I can’t think of any adventure that a woman can’t do alone in our day and age. Whether its camping, fixing cars, going to art museums, wine tasting, travelling to Bora Bora or Chicago, hiking or starting a fire, there is probably a way to do it alone. Hell, thanks to science, women are even making babies kinda alone. Please understand, I am, in no way, suggesting that woman don’t encounter some additional risks and barriers that men might not have to consider as much. These risks should never ever be ignored. They should be considered, weighed, and addressed (feel free to ask me for some tips on this, you know I’ve got some), but never used as an excuse to stay home or not do what you wanna do. In the words of veteran female traveler Zahara Hecksch, “stay safe but don’t stay home.”

I propose that if there are things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t ever find anyone to do it with you, do it alone. Travel, take a class, visit a museum, start reading about fuel injection systems, learn karate, go hiking, go to Tre Cugini for tiramisu. Stop waiting.

The Things I Hate About Myself and How They Make Me Awesome: Chapter 2.

Chapter 2: My Body.   I’ve always hated my body (well, as soon as I started to get messages that it wasn’t good enough).  I’ve been too fat from the time I started going through puberty.  Went on my first diet in 6th grade, have been trying to lose weight ever since.  I’ve also always hated how uncoordinated and unathletic I am…..my body simply wouldn’t do all those things it was supposed to be able to do ..  Then , to add confusion to it, there were times that being extra busty or too blonde or too blue eyed got me the wrong kind of attention that made me crappy about myself too.  And of course, I always assumed those things were my fault.   Frankly, I could write  an entire series of books  making  The Song of Ice and Fire series look shortlived  about  all the things I hate about my body.    It would include chapters called Too Fat, Too Tall, Too Busty, Too Blonde, Not Blonde Enough, Not Tall Enough, Too Clumsy, Too Dawdy, Too Flashy, What’s With That Mole Anyway?, Too Girl Next Door, Not Nearly Girl Next Door Enough, Baby Got Back, Lazy Eye, Lazy Ass, Why Wasn’t I Born in a Culture that Adores my Curves?, Why Won’t People Stop Grabbing Me, and of course, Why Do I Keep  Tripping Over Shit?  Yesterday, I was doing some online window shopping….trying to find a swimsuit that covers up the girls a little better.  Sure, the extra low cleavage ones are great for getting a tan down to your belly button and for getting random invites from men to their beach cookouts of for margaritas on their pontoon boats, but I really don’t always want to scare small children or accidentally bring home entire clumps of kelp that got lodged in there.  Anyway, as I was browsing I was looking for the key  phrases “minimizes bust” and “covers up hips.”  I was getting frustrated because I kept finding things that boasted “maximizes bust” and “adds shape.”  WTF.  Why would anyone be looking for something to make their boobs look bigger and to look curvier?    Then, it occurred to me (again), that we all sure spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to look like someone else.   We all do.  Especially us  chicks.  Maybe the guys do too, I honestly don’t know.  But I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard my own derogatory insults about myself coming out of the mouth of a beautiful woman I envied about herself.   It’s like we are all trying to fit into this perfect mold of what beauty is, but no one can fucking agree on what that is.  No shit, Sherlock.  Because it doesn’t exist.  It’s a pointless pursuit.

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How Does This Make Me Awesome?  Because I’m starting to get it.   I’m starting to understand that this messed up body image thing is pretty universal and it’s universally bullshit.  I also never felt pretty or attractive or especially “girly” most of my life, so instead , I put a lot more effort into being smart, funny, and kind.   I realized early on that those traits were far more important.  And, now as an adult, I’m starting to understand that being “sexy or smart” doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.   But “sexy” or ‘beautiful” have to be defined by ME, not by others.  And, after a lifetime of comparing myself negatively to others, I’m really good at spotting beauty in others and around me.  And if you simply take the comparison out, you can revel in a lot of beauty around you.  And beauty is contagious…when you start to notice and appreciate that….the beauty in others…..you will start to be inspired about your own beauty.  A little inspiration never hurt anybody.

 

The Stacy Rule of Flair

“I don’t have a thing to wear!” How many times have we said this out of frustration and total despair? What we really mean is “I don’t have a thing to wear that makes me look the glamorous cover girl that I really wish I was!” Unless you are saying it because your luggage got lost and you actually gave someone the shirt off your back and you are now walking around naked….then you might actually mean it. But when I wail, “I don’t have a thing to wear” I am actually saying “I don’t like me today.” I don’t like how I look. I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m not good enough. Has anyone ever said to you “oh, honey, you would look great in a potato sack.” Uh, no. I wouldn’t. No one would look good in a potato sack. Potatoes don’t even look good in a potato sack!

Here’s the deal. I woke up this morning in a goddamn whiny ass funk. I woke up an hour before my alarm just laying there thinking “I should get up and work out.” Then I kept laying there. Then when my alarm inevitably went off, I hit snooze. And laid there some more thinking “I just don’t wanna.” Dragged myself up, took a shower, got the coffee started, and went and looked in my closet. Ugh. Boring. The same worn out clothes I’ve always had. Nothing fun. Nothing new. Which, frankly, is fine, because at least it reflects how I feel about myself. Nothing fun. Nothing new.

This mental state is what we call, in clinical terms, “in a funk.” Even those generally cheerful and happy and flouncy and shit occasionally suffer from this Funkenstate. We all occasionally channel our inner Bride of Funkenstein. The best way to handle it is basically, well, just get over it. Get your ass outta bed and find something to wear. First priority, just cover your body. Unless you are going to the Nudist Conference and Camp Jiggles-a-Lot today, just find some underwear, pants, and shirt. Cover that sweet ass up.

Then…..and this is where is gets annoying but strangely effective…..apply the Stacy Rule of Flair. When you are feeling crappy, boring, ugly, or otherwise blah, you OVERcompensate from said lack of fabulousness by FLAIR. Flair it the fuck up, sweet cheeks! You’ve already got your boring ass earth tones on…now find some jewelry, some dangly earrings, some purple eye shadow, a more colorful scarf, or throw a flower brooch into your boring but efficient ponytail. You can say “I’m just not feelin’ it today.” I don’t care. You don’t have to feel it. You just have to do it. Get over yourself. Bring some spring. Spread the cheer. No belief required. Only action. However you wanna put it. Try it. I dare ya.

You don’t need to be a cover girl. There are more than enough cover girls out there (and frankly, they are insignificant enough that I can’t even think of any of them by name right now). What the world really needs is more of YOU. Your awesomeness, your fabulous smile, your gritty determination to make the best of today despite the fact that you wanted to stay in bed and cry and have someone bring you bacon and chocolate, your own quirky style, YOUR FLAIR. I’m not leaving my house today without it. And I’ll be looking for yours.382210_10151348486296129_404640133_n

Holy Crap, I started a blog.

Well, I meant to just whine about how I never seem to finish anything I’ve started, such as starting a blog, over coffee this morning. Instead, I whined about never seeming to finish anything I’ve started, such as starting a blog, and then my husband handed me my laptop and said “You seem to have time now”, so I started a blog. Partially to shut him up, but nonetheless, it’s on. Prepare yourself world. Now, for that second cup of coffee.

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Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Odd Geometric Print Bikini.

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I have a story about this bikini…..this is my ugly but lots of support one, so I wore it under my hiking clothes on a long hike one day. After my hike, I was sweaty and gross and wanted desperately to go jump into the lake. I’ve always wanted to be able to wear a bikini under my clothes (without having to wear a dress over my bottoms because I always wore a skirt bottom to cover my giant ass). Anyway, I drove straight to the lake, grabbed my towel, and marched confidently to the water……then froze with fear. Literally paralyzed, sitting by the lake thinking “OMG, there are too many people here, they are gonna point and stare and snicker.” There were at least a dozen people there. And then I thought “I really have a responsibility to society to cover up more than what I’m wearing under these clothes…NO ONE wants to see this!” Continued to sit there in terror. AND then THE WORST THING EVER HAPPENED! Right then, a pontoon boat FULL OF HOT MEN pulled up. Seriously, I’m positive none of them will want to see this ample white ass shaking it’s way to the water. OMG. Still paralyzed, now ready to bawl. At this point, I”m feeling so insecure I don’t even wanna get up to walk to my car….”maybe I can sit here until dark and no one will notice?” Sigh. But I knew I would never forgive myself if I lost this battle against my inner timid fat little girl. Thought about how badly I needed a shot of tequila and someone to cue the stripper music. Then I did it for myself. I imagined myself slamming a tequila shot, I stood my ample ass up, shimmied out of my pants, started playing Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” in my head, stripped my “got curves” tank top off as seductively as I could, turned towards the water, took my ponytail out and shook my unruly blonde hair out total hot girls in music video style while walking, NAY….while SASHAYING my way into the lake (still listening to Queen in my head) and plunged in. After dipping into the lake a bit, I looked back at shore with trepidation and noticed….that no one noticed me. No one stared, no one pointed, no one snickered, no one cared. And I cried. Out of relief, out of joy, out of sheer ecstasy that I had conquered yet another fear. I am fucking woman. Hear me roar. (And splash around a bit in sheer glee).

 

About Fat Aunt Sassy

Fat Aunt Sassy Sees the World is this 40 something woman’s musings and observations about chasing adventure and living life to the full in a sometimes scary, complacent, cruel, and monotonous world.   It’s about being fat in a skinny world, it’s about being an aunt in a world where women are expected to be mothers, it’s about being sassy as hell when the world demands demure and fragile, and it’s about seeing as much of the world as possible when sometimes I just wanna stay home.  Aunt Sassy has things to say about body image, independence,  travel, solitude,  developing a bad ass sense of self, perspective, hiking,  luggage, shoes, and fashion,  facing fear, loving self, loving others, and most definitely loving cake.   Obviously.

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