Fond memories: Pissing on Texas

I’ve been absent, but I haven’t been loafing; I’ve been busy planning and executing a new life in Southern California.

About four years ago, my husband and I moved to Austin, Texas. We’d bought into the city’s hype about being the “blueberry in the red sauce” of the state of Texas, along with its promises of jobs and an inexpensive cost of living, and set up shop in the “live music capital of the world.”

We soon discovered, much to our dismay, that the reality did not match all of the big talk. Greenest city? Our apartment complex didn’t even recycle! Great weather? Summers stretch from April to October, with most days in the 100s plus humidity! Plenty of jobs? Sure, if you like minimum wage toil even at high-tech companies! Live music? Only if you’re into country/western and bar bands who think Coldplay is pushing the boundaries of musical invention!

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and that certainly applies to the PR flacks spinning tall tales about Austin. The only true thing about their claims is that the place is hip – if by “hip” you mean “crammed to the rafters with hipsters.”

Almost immediately, we began plotting to move again. This time to our original destination: California.

It took four years to save up the money for our move, but we’re finally here. Of course, the journey didn’t go smoothly. Texas wanted to give us a few final fuck-you’s, including:

  • The rental truck that had no AC throughout our desert drive, and broke down when we finally made it to New Mexico;
  • The lingering colds that both my husband and I caught as we finally crashed in Las Cruces; and
  • One very angry cat, stuck in a carrier without food, water or a litterbox for 10 hours on our first day on the road.

Thanks to a general lack of signage concerning rest areas (most states are kind enough to post “Next rest area, X miles” signs – but not Texas!), I wound up having to pee by the side of the road in order to avoid bursting my bladder or soiling the rental truck. As I wiped myself with an ironic “Keep Calm and Carry On” tissue, a trucker driving past honked at the sight of my naked ass barely hidden behind some pointy sagebrush. I flipped him the bird out of sheer force of habit (the Bronx in me dies hard), but later decided I was proud of having gotten a chance to literally piss on the state before exiting it forever.

Pissing on Texas is, in fact, my favorite memory from my time spent in the Lone Star State.

My second favorite? Coining a new bumper sticker, parodying this Texas favorite:


Here’s my version:


I look forward to never, ever returning.


The ultimate budget traveler: How to travel on $0 per day

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I’d love to travel, but I just don’t have the money!”, here’s your antidote.

Michael Wigge traveled the world for FREE, going from Berlin, Germany all the way to Antarctica on $0 per day.

Michael Wigge in Antarctica (photo via The Age)

Michael Wigge in Antarctica (photo via The Age)

How did he do it? Well, you’ll have to watch his DVD or buy his ebook to find out the whole crazy story (or click here for a summary from The Age), but the greater take-home point is this: even if you’ve got no money to spend on travel, if you want to do something, you will find a way to make it happen.

Wigge made his way across several continents with no cash whatsover, dumpster diving for food and hitchhiking, or relying on the kindness of strangers in order to meet his goals. He also worked a variety of odd jobs and used his skills as a comedian to charm money or services out of people, usually by doing funny things like charging $1 per sit as a human sofa.

While you don’t necessarily have to set your spending as low as $0 per day, you can certainly use these lessons to help decrease the cost of your travels by taking a working holiday abroad, performing odd jobs once you arrive, or otherwise offering your skills and services to locals in order to help fund your trip. And who knows? Maybe you could even make money while you travel—what a novel concept!

So what would you do to travel the world, and how can you make your dreams come true?

Top 10 places to visit before I die

All good flâneurs have a “bucket list” of places they’d like to visit before they die. Here’s mine:

  1. South of France – I’ve been to Paris, and even to Brittany, but I’d love to see more of France, including the wine country and the Basque region

    Photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck In Customs

    “South of France” (photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck In Customs)

  2. Spain – On a related note, I’d love to visit Spain’s tapas bars and see Gaudí and Dalí’s works up close
  3. Italy – Who doesn’t want to visit the birthplace of pizza, the Renaissance, and the concept la vita e bella?
  4. Iceland – Home to Björk, hot springs and the increasingly mythical polar ice caps, I’d want to stay in an ice hotel

    "Epic Iceland" (photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck In Customs)

    “Epic Iceland” (photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck In Customs)

  5. Bora Bora – This is thanks to my husband, who is a big fan of Gauguin
  6. Thailand – Buddhist temples and spicy Thai food? Yes, please.
  7. New Zealand – Cooler than Australia, adjacent to Tazmania, off the beaten path
  8. India – Sacred cows and elephants, and a chance to appreciate my relative wealth (despite my poverty by American standards)

    "Halls of India" (photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck In Customs)

    “Halls of India” (photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck In Customs)

  9. Japan – Cherry blossoms in bloom, an ancient tea ceremony, hot springs and relaxation
  10. Ireland – I’ve been to the UK, but I’ve only seen England thus far; time spent hiking the Emerald Isles and waiting for sheep to cross the road would be time well spent

That’s my list. What’s yours?