Friday, June 10, 2016

My First Overnight Festival: Cosmic Reunion

I've been to a few concerts and back. I've even accidentally snuck into a music festival on it's last day. It really was an accident though...really.

Despite all of that, I have never camped at a festival. Bonnaroo has always been on my wish list but for some reason I never have an extra $400 to spend at the beginning of the summer...weird.

Cosmic Reunion (or hippiefest as I and many others have so lovingly named it) is a music/ art/ craft festival a little ways outside of St. Louis, MO in the quiet town of French Village in the even quieter crevasse of Astral Valley. A friend told me about it back in April and I figured for a measly $65 for four days and no vendor's fees, I couldn't go wrong.

Vocalist: "There goes the naked man again."
At first glance, the festival seemed pretty understaffed but it didn't matter. Within the first thousand feet of the entrance, my eyes feasted upon art installations anywhere from a few inches to fifty feet tall. Vivid colors scattered across the open meadow in front of the half rickety looking, half uber high tech stage. Crafters, masseuses, wild mushroom hustlers and other vendors were packed to the brim (my spot saved, of course) along the dirt road everyone called "shakedown street". Despite the lack of clear guidelines outside of a very general map, everyone somehow figured out exactly where to park camp and exist without getting in each other's way. The setup was pretty perfect.

"This thing seems a bit unstable."
"Eh, it's fine."
"Your bike is awesome."
"Thanks! It glows in the dark."
Cosmic Reunion changed me in many ways. Coming from where most people either blindly mind their businesses or are all up in everyone's businesses for the most superficial of reasons, it was wonderful to see the amount of sharing, bartering and community going on. While selling my bags, my jewelry-making neighbors, Kim and Jake passed around rum. After a nice conversation with the bag lady next to me, she handed me fresh hot pancakes. On the last day, a man complimented one of my bags so I gave him a tote. In return, he gave me a beautiful piece of blown glass. After that, I traded a couple of more bags for tie-dye overalls and priceless cheap fabric-finding information. Those without much money were always willing to trade and people were mostly happy to agree.

Not only was there an active trading community; there was a surplus of creativity. Everyone, seemed to have something creative to contribute, even if they didn't bring an installation. On my first day, there were but a few rock sculptures along the river. By the last night you couldn't walk a few feet without seeing even the smallest of rock sculptures. Even kids got to paint and draw on a few installations. Between the amount of creativity and the people who were giving out "free hugs" I thought I could stay in that atmosphere forever.

The festival changed me. It reassured me that there are still many people in this world who are 100% willing to live outside of an oligarchical system that focuses on helping oneself.  Here everyone put away predisposed prejudice and paranoia  to help one another out. Even the artists forsook credit for their art. Who built that giant intricate 50 foot bird's nest? I have no idea.

While the festival played a big part in my changing my perspective, the preparation played a big part in my confidence. About a month or so before Cosmic Reunion I had stumbled upon about 50 or so free burlap coffee bags from a local KC coffee place (thanks Craigslist!) so I bought a sewing machine and gathered all of my acquired fabric, went at it and made whatever I thought would sell.

Mentally, I'm extremely self destructive so while I was going through the learning curve of making bags, my usual self explained -quite loudly and in detail- to my self esteem why this was a horrible idea and a waste of time and how I won't be able to enjoy the festival and it would lead to nothing. I actually cried a little. I'm pretty hard on myself. But this time around I just pushed on and kept telling myself that I could do it. And guess what?! I did it! I finished up with a reasonable amount of product, sold most of it and I got to enjoy the festival.

 So now here I am, a couple of weeks later. Bug bites healing. Van all cleaned out. Preparing more burlap to be turned into bags. Googling how to do fire poi.  The tingle of Cosmic Reunion has finally worn off. It's another day. But thanks to the festival, I'm another me.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Don't Murder Your Boss: How to Cope With Leaving Your Job

"Project Doorman" is the day OT officially and ever-so-gracefully walks out the door of the conventional workforce and embarks on a journey of living to ¡Olvídalo!"

      Those words sat under my countdown widget. They also sat in my mind for weeks. I imagined several exit scenarios. Do I just leave quietly, dust my feet off and never look back? Do I smile and make much ado about how I'll miss everyone while tearing up and acting like the past year wasn't hell? Do I pull a Jerry Maguire and mic drop while everyone says good riddance?


     The surprising thing is some time after I gave my three month notice the world became a bit of a happier place. The weight just slid off of me and I could do my job with more joy (or maybe the bosses were easier on me). I didn't try any less but the fact that no matter what I did it wouldn't be good enough didn't even matter, anymore. 

Dropped a sherry glass? 

These things happen. 

Housekeeper called out and I have to clean a bunch of rooms? 


A guest wants to cancel a room the day before and I have to tell them we'll be charging them the full price of the room for cancelling, even if it's because their child got pneumonia?

It's all good.

Boss e-mail blasts the other innkeepers using me as an example of what NOT to do?

Annoying but fine. 

 I stopped freaking out. I stopped crying in an empty guest room for fear that I would have a myriad of notes about everything I did wrong the day before. I just didn't care. I tried my hardest; wiped my feet of it; told everyone I'd think of them and then mic dropped (more accurately I mic dropped the Day Book in front of the other innkeepers and received and ovation) and walked out like nothing ever happened. After months of thinking I would Jerry Maguire all over the place I somehow managed to keep my head. 

Granted it took a LOT of prayer. God had to help me because seriously I was way beyond helping myself.

Here's my advice when you are on that final stressful few months before you begin your Olvidalo life:

1. Don't Freak Out. I know it's easier said than done. I get it. You hate your job. You hate your coworkers. You hate your boss. You hate your commute. You hate EVERYTHING. But there is likely a reason you are waiting a year or a few months. I bet you it's money. You can't make money if you are cursing out your coworker. If you get fired, you'll have to find another job, start all over and wait even LONGER. But if you don't freak out, in a year's time or a few months or weeks time you will be walking out of that door and starting a life lived by your own rules. When your brain wants to explode just think of that. That douchebag will be still be there and you will be on the beach sipping rum. Or in a 3rd world country helping children get a better life. Or building a church where talk of Jesus is banned. Or bouldering in Yellowstone. That's when you smile at the douchebag in front of you and call it a day.

2. Don't Burn Your Bridges.Yes you could call everyone the names they probably deserve to be called on the last day and give your boss a thirty page thesis on how to run his or her business. But don't. The world will spin on without you and you will be out the door spinning some more. It isn't your problem anymore. Besides, you may hate this job now but you may enjoy it freelance or part time. When you become a professional traveler you will need money. Wouldn't it be nice to do something you are already qualified to do without the whole job search BS? I personally go back to a lot of the jobs. I took a break from writing and became a freelancer. I took a break from baking but I still go back to the bakeries I've worked for to throw some dough every once in a while (bakeries are always understaffed). I even told the owners of the last place to give me a call if someone calls out.

3. Don't Self Destruct. I got into a very bad habit of stress eating at this job. I've gained 15 pounds. Use coping mechanisms that will only result in positivity. Pray, knit, sing...whatever. If you find yourself eating five bags of chips every day or drinking excessively and saying "it's only until I quit", it's a bad habit.

4. Take A Break. I was so mentally drained from focusing on not going nuts at work I had no energy for anyone else. I was EXTREMELY irritable and I dumped it everywhere. Consequently, I took a break from my social life and all social media for a couple of weeks. I'm very glad  I did.

5. Put In Your Notice At The Right Time. Your boss is human. They have emotions. They can be petty or grateful. Ask yourself the hard questions and be realistic. Is it hard to replace you? Will your boss be grateful if you give them time to replace you or will they make your life a living hell to get you to leave faster? If you tell your boss far in advance, will they cut your hours for the next few weeks or months? The answer to these questions coincide with number 2. The point is to leave your boss as content (content because they will never be fully happy) as they will ever be in case you need to come back. It should go without saying to never give less than two weeks notice. At that point not only will your boss be mad at you. Your coworkers will be pissed that they have to pick up your slack. Even the ones you think are your friends.

6. Make Your Last Two Weeks Amazing. Here's a fun fact. Unless you were a genuinely horrible employee, your boss will mostly remember the good stuff about you. Trust me. It's scientific. That previous employee everyone was happy to see or the one your boss compared you to wasn't as great as they made them out to be. So work your hardest the last two weeks. Put on a smile and that's what they will remember.  

So before you blow a gasket and recreate Jerry Maguire or Bad Days by Flaming Lips, remember these things. And if you can't remember that then at least remember murder is a crime punishable by death or jail. ^_^


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Advice for Selling Your Possessions

The Dusted Attic, KCMO

Stuff, stuff, stuff. We have so much of it and not much use for it. But I will say that stuff isn't all evil. One advantage I find in having stuff is that you can make money off of it. It has actually become my favorite part of having stuff. I move a lot so I tend to pack light, but there's some comfort in the fact that my stuff can help me travel more. I mean who couldn't use an extra chunk of change while traveling?

Right now I'm in the process of selling my stuff. I've done it before but this time I decided to ask a professional for advice. I already know a lot of the usual methods for selling but I wanted to properly assess the pros and cons of each method.

With a business degree and five years of experience under his belt, Chris P. runs a successful online business and consigns for a popular auction business. Don't ask me what he sells. Even I can't figure it out. It's all quite random. I walk through his large warehouse space and consistently think to myself, "people pay money for that?!" The funny thing is the answer is yes. My theory is if this guy can make a business out of selling random stuff he's probably the person I need to go to.

Ebay and Amazon

Some towns have markets that feature a collection of local vendors.
These sites are very well known and are good sites for selling individual items. Ideally, I would sell relatively light-weight "big ticket" items like electronics and accessories. While it is ideal for selling a bunch of smaller items, always keep in mind how much money you may be spending on shipping. It may sound nice to use free shipping as a method to add value to your product but it is very easy to rack up shipping costs. In addition to shipping costs, according to Chris P., Ebay and Amazon take about 15% of everything. You have to have a bank account and be verified which usually takes a week or two. If it's a new selling account they limit you to 10 items or $1000 in your first month and then it's performance-based, every month. During the verification process, if you happen to make a sale they hold your funds for up to three weeks but after you are approved, its immediate. Amazon has unlimited selling for starters and they pay you about every two weeks. Either way, you'll have to wait for verification so if you are leaving in a week, it may be a better to sell your possessions through alternative means.


Do you have a few big things you want to sell but don't want to pay for shipping? This is your ideal spot for items like furniture, TV's, bikes and the like. Unfortunately, with Craigslist you don't know who you are dealing with. If someone is coming over to pick up your stuff, it may be ideal to have a friend or two with you. If someone  requests that you ship something be extremely wary. Especially, if they ask to ship it to another country. I wouldn't even bother.

The first time I ever sold something on Craigslist I was scammed (go figure). I followed all the rules (I used Paypal and everything!) but they got me because instead of checking my actual Paypal account (it was my first time using Paypal, as well) I got an e-mail saying that the money was deposited into my Paypal account.Turns out it was a phishing e-mail (fake e-mail sent by the scammer). So as far as I know, my laptop is in Africa somewhere. If you are going to ship, I'd go through Ebay. They have actual customer service and guarantees that can protect you from such situations.

 Are you a horrible haggler and pushover, like me? Chris offers advice: "People buying on craigslist will always ask you to lower your price so be firm with what you need out of them."

Garage Sale

Old school method. Works like a charm. I made $400 on my first independent garage sale and I was pretty confident my stuff wasn't worth much. The advantage is you can sell what you want, without limitations. The only disadvantage is everyone wants to haggle you down. I would sell my clothes and CDs at a garage sale but not my big electronics. Also most cities require a garage sale permit. They are about $5 and you can get them at your local town hall.  Chris' advice would be to "make sure you advertise a lot. If you can, it's a good idea to piggy back off of a neighborhood or church garage sale. This is great if you have an an apartment and no yard to sell your stuff." You can even piggy back on Craigslist and post your garage sale in the "garage sale" section.

While an added advantage of garage sales is that you make your own hours, try to be open early. Many people who go to garage sales go on a constant basis. If you have real gold and silver jewelry, mention it in your ad. Warning: People looking for gold and silver WILL show up at your place up to an hour before the garage sale. They can be vicious so either be ready to give them what they want or be firm enough to tell them that the sale starts 9am sharp. Pushover advice: It's not your problem that they came early. You wrote the time on the ad (you did, right?). A few years back my friend and I had a garage sale. People showed up way too early and wouldn't back off. My friend's mom had to put cones up and shoot them evil mom looks. Her evil mom looks can scare a grizzly.

Flea Markets

Mary of Mary's Markdown Mercantile and Ray of Ray of Sunshine Markets
in the Dusted Attic, West Bottoms, Kansas City
Same as a garage sale but sometimes the vendor fee is more. The advantage here is that you don't have to do any advertising and you get more traffic. The disadvantage is competition. The other disadvantage is that that there may be a restriction as to what you can and can't sell. So make sure you ask if they have a "do not sell" list before you pay that vending fee. If you can sell clothes, great! If not, I recommend small household appliances, decorations, jewelry and small electronics. In terms of vendor fees, assess whether the fee will be worth it. It may be a flat fee for a certain amount of space or a percentage of everything you sell. The last thing you want to do is spend all that time packing, selling, driving just to break even. If you don't have a lot of stuff but you want the traffic, team up with a friend or a current vendor who sells items that are similar to yours. Next to garage sales, this actually is becoming my favorite way.

Consignment Shops

 If you have an eye for name brand fashion than this is your best hope. Sometimes they purchase your items right off the bat. Sometimes they don't send you a check until it sells. The disadvantage is that they don't take non-name brand clothing unless it's super vintage. "Make sure the shop has proper security." says Chris P. "The last thing you want to is to lose your money due to theft."

Personally, I never buy name brand unless it just happens to be cute and at a thrift store. And usually I don't notice the brand until after I take it home. My other source of name brand clothing comes from my aunts' hand-me-downs (which are amazing and I usually want to keep them forEVER). Other than that, I pretty much shop at Forever 21 or places similar. If you shop like me, it will be very difficult to get rid of your clothing. Especially, with the increase of donation-based, thrift shops.

Because of my clothing situation, I tried this app:


It's a garage sale/ trade app. I think it's great for posting several individual items. You have individual pictures and the app itself is pretty easy. Instead of just selling you can trade for things as well. I've used it but it's not yet popular in Kansas City so it didn't do much for me. There are commercials and they have it in the UK and France so I'm sure everyone will be talking about it in the next year or so. My only qualm with it is that it's only an app. Not a website. I have large fingers and typing a description on my phone isn't very fun. Personally, it's easier to do things on my computer. The other dilemma is that there is a limit to how many items you can put up. I would likely consider it good for trading whilst on the road but I think I'll have to wait until it becomes more popular before it becomes useful. Until then, I'll stick with the flea market.

Here's some more advice on how to sell your stuff by Chris P.

About clothing

"People usually buy clothing online if it is something they need immediately or for a specific event. For example a party or holiday."

About electronics

"Wipe all of your info off if it's got a hard drive. Make sure you can sell a working product otherwise it'll come back to bite you. [In terms of traveling] Expensive electronics are better to sell rather than potentially have them stolen from you. Always remember that electronics have depreciating value, so sell them as soon as you can."

About appliances

"Offer delivery if you have the means. Not everyone has a car but needs the product. You can even offer $20 more to install the product. Clean everything. Offer a small week long warranty. That'll make people feel comfortable about buying it."

Home products

"Craigslist is the best place to sell them when selling online. When you post on craigslist make sure you add an accurate description and make sure you use good keywords so that the item is more likely to pop up in a search."

About selling in general

"When it comes to selling your possessions, it can be an issue having an emotional tie to them. You're not going to get what you paid most of the time because you've used it. You have to come to terms with yourself and why you're getting rid of it."

"Use pawnshops as a last resort because they don't give you what it would sell for."

"Meet people in a public place like a library where they can test the product."

"Take what you can today because people may not want your stuff tomorrow. People lose interest. Realize that there might not be that next offer."