North America,  Travel

A Mental Health Break in New Orleans Pt. 1

The winter in Missouri has been perpetual and stale. We seemingly skipped over fall and went right into the bitter cold. It’s been 6 months now of seeing bare-branched trees – half a year of winter. And it’s been long enough for me to have forgotten what it’s like to see green.

While I know that rain and clouds can have an effect on mood, it’s gotten to the point now that I have gotten used to feeling blah. Wearing long sleeves every day, only sporadically being able to go on walks, and barely and begrudgingly forcing myself out of bed in the morning has become my new norm.

In addition to the crap weather, these first few months of 2018 have been a whirlwind of nonstop. I knew renovating a house was going to be intense and hard, but I didn’t fully prepare myself for the ebbs and flows. Sometimes I am motivated and oftentimes it is fun, but the offbeat of that is feeling like I am forcing myself to get it done (I just wanna be done!!). It doesn’t help that I am such a hardcore go-getter and I always bite off more than I can chew – so, in addition to the house, I have been swamped with editing photos, work events, and volunteer opportunities, all while simultaneously trying to maintain a social life.

I love to travel and was so stoked when I achieved my goal last year of visiting one different city every month last year. However, the constant go go go of attempting that goal did wear me down, and so I decided to take a travel hiatus while I saved money and worked on my house. I wondered how long it would take before I began to get antsy and wanted to flee STL.

The answer was about a month and a half haha.

But, I decided to wait a solid four months before traveling again. I planned this trip to New Orleans super in advance (as type A-er’s are prone to do) and impatiently awaited.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of a cat in New Orleans

However, as the day approached, I began to feel a surge of anxiety. I had so much to do. I needed to save more money. Was it irresponsible to own a house and also travel?
Then came the worst-case-scenario thoughts that I am oft to get: What if the scary bridge in Tennessee collapses and I fall into the water and die? What if one of my animals runs away while I am gone? What if it isn’t as fun as I am hoping?

I toyed with thoughts about canceling my trip.

Thankfully though, I didn’t, and a week later we were on the road.

On our drive down, I was surprised that I noticed how much greener everything became as we dropped further and further south. We knew it would be warmer, but were definitely shocked when the car began to heat up. The rental’s AC was broken – but after a slightly annoyed phone call to Enterprise, I decided that I actually didn’t mind it. It felt weird to not have to wear my jacket or have a blanket on my lap.

When we arrived at our Airbnb, we were shocked to find that it was nicer than a hotel. I hadn’t expected that as it was someone’s spare bedroom (I am trying to rent bedroom’s as opposed to “entire place”‘s now, as Airbnb has become unsurprisingly gentrifying). The host provided snacks, coffee, eco-friendly shampoos and a big, comfy duvet.

After unloading our things and petting the Airbnb host’s dogs, we set off to do what we do best: walking everywhere.

Our goal for New Orleans was to experience it more authentically. Last time we came, we participated in Mardi Gras. It was so fun and definitely crossed off a life bucket list goal. However, it was also tourist-packed and too fast-paced. We never had a chance to learn that much about the city or eat any of their famous foods.

One particular disappointment that David had was that on our original trip, we didn’t have a chance to try out any vegetarian southern food. So this time, I researched extensively for veg-friendly options. This wasn’t easy, as NOLA is seafood-heavy, but I was able to compile a small list.

So on our first day in, we walked from Bywater to the French Quarter to try out a place known for vegan poboys. The restaurant didn’t disappoint, and we purchased a spread of sweet potato poboys, greens, and potato salad, and then drowned it all in Louisiana Hot Sauce.

After getting sleepy and full, we went to explore the French Quarter itself. We walked past red-in-the-face drunk men, elderly people using walkers, gaggles of bachelorette parties, loving couples, fighting couples, etc. Everyone seemed to be holding a plastic Hand Grenade or Hurricane cup, while walking to the beat of the street performer’s drums.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of Jazz Funeral in New Orleans

It was all pretty overwhelming for me, as I was attempting to weave in and out of gift shops to find someone who would sell me band-aids for the growing blisters on my ankles. I finally found a case of 10 for a whopping $6.00.

After the brief exploration of bars, we headed over to The Voodoo Lounge to purchase a couple of Hurricanes and get ready for our ghost tour. In an effort to learn more about NOLA and also get into the voodoo spirit, we decided to take a walking tour to learn about the city’s past.

Our tour guide was fantastic. They were friendly, funny and witty in telling their stories and I was engaged the entire time. We learned about ghosts who still sing in the French Quarter during the rain, the murder of two girls outside of a haunted church, and about the sinister Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of ghosts in New Orleans Phantom Tours Voodoo Lounge

A photo of a ghost I found.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of our tour guide from Phantom Tours Voodoo Lounge in New Orleans

Goals & Garbage - A photo of a haunted table in New Orleans Voodoo Lounge Phantom Tours

Apparently, this restaurant is haunted by a butt-touching ghost.

I don’t believe much of what I heard during this tour and have been unable to verify several “facts” we were told, but my party-pooping still didn’t make it any less fun.

On our walk back to the Airbnb, David and I got to talking about how both of us don’t believe that ghosts exist but simultaneously we also agree our new house is definitely haunted.

After tending to my blisters and settling into bed, I thought to myself how glad I was I didn’t cancel the trip.

Just one day of the New Orleans sunshine, a long walk, and definitely the Hurricane, helped to lift a lot of the stress I had been feeling.

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