A big part of The Coates Residency I have come to find is about absorbing information. I amm an avid reader, chronic conversationalist (as many of you know) and eternally curious so it makes sense I find learning while traveling to be appealing. What I didn’t expect is what I observed on my most recent trip where I drove solo from Newport to Philadelphia, Durham, Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami and back through Savannah, Richmond and Darien, was that there was a very common through line, almost in neon lights, everywhere I stopped. My experience was heavily influenced by those I interacted with along the way.
Being a person who spends a bulk of their time alone outside of my gallery and socially, I thought I would be the orchestrator of my feelings and thoughts along this trip - that I was used to being alone for extended periods of time, but I quickly learned that was not always the case. From an incredible conversation with a gallery manager and the owner in New Orleans to the rudest barista in Savannah who spoiled my fancy Sunday morning coffee, the kind doorman who remembered my name from the last time I visited the hotel and the brilliant concierge who left snacks for Sofia in our room to the uptight businessmen at a bar that made me feel awkward sitting alone beside them to the horrific Airbnb host who almost ruined Miami for me and the customer service manager at Airbnb who made everything better - those moments matter, but especially when you are so vulnerable as you come to find you are as you drive for days on end alone. I am not complaining here, but my observation came on the last days of my drive home as I started to reflect on the previous 30 days. What had I gained from this experience? What did I absolutely know from it?
I would like to think of myself as a go with the flow type person, and I am in some cases, but traveling alone in places I had never been before or had not been before solo, made me a little hyper about planning out all of my details. If I had a place to stay, a few points of interest, a place for coffee and food, stops for Sofia and gas I would be okay. And for the most part, this plan was a dream. (See my travel planning tips below). On the flip side of this, I am a little bit obsessed with details and experiences (you might know this already if you have been inside my store). And I was astonished that my experiences were less about what I had planned and intended for myself to feel and more about who I encountered and what there energetic contribution was to my day.
Perhaps I travel more with Michael than alone these last five years and I am not as aware as often because I am not as sensitive to my outside influences as I was on my own, but this effected me profoundly. And here’s why. I have the ability to influence the experience of those I come into contact with on a daily basis and more specifically at my store, in a destination, resort town while others are on vacation or solo trips enjoying time in Newport. This may seem incredibly obvious to you reading this right now. You might actually be reading this because I was influential in your trip to Newport a few summers ago and you like staying in touch because it was such a lovely experience. But I have to admit I have been pretty clueless in this respect. I mean, I am nice and I put a lot of love out there -something I think this world needs a whole lot more of in fact from all of us, but that’s another conversation! But for now, my first major takeaway from The Coates Residency is that the person standing in my store, representing my work, the work of others and the lifestyle I work really had to have is more important than I have known. I think for the foreseeable future I will be the one you see at the store and this may mean shorter hours or having a little part time help over the summer, but for the most part I want to be the person deciding what the experience is when you come to shop at my store and I want that time to be as meaningful as possible even if it's just dropping by to grab a greeting card.
For some reason, I thought I was going on some sort of retreat where I would learn about myself as an artist and come back with all of these ideas for paintings - and I did a little and I do have some great ideas, but this trip was much more about what I learned from others and although it was totally unexpected, it was so much more rewarding. I’m sure there will be more to come from this trip and I have so many others planned later this year - I could not think of packing another suitcase once I was back in Newport and it felt right to get the store back in order and open… even if it’s just a few days a week for now. Until next time, thanks for traveling along this crazy trip with me! XO Kristen
Tips for Travel
* Stop at Whole Foods or other natural grocer for snacks and foods for the road as well as a clean rest stop. There is little normalcy when driving for hundreds of miles at a time, so stopping in a place I am familiar, albeit Amazon owned Whole Foods, I felt human and like I had a known factor in front of me. Plus maintaining a similar diet to what I already eat daily at home kept my energy levels even and I was able to pay attention longer without crashes from gas station snacks which I never eat.
* Create a route with a proposed stop including an accommodating hotel (Kimpton Hotels are pet friendly and do not charge a fee, Bonvoy offers points for tons of hotel chains including Marriott and Ritz-Carlton plus many smaller boutique hotels you would never know are associated unless you check, 21c Museum Hotels are just what they sound like - hotels with museum quality art exhibitions throughout the property), but have some flexibility in case you get tired or find you are ahead of schedule and want to keep driving another hour or two. In most instances I gave myself 2-3 stopping options so I could gage where to stop when I was feeling like I needed the stop the most.
* If you are traveling for long periods of time and especially alone, I highly recommend AAA (plus they have really upped their affiliates programs!) if your vehicle does not come with road assistance. For extra convenience research your intended location’s speed pass (E-Z Pass or Sun Pass for example) and purchase ahead of time so the pass is associated with your own account instead of buying prepaid or buying on the fly. I found it was less expensive and easier to manage having my own passes than fudging through the alternatives.
* Queue up all your audio entertainment and GPS with stops prior to getting on the road so you can pay attention. I was almost in a very serious accident in the Carolinas on my way home when a car near me had a blowout. Had I been looking at my phone instead of the road, I would have been included in that horrible accident.
* Take tons of photos, but don't spend too much time editing and posting while traveling. I found I had a lot less photos than I expected at the end of this trip, but I feel more enriched from the experience by not being glued to my phone the entire time.
* Map out all of your points of interest, Whole Foods along the way, rest stops you think you might want to take a break at while driving on your google maps and restaurants and places you want to see on your trip. This is a trick Michael taught me and my google maps has thousands of stars dotted all over the world now. It’s simple, search a location as you normally would by either entering a business name, street address or find it on the map by scrolling around and maximizing the screen. Once you have your location, save it by adding a star. Do this the next time you travel to a new city a few days before you depart for the trip. You will find that you get excited for your trip, a sense of direction once you arrive by seeing familiar street names and locations and the added bonus of plenty to do once you arrive without having to stop and search best restaurants and things to do. A little planning can go a long way and make your trip more efficient so you can spend more time enjoying your time and having fun.