An Open Letter to Our Travel Companion, Taylor Swift

November 1, 2014 – Oregon Coast Highway 101.

Rounding the last curve along Hwy 101, we watched the rocky coastline fade in the rearview mirror. The sun was just starting to set, purple sky transitioned into muted pinks. The landscape of pine trees jutting from the rocks gradually shifted as we sped towards the redwoods. We chatted over Sirius XM’s alternative station, half listening to the tunes that drifted out from the rental car’s stereo.

It happened suddenly. The sound of nothingness. We glanced at each other in horror, neither of us daring to speak the words that flashed across the console: “SiriusXM trial subscription ended.” We barely made a dent in our trek from Seattle to San Francisco and our musical journey was already over. Or so we thought.

We frantically scrolled through the stations, hoping something, anything would come through. The sky was getting darker still, the trees now more dense and taller than before. Then we heard a voice…

I-I-I Shake It Off, I Shake It Off
I-I-I Shake It Off, I Shake It Off
I-I-I Shake It Off, I Shake It Off
Hey, hey, hey

“Is this Taylor Swift?” We didn’t care. SiriusXM Hits 1 was working and it was sending us a clear message to shake off our truncated access to satellite radio.

We danced. We car danced as we hummed and hawed over the redwoods, the tips of the trees now towering at over 300 feet above us. And for a moment, I was totally humbled as Tannia and I stood side by side gazing up at the trees, listening to Taylor sing, “It’s like I got this music in my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright…”

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For the next 3 days as we continued down the coast, eventually making our way into San Francisco, we continued to listen to Hits 1 Weekend Countdown on repeat. We listened to Taylor Swift’s exclusive interview on a constant loop. After every other song, she’d bubble back up through the radio, commenting on women in the media and finding empowerment through her 1989 album. Most would have simply turned the radio off. True, we could have reached for Spotify or Pandora on our phones, but something profound happened. We suddenly found ourselves hanging on to every one of Taylor’s words.

“God, she is so well spoken.” “She is brilliant and hysterical!” We were hooked. Just like the SNL skit predicted, we had just experienced Taylor Swift Onset Vertigo. We were becoming adult Swifties.

Eventually, our road trip came to an end. We boarded a plane at SFO, reminisced over the road trip and Taylor’s interview and headed back to our then home in Las Vegas.  But unbeknownst to us, change was brewing back in Nevada.

November 15, 2014 – Las Vegas. 

The festival I was working with in Las Vegas was gearing up for another season and we were prepared to stay in the city for at least another year. On my first day back in the office, four little words were uttered that would change the course of our lives: “We were recently acquired.”

My colleague, whom I had worked directly under, was not returning and I suddenly found my role changing internally. I grew worried. My stomach churned at the thought of telling Tannia that my job was up in the air. That evening, I hopped in the car and absentmindedly reached for the radio.

So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain

T. Swift had come through again. I was either on board for another year or was going down in flames. “It’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar…” I listened intently to every word of “Blank Space.”

Later, I melted into a puddle of tears, telling Tannia that my future at the festival looked uncertain. After many conversations over many nights she asked the simple question, “Do we even want to live here?” Thus began the wild planning of “where in the world do we want to go?” I’ll spare you the details of sleepless nights and anxious conversations, but we both decided that one city wasn’t going to suffice. We were going to work remotely and travel.

May 25, 2015 – McCarran International Airport. 

I decided to leave the festival, and after months of searching, we had both landed telecommuting jobs. Tannia was teaching English to students around the globe and I was working at a startup that offered assistance to global teams. We donated most of our wardrobe. We sold our car. We gave furniture to family. We were but two young women each equipped with a carry on suitcase, leaving Las Vegas and en route to Spain.

You got that James Dean day dream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time.
Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style

“We are really doing this,” we nervously boarded our Aeroflot flight – the first leg of our long journey. “Listen!” From a nearby speaker, Taylor was seeing us off. We smiled ear to ear as “Style” wafted towards us from a nearby airport cafe. Tannia smiled, she did have a wild, day dream look in her eye. We were thrilled, we were beginning a new journey around the globe, and we had no idea where the road would lead us.

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August 10, 2015 – Barcelona. 

Spain was treating us well. By August, we had settled into a small studio in the Eixample district of Barcelona. We were on top of the world – sightseeing by day and working at night to match our US client’s business hours. Our transition into full Swifties was nearly complete by this point. “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space,” “Style” and now “Bad Blood” were in our top rotation on iTunes. We watched Taylor’s old appearances on the Graham Norton show repeatedly, laughing each time Graham poked fun of her fans who were so overwrought with Taylor fever that they were on the brink of death.

On Monday, August 10, I was headed for the beach with Taylor’s songs on my iPhone, but the universe had other plans for me. I checked my inbox on a whim before heading out for the afternoon, only to find an email titled “Goodbye” from my CEO. The email explained that a companywide shutdown was effective immediately. I was out of a job, abroad, with no warning whatsoever. My voice shook as I tapped Tannia on the shoulder and explained the latest changes.

I was numb for the rest of the day. Only after looking at the clock did I realize that I not only missed my window to catch some sun at the beach, but that I had not moved from the couch for over 5 hours. I did the only thing I could think of at the moment. I turned on iTunes.

‘Cause, baby, now we got bad blood
You know it used to be mad love
So take a look what you’ve done
‘Cause, baby, now we got bad blood

Taylor was immediately there with biting words and she was spot on, as usual. “Now we got problems and I don’t think we can solve them…” Her words were more than just a pity party, they ignited a fire that launched me into action. I wasn’t going to sit idle and worry about the future. My job had ended unexpectedly and we were most certainly never ever ever getting back together (see what I did there?) The only thing to do was find a solution and quickly. Tannia and I huddled together to revamp our budget.

August 28, 2015 – Split, Croatia. 

Thanks to Tannia’s amazing financial planning, we were able to move forward with our travel plans. After checking into our new AirBnB on Trstenik Beach, we ventured out to get our bearings. As we sauntered past a seaside restaurant, we heard “Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22, ooh-ooh.” You know you’ve made it big when your music is global and everyone knows the lyrics. Taylor had followed us to Split as our unofficial travel companion.

September 5, 2015 – Split, Croatia. 

Whereas 3 months in Spain ended up bringing newfound epiphanies about life and careers, Croatia brought us newfound epiphanies about work-life balance and the importance of relaxation. Every day felt like a holiday, despite Tannia still teaching nightly and my late nights working freelance with various clients in the US. We felt calm in Split.

On this particular September afternoon, I surfed the web with no particular agenda, eventually stumbling across an old recap from the VMA’s. But something caught my eye: a new Taylor Swift video. I immediately downloaded her single, “Wildest Dreams,” grabbed some headphones and headed out for an evening walk.

Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset, babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams
Wildest dreams

Thanks to Tay (can I call her Tay?) yet another moment became etched into my memory. I stood cliffside, overlooking the Zenta harbor as the sun set in the distance. As she crooned “say you’ll remember me” over and over again, I realized that I would always remember this moment: the time I flew to Croatia with my wife and began to let go of the need to define myself by my career. The time that I stayed in the moment to enjoy a sunset and summer breeze.

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So this is my long, open letter to Taylor Swift. Thank you Taylor, for inadvertently following us around the world. Thank you for providing the soundtrack to some truly memorable moments in our lives. Thank you for reminding us to live out our wildest dreams. We can’t wait to see where in the world you meet us next.

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