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The America 2020 Project - Part I

Five years ago this project started with a book and a daydream. Throughout the development process, I kept finding that every time I had a "great idea", someone (or the universe) would say "yes, but..." and I'd have to adjust and keep it moving. Sometimes it felt like it was too much, honestly, but I knew in my heart that this project was worthwhile and I pushed through and kept going forward.


In January, a lot of things seemingly fell apart and then fell back together in ways that just felt so right, so much better than I originally could have dreamed. When I hit the road in February, I was so excited and I felt so prepared to really hit the ground running.


And then... (In my best "Dude, Where's My Car?" voice)


My windshield cracked before I reached North Carolina.

My check engine light came on before I reached South Carolina.

My ferry to Key West fell through.

My interviews got cancelled, rescheduled, moved to new places, rearranged.

My camera stopped in the middle of an interview.

I got lost, couldn't find parking, couldn't find a hotel, couldn't find a place to keep Biggie.

I got caught in a downpour in the middle of the desert.

I didn't have time to post.

Didn't have time to answer emails.

Didn't have time to schedule interviews.

Didn't have time to stop and get videos of the amazing things I was passing.

Didn't have time to breathe.


And then...


Coronavirus.


My heart broke. It felt like maybe this finally was the straw. I thought maybe this time the universe was winning, and I had to throw in the towel. Here I was, 10 states down, 20 interviews under my belt, all the way across the country. Was I stuck? Was the game over?


In my sketchy Southern California hotel, I took some time to reflect on all the roadblocks. But I also took some time to reflect on the miracles, the victories.


I spent time with family.

I spent time with friends.

I spent time with people I haven't seen in twenty years.

I spent time with strangers who showed me incredible kindness and opened their hearts to me, both on camera and off.

I spent time listening to moving, heartbreaking, uplifting, personal stories.

I scattered my dad's ashes.

I witnessed people giving all they had to those who were in need.

I got caught in a downpour in the middle of the desert.


I have learned so much on this journey, and I've only been to one-fifth of this incredible country. I have seen the mountains appear from the desert. I've seen both coasts (and the gulf, my personal fave...). I've seen ghost towns and big cities. I've talked to so many inspirational, lovely people. How could I quit now?


After spending as much time as I could learning about COVID-19, I decided that even though I feel healthy and am following good practices with hand-sanitizing and keeping my distance, I realized that it wasn't doing the most that I could do to do my part in stopping the spread of this disease. I may not have it, I may not have symptoms, I may not have even been exposed to it, but the truth is, there's no way to know. And I can't in good conscience continue to travel and ask people to meet me knowing that I could possibly be spreading a disease I don't even know that I've encountered.


So nearly a month after I set out, on the other side of America from where I started, I had to come up with a new plan.


Starting today, I'm headed back east, sticking to my original schedule for the next 10 days until I get to the east coast. Until we are able as a country to go back to some semblance of normalcy (let's be clear- this is a cataclysmic event in our nation, "normal" will not be normal) I will refrain from interviewing others and will self-isolate as much as possible.


I am also changing directions on what my project is about in the sense that I will be expanding on my original idea to capture how this pandemic is evolving. It's an added dynamic to the story when we're looking at this year in American history and it's important to tell this. When it's safe to do so, I'll continue with my interviews and my travels as well.


My heart breaks for America, for the world right now. Admittedly at first I thought the world was overreacting to a "bad flu". But after speaking with healthcare professionals, doing my research, and really evaluating what this means, I know that this is a troubling moment for so many people across the world. Economies will crash, people will be out of work, and many people will unfortunately lose their lives because of this. It's devastating. So I will leave you with the following message before I sign off for a while:


PLEASE please please listen to the experts. This is no joke. This is no time to be selfish. Don't continue to go out. Don't continue to hoard supplies that you don't need. Follow the directions of the CDC and your local governments- wash your hands, stay away from people, and take care of yourself. Check on your neighbors, friends, and family who may be at higher risk. Take this seriously, truly.


Until I can hit the road again, my heart is with each of you. Be well, be smart, be kind, and stay tuned. xo

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