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Two weeks ago, I had no idea what to do at the Wisconsin State Fair. Or, I guess, any state fair. I'd never been to one before and only had a vague idea of what to expect: farm animals, carnival rides, and a lot of fried foods. My friends and I were planning a weekend road trip to see the En Vogue / TLC concert, watch the world cheese curd eating championship, and, yes, eat a lot of fried foods. But we ended up doing a lot more than we thought we would, like watching a pig race, playing bar...

I can't remember the last time, outside of Nathan's Famous on the Fourth of July, that I saw such a large crowd gather to watch an eating contest. Fire marshals walked the aisles to clear the path of stragglers. Families were sitting on each other's laps to get in close, to fit more people on a third-row bench (the first rows being taken up by die-hard Hanson fans who were claiming seats well in advance of the night's upcoming concert.) And the crowd continually gained mass outward into the fair. But, as everyone started chanting "Joey, Joey, Joey," it became...

It had been two years since I last took a vacation. Two years since I boarded a plane. Two years since I left Illinois, the Chicagoland area, at all. I hardly believed it myself when I went to write that in an Instagram caption three weeks ago, but, it's true: I didn't take a vacation, travel anywhere, leave Chicago, in 2017. The last place I traveled to was New Orleans, Louisiana, and that was for a conference in 2016. I just haven't felt like traveling. Going. Leaving. Moving. And then, this Fourth of July, 21 months after my last vacation, I went to...

I used to watch the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on TV every Fourth of July. For some people, Independence Day meant fireworks, barbecues, parades. But, for me, it meant sitting in front of ESPN and watching a row of gurgitators consume as many hot dogs as was humanly possible in 12 minutes.   [caption id="attachment_75834" align="alignnone" width="1400"] George Shea announces the 2018 Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.[/caption]   In 2007, I watched the Super Bowl of competitive eating from my couch, at home, when Joey Chestnut ate 66 hot...

I love traveling alone. By myself. Solo. I mean, I've traveled all around the world by myself. Traveling alone, I can be on my own schedule. I can do what I want to do. And only what I want to do. I can go where I want to go, eat where I want to eat, drink where I want to drink, see what I want to see. (Side note: feel free to read that last line to the tune of Addams Groove, because I totally just did.) I can be as ambitious or as lazy as I want. I have...

I may be one of the most skeptical people you'll ever meet. For every extreme political meme you post on Facebook I immediately go to Snopes to fact check. I assume all news stories are grossly exaggerated. I assume all personal stories are grossly exaggerated. I read marketing text and say to myself, "50% fewer calories than what?" And, if you drag me to a motivational speaker, I will probably spend those three hours rolling my eyes and trying to hold back laughter. I just don't buy into a lot of crap. I'm jaded. I'm cynical. I'm skeptical as fuck. But psychics? Psychics....

I'd been to Seattle three times before. The first time, in 2009, I did everything my guidebook told me to do there. The second, in 2011, I explored for a few hours between a train from Vancouver and a flight back to Chicago. And the third time, in 2013, I spent a few days after a trip to Hawaii. I went back to Seattle, for five nights, for the fourth time, a couple of weeks ago. I had friends I could stay with and just needed to get away for a few. Part of me always feels like I should travel...

A few weeks ago, I had a day. A day where I was both upset over something and excited about something and my emotions were all over the place. And all I kept thinking, all that day, was, "I need change." "I need to make my world what I want it to be." "I need to reclaim my life." So, that day, I signed up for guitar lessons and bought a Groupon for salsa lessons and looked up tattoo artists and booked a flight. Because, sometimes, I go overboard. But anyways. I booked a flight to Austin that day because it's been on my list...

I had but one goal for my four-night vacation in Austin, Texas: eat everything. Austin's food scene excited me. The city is probably best known for tacos and Tex-Mex and barbecue. And who wouldn't be excited for tacos and Tex-Mex and barbecue? But it goes beyond that. There are food trucks on seemingly every corner, in every empty lot, attached to every bar. And those food trucks specialize in every cuisine and fare imaginable. Indian food. Eggrolls. Bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Peruvian creole. And there are just as many brick and mortars, from tiny whole-in-the-walls to fancy cocktail joints. And...