On September 22nd, 2017, with nowhere to live, I made a decision to drive across the US to test-drive 6 cities for 1-2 months each and figure out where I wanted to put down roots. There was no rhyme or reason to which cities I chose; I made a list of wherever sounded interesting to me. A little over a week later, I started this experiment. It was the first time I had ever lived outside of New York. It was also my first time dating as a professional sex writer (as I had started building my career while I was in a monogamous relationship), and I was excited to learn the dating cultures that existed across the country.
Since October 1st, 2017, I have lived in Boston, Asheville, Austin, Denver, Chicago, and Portland, as well as ventured to Hawaii for two weeks with someone I met in North Carolina. I have driven from New York to Virginia to Alabama to Louisiana to Texas to Colorado to Arizona to California to Oregon. When I leave Portland—my last stop—tomorrow, I will start driving home. “Eat, Drive, Fuck” is over.
I ate. I drove. I fucked. And it was incredible.
To answer those burning questions, here you go:
Ranked by best dating scene:
Ranked by best eating scene:
I WAS AFRAID TO DRIVE ON I-25, Y’ALL. SCARED FOR MY DAMN LIFE. (Texas drivers are just annoying, but they won’t KILL me.)
Best parts of the drive:
Once I make it back to New York, I will have stayed in 32 Airbnbs, including 2 in Hawaii. I will have put 8,500 miles on my car, traveled 400 miles by train and 6,500 miles by airplane. I will have slept with 12 people. I will have ridden in the back of a cop car, swam with wild dolphins, eaten an ice cream sandwich too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, gotten stoned while Harvard students played music from West Side Story, gotten banned from Tinder (and figured out a way to get back on again), and gotten into one car accident (I rolled forward into a parked car in Hawaii). I will have eaten the most expensive steak at the most expensive restaurant in each city. I will have celebrated entering my thirties with cupcakes a friend in New York had delivered to my condo in Texas. I will have spent way too much money on bath bombs (for the long soaks my achy body needed after 8-hour drives), lingerie, and Postmated fro-yo.
I will have had a good fuckin’ time.
And I will have met so many amazing new people and reconnected with old friends I don't get to see very often:
Once I’m back home on 11/11, I will see all my NY friends and family, celebrate the holidays, and indulge in some well-earned relaxation. Because, as one could imagine, after living out of a car and a suitcase for over a year, I am exhausted.
Would I encourage a stranger to do this? Yes, I would. But I would also give a few warnings:
You will not recognize who you were when you started the trip.
You will make connections with people—platonic and not—that will pull on your heartstrings. And you will have to leave them behind. And it will be hard.
You will drive on cracked roads in the middle of nowhere in Texas, 40 miles from the next town, the next gas station, the next sign of life, praying your car doesn’t overheat or one of your tires burst, all alone, and you will get scared.
You will question everything you knew about yourself—including your strength, your independence, and the way you love.
You will feel like giving up at least three times. At least.
Smelling the perfume you wore in Texas will always remind you of sun-drenched days on your friend’s boat on Lake Travis and eating the best brisket of your life.
Every time you get into your car before a long drive, you will spend the first hour listening to Aretha Franklin and quite literally laughing out loud to yourself as you remind yourself you really drove across the country and you really did it alone. You did that.
Each time you fill that ugly vase you made in Asheville with sunflowers, you’ll remember you are strong enough to endure anything. (Including 5 weeks in a shit city with nothing to do.)
You’ll always keep the keycard to your room at The Four Seasons in Kona, Hawaii in your wallet.
You’ll think of the Harvard Bridge every time you see the light pink beginning of a sunset.
You will have felt the fingertips of beautiful people—inside and out—on the bare skin of your thighs. And you’ll catch yourself grinning as you think of them while walking down the street.
You will have a song that makes you think of each city.
You will have so many stories. God, so many stories. Some you share with people. Some you don’t.
You will learn that all relationships are mutable, and we are all on loan to each other.
You will see just how many people truly care for you. The ones right next to you and the ones thousands of miles away.
You will learn to consider being alone with your thoughts a gift.
You will also learn to be grateful for everything even when it’s not ideal. Especially when it’s not ideal.
You will develop a new appreciation for stability.
You will develop an even deeper appreciation for spontaneity and doing whatever the hell you feel like.
Most importantly, you will learn how to quiet fear.
I started my trip on October 1st, 2017. On its one-year anniversary, I decided to slip four twenty-dollar bills into a wooden box belonging to a tarot reader in Portland in exchange for some wisdom. Do I consider tarot gospel? No. But do I believe in its power to tell you things you already know deep in your gut and just need to hear from an outsider? I sure do.
So what was I told? Three things:
This is my 32nd blog post. I’ve written somewhere around 75,000 words. You know what’s also around 75,000 words? A book.
I’ve written a book over the last year. And now it’s time for me to write another over the next.
I’m writing a sex-positive Young Adult novel. A novel I wish I had as a kid. A novel with a premise so good and so outside-the-box and so necessary in this current climate, my agent thinks he can sell it on 50 pages alone. I don’t even need to write the entire damn thing before approaching publishers (which is standard procedure).
I know my readers are going to miss my blog. Hell, I’m going to miss it, too. You bet your ass I cried before sitting down to write this post. But the time I spent writing “Eat, Drive, F*ck” posts every week will now be devoted to a greater cause: writing something that will hopefully help unfuck all the fucked up views around sex our society has. And that makes me equal parts terrified and so, so happy.
Luckily, this trip taught me how to shirk the fear.
I’m not disappearing off the face of the earth though. My contract with Playboy has been renewed and I’ve recently been contracted for four new essays. I have a piece about bipolar 2 and nonmonogamy coming out soon (fingers crossed) with New York Magazine. I’ll keep pitching stories and upping my freelancing game, gettin’ my sex-positive words out in front of the masses.
What’s next for me after spending the holidays in New York? Well, just like how I picked cities at random at the beginning of this trip (and changed my plans a few times as I started to travel), my trajectory isn’t set in stone. I will definitely be moving to Boston and having it as my home base as of January 2019, but the rest is still unclear since I can do anything. I can do another “Eat, Drive, F*ck” next year if I’m feeling restless after those 8 weeks back home and hit up all new cities, including some in South America. But I’m also leaning towards staying in one spot for a while, splitting my year between my two favorite cities, Boston and Chicago. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that it’s okay to let things sit in the gray area for a bit instead of making black and white decisions.
But in the meantime, from the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you. Every single person who has read this blog religiously every week, every person who has sent me an encouraging message or told me I’ve helped them improve their sex life or relationship, every person who has told a friend to follow me or read my work—you are so appreciated. Being a writer is not an easy job—I almost gave up on it this year to go back to school for a more stable career. And then I conceded and accepted the fact I could never see myself doing anything else.
So here’s to the next (literal) chapter.
Lots of love,
Your friendly neighborhood sex writer, Dana Hamilton ;)
Dana Hamilton is a writer from New York City currently traveling across the United States on her own for all of 2018. Passionate about everything having to do with the body, she writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a frequent contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, Time Out NY, and SELF, among other publications. Before she became a freelance writer, she was an editor at two "Big Five" houses in the book publishing industry. She has also written four books (under a pseudonym) for HarperCollins and is currently working on her fifth novel. She holds a BA in writing and nutrition from New York University.
Passionate about everything having to do with the body, Dana Hamilton writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a frequent contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, Time Out NY, and SELF, among other publications. After driving (and dating) across the country and back on her own for all of 2018, Dana now splits her time between New York, Boston, and Chicago. Before she became a freelance writer, she was an editor at two "Big Five" houses in the book publishing industry. She has also written four books (under a pseudonym) for HarperCollins and is currently working on her fifth novel. She holds a BA in writing and nutrition from New York University.