Tag Archives: traveling




I’ve been a mother-in-training my whole life.

Of course much of what I’ve learned about motherhood comes from my own mother.  (that’s her, pictured above, at my baby shower)  She is the angelic type – self-sacrificing, gentle, humble (almost to a fault) – wise and always seeking wisdom from higher sources. (She is a prayer-warrior and like me, she’s a self-professed “self-help junkie”)  She’s hacked her way through a pretty straight and upright path, which I find my own feet wanting to follow, however more clumsily and meandering.

Over the last 9 months I’ve gotten so much parenting advice from friends, family, in-laws, strangers.  Pets are like “parenting 101” and nieces/nephews are like “dress rehearsal”.  But I believe we are often taught our most important lessons in the most unexpected places – like the Karate Kid learning to wax cars.  I was talking with a friend recently about motherhood and I kept going back to this thought – there are so many things I’ve learned on tour with my band that I believe were actually disguised lessons in motherhood.

Here’s a list of some of them:

-The show must go on.  (The great cliché of a performer’s life.)  This one may be obvious, but I have truly had to power through some ridiculously difficult situations over the years– and not just get through – but put on a show regardless. I’ve had to smile and perform through physical ailments (bronchitis, strep-throat, many sinus infections, a killer hangover or two, PMS, and most recently: pregnancy), practical distractions (major sound problems, bug-swallowing, inclement weather), and the deepest kinds of challenges (emotional train-wrecks, worrisome news, and even the death of a loved-one).  Each experience gave me a glimpse into my own well to see just how deep it goes.  I have no doubt that I will have to draw deeply from this well many times as a mother and trust that I will have the resources I need to get through any trials that will inevitably come.

-Never fight in front of the audience.  Believe it or not, relationships are not always easy to manage when you’re sharing a tiny space with lots of people for long, uncomfortable periods of time, often with less then ideal sleep and nutrition.  (That actually sounds like it might have been practice for the first few weeks with a newborn!)  But whatever comes up, the rule is that arguments have to stay in the green room.  Once you hit the stage, the switches must flip to “show” mode.  I am grateful that my parents did not fight in front of my brothers and I, so I am determined to keep any grown-up disagreements back-stage as well.

Make a set list, but feel out the crowd.  When stepping onto the stage you have to have a plan, but you can’t hold too tightly too it.  A live performance is full of living, shifting energy; the dynamic of the night is unpredictable.  A performer has to be ready to add or cut songs with a swift decision and change gears based on the crowd’s reaction (or lack of reaction). It seems that planning my daily life with a babe in arms will require a similar willingness and ability to turn on a dime.  Learning to read and respond to the mood and needs of my baby will require these same skills: keen observation and quick decisions.

-Be prepared to improvise.  In general, this may be the most important lesson I’ve learned:  how to be flexible.  Growing up I was painfully shy – a Type-A planner; a classically trained, eyes-glued-to-the-music performer.  I liked rules and schedules.  While I’m no free-jazz artist now, my very nature has changed to become more liquid because of the life I have chosen. Improvisation requires you to be caught up completely in the moment, responding to the chord changes and beat, ever shifting, creating, and listening.  In the bridge of the song I wrote for my mother (Tomorrow River) I wrote: “There is a way a mother bends to take any necessary shape” – This is the flexibility that is required for motherhood. The music itself has taught me both how to trust and how to surrender.

-A smile and a dance can distract from many a mistake.  I’m talking about putting on a show – creating memories, having fun.  When you stand at the microphone you have the power to set the tone of the night.  A mother can set the mood of the whole house – good or bad.  A smile is contagious. I always have to remind myself that this is not about perfection – no one is counting the wrong notes, the missed cues, the questionable decisions.  Kids and audiences alike want to be distracted.  They want to believe in the magic of the show, the healing power of a kiss to their “boo boo” – they want to know that they are in good hands and everything will be ok.

-It takes a team.  I’ve learned to truly count on my band mates, manager, booking agency, interns, merch attendants and street teamers – not because they don’t ever let me down, but because I need them.  We need each other.  Putting together a traveling show, running a pop-up marketplace and marketing a small business is a lot of work.  I don’t know why it took me so long to learn to delegate, but I’m glad I’ve finally figured it out.  I’m glad that I am getting better at asking for help and also better at trusting people to do their jobs so I can just focus on my own.  Sometimes that means letting those tasks get accomplished with less of the finer details.  I think of parents letting their kids “help” with chores around the house, mothers letting their husbands do the laundry (at the risk of a few shrunken sweaters)  The key to this whole system working is letting go.

All of this is not to say that I feel prepared to be a mother exactly.  Though my childless days are numbered (likely down to the single-digits), I can’t help but feel that my training isn’t going to end the moment I hear my baby’s cry.   Instead, I’m certain that I have much yet to learn, and I welcome those lessons wherever they come from.

Music Festival Breakfast Burritos


Music Festival Breakfast Burritos

This is a very basic recipe for spreading joy.  The ingredients are cheap, the steps are simple and the rewards are many.  I spelled it out exactly the way that I do it, just to give you a glimpse into my head (and my van pantry).  Get fancy with Tofutti’s “Better Than Sour Cream” and avocado or guacamole if you want to, fancy-pants!  Make ‘em however you like – the important thing is to share!

TIP:  For best results, it’s best to start cooking at exactly 11am and not any sooner or any later.


Equipment needed:

Two-burner propane stove,

Cheap-ass small random saucepan with mismatched lid

$14 crepe pan

Good cast iron frying pan (bought at thrift store)

Cooler with ice (and air-tight, waterproof containers for all the ingredients inside)

Oven-mitts, can-opener, spatula, serving spoon, long-handled lighter (need I state the obvious?  When camping – YES!)

(optional: A Bloody Mary to make the work a little lighter doesn’t hurt!)

TIP: have your husband or best friend run to get you a coffee while you cook.  Then give them the fattest burrito!


2 packages Simply Potatoes – Southwest Style

1 15-oz carton Egg Whites (at home I use tofu to make it vegan, but on the road eggs are easier to cook!)

A few tablespoons of butter (I label mine “Butter” because it’s actually dairy-free Earth Balance)

1 large can of refried beans

2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast

1 Tbs + 1 tsp chili powder

1 Tbs cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

Shredded Cheese (optional – I leave it off of mine)

1 jar of Salsa

20 whole-grain tortillas (the kind with 8g of fiber – trust me, you will all need extra fiber at a music festival!)

Light the stove, add a few Tbs of “butter” to the cast iron pot and when melted, add as many of the potatoes as will fit.  (If they won’t all fit, cook the remainder in the crepe pan on the other burner and wait till they cook down enough to pile them together before proceeding to the next step)

Keep the flame on medium and let the potatoes cook, stirring regularly, as you open the beans and light the other burner.  Add a little salsa to the bottom of the small cheap-ass saucepan and set it over medium low heat.  Then spoon in half the beans and stir, add more salsa (about ¼ c), add the cumin and about 1 Tbs of the chili powder (not that you will be measuring, but just to give you an eyeball idea), and then add the rest of the beans, stirring constantly (because the pan sucks and it WILL burn them!)  Keep stirring the potatoes.  As soon as the beans are revealing their heat (steamy and bubbling) put the lid on and set them aside.

Now, raw eggs are not easy to travel with so recently I’ve been opting for the carton of egg whites because it’s healthier and also easier.  Place the cheap, “non-stick” (yeah, right!) crepe pan on the burner and add 1 Tbs of butter, letting it melt in the pan over medium-low heat.  When hot, open the carton and pour in the eggs.  If you’ve never used these before you will be amazed how easy it is!  Of course right about this moment you will find out if your stove is on completely level ground or not.  Add the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and 1 tsp chili powder, plus salt & pepper to taste. (Isn’t everything “to taste”?)  Stir the eggs with the spatula and swirl the pan a bit to get the mixture to lay evenly.  Reduce the flame to low (as low as the touchy propane stove allows!) Keep stirring the potatoes!

Jostle the eggs after a few sips of your Bloody Mary and when they seem to be firming up enough to flip, cut the eggs in half with your spatula, then flip each half carefully.  The confined space of a propane camp stove is a challenge for making anything pretty – don’t try to impress friends with a good omelet-flip.  It may ruin breakfast.

How are those potatoes?  Should be done.  Now scoot them over to ¾ of the pan and turn off the heat.  Scoop up the eggs and place them on the bare ¼ of the potato pan, just to stay warm. Use the now-suddenly-available crepe pan to fry up the tortillas, one at a time (It’s really a juggling act – I’ve done it so many times now I’ve got it down!)

Here’s the trick for making the burritos come together: serve them two at a time.  Fry up both sides of one tortilla (medium heat – use non-stick spray for ease) then put another one in its place on the pan immediately.  Take the cooked tortilla and ration out a small spoonful of beans, a thin strip of eggs, a hearty helping of potatoes, salsa and cheese (if you so desire it).  Flip the tortilla on the stove.  Now wrap the newly-filled burrito slowly, tucking in the ends with respect for the fillings and roll it tightly.  Set this burrito on the pan in place of the tortilla that’s there and assemble the new burrito in the same way.  When it’s ready, add it to the pan beside the other one and announce that breakfast is served.  People will suddenly appear.  Repeat the two-by-two technique until your guests disappear, or seem to no longer be hungry.  You are now a human assembly line of joy!   I recently fed 17 people with this recipe (3 people ate small-portioned “seconds”)


1. Don’t forget to eat one yourself!

2. Make someone else clean up!!


Wagons West – Fall Tour 2010


SO, yeah I did say 2010.  And yes, I know it is 2012 now.  But I started writing this little journal and saved it as a draft and got distracted and never posted it.  I found a few more just like it when I recently re-opened my blog.   So far I may be the world’s worst blogger, and maybe I should just pick up where I left off and leave the past in the past, but my brain works in such a way that I need to release it all, in order of sequence.  So, I’m going backwords in time for a minute, but once I get caught up, I will know exactly where I am.  And there I will begin.

. . .

Thursday October 7th, 2010

The road begins with one painted white line and we follow it like children seeking bread.  We stuff our packs and load the wagon, then roll of like gypsies at sunset, anticipating what the dark will bring.  Tonight we will strike up the band, stoke the fire and sing.  There will be drinking and dancing in Mount Pleasant tonight.

What was blue turns orange, What was orange turns gray, But everything’s black at the end of the day.

Friday, October 8th

The scenery from here to the Upper Peninsula is worthy of an art gallery.  Only it couldn’t be captured and pinned on a wall, nor penned down in words.  The trees are showing off for us – they raise their arms and burst into a hundred colors before giving up the good fight.  The sky is bright with Autumn sun.

It’s fair weather and I’m cautiously optimistic.  I’m trying to stop thinking about how long this journey will be, to stop counting the days, and start focusing on the day.  God gives me enough grace for each day and that’s enough.  Today I am healthy and I have everything I need.

Saturday, October 9th –

This morning is luxury.  I slept till noon and woke up alone in the Ramada of Marquette.   Randy and the boys went off kayaking and though I know I’m be missing out on some fun, I’m not the least bit envious.  Having a morning of peace and absolute quiet to be alone is such a rare treasure.  I pampered myself a little – took a long bath and did a pedicure, made coffee, spent time in prayer and meditation and now I’m relaxed and ready for what the rest of this day will bring.

. . .

Like a few pages torn from a journal, these are just glimpses of my life on the road.  I will be continuing to develop and fill in the blanks as it all unfolds – occasionally out of order, like a strange dream.

ROAD WARRIOR 101: Tips for Health and Happiness


I decided to write this because many people ask me for tips and suggestions about how to stay healthy and happy on the road.  I’ve been touring in bands for almost 12 years and The Ragbirds are on the road nearly 200 days a year now and so I’ve learned a trick or two.  I’m continuously researching natural products and vocal techniques – I am my own guinea pig – so maybe you can learn from these experiments.  Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things other singers have recommended to me haven’t worked for me.  Listening to your own body is the best advice anyone can give regarding health and happiness.


This is just a short list of products that you can find at any health food store (or even better – save money on Vitacost.com – see link below)  I also use a travel NETI POT daily and I keep a little 2 oz plastic travel bottle with salt water in my backpack which I use to gargle frequently.  Plus, of course, I drink lots of water! (ask my band-mates –  they get a little annoyed at the frequent pit stops, but it’s so important to stay hydrated!)  I make tea frequently so I travel with a small ELECTRONIC TEAPOT.  I also take advantage of the opportunity to hydrate my throat by putting a scarf over my head and breathing in the steam.

*Emergen-C (so convenient for travel! I take other vitamins at home, but this is the best on-the-go)

*Throat Coat Tea (I only use this when my throat is really sore, not regularly)

*Osha Root Extract (1 dropper full in a shot of water – excellent for a sore voice!)

*Tiger Balm (I massage this into my neck after lots of vocal use) Massaging the throat and stretching the jaw, neck and tongue helps your voice last longer (yawning is a good start!)

*Raw Honey (I get a thermos full of hot water at gas station stops and I add raw honey regularly to herbal tea, which I carry with me.  If I am feeling under the weather fresh ginger and lemon are added as well)

*Eco-Teas Yerba Mate – South American Tea for mental clarity and good energy  (it’s caffeinated, but better for you than coffee!) Some people don’t recommend caffeine at all because it is dehydrating, but I still rely on it for performance energy.

*Chia Seeds (these are so hydrating and packed with benefits – especially fiber, which is hard to get and extra important while traveling) I add about a tablespoon of chia seeds to my water bottle (often together with Emergen-C).  Shake immediately so they don’t clump – the seeds become a bit gelatinous, but you get used to it.

OK, so I’m also a little bit of a freak who carries her own supplement shaker to add to foods.  A mix of NUTRITIONAL YEAST and DULSE (seaweed) FLAKES add extra vitamins and minerals to quick foods that are often lacking in nutritional content – and extra flavor so I use less salt.  Maybe it’s an acquired taste – I really love adding it to eggs, potatoes, popcorn, grits, sandwiches and salads.

Some of these products may seem strange and/or expensive.  If these ideas are new to you, try them one at a time, instead of making a long shopping list.  The nutritional yeast and dulse flakes need only be used sparingly and they last such a long time.

NOTE: I don’t eat meat or dairy and that seems to work best for me, but everyone’s different.  Keeping a snack in my bag keeps me from getting mean (nuts and/or fruit usually – I love dried apricots).  I find avocado to be very soothing to my throat and stomach so I eat it whenever I can.

To exercise I have a thigh master (haha!! – I really do!!) as well as a resistance band in the van that I use to strengthen my muscles.  The aerobic activity of our live show gets my heart pumping, so I’ve found it very important to stretch before shows, just like an athlete warming up for a game.  My hubby bought me Yoga Paws for Christmas and I like that I can use them on any surface without carrying a mat with me.  I try to sneak in brisk walks, sit-ups and push-ups when I can.  It depends on if I’m waking up on the floor in a hippie house in a scary part of the city or in a suburban hotel and how tight the schedule.  Sometimes we don’t have time even for a shower!


I always travel with a journal, a prayerbook (I love the Divine Hours) and a book of poetry (Rumi, Hafiz, Rilke’s “Book of Hours”, Leonard Cohen’s “Book of Longing”). The Ragbirds’ song “Silence is Everywhere” is about finding inner quiet even when there is noise all around.

Here’s a Travelin’ Machine TOUR VIDEO I made featuring the song “Silence is Everywhere”

Deep breathing exercises and meditative music (Bach Cello Suites and Zoe Keating‘s album “Into the Trees” are favorites on my ipod!) are small ways to escape the chaos and enter into inner silence.

LISTEN to a playlist I made on 8tracks.com

Also, I try to stay in touch with people outside of the circle I travel with every day, stay connected to family as much as possible to stay rooted, and keep it real with God.  (for me that means daily confessions and asking for guidance).  I admit I am lucky because my husband and brother travel with me!  (but that comes with its own set of challenges too!  haha!)

AT HOME: (to recover from a tour)

*Apple-Cider Vinegar and Blackstrap Molasses (I don’t travel with this because it’s messy!) – 2 Tbs of the cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s) and a drizzle of molasses in a 16-oz glass of water.  This is balancing and refreshing, plus it seems to help with sinus issues that I’ve always struggled with.

*Smoothies!!!  One of the best things about being home is that I can make them myself and not pay exorbitant prices for a healthy drink.  I like to start with kale and almond milk, blend that well, then add frozen fruit and juice.  Often I add chia seeds too!

If you decide to check out Vitacost, please register through my link so we can both get a $10 off coupon!


Let me know if this is helpful for you and pass it along to friends – especially those who may be touring musicians too!  Feel free to add your own suggestions and comments.

Sincerely and with much love –

Erin Zindle