I learned these things the hard way.

It hasn’t even been a week since I departed  on my road trip to see rare manuscripts at Yale, Princeton, and UVA, and I think I’ve already lost twelve years from my life. Five of them were swiped by the George Washington Bridge alone. *Sweats, scar on forehead begins to burn—* (Sorry, I’ve gone through 2 1/2 Harry Potter audio books on my miles and miles of driving and, well, I could not recommend them enough. They’re great brain blasters to negate the stress of navigating new cities, traumatizing Airbnb experiences, and librarians from the black lagoon. But I’m getting ahead of myself.) Although it’s only been six days and things have not gone quite as smoothly as I planned, I’ve learned a lot about research, traveling solo, and myself that I wouldn’t have discovered without all the hiccups. For alas, nothing is wasted, and I hope that applies to the hours I spent having no idea what the heck I was supposed to be doing in the reading room am thankful for THAT.

11 Lessons Learnt on the Road

  1. I get lonely when I travel alone for long periods of time. Harry Potter audiobooks are the perfect driving companion, but also make sure you call up the friends you know in the area. Just do it. 
  2. Imposter syndrome is real but it’s not true; I may be an undergrad who has no idea what she’s doing, but I still have every reason to be here, too!
  3. This is my first rodeo and I will make stupid mistakes/show up at the wrong library/stare at the boxes of manuscripts in illegible handwriting and have no idea what I’m looking at or for or who let me in here in the first place… and that’s ok! Take lots of pictures, soak it up, and embrace the process. And call mom.
  4. You have to pay for parking pretty much everywhere and it is very expensive but that, I have discovered, is why I have grant funding (yippee…)
  5. When you find a used condom in your bed at the Airbnb, say the Lord’s prayer over and over again until you fall asleep (on the floor, of course).
  6. Condescending librarians are probably compensating for something. If I ever become a librarian, I will be like the magical, helpful fairy librarians at UVA, not the scary curator at Princeton (I’m looking at you, Don).
  7. To be fair to Don, before you travel hours to a library, make sure the original manuscripts aren’t restricted and that you can’t just access scanned copies online like any ole peasant (for example, the Gatsby manuscripts. Lol.)
  8. Mohammed and Amanda will teach you to learn to love (Airbnb) again.
  9. I operate best when I have a game plan; make a schedule the night before and follow it like a little robot and you will feel human again.
  10. Reading rooms don’t allow water bottles so, like, remember to #drink at some point in your life…
  11. Take tours of the schools you’re visiting and ask obnoxious questions (but don’t be too obnoxious if you’re a tour guide yourself… that tour guide karma comes around pretty hard).

I still have two days left in Charlottesville, so who knows what other mistakes I will make and things I will learn! The possibilities are endless!

So stay tuned,



  1. Thanks for writing about the difficulties of being on the road! I always feel guilty for complaining about loneliness or sub-par Airbnbs, because traveling is a privilege, but being cut off from friends and family and routines isn’t easy. Thanks for the reminder that being “a little robot” doesn’t necessarily contrast with being human: schedules have a certain comfort to them, and sometimes spontaneity is overrated. Finally, I really appreciate your reflecting about how to be a better librarian / service provider in general based on how people are treating you.

  2. danaflorczak says:

    Hi Emma,

    I also just returned from traveling alone to archival libraries, and had many similar experiences – I appreciated this list A LOT (although yikes, I am very sorry about #5). One thing I noticed while I was conducting my own research and looking through the archives was that the physical papers or files you see are not always helpful, but they can be really helpful as a whole in that they force you to think about what direction you want your research to be going in. I’m just curious, did you find this as well? Or was there a set of manuscripts that totally upheld your theory or changed your perspective completely? Another thing I found interesting is where authors choose to keep their manuscripts, and why. Was it a school they attended or taught at, or an area or institution they loved or respected? And if the authors had any connections to those universities, did walking around Yale, Princeton, and UVA (all very different vibes than W&M) make you feel more connected to them?


  3. Hi Emma!

    First of all, following your journey has been very exciting, and I love this list haha. I also traveled alone this summer, to Germany to research the Protestant Reformation, so I feel that need for having a game plan to follow!

    What have your findings been so far on how these original manuscripts relate to masculinity theory? Have you found a great difference in the way that the male protagonists are characterized in original texts versus the final published version, or any evidence of how they evolved throughout the revision and publishing process? I can’t wait to hear more about your project over the coming months!


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