Lessons Learned from Inaugural Travels

I’ve almost recovered from yesterday (pictured above). It was one of those days where it felt like 5 days in one. I’ve loved catching up with friends, family and coworkers and hearing every one’s experiences, no matter where and how they spent the day. I still can’t believe I went down (and made it back) on a whim, so I though I’d share a few lessons learned:

  • Follow your gut & don’t be afraid of adventure – Everything I read dissuaded me from going, but deep down I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go. The spur of the moment decision meant I had no expectations, so I feared the worst, and ended up with the best.
  • Last minute isn’t always a bad thing – Sometime no plan at all is exactly what you need.
  • Pack light and be self-contained – I seriously only brought a collapsible grocery bag with the rest of my layers of clothing and a toothbrush. It meant one less thing to coordinate, and I didn’t have to go back to the apartment before getting on my train home (which was plenty an adventure within itself). The biggest plus may be it also makes getting through security a breeze. And, you always impress your friends when you pack light!
  • It’s better to overdress than underdress – When they warn you about freezing temperatures, it’s not just for amusement’s sake. It’s much easier to take a layer off than to put a layer on. Hand warmers are the best invention ever, as are toastie toes! Whoever invented those must be a multi-millionaire after all these events. Also, note, standing directly on actual ground is much colder than standing on gravel or concrete – it just soaks up the cold.
  • Move! – I find dancing the best way to stay warm when you’re standing still for hours upon end (which hopefully I won’t have to do again anytime soon). When you’re so cold it’s easy to forget, but just moving your feet can help a lot. You may also laugh at yourself, which is always good too. (Note: dancing in warm weather can be just as fun)
  • Stay flexible – Luckily I have a bunch of friends in DC, and two of them were awesome enough to take me in under their wings with 3 hours of notice. I didn’t have a train out of DC at all, so I realized the reality was that I could be stuck there until late last night or early this morning. I did this to myself, so had to acknowledge any possible consequences.
  • Have awesome friends – Not only did my friends take me in, other friends passed along good information, and my coworker handed over her extra Marc tickets to me (a complete life saver!). It seriously pays to have friends.
  • Make new friends – From the train ride down, to the characters on the metro to people standing it line, or people who offered to take my picture, I met the nicest people and had a fantastic experience thanks to them all. It was a complete joy bonding over this day.
  • Be crazy – Sometimes there are good reasons to wake up at 5am. It makes a better story at the end of the day.
  • Soak it all up – Listen to what the experts tell you, but also don’t take it as a given. Everyone working security was very helpful, but even they didn’t have all the answers. I took everything in that I’d been hearing in the weeks and days leading up to the event, and I made it out with flying colors.
  • Stay calm – Getting mad doesn’t help anything. Instead I bonded with my neighbors were were stuck in the same position as me. Laughter is always the best medicine.
  • Just Try – My Marc ticket technically wasn’t until 8pm, but as an avid Marc [$7 commuter] train rider, I knew that all tickets are generally accepted. Rather than freeze to death, I was able to get on a 4pm train and was in the comforts of my (warm!) home by 5pm.
  • Thank your parents for making you tall – Consider bringing something to stand on, if you can’t see over peoples heads. Also, realize for that reason it’s harder to bring kids to this kind of thing (but one day they will probably find it in their heart to thank you).
  • Don’t expect to sit, but expect to walk – Maybe this will encourage Americans to get in shape (with their new president leading by example). I was seriously on my feet from 5:30 am to 4pm. I just wish I would have taken ibuprofen in the morning, because my lower back was quite sore and crotchety by the end.
  • Bring snacks – Hungry people = mean people. Everyone is happier with food in them. Just know that Clif bars get super hard in the cold (and just about killed my jaw yesterday!).
  • Stay Hydrated – Liquid is crucial to survival. However, I recommend compensating, but drinking a lot of water the day and night before. That way you can get most of it out of your system for the actual event. Bonus points for avoiding portapotties!
  • Know who you’re traveling with – Everyone has different travel styles. I loved hanging with my friends, but also loved being able to go off on my own and being on my own timetable. Balance is key. I was just thankful I wasn’t responsible for an entire bus load of kids! Responsibility can be over rated.
  • View things through your eyes + document your day- For the first time in a long time I was really pleased with how my pictures turned out. I documented my day from start to finish, the monumental and mundane. I looked for views that not everyone had, and juxtapositions I had not imagined. One of my highlights was when my friends lifted me so I towered over the crowd and could take this shot.
  • Break the rules – No one would have have advised my last minute decision. But I will never forget it.


  • great advice.

    flexibility is key for the type of last-minute, high-attended and memorable events everyone should do at least a couple of times in their lives. it’s always worth it.

  • I don’t want to brag or anything, but I was out my door by 4:15am! If I hadn’t been an inaugural volunteer I would have been as close as you were (was by the Monument in that throng of people).

    Awesome photos!

  • Wow!! I’m so happy you did it, and you learnt so much! It is such an exciting time. You really sound as if you had a great great time. Thanks for posting, was a great read – with some nice thoughts to remind myself of everyday.

    P.S. I hope it’s okay, I stole a few of your awesome photos for my post today – please tell me if you want them taken down? Thank you!


  • Great tips… will remember this the next time I decide not to do something amazing… like go to DC when the first woman is elected president. I’m planning already.

  • Great advice. I doubt if I’ll be going to the next inauguration in South Africa, I don’t think it’s something to get that excited about. But who knows, and if it does seem like a big event I will know where to look for tips! Congratulations on your new president!

  • Glad you got to go to this historical event, Anne. The images are great from Tues and Sat. I can see you had fun with your adventure. I had to resort to taking photos of my TV to feel like I was there in person. I am envious that you got to experience it all first hand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *