This article originally appeared in the August, 2011 issue of Belle Magazine. It recounts my experience of appearing on The Today Show.
After college I didn’t have any close friends. At least not geographically speaking. I had four great ones strewn across states and time zones. We met in high school, attended college in Iowa and started chasing our dreams—pursuits that landed us all over the US. I’m based in Greenville; Melissa is in our hometown of Sioux City, Iowa; Morgenne is in Gilbert, Arizona; Dawn recently moved to Tampa, Florida and Tonya lives in Corona, California.
Long before Facebook news feeds and MySpace messages I developed a way for us to stay connected. It’s a beat-up book with loose pages and worn edges that’s traveled further than Lewis and Clark ever did—38,110 miles and counting. That’s equal to a trip-and-a-half around the world and by the grace of God in ten years the traveling journal has never gotten lost in the mail. And recently our journal took a trip to the Big Apple for an appearance on national television.
It started with a Wall Street Journal columnist writing a piece on long distance friendship. She needed a source and I responded. So in June the five of us found ourselves plastered inside America’s most widely circulated newspaper. The article brought a lot of attention to the business we co-founded a year ago, TheTravelingJournal.com, a website we developed to inspire other long distance friends to start their own traveling journals. It was thrilling. But the story gets even better.
About two weeks after our Wall Street Journal appearance I received an email from a Today Show producer. “I am trying to get in touch with all five of you for a segment on the show about your traveling journal,” she wrote. “This is such a heartwarming story and we would love to share it with our viewers. How can we get this together so I can travel you ALL to NYC for a segment on 7/18?” I screamed. And cried. And jumped up and down. Then one-by-one I called my friends to share the incredible news and one-by-one I got each one’s voicemail. “Are you kidding me!” I shouted to my officemates. “I am sitting on the best news ever and I can’t get a hold of any of them!”
I started dialing again and finally I started reaching them. Melissa screamed. Dawn doubted. Morgenne swore. Tonya instantly declared she was starting a diet. We were all thrilled. Before we knew it airline tickets were booked, hotel rooms were reserved and we were told men holding little signs with our names on them would be waiting for us at the airport.
We shared two wonderful days in the city before our Today Show appearance. We visited touristy spots wearing matching t-shirts featuring TheTravelingJournal.com logo. We practiced our interview questions over brunch at the Four Seasons. And we even bumped into actor and comedian Steve Carell on a street corner. We asked his advice on our impending Today Show appearance and he said, “Oh you’ll do great! They’re so nice over there.”
Monday morning came and we nervously got ready. We walked the two blocks from our hotel room to the NBC studios, giving our names to a security guard who pointed us to the green room. Once there we were immediately ushered to a row of chairs in front of a big mirror. Some of us got our hair done first, others makeup. Then after about 15 minutes we switched. The wardrobe department pressed our outfits, we changed and before we knew it we were escorted to the studio.
They sat us on a curved cream couch behind a glass coffee table—it’s an interview set countless celebrities, newsmakers and politicians have sat in for their Today Show interviews. By this time I was no longer nervous, simply excited. I snapped pictures with my iPhone as Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford completed other segments, interviewing reality stars Bill and Giuliana Rancic and highlighting summer hairstyles.
Then at 10:52am our segment started. Kathie Lee and Hoda asked us about our traveling journals and how this tradition has helped us keep connected over the last decade. They even showed a silly photo from our first journal of the five of us dressed up in 80’s clothes. We explained that we’ve filled two journals with the story of 25 moves, a dozen boyfriends, five trips to Vegas, three babies, four weddings and even the funeral of our circle of friends’ sixth link: Jessica Hughes.
Jessica was our smart, sarcastic best friend with black curly hair and wrinkly hands who died in a car crash about six months after we started the traveling journal. She never got to write in it. And losing something you love makes you hold on to what you have even tighter. At 21-years-old we learned that friendships are precious gifts.
We told the world how the traveling journal works: when it shows up in your mailbox you must write something (no topic is off-limits), add a few photos (the sillier the better) and send it back on its voyage and how there’s something about our traveling journal that makes the miles in between our stretched-out circle melt. We can hold the record of our friendships in our hands, flip its pages, review its ups and downs.
And just before our four minute segment was over we handed Hoda and Kathie Lee gift bags with their own traveling journals tucked inside, which got a great endorsement from Hoda. We all agree that it really couldn’t have gone better. And when we started this long distance friendship tradition ten years ago, we never imagined the journey it would take us on.