In May of this year, when her friends asked her what her plans were after graduation, Rachel Blum ’11 would answer simply, “I don’t really know yet.”
She didn’t have a job lined up and, despite 16 years of schooling, still wasn’t ready to decide what kind of work she even wanted to look for. So instead she decided to do something that by her own admission is “kinda crazy.” Blum would spend her summer “getting some alone time,” by traveling the country in her green 2001 Honda Civic, sleeping on the floors and couches and guest beds of Princeton alumni in every city she visited.
She has traveled clockwise from her home in Jacksonville, Fla., through the Southwest to California, then up the coast to Vancouver, where she was yesterday. In the coming weeks she’ll complete the circuit, driving to New England via the Northern states before heading south, back home to Jacksonville. In all, she estimates she’ll stay with about two dozen Princeton alumni during her trip, and a handful of friends and relatives as well.
Mark Zee ’03, who hosted Blum in Houston, said he was excited to help her as a way to give back to the Princeton community. “I did Princeton in Asia, and I crashed at so many Princetonians’ houses all over Asia, so it was pretty easy for me to say yes,” Zee said.
To Zee – and to most of Blum’s hosts – Blum was a complete stranger when she e-mailed him asking for a roof for a night. “When I get to a city where I know someone, of course I try to stay with them,” explained Blum. “But otherwise I just send an e-mail to a bunch of alumni and see who writes back.”
She’s been lucky so far. Since Blum set out in late June, she has not spent a spent a single night in a hotel. “I really couldn’t afford to do this trip if I had to pay to sleep,” she said. She manages to cut corners on her food budget, too, frequenting Whole Foods Market around the lunch hour to fill up on free samples. Gas money comes from four years of work as an intramural supervisor at Princeton.
Overwhelmingly, it has been the generosity of Princeton alumni that has kept her well rested and well fed.
“I’ve never gotten such an interesting query to come stay,” said Scott Brassfield ’70. “I couldn’t resist.” Brassfield, who lives in Colorado Springs, hosted Blum when she came to watch former teammate Kelly Shon ’14 compete in the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament. “I’m certainly glad [I said yes], though. We still e-mail each other every so often. I’m hoping to see her back here sometime soon.”