She also talks about spontaneous travel and I show her my diary.
It was a sunny January day in Hollywood as I made my way to the Orange Court Terminal to board a double-decker Starline Tours bus, where I would interview Busy Phillipps–actress, author, social media goddess, etc. She was surprising five of “America’s biggest planners,” who won an impromptu trip to Los Angeles with HotelTonight (which she uses all the time, truly, by the way), by leading the bus tour as we drove around the city. And with Busy as your tour guide, it’s not a regular tour–it’s way funnier.
“Up here we’re passing one of my favorite restaurants, Jon + Vinny’s. It’s amazing,” Busy told us. “After Michelle [Williams] won her Golden Globe on Sunday, we came here and they gave us a private room, which is essentially their storage room, and we ate pizza.”
“Oh! I went to a therapist over here,” she says pointing at a building.
We drive by Swingers, the iconic diner from, well, the movie Swingers.
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“Swingers has a great turkey burger,” she states, matter-of-factly. “You have to ask for cheese,” she adds. “When I was doing Freaks and Geeks, we would come here after work, and Linda Cardellini would always get the vegetarian breakfast burrito and I would get a turkey burger. The boys would get fries with ranch dressing because, well, we were essentially teenagers.”
We pass by the Chateau Marmont. “That’s Chateau Marmont. I stayed there on my wedding night,” she says, before spotting another place she knew and excitedly exclaiming, “Oh! There’s a really ugly club right over here!” She’s referring to the now-closed Dublin’s.
Everyone laughs and she continues pointing out other places that mean something to her (the place where she took her first spin class, her first therapist’s office, Sunset Trocadero, which opened when she turned 21). We pass by another restaurant, The Griddle Cafe. She points at it and tells us that everybody waits in a long line to eat the pancakes there, but in her opinion, “honestly, they’re trash, don’t wait in line for the pancakes.”
Everyone is laughing. This is a good tour.
And it was good because it was honest, which is exactly what Busy Philips is–she’s real. Honest. Authentic. Pick a synonym–it’s all of those things. And just as these qualities are essential to the makeup of a good human being, they are also essential to exactly what she was here to promote–spontaneous travel, which is exactly what it sounds like (a spur of the moment, unplanned trip).
FODOR’S: What would you say is the most rewarding thing about spontaneous travel?
BUSY PHILIPPS: I think a lot of people are afraid of spontaneous travel. I think that one of the best things about it is that we put so much pressure on trips that we plan and think about for a long time, and when you realize you have, like, an easy Friday, where you can get out of town, or your kids don’t have school Monday, or it’s a holiday, there are no expectations, and I find that spontaneous travel leads you to more authentic experiences with family and friends–because you’re kinda just in it together.
It kind of makes you trust yourself more in general.
Has anything ever gone WRONG on a spontaneous trip for you and it ended up being a good experience?
(At this point we’re distracted because the bus has driven underneath a low hanging tree and the tour guide exclaims, “Watch out for the tree!” The tree branch drags over the top of the bus.)
Okay, this is a wild turn of events.
That was spontaneous. Anyways.
[I was on a trip where] at one point, my friend’s luggage was lost, and it was really stressful but ended up being hilarious and fun. We were somewhere where there weren’t malls, so she had to cobble outfits together that didn’t work, and it was really funny. You gotta be able to go with the flow when you travel and I think so many people get bogged down with having to have things planned.
I know you like Palm Springs, if I suddenly decided to go there tomorrow, what are the main three places I should go or do?
You should go to Cheeky’s for breakfast, the line will be long, but it is worth it. You should go play bocce at the Parker Palm Springs and have one of their vodka lemonade drinks from the lemonade stand, and you should–wait, are you with your children?
No, I don’t have children.
Okay, so, then you should do a detour to Pappy and Harriet’s in Joshua Tree and see some live music.
Where are your other favorite California spots to spontaneously travel to?
We like Santa Barbara a lot, Ojai is very close, so, love Ojai. The girls [her daughters] love Ojai and it kind of feels like you’re in a different world. We like Big Sur–really beautiful–
(At this point, another tree branch drags over the top of the bus above our heads and Busy is SHOOK.)
This is terrifying. To be on top of this bus. I just have to say that. Hang on, I have to Instagram story this.
(She then begins filming herself and, to be honest, I am elated to be sitting next to her as she makes one of her Instagram stories.)
Top three things you never travel without, regardless of where you’re going?
I’m trying to live a greener existence. I am good about no plastic water bottles in Los Angeles because it’s easy, but, now, I always bring my reusable water bottle [on trips], too. That’s number one.
I bring a canvas shopping bag for when I go out and about. And then I bring one of those little headwrap towels to put on your wet hair because the big hotel towels are too big.
(After that, we talked about our shared hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona–and her book, This Will Only Hurt a Little.)
The parts in your book where you mention, like, Paradise Valley Mall, are very important to me.
Wait. Did you understand my references to like sitting on storm washes?
Oh, yeah. There wasn’t much else to do. So you sat on storm washes.
My editors were trying to like get me to change that part, they were like, “No one can understand what that is. And I was like, I don’t care! It’s so specific to what my experience was growing up! If you grew up in a place with storm washes you get it, and if you didn’t, you don’t.
Where did you grow up exactly?
(I give her my address. She nods. I move on to a very important Arizonan topic–shopping centers. After all, that’s one of the main things you do in Scottsdale. You go shopping.)
Will you please rank the Arizona shopping centers in importance to you, as you remember them?
Okay, [ranked by] personal importance [to me] are: Scottsdale Fashion Square was number one, Pavilions was number two, Paradise Valley Mall was number three, number four was The Biltmore, and number five was a mall I can’t remember that got demolished.
Movie theater you frequented the most?
Pavilions. And then when I was in high school, the one outside Fashion Square–the art house one.
Oh yeah! That one’s gone. It made me feel cool.
So cool. I saw a lot of intense indie movies there. And also Kenneth Branagh’s 4-hour Hamlet.
Yeah, I saw Napoleon Dynamite there.
(And then I did something that is very regular for a human to do–I showed her my diary. Specifically, I showed her an entry from November 2018, when I was reading her book and had written down every quote from it that I loved–for no reason other than that I like telling writers when I love their work because, frankly, it’s just nice to hear. Thankfully, she wasn’t creeped out by me.)