By EMILY SCHABACKER/Montana State News
Sitting in penguin pajamas in the comfort of her new apartment, Tharon Snuggs’s red curly hair hangs in soggy strands around her face; but as the water evaporates, her hair grows more and more voluminous.
By the time she goes to bed, it has formed a wide halo around her narrow face, pointing and zig zagging in every direction. Her hair fits her. Unpredictable curls paired with the stigma of redheads gives Snuggs the edge she needs for her hobby, or rather, her lifestyle.
Even in the States, a country where women have rights, young girls grow up with a warning: women should never travel alone. Society depicts females as easy prey, weak at the hands of a predator. And most American women heed this warning, but for Snuggs this advice came across as a challenge.
Just one month ago Snuggs moved to Montana, but before that she lived in Maryland, Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, Puerto Rico and Oregon. Every six months or so Snuggs gets an itch for adventure, so every six months she packs up her few belongings, picks a new state, and hits the road all by herself.
An adrenaline junkie of sorts, Snuggs craves the thrills that life has to offer. “My favorite,” she said, “is when things get tight and you gotta just say ‘OK, I gotta suck it up and do shit right now.’”
As of February 2017 Snuggs has lived in eight states, traveled to 43, and plans to knock two more off her list this summer as her wanderings bring her back to a newfound, but seasonal, passion.
At every destination Snuggs picks up an odd job here, an odd one there, eventually accumulating the cash for a small apartment. As of the summer of 2016, the National Parks Service in Maryland hired her on as a summer employee. Now, Snuggs sees her future with the National Park Service.
“I get to use my history degree a little when I’m there, so I can definitely see myself going back.” Though a seasonal job now, the position has room for growth and the possibility of a permanent job. “I’m craving roots,” she laughs, “but I think that can wait for another three years or so.”
During her time in Gallatin County, Snuggs has found a job at Smiling Moose Deli where she spends her days making sandwiches for the people of Four Corners.
Her coworkers laugh when asked about Snuggs: “She has a dark sense of humor and sometimes we’re not always sure if she’s serious or not, but she adds a personality that we didn’t have before. She’s a lot of fun and we’re happy to have her here,” said Sarah Pritchard, a busser at the deli.
If you see her making sandwiches at Smiling Moose Deli, her naturally crazy red hair would be tamed to a smooth and sophisticated wave. Surprisingly put together for her lifestyle, Snuggs is meticulously clean and tidy.
She was the first in her family to graduate college and the first to see the world as her oyster.
“She’s been independent her whole life,” said Mrs. Snuggs when she flew down from Tennessee to visit her only daughter. “She had to be. My husband and I both worked in factories, so she entertained herself.” She assured me that Mr. Snuggs felt confident that “their daughter can show any man who’s boss.”
At 27 years old and after six years of travelling alone, Snuggs confesses she’s almost ready to settle down. When she talks about her travels she sounds disillusioned. It’s hard to pry even one story out of her.
“I’ve met so many women that do this,” she said. “that it feels pretty unoriginal. Travelling women is a movement that’s on the rise.”
On top of that, Snuggs said that traveling can wear on a person. Nothing is permanent in a life on the move, and “it’s hard to make real connections with people when you know you’ll leave soon anyway,” she said.
But despite the loneliness of travel and the lack of connection she feels, Snuggs isn’t ready to give up quite yet. “I’ve made it a habit that I think I’ll have a tough time breaking.” At this point, staying in one place is difficult for her.
Come summertime, Snuggs plans to make her way back to Maryland to work in Assateague Island National Seashore. She provides visitors with safety information in case they come across the wild horses that live on the island.
Living and working on a beach destination with wild horses sounds like a dream for many of us, but Snuggs has a different idea in mind. The ideal destination for Snuggs would be at Mammoth Cave National Park located in central Kentucky.
It was the first national park she had ever been to and it sparked a fascination in her that she has yet to shake.
“When you’re a kid things capture your imagination in a way that is almost impossible as an adult.” Now, six years out of college and Snuggs sometimes wishes she had majored in geology. “It’s something I think about a lot,” she said.
As the end of the evening approaches, Snuggs recalls the first time she walked into a coffee shop. She was 18, a Freshman in college, and she had never read the words cappuccino or latte before. “I was so nervous, I didn’t even know how to pronounce them” she laughs. “I really can’t believe I’ve come so far.”
– edited by Samantha Sundly