The String Project Supports:


Follow Us

  • White Instagram Icon
  • Facebook - White Circle

© 2018 The String Project created by Chelsea Nix & Mariano Cortez

  • Behind the String

World Tour Day 1 of 240

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

By: Heather Hontz

Chicago - Barcelona

Part 1: The background story and what the heck this blog is going to be

Here I go with my first blog, so bear with me. I’ll be sharing some insights of the behind the scenes experience of The String Project while also informing you of travel needs, ideas, and what not. Having never traveled like this before, I hope to offer advice for that kind of travel and offer my opinions and good/bad finds along the way.

Ok where do I start? Let’s rewind back to 1998 web I first met Chelsea. If you don’t want the background story and you’re looking for travel tips and such, then skip this part and go to part 2. :)

So where was I? Ok yes, long story short, Chelsea and I met in 3rd grade in Valparaiso, Indiana at a small Catholic School. I’m mentioning the SMALL Catholic school part here because 1. It made for great friendships and 2. It was so old and small and self-run that I’m now seeing the similarities of this trip and how we survived that school and how Chelsea knew I’d be up for this challenge and roll with the punches. Ok so fast forward some more, we both grew up, went to high school together and then went to college. We remained friends over the years and every time I’d see Chelsea, she always had something she was working on and for the past 7 years, she’s been saying “one day we’ll work together. I just know I’ll have a project for you.” So on June 11th she and Mariano sat me down on a couch (see photo) and asked me to be a part of THE STRING PROJECT World Tour. The conversation went something like this:

C&M: we have something to show you.

me: ok

C&M: (show an amazing video of their journey about ArtPrize and how the project came to life)

Me: (crying) ok that was beautiful. You have so much good footage. You should make a documentary.

C&M: welllllll that’s what we want to do and we want you to come with us!

me: umm ok.

Chelsea: wait, are you serious?

Me: yeah, wait. Are you?

Chelsea: omg omg omg

Me: what does this entail?

Mariano: 8 months of travel with 5 people around the world to 21 countries

Me: ok. Where do i sign?

Fast forward to August 1 when the team came together for the first time and we had a team retreat (what I’ll also refer to as THE STRING PROJECT Bootcamp) and it’s the time we all became a family. Me, Chelsea, Mariano and 2 amazing gentleman: Facundo and Guillermo. Throughout this you will hear me refer to them as Facu and Guillo or Guille or “the boys” or “my new brothers.” We are an eclectic mix: 3 Argentinian men and 2 American women embarking on the trip and adventure of a lifetime. (If you’re wondering the background of each of our lives, we all have some crazy story that led us to this moment of choosing this path, and in a way, it was all meant to be).

I Had NO idea at the time how this was all going to pan out, but after a few months, many tears laughs, hugs, and goodbyes, we got on the plane and off we went.

Part 2: selling my life, getting a backpack. I’m assuming for the beginning of this blog, it’ll be my friends and family reading because they’re kind and supportive and so I can start with how shocked everyone was that I would sell my life, get a backpack and travel the world. I spent the last 3 years staying at very nice hotels, training at Barry’s Bootcamp 3-4x a week, getting cryotherapy treatments at $45 a pop, running marathons, eating some of the best meals in the world and living in downtown Chicago. How does one give that up, you may be wondering. Well, the answer is this: nice things and money don’t always equal happiness. Don’t get me wrong, they help, but something was missing. So that’s how I ended up selling everything, leaving the city of Chicago and packing my life up into a 22lb backpack (see picture).

I went from 24/7 food service, unlimited cell phone usage, and more to sleeping in a sleep sack in Barcelona with my 4 other crazy friends. Here’s how I did it:

Packing: I asked Chelsea for weeks what to pack.

Backpack: courtesy of Grand Rapids Moosejaw wholesale price : brand:

What did I pack:


4 pairs of black pants:

1 lululemon align pants (my “fancy” leggings to wear with shirts and a long sweater

1 pair of Nike sweats for travel/plane and walking around

1 pair of target C-9 moisture wicking joggers with a little side pocket

1 pair of Happy Trunks Harem Pants - Bohemian Yoga Elephant Pants (


4 short sleeve shirts

2 black tanks

3 long sleeve shirts

Hoodie/zip up from vuori (my favorite hoodie of all time: see photos for how long I’ve had this and how it was fitting it came with me). Link here:

Black jacket from lululemon

5 socks

3 underwear (full disclosure: I don’t wear underwear with leggings)

5 bras (no wire, comfy, soft ones)


Way too many, but you never know:

Basics: toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution, contacts, face lotion, facewash etc. nothing crazy special or different. You really can buy all that stuff in Barcelona if you ran out/forgot.


This is a good one: I’ve had bad heel pain for awhile after running 2 marathons in 6 weeks and not stretching properly, so every step would be so painful. Therefore, I had to get very supportive shoes. That’s where my “moon shoes” came in.

I read up on the best shoes for walking around in and landed on Hoka One One Bondi 6 (purchased at They’re soo comfortable. Like walking on clouds. Since I knew we’d be walking at least 5-10 miles a day plus carrying 20-30lbs sometimes, i knew i wanted comfy. I also went with the Chaco’s mega z cloud sandal. Again, not my normal style, but so comfortable and good in all terrains.

Miscellaneous items:


Headphones (Norwegian air has plugs for them, so definitely a plus unless you use wireless or an iPad)

Part 3: the flight to Barcelona

Mariano is amazing at finding good deals on flights. To this day, I still don’t understand how he and Chelsea flew to over 25 countries in 6 months on their budget. Now, I’m living this world with them and I get a little piece of it.

This brings me to my experience flying with them on Norwegian Air. I don’t mind flying. I’m the girl who gets to the airport at 2p for a 2:45p flight. I carry on, I grab some food (or pack a snack) and go. Usually my flights are under 2:30 hours and I watch a movie and I’m there with maybe one stop to the plane bathroom. Well, this was going to be 8 hours and many stops to the bathroom and like Chelsea thought, would include a lovely meal and many free snacks. To start, check-in was fairly easy (definitely didn’t need to be there more than 2 hours before) minus having 4 extra large checked items we had to carry. As Mariano and I schlepped 100lbs or more, the man helping us turned to Chelsea and said, “um excuse me, there is a free cart right there.” So needless to say we were huffing and puffing and Chelsea strolled over with a big smile on her face and we all had a good laugh. Chelsea got stopped through security because of her Tupperware of spaghetti and cheese. 1. This would become the last meal she and Mariano ate for 24 hours and 2. You can bring as much food on a plane as you want as long as you take it out and put it in a bin through security. (PRO TIP, you’re welcome).

Me being crazy and wanting to get my 10,000 steps before being on a plane for 8 hours made Chelsea walk around the airport until we boarded. We walked past many delicious food places, but Chelsea and Mariano had just eaten spaghetti and we thought, “no, we will wait until the plane (especially because we are on a budget) and they’ll surely feed us something.”

Fast forward to the plane ride. We were basically in the back of the plane on Norwegian air. It was a big plane and it had screens to watch stuff (if you brought your own plug in headphones (otherwise they were $4 to purchase).

Now let me back-track: Mariano is good at finding very CHEAP flights. Cheap = nothing special or added so when they announced they were about to serve the PRE-ORDERED meals to those who purchased them,

Chelsea turned to Mariano and had this convo:

Chelsea: what did you order us?

Mariano: (looking at her like she was either 1. Making the cutest joke or 2. Like Chelsea, you know I wouldn’t pay for food.

Chelsea: What? No food? We are crossing the sea. You always get food when crossing the sea! How could Norwegian air not feed me.

Now again, Norwegian is great and cheap and got us to Barcelona for $130, but they most definitely give you NOTHING. We even had to ask for water in a cup.

Thank goodness Chelsea packed bananas, granola bars, almonds, I had a muffin and an apple and needless to say, we were fine, but being stuck on an airplane and watching others eat/smelling the food was hard.

They did have plenty of bathrooms, though, so A+ for that and it was a fairly clean and comfortable airline.

Part 4: arriving in Barcelona

Customs was easy. We were exhausted. The boys met us to help carry the load (see pictures). Better to let the pictures speak for themselves so enjoy. We then took a $1 bus ride instead of a taxi because that’s the real live string project way. We literally schlepped the art and equipment down the streets of Barcelona.

Facu found us a lovely little apartment and we spent the day eating lunch, unpacking.

Day 1 ended with Mariano lighting the stove using toilet paper and the flame from the furnace because we didn’t have matches. We then made popcorn, tea, had some cheese & crackers and apples, did some stretching and called it a night. 7:30p bedtime.

And that my friends and new readers is how my first Day in Barcelona was/the beginning of the tour began.