Cat Marnell On Self-Tanner And The Loneliness of Travel

Nov 04 2019 by
Categories : Makeup & nails

She details her months-long solo Euro trip in the Audible Original, Self-Tanner For The Soul.

In her 2017 New York Times best-selling addiction memoir How To Murder Your Life, NYC-based writer Cat Marnell shared her journey to becoming a beauty editor at Lucky magazine while managing (or, uh, not quite managing) a prescription drug habit. Post-Lucky, Marnell went on to write for xoJane, before being let go and giving this infamous statement to Page Six about her exit: “I’m always on drugs. Look, I couldn’t spend another summer meeting deadlines behind a computer at night when I could be on the rooftop of Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust with my friends and writing a book, which is what I’m doing next.”

Marnell’s new audiobook Self-Tanner For The Soul: How I Ran Away to Europe and Found My Inner Glow (When Life Got Dark), an Audible Original, picks up where that story left off.

As Marnell puts it, 2017  “should have been one of the best times of my life, but it was the worst.” Among the reasons for this: a brutal breakup, burning off all of her hair and sustaining chemical burns during an amphetamine binge and suspicions that she was being stalked. When her psychiatrist tells her to move out of town, she decides to give up her Chinatown apartment, put everything in storage and buy a one-way ticket to Europe.

Self-Tanner For The Soul details 118 days of Marnell’s solo journey from Portugal through Croatia, Greece, Italy, Turkey and Romania (to name a few), then back to New York. While there are flashes of the same Marnell chronicled in her memoir – in one memorable chapter, she gets drunk before hopping on an inflatable tube and into a quick-moving river – Self-Tanner For The Soul is closer to self-help than self-sabotage.

Below, Marnell tells us why solo travel is rewarding, if not particularly fun, and names her favourite self-tanners.


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Peace Italy! Got a night ferry to Albania in 3 hrs .. Missed my massimo vitali light for this one as I always do #7PMSwimmer

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Tell me about the name of your audiobook, Self-Tanner for the Soul

First of all, who doesn’t love self tanner? I get that it’s a personal thing, but self tanner is fabulous. I used to slather that shit on when I hadn’t slept. It got me thinking about inner glow – the light, your spirit, the crackling energy inside of you – that shit, it carried me through my whole life. I liked that it referred to my beauty background. It’s kind of like a cover line. Like, ‘How to get a glow’ – I used to write all those stories, so I wanted to do something a bit less shallow. It’s about your inner glow.

What’s the best self tanner?

All of my products are being discontinued, everything in my life. I can’t believe it. I’m like, what’s next? I go into Sephora, I don’t recognize anything. I never believed in the Jergens lotion. But then Carole Radziwill, from Real Housewives of New York, she could have anything right? She could have any of the most expensive ones, and she uses it everyday and I always think that she’s so put together looking. I used to use that Lancôme spray. It’s really good, you just have to use it everyday. When I self tan, I just slap it on, I don’t exfoliate, I don’t do any of that hard stuff anymore, life’s too short and it works. You just have to announce your beauty problem when you arrive. Like, ‘I know my self tanner is streaky, I’m aware’. That’s why I like travelling. I can be extra messy sometimes.

You say that “travelling alone is crazy and rewarding and good for your brain, but it’s not fun.” Can you expand on that?

Anything isn’t fun when you’re by yourself, unless you’re getting your exercise. The way I coped with the loneliness was getting into the same mode that you’re in when you’re working out and your endorphins are pumping and you’re charging up a hill and you’re totally focused. I had a ton of focus. Except, it felt like work: I had to get up, everyday, I would have to get out of the hotel, I’d have to check out, I’d have to pack up. It was always stress. I had no one to turn to and laugh about things. When you’re by yourself, if the waiters are mean to you, it’s really, like I would hang my head, you know. I had no one to roll my eyes at. When your dick waiter walked away, I had no one to be like, oh my god – you’re just sitting there. Luckily I could always do a journal. But I got to do this crazy thing [travel] that I never would have been able to do with someone with me, I don’t think. It was too crazy, no one is going to do that with me.

You said that you don’t have any self-help advice for people, but that you would recommend going to Europe. If someone wanted to do something similar to what you did, how much would it roughly cost?

People have asked me this, and it’s hard to say, but much cheaper than you think. There’s this thing called FlixBus and you can get from country to country for like $4. You just have to research. The train can be more expensive. I would encourage people to stay in a youth hostel. For the most part Europe is very inexpensive, but in the summer you’re going to pay much more because you need air conditioning. So if you go in the off season, it can be really cheap, like $30 a night. Everyone should do it. Travelling is a privilege for sure, and I wouldn’t be able to afford it it I was paying rent at home. I want everyone to go to Europe. It changes your brain. It’s amazing. Obviously, everyone wants to go to Europe, so [me telling you to go] is like, ‘Oh great, thanks Cat.’ But maybe it’s an extra push toward having that big adventure, especially for women. Go off the beaten path, and fu**ing @ me on social media if you’re seeing some of the places that you heard about in my audio.


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#hobostyle #BlackForest

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Self-Tanner For The Soul: How I Ran Away to Europe and Found My Inner Glow (When Life Got Dark) is available now on

Categories: Makeup & nails