When I came home from Znojmo, I was sad to think that my opportunities to travel for the rest of the year might slow down. This month though has proved quite to the contrary. In the weeks leading up to the start of my new job, I have been lucky to travel to some totally new and some familiar places in all directions!
Although it had already been 3 months since officially “coming home” to the United States and my hometown area after my year in Znojmo, Czech Republic, my reverse culture shock was revived again by the homecoming weekend event of my university, The College of William and Mary. Homecoming is an event that takes place at many schools across the United States as a way to draw the alumni community of that school back for a weekend of nostalgia. More or less it can be considered a fundraising stunt, as well 🙂
William and Mary is an awesome school for its sense of community, and therefore it is awesome at providing an amped up homecoming weekend. While many people responded to my weekend plan to go back for homecoming by telling me that they had rarely ever returned to their university campuses, let alone for “homecoming” weekend, I spent the whole weekend surrounded by WM alumni of all generations and even their children and spouses. So yes, WM people tend to have a lot of “Tribe Pride!”
I was definitely bummed to miss out on Homecoming last year (although a trip to Florence definitely took my mind off things 😉 ). The things I most looked forward to were walking around the beautiful historic campus, eating my favorite foods, and seeing old friends—all 3 of which were easy to accomplish! Within 48 hours I managed to relive 4 years of university life. I ate at 2 of my favorite sandwich shops, Aromas and The Cheese Shop, walked around “CW” or Colonial Williamsburg, watched my old roommate’s acapella group The Intonations, went to on-campus, off-campus, bar, and tailgate parties, literally went to almost every spot on campus, and saw zillions of friends and even a few professors. One of my favorite times was dancing on our main green to a 70s funk band that was just like the King and Queens Dance/Last Chance Dance that I went to during college. If I closed my eyes I could almost pretend that it was 2 years ago…
I think the strangest part for me was that after spending a whole year connecting with high school students, I was now dunked back into the very idiosyncratic world of William and Mary and university life. Then suddenly, it was all over again and I was back to the “real world.” In addition it also felt weird to be back in a place where I once felt so comfortable, with friends literally at every turn–a pretty big contrast to living alone in a foreign country and now in the big crazy world of NYC and millions of strangers. Overall, it left me with the impression that I really did have an awesome time at university and a renewed sense of my own “Tribe Pride.” College wasn’t always fun, but it’s a place that I hope to continue visiting and remembering for years to come.
With the weeks before starting a job dwindling down, I decided to go on a mini-road-trip on my own to visit some friends in Maine and Boston. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as my companion on the drive North, I loved seeing the perfect blossoming of the fall colors all along the highway.
Portland, Maine was amazing! After being in NYC for a few months, I was so happy to see so much nature and local business in a charming smaller city. My friend who recently moved there was an awesome host and so I crossed off all the typical Maine activities on my bucket list. They aren’t kidding when they say that Maine has a lot of lobster and lighthouses. Our first night was spent at J’s Oyster, which had delicious seafood and a really great lobster stew! Then our second night was spent going to one lighthouse, followed by a second one (the Porland Head Light) that I stopped by on my way out of town. Beyond the typical foods of Maine, I must say Portland had awesome bakeries and coffeeshops. If you’re ever there, you must go to The Holy Donut (haha) where they have donuts made of potatoes! Sounds gross, tastes amazing!! Also for coffeeshops and bakeries try The Standard Baking Co. and Arabica Coffee. Both were delicious and so cute!
As I said before, Maine was extra amazing because of the beautiful nature (complemented by the unusually awesome weather I was lucky to have). I spent one afternoon on Mackworth Island, just off of Portland. While strolling around the Island on my own, I met so many really warm and Maine-spirited people. The combination of the forest and the beach with the water all around was magical and at every turn the trees seemed to catch a different light. I think I could have stayed for hours, especially after one woman told me that to walk the other way around the circular trail would give me a whole different perspective. Next time…
After Maine I headed to Boston, a familiar city, to see 4 different awesome friends. I literally entered Boston with a bang. After admiring a huge suspension bridge in the distance, I drove over it (and something else) and got my first-ever flat tire! Unfortunately, I had to drive over the bridge and through a tunnel on the flat in order to finally pull over somewhere in Downtown Boston. While I’ve always been wary of Bostonians (as a Yankee fan), 2 flat-out decent guys came to my rescue. Thank you to Russ, crew guy of Fox News, and Elwin for totally taking over my flat tire repair situation and having me back on the road in under 30 minutes! I would have been totally lost otherwise!
The rest of my time in Boston was spent visiting with friends and exploring different parts of the city. I loved the Beacon Hill area for all its old colonial-era architecture and cute shops on Charles Street. I spent a relaxing afternoon in some Adirondack chairs stumbled upon near the Charles River. My final afternoon was spent with an awesome tour of the colonial area from one of my fellow Fulbright friends, who is a new Bostonian following our year in the Czech Republic.
One of the mental notes I made during my year teaching all about America was about how little of America I have actually seen and know. We are lucky to live in a super duper diverse country with so many different places to see, but also different kinds of people with different perspectives. I’ve also learned that traveling to see friends and family is the best kind of traveling. Not only do you get to see a familiar face, but also you have a free tour guide and someone to show you the local places where the locals go. New England is beautiful in the autumn, but I discovered 2 new places where I could see myself all year round.
Stay tuned for “…East and West” about my first trip to Asia!