A Summer of Wanderings

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.

Augustine of Hippo

Since I was 5 years old, I’ve traveled almost every summer. Most of the summers of my youth were spent in France, but as I got older, I tried to get out into different parts of America as well. In my teens and early twenties, I managed to hit up every state on the East coast from Florida to Maryland, and then westward into Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, and eventually, Nevada.

And then it all stopped.

I could get into all the whys and hows, the excuses and the arguments. But the end result was the same, regardless of how it happened. For 9 years, travel was not an option, and my house was more cage than home.

Then the tumult and chaos of last year happened, and I was travelling again out of nowhere. Savannah (multiple times), Charleston, New York, Augusta, and, at the end, Oak Island. All were whirl-wind trips of only a couple days here and there, but all were meaningful in some way. A part of me that was suppressed for so long was returning.

This year, with my life officially in restart mode, I was able to pull off some longer trips, both alone and with Liam as my little travel partner.

The kickoff to my summer of wanderings was a trip to Greer, South Carolina, to watch my gorgeous cousin Christina walk down the aisle. A family affair, of course, this meant traveling with Liam and my other family members. As dysfunctional as we can all be, the wedding was beautiful and the hitching went off without a hitch. There was a bit of rain, but hey, I’ve been told that’s good luck.

The end of June brought with it a special trip – Savannah. A journey of the heart and soul, and other things. Crossing over the bridge and into downtown was spiritual. It felt like coming home, as odd as that is, especially considering that bridge terrifies me every time I’m on it. But that time? As I drove skyward before dropping to the scene of historic downtown? I’ll remember forever.

I’ll remember, too, my lovely little apartment escape on Whitaker. Learning the neighborhood in my drives to, from, and within Bonaventure, amongst other places. Morning cemetery walks with one of my favorite canine compadres. Iced coffee, reminiscent of Charleston. Delicious food, as always, from places like Sunbury, The Wyld, and The Farm. And above all, the person behind it.

There’s much more that I could say about that trip, but honestly? At the moment, much of it is locked away, kept safe in my heart, and I no longer possess that particular key. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced something so bittersweet.

Til death.

Summer forged ahead whether I was ready to move forward or not, and at the end of July, I was lucky enough to head to New Orleans for a teaching conference. My closest friend and coworker, Amy, was able to come as well and we had a lovely time wandering the French Quarter and roaming Metairie Cemetery between lectures. I could probably devote an entire post to Metarie by itself, considering the insane amount of pictures I took while we strolled the avenues of the dead. We did get locked in the place, after all!

We stopped in shops various, including Faulkner House Books, and had some great conversations with local artists. One of those particular artists was Vinsantos Defonte, an artist and musician who played with Bauhaus at their concert back in February. He was a sweet man, and so very humble. We talked about life, love, and impostor syndrome. I can’t wait to see where his career takes him next!

Part of the conference also included a night at the New Orleans Aquarium, which was absolutely stunning. Little known fact about me? I love aquariums, of course, but my absolute favorite thing is a jellyfish exhibit.

Also? I may have eaten my weight in shrimp etoufee but it was worth every ounce! We also walked Bourbon Street a few times, though I much prefer it during the day than at night. There is something about the frenetic energy of the street musicians and performers that draws me in. I’m also a sucker for live jazz and percussion, so I found myself energized on our walks, the kick drums and bass vibrating through my chest and jarring my heart into racing to keep pace with their rhythm. At night, though, the unsavory beasts come out to play, and though a younger version of me would have gladly joined in the debauchery, I found it lacking that former luster.

And then, in another blink of an eye, I was back home and preparing for the next venture: Ocracoke Island.

For full disclosure, I knew that Ocracoke, one of the eastern-most barrier islands of the North Carolina outerbanks system, was far away. In my head, it was about the same drive as Savannah. I had no idea it was a 7 hours away kind of far, including a 2.5 hour ferry ride. After all, I could make it to Oak Island in 2 hours. Amy was with me again, as it was by her gracious invitation that I had a place to stay with her family.

The storm that chased us to Ocracoke.

The house was lovely and perfectly situated on a canal right on the Pamlico Sound side of the island. The first night we hit up the pub and made friends with the locals, and then spent the next day kayaking. The wind was fierce and there was a point where Amy and I both began to think that we wouldn’t be able to make it back against the current.

That night, one of the locals we met the night before asked if I’d like to go on an adventure. I agreed under the condition that we had to go to the beach and visit the cemeteries.

And so we did. We ran along the beach under the light of a near-full moon. At one point I fell, tangled up in my dress, and just sat in the sand, staring up at the sky. The light of the moon danced across the ocean and lit up the sands in tones of silver. I caught my breath and steadied myself, completely having forgotten my companion for a moment, and then we ventured back to town. We walked from cemetery to cemetery, headstones bathed in that same moonlight, and I recited poetry into the night, pointing out stars and constellations in between the Poe, Aiken, and St. Vincent Millay. It was everything I would normally love…

But I was somewhere else; a different island in my heart and mind. On a different beach, on a different August night, under the light of a different full moon, where the waves glowed as they swirled around us, and the stars seemed to move too fast above us (though really, they were planes and we were just plain silly).

How could something feel so fulfilling, yet so empty at the same time? I don’t know, I don’t know. But I do know, too.

That poor local boy was probably expecting something way different out of the night, and me, than what he got. I bid him a simple goodnight despite his protests, and went back to the house. Bless Amy for listening to me ramble about my feelings that night.

The next few days were full of beach time, shopping, and exploration. I made sure to slather up with the SPF to avoid burning, or even worse, tanning. The horror!

Yes, please!

On my last day, we hiked out to Springer’s Point Nature Reserve and visited one last little cemetery. The horse, Ikey D, a local legend, buried with his owner, Sam, who was equally as legendary. The pair were known to walk into people’s houses and stay for dinner (horse included!). The entire hike was beautiful from start to finish, and Amy and I spent some lovely, quiet moments lost in thought at the water’s edge.

And then I was back on the ferry, headed back home for another 7 hour journey.

The grand finale of my summer vacations was a trip with Liam to the mountains, so he could finally see the Tweetsie Railroad. For most of his short, precious life, he’s asked to go, and, at almost 5 years old, I felt it was finally the right time.

A happy little camper!

The lovely thing about living in Broadway is that it’s nearly directly in the middle of the state. Because of that, it’s 2 hours to the coast, and 2 hours to the mountains, making either option an easy day trip, and convenient too, when you’re driving with a wiggly kiddo who is short on patience. We spent a long weekend hiking, visiting Tweetsie, and sight-seeing some other touristy venues that I knew a 5 year old would enjoy. We even took some of those silly “old Western” style pictures for the memories.

We rode the Number 12 Tweetsie engine twice, and each time, Liam would whisper under his breath “this is the best day ever!”. I was so happy to see him light up with joy.

The weekend was wonderful and we made so many memories together, from gem mining and falling down at Mystery Hill, to buying and eating way too much candy at the Mast General Store. At one point, there was a series of unfortunate events wherein an emu bit me, a llama spit in my face, and we were chased by swans, but even that brought laughs instead of tears.

And so, my summer of travels ended. As far as summers go, I couldn’t have asked for better. I am so thankful for every mile traveled, every word spoken, and every memory made. I can only hope that what summers may come will be as full of joy, love, wonder, excitement, yearning, and growth as this one.

But now? I brace for Fall, come what may.

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