Before this pandemic occurred, I loved to travel. I still do. I’m more conscientous of some of the problems with infectious diseases but that doesn’t mean that I want to let what we’re dealing with keep me from exploring what this wonderful world has to offer.

In Europe, there are all kinds of sights to see. You can’t lump any country into one category because every country has it’s own mystique, charm, beauty and legends. As a teen, I went throughout much of Europe. I saw a lot of the countryside, many of the urban cities and had my first encounter with chocolate liquor. That was the first time I ever got drunk and getting drunk off of ice cream was AWESOME!!!!!! That was my first experience with Amaretto. I didn’t experience that again until later in life but tasting that ice cream with the Ameretto in it was so succulent that it literally melted in my mouth and had it’s own party of exploration in my body. My dad said he wasn’t carrying me. Lol. My poor dad. I was walking through the streets of Europe extremely tipsy. I had a hell of a hangover the next day but it was worth it.

The Netherlands introduced me to various types of cheese. The wooden shoes that were made were a sight to behold. Watching how they made them was a lesson in itself. It takes incredible skill to do this by hand. I still have one of the shoes that was used as an example. It was also the first time that I ever experienced eel in a marketplace. The Netherlands are beautiful. They hold many secrets. Some of the best secrets are the people themselves. They give tourists a sense of home. I know one of my favorite times in the Netherlands was going to where ever there was water. The docks made me feel as if I could see the past just as vividly as I can see the print in front of me. The colors there are bright and eccentric. There is a sense of history that consistently comes to life when you walk into some of the villages. The people there contain so many artisans. Their work is not able to be replicated because it’s all done by hand. The quality of their work has a token of pride and love intertwined as if it were a symphony that has only been performed to a select audience.

Traveling doesn’t just adhere to outside countries. There’s plenty of terrain to explore all around us. I have a really good friend of mine that challenged me to try a new restaurant every month. In light of the pandemic, that’s been put on hold but we have a goal to make this a reality. Palates can only be expanded if you’re willing to take that chance. Every time I get the chance to explore a new area, I love to take long walks. The reason? I always see something new. It might be that certain flowers are blooming, I may see a new building pop up or a loved historical building disappear. I might see statues that are controversial or art that stands the test of time. No matter what I see, if I’m not willing to travel, I’ll never experience the wonderful cities, states, countries, and providences that this world offers.

If you ever get the opportunity to explore places by train, do it. There’s something about a train ride that the planes, taxis, cars, and boats just can’t quite emulate. I took a train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks. While exploring that area, it amazed me at how much of the frontier truly wasn’t explored and how much of it was and yet was so primitive. There were homes that were out in the middle of nowhere and yet not many businesses along the way. I saw the Rams on the side of mountains. I saw bears playing along the side and while I couldn’t get to my camera in time, I was amazed at the true beauty that I was having the privelge of seeing. The snow was everywhere on the ground. It made the ground look as if it was a landing pad of nothing but white powder. It was much stronger than it looked. It took a lot longer by train to get to our destination but it was worth it. Trains are special. When my dad was still alive, my folks and I took a train to Vancouver. It was just for a day but the train ride was breathtaking. It’s difficult to put into words the majestic the greenery was. Everything was in the heart of the summer. Yet, it was a cool and comfortable trip. I even held a snowball in my hands while my friends back home were sweltering in 98 degree weather. Needless to say, they were ready to kick my butt for rubbing it in a little but I was truly happy. That was my first experience in Seattle too. I had never experienced an outdoor marketplace until I discovered Pike’s Place. I had to make sure I made a Starbucks visit while I was there. After all, I had previously been a barista. It would have been a shame to go to Seattle and never have entered the original Starbucks. That was before all the controversy that Starbucks has endured. I don’t regret going. It gave me a chance to eat at the Seattle Space Needle. That’s an experience in and of itself.

While in Seattle, I was amazed at the hills in the city. You better pray your brakes don’t go out on you while you are on some of those steep hills. The city is beautiful but as the evening progressed, you could see the homeless population begin to overtake areas. Many of us are truly blessed. We have a roof over our head and food to eat but there are so many that are without. It’s a humbling experience to see the homeless and it wasn’t just there that I saw it. There were lots of homeless folks in Vancouver as well. I don’t tell anyone about this to make things sound worse than they are but things are dire for many folks. If we aren’t willing to admit to the sorrows in our travels, then we can never truly say we are well rounded.

When I’m home, NC is always a fun place to explore. I love the mountains. I’ll probably retire in the mountains some day. The beaches are fun but the mountains hold secrets for me. The music that runs through my veins can come alive when I hear the sounds of bluegrass and folk music. There’s a certain pride in being ready to listen and hear as the trees sing a song of weather changes. You can almost hear the snow before it hits the ground and rain can be smelled before it ever creates it’s first raindrop. When the wind rustles around you, there’s a sense of calm and yet an eeriness that makes you feel a little ansy. Telling folk lore is not uncommon and the myths and legends of the mountain come to life with little to no effort. Walking barefoot on the mountain isn’t recommended. The rocks and terrain can be very rough but learn to pay attention to the plants and animals that encompass the areas. In many ways, NC has some of the best places to go. Having said this, I enjoy the beach too. Walking on the beach barefoot, while the sand squishes between my toes and allowing the waves to caress my feet with it’s natural strides is just one of the things that I truly love. There’s something about the ocean. The salt air seems to be able to cure just about anything that makes a person feel as if they are being healed from what ever may be bothering them. I tend to forget about the pain I’ve endured when I’m at the beach. Mostly because I could walk the shoreline for miles and not want to turn around and go back. I like feeling like a free spirit and this is just one of the places that traveling to on occassion makes me feel like a human again.

No matter what we do in this life, traveling is essential to learning about other cultures, religions, food, musical genres, and so many more things. When this pandemic ends, I hope that you can plan your next trip and escape somewhere other than your home. I think we’ve all had about enough of home at this point but even if you can’t go far, try to take a day trip. Explore new territory. Even if it’s a populated area, if you’ve never been to it, then it’s new to you. Travel with someone if you can. More than anything else, just have some fun, relaxing time for you. You deserve it. Who knows? You might just find another place that you can’t wait to visit often and discover some of the secrets of your own favorite establishments.

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