Catchin’ Flights & Chasin’ Frogs

Growing up as a lifelong New Englander, there are things I love about the Northeast way of life. Efficiency, hard work, strength, and of course, resilience. I cannot say I don’t attribute a multitude of things about who I am to the work ethic and overall nature of my Northern roots. However, I tend to have always identified as a bit of a Northern brain with a Southern soul. (Hence my need to drag my entire family to Clemson in April of 2016. I was adamant my college years would be spent in Death Valley cheering on DaShawn Watson and chasing BBQ with Natty Light, but that’s a story for another day.)

My desire to go out of state for school was not to diminish my love for Rhode Island or the people who had made that place home. My affinity for the Ocean State has always been and always will be infinite. It was because one of my most distinct traits for as long as I can remember is the craving of adventure. Wondering what else is out there and how I could go about finding it. If you were anything like my tween-age self and adored Author John Green, you may remember his infamous line from the all-time classic book, Looking for Alaska. It reads, “I go to seek a greater perhaps.” While that sounds far more pretentious and intellectual than I intend it to, I felt that I, like many people, could relate to that. The dictionary definition of the word perhaps reads “used to express uncertainty or possibility.” While uncertainty is often terrifying, it is usually then you find your truest self. My craving to stumble upon an accidental piece of knowledge, to indulge in a new and unknown possibility is one of my greatest quests; and in order to do so, I had to take a step out from what was comfortable, and a step into my next “perhaps”.

Baltimore turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime, and that is a story too vast to attempt to unpack in this blog alone, but it was the first time I got a taste of making a new place my own. Where no one knew the person I had been before and simply saw me for who I was then. There is something incredibly refreshing about a fresh start, even if for just a small period of time. I came to find each new place, person, and experience helped shape the woman writing this right now. (I originally wrote girl there, but I was feeling powerful so I changed it to woman-HA!)

Much of my self-exploration came during my time abroad. Ever since my four-month Mamma Mia stint in Greece, my desire for traveling has only intensified. With 2021 bringing forth the promise of normal life, it was time to hit the road again. With the price of flights costing less than an Urban Outfitters crop top, I quickly found myself shooting whiskey in the streets of Nashville. Soon thereafter said whiskey was consumed, I also found myself singing “I’ve Got Friends In Low Places” at a dive bar upon being kicked out of our first Air BnB. We lasted a record-long 10 hours there… but hey, can’t win ’em all. I was determined to make sure my next trip didn’t end up in a $500 fine and found sometimes even your greatest attempts at a “perhaps” may in fact, cause you to learn the hard lessons. And let me tell you something…. you need those too.

I suppose after Nashville I was feeling in the mood to conquer every bachelorette travel destination this year because I recently returned from a five-day trip to Charleston, SC. Charleston was a Southern town I had always been curious about, and with $75 dollar flights practically shouting at me to be purchased through my laptop, I decided, what the hell. The best thing about booking last-minute, impulsive trips is that the group of people you will convince to come with you. The idea of attending on such short notice will always prove to bring the BEST people to travel with. There are so many times where I will have conversations with friends and we’ll say “Yes we’ll plan this” or I’ll get sent a TikTok with a message saying “We have to go”, and while that’s great and all, IT. NEVER. HAPPENS. I have found people are much more responsive and willing to tag along on trips if you simply send them your flight information and say “Come”. Trust me, there is no pain worse to a twenty-something-year-old female than a bad case of FOMO. Being the person to pull the trigger first will get the rest of the team on board much quicker, and if it doesn’t, then who cares, solo trip it up.

I learned early on it is never much about the place you go to as much as it is about the people you’re with and the people you find. People, in my opinion, make every place. While the architecture, beaches, shopping, history and whatever else you went there to find may be fantastic, it has nothing on the connections you make when visiting a new place. What I came to find out approximately 10 minutes into my stay was that Uber drivers below the Mason Dixon will never let the seemingly uncomfortable silence of strangers packed into a Honda, happen. You can find their car radios to be either down or off, as they would rather in engaging with you than hear another repetitive Maroon 5 song. No hate to Adam Levine, but enough. Our first driver, Keisha, prepared us for how to deal with a good ole Charleston rainstorm, and how the effects of being in “low-country” meant flooding was not only common but expected. She amongst a variety of other drivers provided sound, and also entertaining advice that we all didn’t know we needed to hear.

Not to quote Ben Rector for about the zillionth time, but in his song “The Men That Drive Me Places”, he talks about how so much of his career and success is attributed to the men that drive him places and get him from Point A to Point B. There is an unspoken kind of love for these brief moments and interactions where for a couple of miles you get to share mutual wisdom, laughs, etc. I took a particular liking to my final uber Stephen, who momentarily convinced me I should elope in Joshua Tree, California, and teach high school math later in life. I admired his wit, his admiration for his wife, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the intricacies of Geometry proofs as well. I mean seriously, who in their right mind can speak fondly of geometry? I got a freaking C in Geometry, it may as well have been written in Pig Latin. Nonetheless, Stephen totally rocked.

Aside from Uber Drivers, there were a few elderly people I took quite a liking to as well. My favorite duo, however, was Linda and Bill. Married 51 years, both in their seventies, the Virginia natives and I spent upwards of thirty minutes on a bench by the bay. They were in town celebrating their youngest sons’ 37th birthday. They asked me intriguing questions the average person doesn’t ever seem to. Nothing about what I was doing for work, or what my degree was in. They asked me about my interests, my love of dance, my go-to coffee order, and all the other random things that you never get to casually discuss with someone you just met. There was a warmness to the people of the Carolinas that I couldn’t get enough of, and suddenly the hour wait for dinner went from feeling like a pain to an absolute pleasure. When we parted ways as our tables were ready, we dramatically hugged and wished each other well. My phone was dead, my heart was happy and my hunger was forgotten as I had just gained two new friends.

On the other hand, there were some rather cool youngins we met along the way. My personal favorite? Auggie. Okay well, I am not sure his actual name, but he seemed like he’d be named Auggie, so that’s what we called him. We found him in the middle of the woods, attempting to catch a frog. He was outfitted in long cargo shorts, rubber water-proofed sneakers, a green t-shirt, a blue bandanna draping his neck, and a grey fedora atop his head. He was a modern-day 4th-grade version of Indiana Jones. I am also sort of convinced that if Junie B. Jones was real, she’d take a real liking to him. He was an inquisitive kid, with the sort of determination you only see in highly passionate people. If there was one thing he knew, it was he was going to catch this frog. My attempt to poke the pond with a stick was little to no help, but playing and exploring with someone who simply was in awe of his surroundings helped me be present in the moment as well. The entire time I was secretly hoping we’d catch the frog and name him Beans in honor of Fed-Ex (aka Mark) in Cheaper by the Dozen, but even my 8 years of girl scouts did not exactly make me the best woman for the job. Nonetheless, I admired his determination and sheer fascination with the four-legged pond creature.

I tell you these anecdotes not to explain my love for old people, or to discuss my inability to catch Amphibians. But rather to explain the refreshing nature of going someplace you have never been. The great reminder that all your day-to-day worries, problems, and stresses, in the grand scheme of things may not be that big of a deal. Sometimes a little perspective and the reminder that we’re all just humans in this finite period of life together turns out to be great for the soul. Me, Auggie, Linda, Bill, Keisha, Stephen, and all the others we met along the way; breathing the same old Southern air. Sometimes an hour away from impending phone notifications is often times the refresher you need. You never plan a vacation with the expectation of befriending someone who hasn’t learned fractions yet, of course not. But sometimes you do it for the chance to allow a random interaction, a mere unexpected opportunity to cross your path and change your thoughts, even if for the smallest bit of time. You’ll find yourself admiring a local small-town pharmacy that still sells Coca-Cola by the glass and PB&J’s for under $2.00. And it is this simple change of pace that helps to keep you evolving in ways you may not know you needed to.

Of course, I hope to one day trek through the Himalayas and ride free on a Vespa down the Amalfi coast, but for now, I have come to find adventure in the ordinary. While people seem more concerned about my interaction with Kristin Cavallari (don’t get me wrong, she rocked), than anything else, I acknowledge it was these people who touched my heart during my small trip that I am more grateful for. I conclude this rather long and slightly all over the place blog by saying, you’re not going to catch a flight and immediately “find yourself”. But slowly, you’ll start to realize, little by little, with every little “perhaps” you may seek that you’re on your way to becoming someone pretty damn special.   

All my love,

Abby

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