The road trip has begun! It’s amazing that with such little direction we feel so very grounded. As always, travel has treated us to a metaphor for life. Having set off with a car filled with belongings to cover over 3000 miles across the country, our first two stops have been with family. Baltimore was first for a quick 24 hours, which of course, included a brekkie of utter deliciousness at Miss Shirley’s Cafe in the Inner Harbour. After a rejiggering of car possessions, a space bag mishap, endless rain, a three-hour trek to touch the inside of the West Virginia border and countless country roads we entered North Carolina and the weekend began!
First stop – the North Chatham Fire House Christmas party! My uncle works EMS with the North Chatham firefighters who were having their annual Christmas party where Santa makes an appearance! We finally made it out of the car and into the huge firehouse filled with a few trucks but mostly empty space for revelers, tables, holiday cheer and all sorts of good comfort food! We hung with locals, waved at Santa, chowed down on mashed potatoes, mac and cheese and more and chatted to family and fire fighters alike. Since the hurricane in Long Beach, we have met so many of those who rush in first, firefighters and first responders have an even greater piece of our hearts. This was a low-key evening with every bit of charm, class and comfort of North Carolina-it was perfect.
My aunt and uncle have now lived here for about five years or so. They sold their Long Island home, packed up their belongings and relocated to a life south of the Mason Dixon line to embrace all things North Carolina. They live in a community of those displaced from everywhere who came for all things warmer, slower, more relaxed, friendlier and are filled with a zest for life. Many of the gifts we have found through travel, they have found in relocation. They’ve searched and discovered supermarkets, shops, fun, entertainment, volunteer experiences and many new friendships. We now share some of the things we love in travel like the ability to truly be yourself, meeting new people who live in a world bigger than that of what you once knew, ditching the expectations of others who knew you at a certain point in life and welcoming new goals, challenges and choices. They seem happy, calm, content and at ease in this life and for that I am truly happy. I am so glad that they found their happy, just as we have found ours through travel and this journey together.
As for their North Carolina, they live just outside of Chapel Hill – well, it’s beautiful. We spent a morning brunch treat at the famous Mama Dips. The yummy pancakes, grits and biscuits oozed with all the flavour and heart that make it well known and loved by so many. We drove through the brightly coloured, fun-filled college town of Chapel Hill and the gorgeous thriving campus of University of North Carolina before returning to their development for a beautifully sunny walk on a gorgeous non-freezing day in December.
After a fabulous dinner with family, we had a lesson from a friend of the family (and member of the special operations military community) in a North Carolinian culture…guns and the 2nd amendment. With a passion for a hobby far greater than any I have ever seen or heard, he gave us a lesson and show beyond anything we could have imagined. This was different and definitely special. Agreeing, disagreeing or sharing in his choice didn’t matter – what did was witnessing a passion of someone sharing what they love with others. His expertise and delivery of information was impeccable, easy to grasp and one that exuded immense love of country, constitution and reverence for rights. As a girl who has never seen a weapon up close EVER, and an Aussie who comes from a country with extremely strict gun laws – we were nevertheless…impressed! We’ve seen police shows and movies with talk of rifles and pistols, but never up close and personal – that’s for certain. There were a variety of pistols and rifles along with holsters and bullets to boot. Craftsmanship, understanding, and perspective were underlying lessons that came alongside the presentation of this incredible collection. Never did I imagine that this is a place in which I’d be standing and this is a lesson in which I’d take part-but it was an experience I’m certain I will not forget.
The air has been clear, the sky has been sunny, the company warm and the community welcoming. Although the nearest beach is three hours away, I can without question see the appeal and bliss to be found in North Carolina lifestyle. And as for some of the gifts we find in travel, they too moved by choice and found a contentedness many never do and even more are often too afraid to seek. Wooded areas, large swaths of untouched land, wilderness hikes, mild seasons, cows, horses, and life in breathable air without having to keep up with anything but your own dreams are here. I’m so glad they all found their happiness. Can’t wait to return. Next up….headed south!