Not Your Average Day of Errands

Today started out as a typical day in Quincy, MA – my hometown, and also a comfortable landing pad for me to intermittently visit after months here and there. My loving family welcomes me home from my travels with open arms, yummy food, and a free bed to sleep in. I usually stay for a month or so, picking up odd jobs and reading travel memoirs and self-help books to keep me motivated. I also use this time to do a lot of errands. Today’s checklist included getting fitted for a new pair of glasses, something I’ve been “meaning to do” for a few years now. I have a crappy health insurance plan that pays for a very limited selection of frames; nothing like the ones that make people stop you on the street and proclaim “I love your glasses.” But since I’m sporadically (f)unemployed and try to save where I can, I went to one store that accepts my insurance and thumbed through the two dusty trays containing the less-than-ideal frames. I briefly considered a pair of fun blue frames, but quickly decided that they weren’t for me. Knowing that the next place would have same two trays, I went anyway thinking that just maybe I would get lucky and find something the first place didn’t have. Little did I know the inspiration I would find in Dorothy, the sweet, attentive, post-retirement-aged Pearle Vision employee who smiled brightly as I walked through the door and sat at her desk. But more on Dorothy later.

You see, I’m recently home from a summer working at my favorite job with an incredible group of inspirational teachers and international high school students at a semi-academic, semi-campesque program. Just before that, I’d returned home from 4 months of backpacking through Southeast Asia. In an attempt to settle down and live a normal life, I had planned to start a grad program when I returned from my last trip. Alas, my travels once again reminded me that I’m not interested in that lifestyle, and I promptly deferred my program’s start date so I can continue my love affair with new places, people, and experiences. Since I usually come home between my epic adventures for some down time and money saving, that typically means I spend a lot of time wondering what’s going to come next for me, and worrying that I might never be satisfied with staying in one place. And it’s not often that I find people in my hometown that understand my wanderlust or my motivations to follow it.

Which brings us back to Dorothy. She immediately reminded me of my grandmother, and I patiently listened to her gush about the frames that were available to me (thinking “yeah, yeah, yeah, I know exactly what’s in those two lousy trays”). I tried on the same pairs I had 30 minutes before at the other place, and graciously accepted her compliments about this shape and that color. I almost walked away from the same blue frames I had been considering in the first place when I suddenly heard myself ask Dorothy how long they would take to be done. She told me 3 weeks. I told her I was leaving 3 weeks from yesterday for a trip to Europe, and inquired if they could be done a smidge sooner. She politely replied that she couldn’t make any promises, but more excitedly asked where I’d be going. I casually mentioned the Camino de Santiago – the 500 mile stretch of trail across northern Spain (that I’ve walked part of before, always aspiring to walk from start to finish one of these days). That’s when I saw Dorothy’s eyes light up with excitement, and I found the most unexpected travel inspiration in all my years of seeking it out.

Over the next 30 minutes, I listened to Dorothy’s stories of gallivanting across Europe, tales from at least one trip every year. She told me of traveling with her daughters and granddaughters, and also of solo adventures like this summer when she cruised down a river from St. Petersburg to Moscow. She raved about the beautiful way Budapest lights up a night, a sight she couldn’t quite find the words to describe. She reminisced about the time she brought her family to Ireland to teach them about their family’s roots. She proudly narrated the time when two of her daughters followed many of her old travel trails on their own backpacking adventure the summer they graduated from college. Listening to her stories, I realized that she was exactly like me – a woman after my own heart. A kindred spirit in the most unexpected of places.

As I left the store, beaming and genuinely excited for the blue glasses that she convinced me were perfect, I reflected that you just never know where inspiration will strike. I’ve been procrastinating writing about the last few months, something that helps me process and reflect on how far I’ve come after traveling so far and what I’ve learned from people I’ve met along the way. Leaving that store, I felt a sudden urge to write about my chance meeting with Dorothy. She helped me remember what I already know deep down – that I never have to stop traveling as long as I still want to do it. She also reinforced something I’ve been trying to embody in the last few months – the importance of being open to new opportunities and ideas. They often come at the most unexpected times. Dorothy sparked something in me today that I am so grateful for, and I plan on telling her all about it when I go back in to pick up my glasses in a few weeks. Just not on Thursday, her beloved day off.

Medieval Family Fun

This past Sunday I experienced a new (to me) part of fall in New England – King Richard’s Faire. This renaissance faire lasts for 6 weeks every fall and it’s quite the event. My siblings had been before and raved about it, so this year I decided to join them for a day of family fun. I always thought of it as a bit tacky but I never expected it to be as awesome as it is.

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We set out for a day of medieval adventures, dressed appropriately for the occasion. The entertainment alone was quite impressive. There was the “big cats” show full of exotic felines from around the world, aerial acrobatics, lots of musical acts, and even jousting matches! Entertainers and visitors alike were all dressed for the occasion and it became clear that this is a thing people take very seriously. I saw pirates, bards, royalty, and fairies; kilts, corsets, crowns, and capes; bow and arrows, swords, staffs, and daggers. Although it is traditionally a renaissance faire, the amalgamation of anachronistic individuals made me feel truly lifted out of the 21st century into a world of wonder!

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We met the King and Queen!

By far the most impressive aspect of the faire was the artisans that come to sell their handmade goods. I was expecting lots of chatchsky souvenirs, similar to what you might buy on a trip to Disney World that then live on a shelf collecting dust forever. Boy was I wrong!  There were hand carved instruments like drums and flutes, high quality leather clothing, all sorts of ceramics and pottery, and lots of swords and jewelry. Not to mention the shops that had every piece of costume attire imaginable. There were experts on family history that could trace the origins of family names and then make you cool framed combinations of your family crests. There was even a glass blower doing demonstrations of how everything is made (make sure you wear the special glasses while you watch!). Of course, everything came with a steep price tag, but I did win a kilt koozie for my master archery skills (the kilt maker challenged me to a duel and I came out victorious).

A good time was had by all but the greatest part was getting to experience the day with my brother and sister who both love this kind of thing. It was nice to be included in this part of their lives, and it reminded me of the importance of trying new things, especially with the people you love.  I will definitely be attending the faire in the future!

 

A Summer of Love

On June 30, my travels brought me back to Boston for the first time in 10 months. Immediatelty I was showered with what would be seven weeks of an endless outpouring of love and support from my family and friends. It started when my sister ran to me in the airport, nearly running through the area where people aren’t supposed to pass, so that she could be the first one to hug me. After a quick ride from the airport, I walked into my house to the smells of one of my favoite home cooked meals! What can be better than that after all my not-so-successful attempts at enjoying cooking for myself all the time?

There's nothing like being with family :)

There’s nothing like being with family 🙂

The days that followed were filled of seeing people I love before heading to the woods for a week of camping and relaxing with my family. All of my reunions involved a cook out or yummy food of some sort, and most included delicious beer that I just cannot find in Spain. Everyone wanted to hear my stories (many asked why I stopped writing this blog) and it felt so good to be surrounded by so much familiarity. In fact, I was most surprised at how quickly I felt like I had never left. Of course the comfort of home should always feel like home, but I honestly felt as though I had just been away for a few short weeks. Even driving wasn’t weird after not having been behind the wheel in so long. I was reminded by everyone, however, that it was in fact almost a year and to them it felt much longer. It’s got me thinking a lot about time and how different each individual’s experience of the same amount of measured time really is.

The theme of love continued as I got to attend the weddings of four of my favoite people. Two of my best friends (whom I met seven years ago this past week in Italy) married men I consider to be brothers and I was honored to stand by their sides and be a part of both of these special days. Gina and Brendan were first with their wedding by the sea and it was a blast! As gifts to their guests, they gave everyone a hand printed apron with a special G&B logo created by a friend to keep everyone’s fancy clothes safe from their messy but fantastic meal. True to their personalities, the dancing started the minute the two of them walked in and aside from brief pauses for food and speeches, did not end until the lights came on and we were forced to call it a night.

Gina in Brendan in their hand printed apron favors!

Gina and Brendan in their hand printed aprons!

Perugia love 7 years later

Perugia love 7 years later

Katy and Mark had a few days of fun events leading up to their wedding. The rehearsal dinner featured beer brewed by the two of them, served in a kegerator that Mark and his Dad built (with golf-themed taps of course)! The day before the wedding, we attended an annual family golf tournament and dressed appropriately for the occassion (see below). They then celebrated their marriage in an incredibly beautiful barn surrounded by rolling green farmland. It was clear how much love was in the room that night. Similar to what I said before, once the dancing started it never ended. I even saw the photographers standing on tables and chairs to capture the awesomeness that was the dance floor! My friends know how to have a good time 🙂

Pre-wedding golf tournament!  The bride and groom with the best man and the Ms. and Mrs. of honor

Pre-wedding golf tournament!
The bride and groom with the best man and the Ms. and Mrs. of honor

For seven weeks I did not have one moment to myself. (This also includes 3 weeks of teaching at a summer program where the non-stop nature of the schedule doesn’t leave much room for down time.) For some people that can sound very suffocating. But for me it meant spending a lot of time with people who I love and miss a lot while having a large ocean between us. While I continue to pursue my dreams of living abroad and seeing the world, my heart is full thinking of how lucky I am to always have such a special place to call home. Thank you to everyone who surrounded me with love this summer!!

P.S. My Christmas flights are already booked so I’ll be seeing you all again real soon 🙂