Spend a Day in Boone

One thing I love to do at the end of a long semester is mellow out to cheesy rom-coms on the Hallmark channel. After watching just a few, I got hooked. Eventually, I started to wonder if cute, little towns like the ones on TV existed. I come from a small town, but I would definitely not compare it to what I have seen in the movies.

I am currently going to school in North Carolina and have not seen much of the state. Fall break was coming up and one of my friends told me that her co-worker recommended visiting a small town called Boone and a place called Blowing Rock. I was open to doing anything and was excited to hear that we would be going to a small town in the middle of the fall season. As soon as we pulled up to Boone, I could already tell from all the little shops and beautiful architecture that I would love this place.

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There are several cute, little shops that I would recommend visiting such as Boone Belles, Lucky Penny, and my favorite, Mast General Store (which I later found out is also in Winston-Salem). Some places even carry local products, which I thought was very cool.

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My friend found a restaurant on Yelp called “Proper” with great reviews. It was a little bit hidden, but still had a great view and nice atmosphere.

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The food was delicious! I tried southern fried chicken for the first time and would highly recommend it, as well as the restaurant’s special homefries. They gave a decent amount of food for the price, at least compared to the North. The best part was that everything we ate was homemade and not frozen!

While digesting, we took a walk around Appalachian State University. It will definitely give you a workout if you decide to roam the entire campus. At the time, students were on their fall break as well, so we didn’t see many people. However, taking a walk and seeing the colorful autumn scenery was spectacular. There was a lot of school spirit in this town as every store I went to had ASU merchandise.

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The last stop we made was to the Tanger Outlets in Blowing Rock. I like to look up things to do before going to a place, so that I know what to see, and some other blogs had recommended going to an ice cream shop called Kilwin’s. They sell a variety of chocolate-covered desserts, ice cream flavors, and fudge. As soon as you open the door and the smells seep out, you know you’re making a good choice. I ordered cake batter and chocolate caramel cashew ice cream, no regrets! Although I wanted to eat everything there, I knew that I couldn’t. There is good news though: there is a Kilwin’s in Winston-Salem, so I will be back!

Some people prefer bigger cities because they feel that there is more to do. Even so, if you are looking for a day trip, try these small, charming places. I know you will not be disappointed!

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Ways to Combat Homesickness

Moving away can be hard, no matter what stage of life you are in. Homesickness can hit you at any point, whether you have crossed an ocean or you are a 12-hour drive away from home. I have decided to treat my time in North Carolina like my year in Europe. Because I know I will only be here for a year, I want to see as much as I can and take part in local, everyday life as much as possible before packing up and leaving. Homesickness is inevitable, but having this mindset has really helped me combat negative feelings.

Although I do not use pinterest much, I would recommend looking for things to do in the area where you are staying or visiting. I had written this in a previous post of mine, but I suggested it under a different context. It’s as simple as doing a quick search: “Things to do in X”. You never know what you may find, or what others have already found.

Once I read enough articles or blog posts online and learn a little bit more about the area, I take that information and compile a list of things to do. I have a list of coffee shops, local events, and tourist attractions that I really want to visit during my year away from home. In just one month of being away, I have already gone to several festivals and events at school and around town. I tend to keep an eye out for posters advertising free events both on campus and in town, on my way to class.

People like to poke fun at me for this one because of how ridiculous this might sound, but I always try to plan something fun at least once a week. Whether you are a student or working full-time, it can be extremely difficult to find time for anything. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in staying on top of work, and even trying to get ahead, to the point that I feel like I am running on a treadmill; I do a lot of work, but in the end, there’s always more. At the end of the day, what I want to remember about Winston-Salem is not all the nights I spent in my room, stressing out over homework, but rather the times I had getting to know my classmates and hanging out with friends. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to be very spontaneous, planning activities ahead of time can help you always have something good to look forward to, instead of another long day.

My last piece of advice is what has helped me the most since moving away. It is super important to get involved in some kind of community. Get involved with a group that is near and dear to you. For you, that may be a volunteer group, a fraternity or sorority, a club, or a fitness class. For me, something I knew that I absolutely had to do was get involved in a church group. If you aren’t going to school and are finding it challenging to meet new people, I would highly suggest doing this. Even if you only see these people for an hour at first, it can turn into more time together as you form friendships with those around you.

Homesickness isn’t always a bad thing. However, dealing with it isn’t easy, and it may never completely go away. In the end, you may not be able to control when a wave of it comes crashing down on you, but it’s up to you to decide what you do with those feelings. Will you make the most of your time away and turn it into a great memory or will you count the days until you go home again?

When You Think You’ve Seen it All

Have you ever watched a movie that you just couldn’t get enough of? Maybe it was one of your favorite movies from childhood. Maybe you can think of a more recent movie that you would recommend to everyone you know. Either way, you have watched it at least five times and still haven’t gotten tired of it. In fact, even with all the familiarity of the story-line, you discover something new that you had missed all of the other times that you sat down to watch it. However, unlike watching a good movie again, living in the same small town for most of your life may not feel as exciting.

I had been dying to leave my hometown and set off on an adventure, exploring what the world had to offer; so I went to Europe for a year. I had grown accustomed to hopping on a train to the next country over and taking a bus or metro to my next destination. While familiarity can be nice, I felt like I was lacking adventure upon returning home. After having been in the same place for around nineteen years, I thought I had seen everything I possibly could. I would have even gone as far as to say that I had seen everything in both my town and the neighboring small city. I’m sure that I am not alone in thinking this.

Perhaps you are feeling like you have seen all there is to see in your small town, but I challenge you to dig a little deeper. I recently moved to North Carolina for grad school and one thing I did to calm my anxiousness before moving was looking up exciting things on pinterest to do in the city where I would be staying. While I enjoy new beginnings and fresh starts, I was already on the hunt for a good place to do some studying or just hang out for a while. When it comes to travel, the Internet is your friend and can be used to your advantage. Do a quick search of your hometown or the surrounding towns. It’s as simple as typing in the search box “Things to do in *inserttownorcitynamehere*”. You never know what you may find, or what others have already found that you may not have known about.

When I first arrived to North Carolina, I went to a dinner for students at a local church and asked everyone where their favorite places were to eat. By the time the list was complete, there were so many options that I can assure you that I will not make it to most of them. I would suggest making a list of places you haven’t been to in your hometown, whether it be restaurants, shops, a farmers’ market, or anywhere else you can think of. I guarantee you have passed by the same places for years and have never set foot in them or even noticed them. Be bold and try something new!

One last thing I would recommend doing is taking a joy ride and turning onto unfamiliar roads. They have always been there and you never know where they may lead you. The featured image for this blog post was taken on a trip to Francis Walter Dam. My family and I had been living in the same area for decades and didn’t realize that this place existed. It wasn’t until my dad was out in his new car and turned down a new road that he happened upon the dam. Now, this is one of our favorite places to go to take walks and photograph nature. I would highly recommend doing this, but just be careful that you don’t get too lost!

Whether you have lived in the same city or small town your whole life, there is always something new out there to explore. You don’t have to live in a place like New York City to enjoy yourself. Seek the unknown and, who knows, you may end up forming a new appreciation for your small town.

Savor the Small Things

Have you ever stopped what you were doing and looked at everyone around you? When traveling to huge tourist destinations, you can see just how many people are snapping photos of what is around them. When you observe your surroundings, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that many of the people you see have a camera of some sort, whether it be an actual camera, or a good quality phone camera. With such easy access to a good quality camera, anyone can become a photographer, just like how websites like WordPress allow anyone to become a blogger.

I didn’t get into photography until I went abroad. Even then, I took pictures of all the obvious scenery and attractions around me. It wasn’t until my dad gave me some advice that I started really paying attention to what mattered and shaped my experience. I still don’t consider myself a photographer; I prefer to appreciate others’ photography.

I recently went on a trip to Maine and took many pictures during walks on various trails with my family. As I showed my family the pictures that I had taken on our walks, they remarked that I had a tendency to take pictures of everyday creatures or objects in nature that they had not even noticed during our hikes. Minute details go unnoticed by most, but really come in handy later on, whether it’s in a photograph or when you are traveling.

I love free things! I also love hotels. I especially like going into hotels and taking the free shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion. Many people take these little gifts for granted, just leaving them where they originally were, untouched. However, I would suggest taking them along with you, especially if you don’t end up using them during your stay.

When I was in Europe, it was hard for me to find travel-sized shampoo and conditioner to use for short-term trips. I wasn’t familiar with stores in the area to know where to find any of the toiletries I needed, and I wasn’t even sure that they existed. Despite that setback, I ended up having and using some of the little complimentary items from the hotel during my travels. I had primarily stayed in hostels and AirBnBs, so I would not have received anything. The toiletries I saved from my stays in different hotels were perfect for my weekend trips, especially when it came to saving space in my carry-on! Something so small played an important role in my daily life.

Look around you and be resourceful, you never know what may come in handy for your future travels.

The Silver Lining in Missing Others

When I was in Maine just the other week, I really wanted to try a certain warm beverage. It sounded intriguing, the café sounded like my idea of the perfect afternoon hangout, and I would be able to relax for the first time in a few days. Literally every obstacle got in my way, preventing me from trying this drink, from people to weather. When I finally forced this dream to become a reality, I ended up disliking the drink and didn’t get to sit down for ten minutes before being called by my family to meet them somewhere else. Have you ever set out to accomplish your dream, but when you finally attained it, it wasn’t all you thought it would be, even if it was something as small as trying a hot beverage?

For the longest time, I wanted to leave the state of Pennsylvania to live elsewhere, especially a warmer area. This year, I am finally getting to live out my dream of living somewhere warmer for an extended period of time and the best part is, I don’t know anyone there! I have always loved meeting new people and connecting with them on a deeper level, which is my primary reason for studying languages. I was just as excited as the first time I moved away for college, and when I was getting ready to study abroad, but I was also just as sad to leave the ones I love behind.

Homesickness is completely natural to experience, especially when you have great memories tied to the place you are leaving. However, it was not my home I was missing, but rather the people and memories that went along with it. No matter how many times I’ve had to leave the area I grew up in for an extended period of time, I never fully got over missing the special people in my life.

The first couple of weeks are always the hardest. You have a lot of free time to yourself to think, since you don’t have the responsibilities of schoolwork to keep you distracted. You may be in the process of meeting new people, but things don’t tend to get easier until you have some established friendships. During this time, I thought a lot about everyone I had left behind. I am only going to be away for a year, and that year will fly by. I don’t want to spend it thinking of how much I miss everybody all the time. That’s when it hit me:

The reason why I’m feeling this way is because I have such special people in my life. If I didn’t have wonderful people surrounding me, I would not be experiencing such homesickness for them.

Finding a silver lining requires a change of thought. It’s all a matter of being grateful that you are so blessed to have these people in your life. Yes, missing others is totally okay and completely normal, but realize the ‘why‘ behind your feelings. You will be brought to a whole new level of comfort that will help you ease the pain of missing others.

Thank you to all the amazing people in my life that may be reading this! You have definitely left an impact.

Surprises Happen When You Get Out There

When I was a kid, I was a very picky eater. I didn’t like many foods, and I certainly wasn’t open to trying anything new. My parents literally had to sit on me to get me to try mashed potatoes. Since they had tried and enjoyed it many times, they knew what I was missing out on. However, I resisted mashed potatoes for many years, until I ended up trying them one day and loving them!

My aunt used to live in Ocean City, New Jersey. I have been blessed to grow up going there every summer until this year. She had sold her house in February without saying a word until the deed was done. My time there was like a necklace, with beads being added on for each memory I had. When the house was sold, I felt like the necklace was finished. It was bound to be finished eventually, and it is filled with beautiful memories. However, I can no longer add to them, at least not in the same way as previous years.

Usually, we house sat for her when she and my uncle were in Maine, in their other home. They had been trying to get us to go to Maine for years, and my family and I resisted. When we thought of Maine, we thought of a glorified Pennsylvania. We preferred the Jersey shore, going on rides on the boardwalk, and shopping in downtown OCNJ. We preferred familiarity and memories to a new and unknown experience.

It’s surprising how many people I have run into that have gone to Maine. Pretty much everybody I have talked to has been there at least once, and unanimously, they say how great it is. We were going to visit Maine with an open mind, but in the back of our heads (or at least mine), we were like my younger self not wanting to try mashed potatoes, even though I had no idea what I was missing out on.

Needless to say, we went on the trip and ended up having a great time! It was certainly different from what we were used to, but it was a new kind of vacation, and a nice one. We went on hikes, long walks, saw different attractions, ate at wonderful places, and saw many beautiful views. Most of all, we got to spend the week with our extended family. I can say that the vacation was unforgettable.

Has anyone ever told you that you absolutely need to visit a place, but you give every excuse not to? Try giving it a chance, even if you feel like it is way out of your realm of comfort. You may end up enjoying it!

Living in a Tourist Town

We are always on the move. After doing some research, I found that it is estimated that Americans will move about 10-11 times during their lifetime. Although I have not moved around much and have plenty of time to do so, I spoke with others who have. My parents have experienced living in many different kinds of places, from a small town in Pennsylvania, to huge well-known cities. Some of the places where they have lived for an extended period of time were tourist destinations such as New York City and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The cool thing about living in a tourist town is that you get to experience life as a local. When I went to school in Gettysburg, students divided everyone into three groups: college students, tourists, and “townies.” It didn’t take much time to figure out who was who when living there. Being there for a long time, students could see what Gettysburg had to offer, not just as a tourist destination but also locally. Had I only been a tourist in Gettysburg, I would have not known that there was a Hispanic community there that I could get involved with. I got to experience going to mass in Spanish, volunteer at a bilingual school, and go to a yearly event called “Salsa on the Square.”

However, life and work creeps up on us, consuming our time so much that we sometimes forget to do the touristy activities before it’s time to pack up and move again. One piece of advice my parents have given me, as well as others, was to do everything while you can. In the case of when I studied in Madrid, I knew my time was limited to three months, so I knew how much time I had to visit every museum and sight I wanted to go to. Most of the time, when people move, they don’t know how long they will be staying in a given place. It can vary depending on the type of job and of course, life being unpredictable.

I never did get to go on any ghost tours when I was in Gettysburg, but I did get to see the battlefields and had two very knowledgeable friends give me a tour. I got to know which ice cream places were popular with locals and which ones were tourist traps. I got to know some of the locals through frequenting restaurants in different places where I have studied. I had four years to see and do everything that I wanted to, so I could spread things out. However, I wish that I would have done and discovered some things earlier, because I would have done them more often, such as riding around the battlefield in a scoot coupe with my roommates.

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If you are thinking about or already living in a tourist town, take advantage of the things to do. Maybe you already have, and that’s great! Maybe you haven’t yet because you don’t want to be associated with tourists or you just haven’t found the time yet. Take advantage before it’s too late! Explore, discover, and share with others! You never know what you may find.