About a month ago, I made a wonderful trip to New England to visit a friend of mine. My friend Sam is great—she rock climbs, loves carrot juice, and trail runs barefoot. Sam is nothing like me. Last year I was fortunate to meet some incredibly cool people when I was studying in Scotland. When I met Sam, despite how little she and I had in common, we could talk about almost anything. We created an incredible bond and loved traveling together in Prague and Switzerland. After graduating, I decided to visit her in Rhode Island and see more of this beautiful country I’m so lucky to call home.
After traveling across Europe last summer, I thought New England was going to be a piece of cake. Oh, was I very much in for a trip. Upon my arrival, Sam took me to a beautiful seaside restaurant that served copious amount of fish. Because of my love for travel and food, I always try new things when I’m in a different place. Oysters were on the menu for the night, and while I didn’t gain an appetite for the slimy sea creatures, I’m so happy I ventured out of my comfort zone once again. Other fishy adventures included swordfish, smoked bluefish, and halibut which we purchased from a little fish shack called Zeek’s Creek in Jamestown.
I continued the theme of risk taking for the majority of my trip. Sam knew that I was dying to travel while I was in New England, and her mother graciously lent me her car to drive while I was in the area. Throughout my time traveling, I am constantly amazed at the kindness strangers can show me. I was very nervous about driving in a strange place, but I was also dying to see more of the area so I took Sam’s mom up on her offer. In a silver Volvo, I took off to Narragansett which is on the southern shoreline of Rhode Island. Narragansett has amazing beach views (check out a shot I captured at Hazard Rock below), but I can’t use the same description for their cheap beer, unfortunately. I tried a Narragansett Lager and was less than impressed, although their Summer Brew deserves a little higher praise. After exploring the town, I met up with Sam to try out rock climbing for the first time. Sam took me to a gym to meet a few of her “climber friends”, a group of really fun people who taught me that it was okay to be terrible at climbing on my first try. While I definitely could use a lot more work on my climbing skills, it was so much fun to learn more about the sport and I definitely felt accomplished after reaching the tops of certain routes in the gym and attempting bouldering, which are shorter climbs without gear.
One of my big goals for the trip was to explore Concord, Massachusetts which contains a long literary legacy. Once home to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Alcott family, and Henry David Thoreau, Concord has produced some of the most celebrated literature in America. A few days after my solo trip to Narragansett, I decided to make the 2 hour drive up through Providence and into an entirely different state. Concord is in close proximity to Boston, so I was incredibly nervous about the traffic. An additional problem was my lack of service in Rhode Island. Like any 21st century traveler, I tend to rely on GPS often so I was taking a big chance by using printed-off directions and maps of New England that I could hardly read. I was determined to take the trip, however, so I hit the road feeling a bit fearful. I made it to Concord and had the opportunity to check out Orchard House, which is where Louisa May Alcott lived while she was writing Little Women. After taking an English course during my senior year and writing a 25 page paper about Jo March of Little Women and much of Alcott’s life, I was so excited to check out the historical museum inside the house. I enjoyed the tour and visiting with some of the women who worked there, and I found myself channeling Jo March when I had to bite my tongue keep myself from disagreeing with the tour guide about her Alcott facts. After my visit to Orchard House, I headed to downtown Concord and strolled the district, checking out a few of the antique stores and the book shop. I grabbed lunch at a recommended café called Helen’s Restaurant where I enjoyed a delicious shrimp wrap and a scoop of ice cream afterwards. While there, I realized that this was my first time eating out completely alone, without technology to even accompany me. A number of people who are in my generation tend to eat out with their laptop and cell phone keeping them entertained. I was left with the option of listening to conversations around me and enjoying some peaceful reflection time. In my solitude, I felt very adult-like. Eventually, I finished out the afternoon by checking out Emerson’s home and taking a mile hike around Walden Pond, home to Thoreau’s great transcendental experiment involving self-reliance and a return to simple living in nature. I always laugh when I think about Thoreau’s “great” attempt, though, because he was nowhere near wilderness (two miles within the civilization of Concord actually) and received a lot of help from his mother and sister who would bring him food and clothing.
On my way home from Concord is where I hit a bit of trouble. I left around rush hour time and was in stop-and-go traffic for about an hour and a half on the way to Providence where I was supposed to meet Sam at her friend’s home. My phone had very little battery and I didn’t have the location of where I was supposed to meet Sam yet. I’m sure you can see where this story is going, especially when you reflect on my title “Lost in New England”. It gets much worse. My exit to Providence that I was supposed to take according to written directions was blocked off due to a terrible accident. No knowing which where to turn (literally), I took the exit which took me into Boston. To avoid getting too far into the city, I hopped off the first exit, taking a random highway in Massachusetts with no idea where I should be heading. After frantically attempting to call Sam and figure things out, my phone died, leaving me with barely any options. I took a few directions that she and her friends recommended before I lost contact with them, and miraculously made my way into Providence though traffic and turning around a few times. With no idea where to head, I hit an Interstate which I knew I could take south in the direction of her home in Coventry, RI. I stopped at a hotel near the airport and shamelessly begged for directions, which they graciously printed out for my use. Unfortunately, things continued to get worse. It started to rain. The sun set, and darkness started to fall. I got lost and ended up two towns in the wrong direction (all towns run together in Rhode Island, I swear, just like all roads). After two more stops at a coffee shop and a FroYo place with boys who chuckled at my expense, I was sobbing, praying, and dangerously low on gas when I finally recognized a few signs near Sam’s house. I made it home safely and could finally breathe. My mom now jokes that the trip was half brilliance for my bravery at exploring a new place and half stupidity. I’m proud of myself for finding my way around, 4 hours later, but I learned I could not survive in a world without GPS. Even after some traveling experience, I know I still have a lot to learn about myself. It’s so important to keep calm and not be afraid to ask for help.
Other major highlights of my trip were exploring to Boston, taking Sam’s sweet black lab Avery to get ice cream in Connecticut, watching friends rock climb outside, and eating a cannoli for the first time!
I’ll never forget my time in New England and I loved meeting new people there. Their kindness was overwhelming, and I love connecting to people even who are halfway across the country. I would love to go back soon, next time with GPS.