Southern Charm

Charleston, SC was my 33rd birthday gift to myself. A new year, a new city. What a beautiful city it is. The houses, the beaches, the trees, the colors, the food–BEAUTIFUL! I took a walking tour and a carriage tour, ate in some of the most highly regarded restaurants, strolled up and down King Street, looked out over the place the East Bay, laid out on the beach, and well, cried my eyes out on a plantation tour.

See, Charleston is rather aesthetically beautiful but how it became the city that you see today is quite ugly. Now, we Southerners don’t talk about slavery at the dinner table but slave labor was the means by which Charleston secured its wealth. In the photos below you can see glimpses of slave cabins and the Old Slave Mart–the place where slaves were sold. So, in many ways I adored this city but in other ways it frightened me. As my friend Adrianne said, ” I even felt like the trees were trying to talk to me.” –Their moss hangs like secrets in the wind. If only they could talk, I wonder of all the horrors they’d have to share. Depending on who you spoke with would determine whether you were given a real history of the city or a glossed over version that belittles slavery to only a minuscule stain in human history. Others would tell you the nitty gritty and would enlighten you that reverberations of slavery still exist in the city today. My transition from charm to disgust occupied my entire trip. Now, please understand, that no one was mean to me on this adventure. In fact, everyone really lived up to Southern Hospitality and gave me nothing but Southern Charm. I laughed a great deal during this adventure and chatted up fantastic local characters. However, in the back of my mind as I walked down cobbled streets and passed by ancient million dollar exquisite homes, that in the foundation of this city was the blood, sweat, tears, and stolen freedom of my ancestors. Yes, we’ve come a long way though being in the home of the massacre that occurred at Mother Emanuel AME Church reminds me and hopefully you that we’ve still got a long way to go.

I am a woman of Virginia–went to College  in Colonial Williamsburg, my family is originally from North Carolina, and I lived in North Carolina for four years of my life. I now live in Tennessee and have done so since 2011. I’m a Tri Delta who is about to be President of the Junior League. I’m no stranger to the South but there was something about this city that smacked me in my face upon my arrival. Something deeper–its beauty makes it harder for me to digest its past. I love the South and abhor the South. I guess my Bitter Southerner is showing.

Yes, visit Charleston, but always seek a deeper understanding of where you have chosen to vacation. Love it, but embrace the realities of the space. Tour it, but tour it with empathy.

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All By Myself

Traveling alone has become a source of pleasure in my life. I look forward to escaping the day to day. I research and plan a true tourist experience. I like being a solo tourist and making my way around a city without a squad. Whether I’m ubering, walking, or metroing my way through Washington D.C. taking in the wonders of Seattle, melting at the beauty of the homes in Charleston, or taking a break from the crowd in Montreal there’s something really refreshing and fulfilling about going on a solo mission. Planning MY itinerary and whipping out my iPhone (I mean, how did people live without them?) to find my way to the next adventure is good for me. It’s taught me more about how resourceful and strong I am.  It’s a good time for reflection and creative projects. It’s also helped me realize that I can connect with just about anyone. I’m great at chatting up strangers and I actually enjoy meeting new people in each city. I don’t have to include anyone in my plans. I go where I want to, when I want to, and how I want to. I don’t have to have the dreaded. “What do you want to eat?” conversation and I don’t have to get pissed at someone for waking up late and ruining the whole day. No one has any expectations of me.  I’m a woman who didn’t ride a plane until she was 21 and just left the US for the first time last month. The fact that I can get to the airport and board the correct vessel, is quite a feat.

Mimosa at Poogan's

During my time in Charleston as sweet southern people asked me repeatedly, “Are you here alone?” “Did you travel by yourself?” “Do you do this often?” “Are you eating dinner here all by yourself?” to which I replied, “Yes!” only to hear their responses of, “Wow, that’s something. You’re brave.” “Good for you.” “I want to do that when I grow up.” “That sounds like a great idea.” I began to think more about the taboo nature of this to most people. Most people would never travel alone. It would never cross their mind NOT to call up their besties for a voyage to a new place. Most people would never saddle up to a bar and eat a delicious meal with no one to talk to but the bartender until the others sitting on nearby stools open up after a couple of cocktails.

I don’t know WHY I can do this. I do know that my mother has similar albeit local tendencies.

And now for the raw & real part, I also came to the realization that for me, this “going solo” mentality is really all about preparation for the rest of my life. I’m often putting myself in positions to be alone because I think that’s going to be my state of being until the day I am no longer walking this earth. In my mind, I will be alone. Not lonely, but alone, and really by alone, I mean, single. When one turns 33 in the South and is the most single person on the planet and doesn’t have children, one is inclined to think about this in a deep reflective manner. I’m NEVER in a relationship (well, I haven’t been since college) and the thought of kids give me a heart attack.  I want to get used to just being “me” without anyone else to help me or accompany me on life’s adventures. I want to get so good at being just “me” that I numb the pain of the absence of a romantic partner. I want it to become normal so that I don’t put in the emotional work wondering, “Where is he?” or waste my prayers on some person that may not even exist. So, I detach and I run off to places all by myself. Sometimes, this can be as simple as a movie, museum, fitness class, or a concert, but other times it’s a new city in a different state. It’s the purchase of 1 ticket and the reservation for a table of 1.

I want to be a person who is full of hope and faith in God’s plan for me. He may have called me to be single or He may have called me to be married with three children. His answer might be “Not Yet” and not “No”. This is always my loudest prayer. I work to hold on to my belief that all He’s doing is for my good. But sometimes, y ’all, I just want to accept what is oddly the easiest and hardest answer–I wasn’t meant to be a married woman and I wasn’t chosen to be a mother. By just grappling with that notion, I find it easy to throw myself into individual pursuits. If this is the way it’s going to be then I must embrace it and I must celebrate it. I must own the position of falling in love with myself because I’m not sure that anyone else will ever want the job.

Me at the Beach

Yes, I understand how negative and messed up this might sound but this solo act business has become a coping mechanism to deal with my sometimes tear inducing fear of never again experiencing romantic love. Instead of doing something about my single state ( I don’t know what to do.) I just run from it. That kid thing I’m still REALLY unsure about at this time but having a person, my person, would be welcomed.

So, yeah, traveling alone is fun, but it’s much deeper than that for me.