While I am far from being a travel blogger, I do want to share the memories I made and lessons I learned as my family and I traveled through North Carolina this spring break. Ever since my trip to South Carolina in fifth grade, I have been obsessed with the south. I recall how nice our cab driver was, how soothing the sunshine felt, how endearing the country music sounded, and how at home I felt for the duration of that trip. Since then, I have made some new friends from the South, and their stories of life “back home” intrigued me and made me consider going to the South for college. A few months ago I began looking at schools in North Carolina specifically. Why North Carolina? I really don’t know. Something about the state sounded right to me, even though I had never been there. My parents were not thrilled when I told them I was considering going to school that far away, but they still agreed to take me to North Carolina to let me see for myself if this is where I wanted to be. So we booked our hotel, made the college tour appointments, and packed our bags.
Every expectation I had of this state was surpassed. I really mean it.
For our whole stay, the weather was not ideal. I was SO excited to escape the 40 degree weather of Pennsylvania, only to end up landing in NC and see snow falling! It was about 50 degrees for the rest of our trip which to me is still freezing. Still, I loved every minute of it, even though I was freezing my butt off.
We got to our hotel pretty late, so we just went to bed. Wild first night, I know. The next morning, we decided to go to downtown Winston-Salem. I had never even heard of this city before, but now it is ingrained in my heart forever. First of all, its art is amazing. The graffiti we saw was nothing like that of Philly’s. Winston-Salem is famous for its art district, and these pictures attest to that.
Additionally, the people there are SO accepting. We were trying to find a place to grab coffee, and we stopped outside of a cute little shop to ponder if we wanted to stop in there now or later. The owner of the shop came outside and invited us in, explaining that we could still come in for coffee, since they weren’t starting for another few minutes. Starting what? I didn’t know. We walked in and waited in line to order, and after a few minutes I realized they were starting a religious service. The band started to play songs about Jesus and the Bible, and I felt so out of place since 1- I’m Jewish and 2- I’m definitely not the most religious person. I felt like I was intruding on something so beautiful, but after a few minutes I realized that feeling was all in my head. The lady of the shop didn’t care what religion we were, and neither did anyone participating in the service. We found our seats, listened to the songs, and ended up having a really good time. This experience also showed me just how strong the community bond these people shared is. The people attending the service all knew one another, and they all looked so genuinely happy to spend their day together. I’m not saying this can’t happen in other places in the country, but it is a rare occurrence. That day, my parents and I also toured the Black Mountain Chocolate Factory, bought my dad some fresh beer at Fiddlin’ Fish Brewery, and visited the vast amount of shops this city had to offer. We then travelled to Old Salem, which is the historic part of the city. It’s where the famous Salem College is located, and it is absolutely beautiful. The village has so much Moravian history, and it was so interesting to see the history all come to life. We ate at the village’s tavern, and our experience there was the definition of southern hospitality.
That night we got taco bell for dinner, and I ate it while lying in bed watching Criminal Minds. Solid end to a solid day.
The next day brought the first of two college tours! Wake Forest University! To be honest, I only heard about this school thanks to my mom’s colleague. Not many people up north talk about southern schools, so I really had to do my research on Wake before visiting it. The second I stepped on campus I was amazed. The sunny weather brought out all of campus’s beauty, and I was instantly excited to see what this beautiful school had to offer. The information session was really helpful, but I loved the tour the most. My tour guide, Abby, was so bubbly and informative, and it was evident that she loved this school. The people at Wake seemed so genuinely happy, and I know I’ll be applying in the fall to go there. I’ve been wearing my Wake t-shirt for the past 24 hours, so you could say I’m a little obsessed.
After our tour, we went to Reynolda Village, a shopping center with restaurants, gardens, and the famous Reynolda Mansion. I hate boutique shopping more than anything, but my mom loves it, so we did that for a few hours. My dad and I took turns going into the boutiques with her, but eventually I gave up and handed over full responsibility to my dad. If you’re reading this, dad, sorry not sorry. We then visited the Reynolda Mansion, and it was gorgeous as well. The gardens absolutely took my breath away. As cheesy as it sounds, I really was able to connect to the nature of the area which meant so much to me.
After getting back to our hotel, I worked out in the hotel gym while my parents rested, and then we all went out for Japanese food. So Southern, right? We bonded with our waitress, who told us she stayed in Russia a few years ago, which is where my family is originally from. She was just one of the many kind people we were able to connect with so easily.
The next day we went to the beautiful Davidson College. I’ve known about Davidson for a while, but nothing could have prepared me for how gorgeous it was in person. It’s in the middle of the town of Davidson which is full of coffee shops, restaurants, and other fun attractions. When we got to the college, the nice receptionist directed us to the college store where I bought yet another t-shirt, and she also signed me up to observe a class after the tour. I was not prepared for this. I’ve wanted to observe a college class for a while now, but I did not think it was going to happen that day. Anyway, the receptionist gave me the option between a class about Revolutionary Religion and a class about Business Politics. Not knowing a thing about either, I picked the latter. Was the professor going to ask me my thoughts on a topic? Was I supposed to take notes on the way he ran the class, or the content he was teaching? Was I supposed to ask questions? I didn’t know. Nevertheless, I composed myself for the information session and tour, and again, my expectations were surpassed. The campus is stunning, the professors seem so dedicated and connected to their students, the Honors Code really appeals to my way of learning, and it all just seemed like a dream. My tour guide then directed me to the building where my class would be. After I told her what class it was, she told me her boyfriend was in that class. Then, in the building itself, I asked another girl to help me find the specific room the class was in, and she told me she was going to the same class. These two coincidences reminded me just how small and connected Davidson is, a realization that put a huge smile on my face. The class was insanely interesting, and I felt myself wondering the questions that the students around me asked. The professor was so kind and seemed like he truly cared about providing the best lesson possible, and this really locked in my appreciation for Davidson.
On our drive back to our hotel, we stopped at none other than Bojangles. For those who don’t know, Bojangles is the definition of southern eating. It’s famous for its biscuits, boneless chicken, and sweet tea, all of which I devoured within five minutes. Woops. Needless to say, eating at Bojangles has been on my bucket list for a while now, so this was probably the highlight of the trip.
Finally, what would a good trip be without almost missing your flight home? Road work cut into the route the GPS said to take, so my dad had to stop and ask for directions three times. Each time, people were so helpful, and this kindness saved us from being stuck in North Carolina indefinitely. But of course, we then couldn’t find where to leave our rental car, so we ran around searching for a good 15 minutes. We managed to make it onto the plane, on which I almost barfed, but that’s a story for another time. Usually, I am thrilled when I return home from a trip, for I am so susceptible to homesickness, no matter how much I love the place I am visiting. However, this time was different. I missed seeing the bright colors of the Carolina trees, the sweet accents of the kind people, the feeling of being at a home away from home. I don’t know if I’m going to end up going to college there. There is still a lot of searching and applying left to be done, but I know I would be so happy in either Wake or Davidson. More than that, I now know that every assumption I had about NC is true. I know in my heart that I come back here one day, even if it’s not for college. I beg you all to find the place in this world that lights you up, whether it’s a city in Mexico or a desert in Egypt. I encourage you all to not be intimidated by distance. You need to be happy with the temperature, the people, the environment, wherever you choose to live. Location matters, and whoever tells you to overlook it is so wrong. As the theme song from “The Fosters” explains, “It’s not where you come from, it’s where you belong.” If you truly feel you belong in your first home, great! However, often it’s not this simple, and we find ourselves craving another home. Finding a second home is scary because it almost feels like you’re being unfaithful to your first home, but it’s okay to have two. My little town of Newtown will always be number one, but my heart has always also been with Carolina, even if I didn’t know it before. Find your places in this world. Chances are, these places are just as excited to find you.