5 cool places to visit; or, there’s no place like home my a**, Dorothy

Make sure to check the rest of the Fave Wave: Installment 2

A girl lives in a quiet, lonely corner of the world where there are plains for miles with her extended family. One day, a natural disaster uproots her entire life and the girl finds herself exploring a new land, trying to start over. The entire time she is away from home, she is amazed by the new cultures she encounters. Unfortunately, in her travels she inadvertently makes some social blunders, thereby offending the wrong people, and becomes a political target. Despite the grand time that she has on her journey, she is grateful when the opportunity presents itself for her to leave this land behind. She waves goodbye to some of her new friends, who can’t come with her, clicks her heels, and repeats her mantra, “There’s no place like home.”

Yes, I’ve just recounted the basic plot line of The Wizard of Oz. The film teaches us to value home, warts and all. But, there’s a danger I think in how we interpret the film’s famous line. Yes, there’s no place like home. Does that mean that we should romanticize it? Or keep our world only one town, one state, heck, one country wide?

Say it with me. (You don’t have to click your heels, unless you want to!) “There’s no place like home my a**, Dorothy.”

Great! Once you tell yourself that there are places like home — and trust me, there are plenty — the world becomes your playground. How many places can you find that remind you of home? The more you travel and get to know places and their people, the more connections you see, and the smaller the world becomes. It’s because the world becomes your home. Don’t you want your home to be world wide?

In the spirit of adventure, here are some of my favorite places that I’ve been — in no particular order. I can’t wait to see this list grow!

1. Spokane, Washington

I visited Spokane in 2015 while I was attending NCUR at Eastern Washington University. Spokane is the home for hipsters. The people are incredibly friendly (one of my Uber drivers gave my friends and me an awesomely detailed history lesson about the time Spokane hosted the World’s Fair) and it is home to my favorite tea/used books shop of all time, Atticus. Right next door to my second favorite toy shop of all time, Boo Radley’s. Seriously, Spokane is a dream city. I could — and did — spend hours watching the falls, where I also watched a street artist paint some geometric shapes on the sidewalks. His method was… interesting, to say the least. I’m pretty sure he was high — to each their own, I guess. What else makes Spokane cool? The fact that is the home of Katie Schmarr, one half of @thePaleoPact.

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2. Assisi, Italy

I traveled to Italy with my high school Latin class in 2012. I loved everywhere we went in Italy and have lots of treasured memories from that trip (e.g. that time we ignored the signs and climbed the amphitheater in Pompeii). However, I never felt more peaceful and in tune with God than when I visited Assisi. I always surprise people when I say that I felt Assisi was a more spiritual place than the Vatican, but it’s true. There’s something about the steep-hilled nature of Assisi with its winding, narrow, cobbled streets and massive cathedrals, abbey, and convent that made me feel God’s presence in a way that the tourist-ridden Vatican (#sorrynotsorry) didn’t.

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3. Oahu, Hawai’i

My dad constantly refers to this trip as a boondoggle because I spent a week — including New Year’s — in Hawai’i while earning 3 credits toward my undergraduate degree. It was even more of a boondoggle because my dad’s chief engineer, Pete, lives just outside Honolulu with his family, who invited me to stay with them for a few nights. The itinerary that Bridgewater State University provided was both informative and transformative (I still teach my juniors about hula and Hawai’ian folklore!) but I call this island one of my favorite places because of the local knowledge I gained from Pete’s family and another one of my dad’s colleagues, Glenn. Headed to Hawai’i? My best advice: hop on Da Bus (that’s what they call it 🤷) and travel around the whole island. You get to see a lot that way! I also recommend Kualoa Ranch for their horseback riding and movie set tours. And, if you’re a religious person like me, it’s fun to attend Mass in Oahu. I went with Pete’s family to their parish, where we prayed the Our Father in the Hawai’ian language and the priest gave any newcomers a lei right before Communion.

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4. Hadley Harbor, Massachusetts

One of my favorite places to take the boat is Hadley Harbor, which you access from Wood’s Hole. Hadley Harbor is in the privately-owned Elizabethan islands (you know, by those Forbes) so you can’t go ashore unless you use the landing at Bull Island. I like Hadley Harbor because it’s absolutely quiet — boaters are respectful when they anchor there to swim or have a cookout — and the water is very clean. If you like to fish, it’s fun to catch scup. I recommend using little rod so that it’s more of a fight to reel them in.

 

5. Toronto, Canada

My friend Caiti and I spent a weekend in Toronto together because we attended a teaching conference while doing our student teaching practicums. This was an intense trip because we flew to Toronto after a full day of teaching on a Friday, attended the conference on Saturday, and spent half a day in the city on Sunday before flying home Sunday evening so that we could teach again on Monday. I would love, love, love to go back to Toronto and see more of the city. Caiti and I spent most of our free time checking out restaurants and a few art museums. The highlight of our trip was definitely grabbing dinner at the top of the CN Tower.

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Honorable Mentions

These are some places that didn’t make the list but were still pretty cool. I’m sure they would have made the list if I had spent more time there!

Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire

Located in the White Mountains, Cannon Mountain is a 4,080+ foot summit that I have hiked multiple times with the students at my school. My Head of School leads a senior hiking retreat for which I serve as a retreat leader, and honestly, it is one of my favorite days of the year. I highly recommend the trails we use: Lonesome Lake Trail and Kinsman Ridge Trail (ascent) and Hi-Cannon Trail and Lonesome Lake Trail (descent). This is a challenging but do-able hike if you have never hiked before.

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Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

This was a day trip while I was attending NCUR. My friends and I did some tacky tourist shopping and day drinking before a boat tour of the lake. The views were STUNNING. What I remember the most about this place: the colors of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho’s obsession with potato designs for shot glasses, and my greatest discovery: huckleberry vodka. Yes, that is a thing. Odd-tasting, but a thing nonetheless.

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Louisville, Kentucky

I was here for a few days while attending Sigma Tau Delta’s International Convention. I was presenting a paper there and counting the time away from work as professional development days, but I freely admit that I treated my trip like a vacation. Once my presentation was done, I bopped around Louisville with my conference buddy (now close friend), Brittani. Some highlights: touring the Conrad-Caldwell House in Old Louisville, watching the morning workouts at Churchill Downs, and listening to freakin’ amazing music every night at 4th Street Live! and Howl at the Moon. (Note to self: still need to cash in my free party at the Patriot’s Place location.) Another weird but cool place I visited just outside Louisville was Waverly Hills Sanatorium.

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Galveston, Texas

Another day trip, this time with my sister when I went to visit her in Houston. We picked Galveston because even though she’d been living in Houston for a few years, she hadn’t check it out yet. Some of her colleagues at Exxon Mobil recommended Moody Gardens, so we trekked over during one of the dry weather days of my trip. We visited both the Aquarium and Rainforest Pyramids, which I HIGHLY recommend if you are ever in the Houston/Galveston area. We started with the Aquarium Pyramid, which was impressive. My sister enjoyed the focus on marine animal rehabilitation, while I enjoyed the multi-level penguin habit as you made your way back down to the ground floor. But, as much as I loved the Aquarium Pyramid, I loved (love?) the Rainforest Pyramid even more. You enter the pyramid at the base and make your way to the apex, traveling through the levels of the rainforest as you go so that you can see the entire ecosystem. Then you make your way back down on the opposite side of the pyramid. The rainforest is completely open, so the critters are surrounding you and, if you’re lucky, even interacting with you. There were some birds who were particularly friendly, i.e., they attacked my shoe laces. Repeatedly.

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Indianapolis, Indiana

Another day trip (from my Louisville work-ation). I’m not sure how much more time I would like to have spent there — I’m not feeling the urge to go back — but I did enjoy two things about the city: the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (only cool if you love Vonnegut as much as I do 🤓) and the Canal Walk. Okay, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art was a noteworthy place, too. I also loved the fact that there was free parking if you had a museum ticket!

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Drop me a comment — what are some of your favorite places?