Ever just feel drawn to a place?
I’ve been wanting to see Charleston for what feels like ages now. With many trips to the South in the past few years, I became more curious about the tree-lined paths and the warm, seaside air of South Carolina. Both sides of my family lived there at one point, and I was beginning to understand just how different parts of the United States can be away from my comfortable bubble in Northern California.
One of my best girlfriends here in San Francisco grew up spending summers on Myrtle Beach. I’d heard stories from my dad about his childhood summers there. And while I’m no Southerner, I’m certainly a beach girl.
When we toyed with taking a long weekend there to relax, I jumped at the chance to go. Both she and I desperately needed a break from the energy of the city and stresses of our careers. We could unwind at the beach, she said, and take a day trip down the coast to see the charms of Charleston. (Sold!)
With eye masks and neck pillows in tow, we hopped on a red-eye flight to Atlanta to make the most of the long travel time for our short visit. We made further use of the flight with Delta’s new Free In-Flight Entertainment, which is included (free of charge) on all of their flights. It seems like less and less is complimentary in the air these days, so we were pleased to find hundreds of options available (with surprisingly fast streaming) on our own devices via the GoGo Entertainment app.
I tend to try and write on planes, but the point of this trip was to take a true vacation, turn off my brain — and that meant watching a chick flick or two (it just does.)
Below are the things I found most rejuvenating about an escape to the other side of the country:
From the moment the warm air hit my face, the sound of the cicadas chirping, the sight of trees slouching, and the feel of rain lightly dotting my skin beckoned me to slow down. I found this feeling replicated in my surroundings. People weren’t trying to hassle me or hustle me. Cars drive slower, people stroll when they walk, even speak slower. I once wrote that New York speeds me up; the South slows me down. I found great comfort in softening the edges around my days, letting moments stretch and time crawl — if only for a few days.
I’m a Pacific Ocean gal. I couldn’t have told you what the Atlantic felt like last week. Now I know, it’s much…warmer.
We swam in the sea in sun, rain, and moonlight. I breathed deeply to inhale salty air, crunching sand under my curled feet and feeling the pull of the tide as it whirled back out to sea. At times it felt warmer to be in the water than out of it — something I’ve never known in all my wetsuit days as a California girl. We marveled at the eclipse and even moonbathed (like sunbathing, but under the moon!) I enjoyed it immensely.
I didn’t know the difference between porches, verandas, and piazzas (and kind of still don’t, even after lengthy explanation.) All I know is that they are lovely, and I want to spend more time on them. Perhaps it’s because you can feel the breeze or hear the rain from the comfort of what feels like your living room, or maybe it’s just because that’s where I slowed down the most.
(And honestly, low prices.)
I’ve gotten so used to exorbitance living in San Francisco, often scratching my head and squinting to make sure I’m reading prices correctly (it costs what?)…that I felt like the world opened up a bit for me in another state. Craving an oyster? 55 cents.
Fancy a cocktail? That’ll be $3.50. Fill up your gas tank? $16. (Whaaat.)
Charleston was particularly elegant, and there’s no denying that. But just as things were slower, they were simpler. Travel doesn’t always mean culture shock or sticker shock. Sometimes, it’s just a slightly different way of living daily life that takes us out of our element and helps us reconsider the small things.
I’ve never felt as if California was lacking in friendliness, but I knew about Southern hospitality and I now can say I’ve experienced it. For many life seems soft, slow, and sweet. I need a little more of that in my life.
From dollar beers and divey seafood bars, to strutting along King Street and hearing rain softly dance on the roof of our carriage ride in Charleston, we had found a different way of living — even if just for a weekend.
When the plane touched down in San Francisco, there were tears in my eyes. And while I loved South Carolina, and was quite happy to arrive home in SF, neither was the reason the two grown men on either side of me inquired as to my well-being. I had simply finished watching the film Me Before You, with the main character sitting in a Paris cafe and me mentally planning my next trip to Charleston while feeling all the feels.
Take it from me — a change of place (and maybe, a chance of pace) is good for the soul. Eat the fried chicken. Dance under the full moon. Listen intently to the ghost stories. Drink the bourbon, take the trip. If you find yourself driving ridiculously around a beach town in a golf cart, laugh. And on the plane, remember: save the tearjerkers for your home theater.
Thanks to Delta Airlines for sending us to the other side of the country, to my friend Bri for sharing her photo skills and beach house, and to you for supporting the brands that make Part-Time Traveler possible!