From Los Angeles to Minneapolis.
Minneapolis to Vermont.
Vermont to New York.
Next up, New York City to Turin, Italy.
So I did this crazy thing. I spent the last month traveling throughout the country visiting friends before a three-month trip to Italy. The past few weeks and days before my trip, I’ve been asked the same question: So how do you feel?
Honestly, I have been so busy traveling and wrapping up loose ends in Los Angeles, I haven’t had much time to think about Italy. Well, of course I have thought about it. More so, I have not had time to worry and over-analyze my trip to Italy. (Because I am really good at that.) I have my passport, flight numbers, a bag of clothes and an open mind headed into the trip. That’s all I need.
Thanks to old and new friends who welcomed me into their homes the past month, I also have a full heart and a rested soul. The sweetest part of my trip so far has been quality time with people. I spent the first two weeks in Minneapolis, at the coldest time of the year. Let me remind you, I live in Los Angeles. Although I may be a native northerner and have lived in Minneapolis before, blood thins people. Scientific fact. It really does.
My first words when I landed in the Twin Cities were, “It’s like real snow!” (Yea, so sometimes I don’t think before I speak.)
Luckily, my parents came through in the clutch, and they mailed me the winter coat I left behind when I was California dreamin’. Minnesota is still the same, cold and aesthetically beautiful. Oh and the Minnesota accents are still going strong! (Those over-pronounced a’s and o’s though? Gotta love a good Minnesotan accent.)
Next up on my cross-country adventure was some time in Vermont. A friend moved to Burlington, VT a few years ago for a magazine position. What better time to see a new place and an old friend? Vermont was beautiful. Lots of snow and cold. If you like organic, grass-fed beef, then Vermont is the place for you. The vibe was outdoorsy, home-grown, evergreen tree lovin’, farmer-esque. The air is crisp. The sky is bright with stars at night, and the snow, well the snow is your picture-perfect winter post card.
Last up, I boarded a Greyhound to the city that never sleeps. It’s been seven years since I moved out of New York. It is still the same bustling, dirty, crowded, in-your-face New York. I was surprised by how easily I picked up on navigating the subway. I even had an older lady ask for my help getting a Metro Card. Perhaps I seemed like a real New Yorker? (I was definitely wearing a Dodgers baseball cap though.)
It was a long month of travel, and it was so worth it. Most important were the people I got to spend time with. I won’t forget nervously laughing as my friends and I walked on a frozen lake in St. Paul. (Don’t worry. That’s a thing in Minneapolis. There were a ton of people and even free skates.)
I won’t forget the crazy snow storm that hit Minneapolis on the day I was supposed to fly out, how my flight got cancelled, and my friend Michelle and her husband opened their home to me. I literally came to her doorstep covered in snow, and she had hot cocoa and a warm dinner ready for me.
I won’t forget seeing Bernie Sanders in downtown Burlington. I freaked out, and my friends were completely calm. I won’t forget going to see The Post with my friend Lucy and a group of other journalism and media professionals and nerding out about the importance of journalism and the First Amendment. I was really excited! Moral of the story: Journalism is needed for checks and balances. (Didn’t your high school government class teach you anything? Watergate people!)
I won’t forget making it to NYC, taking the subway with a crap ton of luggage, and my friend’s mom and sister welcoming me into their home. They literally picked me up at the subway exit in Brooklyn in the pouring rain, and they had dinner ready for me when I walked in the door.
So far in my time away from my LA home, I have been reminded of one important thing: the value of people and human connection. Any house, city, or state can become home, but it only becomes home because of the people who make it that. I think back over the last month, of the hugs, the good heart to hearts, the home cooked meals, the laughter, the movie nights, and I think what I am most grateful for in all my travels is people. The people who give. The new and old friends who open their homes. The people who live with extended arms.
That’s the kind of person I want to be. One who opens her heart and home to new and old friends. One who always lights a candle for the traveler just passing through.
P.S. Just because Minnesotans are super cute, I thought I’d add this quintessential Minnesota moment I spotted at a Trader Joe’s in St. Paul. Because #onlyinMinnesota.