I never mastered the art of swimming. In fact, I can’t swim. That hasn’t stopped me from getting into bodies of water, though. I’ll gladly get in the ocean and I’ll be fine when a wave inevitably smashes into me and flips me upside down in the surf, giving my sinus cavity a nice saline rinse in the process. I’ll get in lakes and rivers and pools, too. I’m not water-adverse, I just can’t swim.[...]
When the park ranger at Fort Union National Monument asked me what I thought about the site, I told him it was creepy. He said that was an unusual response, one he didn’t get regularly, but that I was the second person that day to call the place creepy. I tried to qualify the statement. I told him creepy wasn’t exactly the right word. The place felt eerie, maybe, sort of ghostly and maybe even haunted.[...]
In going to New Mexico, I wanted to experience two things: National Parks and really good food. So, upon my arrival in New Mexico, I went straight for the tacos, at Kelly’s Brew Pub, where I met a bartender who shared my name. I took meeting her as a good omen since she was only the second Terra I’d ever met and then I scampered to Petroglyph National Monument, to get my first taste of New Mexico’s national park scene.[...]
On April 9, 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the small village of Appomattox Court House. While the official end of the American Civil War would come later, Lee’s surrender marked the effective end to a war that had raged for four years and claimed more than 620,000 lives.[...]
My trip to New Mexico was my first-ever solo trip and I launched into planning mode before I even booked the tickets. I ordered a travel guide, started a Pinterest board, perused the National Park Service website and flipped through some of my favorite travel blogs to see if they had any suggestions on what I should be doing with my time in New Mexico.[...]
I danced in the middle of the road at Valles Caldera National Preserve. And when I say, “I danced,” I mean I fucking danced.
I don’t even know why I did it, not really, just that I needed to do it.
Maybe I was overtaken by the beauty of the place, by the trees and the air and the grass and the streams and the brilliant blue birds that kept jetting in front of my bright red Ford Focus and especially by the perfect loneliness of that road. I’d passed one car by that point, about two hours prior, and had spent the morning bumping over and around potholes in complete solitude. Maybe I didn’t want to leave without expressing how happy I was to be there. Maybe I just needed a middle of the road dance-a-thon to express to nature, the world and myself the incredible joy those battered roads and that beautiful place gave me.[...]
One of the things that attracted me to New Mexico, aside from the sunsets, the National Parks, the mountains, the food and a Buzzfeed quiz, was the opportunity to learn more about the history of the southwestern part of the United States. I can rattle off all sorts of history about Virginia. I can still name the original 13 colonies, know all about the native inhabitants of my home state and the states that surround it and can give a pretty solid account of the colonization of the entire eastern side of the United States. When it comes to the rest of the country though, I don’t know much, or at least not much detail.[...]
In my line of work, summers tend to be pretty much off limits for personal travel. It’s our busy season, so while everyone else goes to the beach or jets off to faraway lands, I’m in Virginia, working more weekends than not and dreaming of fall-time travel adventures.
By the end of August I was tired but itchy for a new adventure. I hadn’t traveled anywhere since Italy, back in the spring, and my wanderlusting bones were aching. Bored and alone on a Sunday night, I poked around on Buzzfeed and found this quiz. After more than 20 years of using the internet I still can’t pass up a good internet quiz. Especially when it promises to tell me where to go for fall travel if I only plan my perfect day.[...]
We thought it was time to go home. We’d spent almost three weeks scampering around Italy, starting in Rome and meandering our way north to Venice. Everything was packed, we had comfy travel clothes on and we were ready to go home, ready to be in one place for more than a few days.
We took a boat to the airport, checked our bags, had one last glass of wine and got in the line to board the plane. It was a bittersweet moment. The trip we’d spent our lives dreaming about was coming to an end. We had some feelings.[...]
The views are great, the rangers are great, the hikes are great, the tour is great and the pigs are great, but the sheep at George Washington Birthplace National Monument are assholes. They’re direct descendants of the original Washington sheep and it’s made them incredibly arrogant. I spent 10 minutes leaning over a fence rail attempting to get a decent look at them. They wanted absolutely nothing to do with me and opted instead to hide from me in the shaded front of an outbuilding.[...]
It took me a week to get to Kuwait when I deployed last year. That’s not normal. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, but for 1o of us, that’s exactly how it did work. We ended up stranded in Baltimore and then Germany and then Qatar before finally making it to our final destination.[...]
When I went to Tajikistan, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the basics, like how it’s a land-locked country in Central Asia. I could find it on a map, knew it was bordered by Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, that it used to be part of the Soviet Union, but that’s mostly it. But, I didn’t know what it would feel like, or look like or be like.[...]