Month: December 2018

Defining “Home” – Hometowns, Homes-away-from-Home, and “HOME”

hiltongardeninnfred

Hilton Garden Inn, Fredericksburg, Virginia

The notorious “hometown.” What does it mean to you? If I ask five different people, could I get five different answers? To some it is always, and only, the place where you were born. To others, the place where you grew up and spent most of your pre-adulthood years. For others, it is where you now live. And for some, any place you have ever lived can be a “hometown,” either only while you’re living there or one in an accumulation of many “hometowns” you can make claim to for the rest of your life. For people of the latter philosophy, I have many “hometowns.” I’ve lived in six different states – and the places I’ve lived in feel like varying degrees of “home” to me today – whether I, or anyone in my family, still lives there or not, and whether or not I frequently return. It is the places I have loved that always feel the most like home – not how long I lived there, when in my life I lived there, or whether I live or spend much time there now. Because ultimately home is not a static thing, not constructed out of bricks and mortar, but memories. And given that, there is more to “home” than a static physical location – as I will discuss here.

Then there’s the “home away from home.” What’s in a “home away from home” to you? A place where you no longer live but most of your family still does? A place you love enough to visit on a regular basis – or at least aspire to? A place where you actually own a second home – or just a place where you stay with others in your social circle or a favorite hotel? Can a hotel be “home?” – at least temporarily? What about a favorite restaurant, or park that you frequent and feel comfortable in? People often refer to a “home away from home” being a vacation spot they love – but as I inquired before – isn’t home just what “feels” like home – whatever that means to you, however your mind chooses to build it? You are the architect of “home.”

IMG_0863.jpg

Clearwater Beach, Florida at Sunset: the “home” where I live

I did not originally have the idea to write this post. Turns out, I expected to be “home” right now, back in Clearwater (in Tampa Bay), Florida where I now live (and love), but I am still somewhere else, beyond my control and due to circumstances. With all of my travel photography being back “home” on my primary computer, I had to improvise this week. I’m back in a town where I formerly lived, selling a house where I used to live once upon a time many months ago. Repairs are taking longer than expected so I’m “stuck here” getting everything finished. My temporary home is an extended stay in the Hilton Garden Inn, where I’ve made repeated trips to the front desk to advise them of added nights to my reservation. Unlike the empty house devoid of furniture and in a state of being repaired, here I have a bed, a shower, comfort… this is home now – for now – not the empty shell of a place that I once called home.

It can be hard to sell a house that you have at one time lived in, because it either is, or was, probably something you would consider a home. For better or worse, many memories are attached to it. There is a finality in the sense of “moving on” thrust on you. It is one of the reasons I, and probably many others, procrastinated the prospect, even though my move was a positive experience, and where I live now is my favorite place I have ever lived. On the other hand, Fredericksburg, Virginia was not my favorite place to live (to each their own), nor my least favorite. But it remains part of my history, and part of the person I have become, even if that means the way it motivated and inspired me to move yet again. It did, and I followed my lifelong dream to move to sunny Florida.

bjsfred

BJ’s Brewhouse, Fredericksburg, Virginia

I have many fond memories of every place I’ve lived, including this one. I returned to a favorite haunt of mine when I lived here, BJ’s Brewhouse, to soak in the atmosphere one more time (maybe more as my stay keeps getting extended here!) While there, I contemplated the way that this restaurant is all over the country. There is even one in Clearwater, Florida, where I live now. Is this a “home away from home?” All of them in all of their locations? Places like this remind you that while different cities and states can be very different from one another, much is also the same.

I don’t know how long I will be calling the Hilton Garden Inn “home,” but what I do know is that this may be the last time I linger in this town where I once stayed day after day. Funny how life goes on and things can change – even things as pivotal to your well-being and sense of identity as where you call “home.”

I often use the expression “most at home on the road,” because I genuinely feel that way. I am most comfortable when I’m on the move, traveling and exploring, not in staying in any one place at all. In a way, I could say “everywhere” is “home.”

So where do I consider “home?” There are so many different ways to define the word “home.” I love my place in Florida, and it sure feels like “home.” And I do feel so at home on the road. But, ultimately, my true, and most important home is with my long-distance boyfriend who happens to live in Michigan, because no where do I feel more like I’m “home” than in his warm embrace. I am the architect of my own “home,” and that home, with him, is my castle and my private island all in one, where there is no better place on earth. Whether we’re in Florida, Michigan, or anywhere else, I’m most completely at home with him.

stillshot1

“Home” at Last… in a Michigan auto shop

What does “home” mean to you? Leave a comment below.

Below is a video of my first time meeting my long-distance boyfriend in person, including my road trip to get there and meeting itself! (Home at last!):

 

 

Advertisements

A German Christmas in Frankenmuth, Michigan!

IMG_1400

Holiday Horse & Carriage Ride

Frankenmuth, Michigan is rated one of the most “Christmas-ish” towns in America, and for good reason! What better way to celebrate the holiday than to stroll through this fantastically festive holiday wonderland?! Better yet, hop on a holiday horse and carriage ride and let the jingle bells of your horse heighten the holiday atmosphere!

IMG_0723

Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland

No Christmas visit to Frankenmuth is complete without a stop at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the biggest Christmas store in the world! Here you will be enveloped in Christmas spirit… albeit the commercial kind… with thousands upon thousands of holiday decorations to choose from. There are ornaments here for every subject, person, place, and thing – walls of them, and a multitude of trees in a rainbow of colors to adorn with them. Also available are a bounty of Christmas village displays and other decorations. You could get completely lost in here, completely immersed in holiday cheer, mesmerized by the glow of twinkling lights and shiny globes!

IMG_1396

Bavarian inn, from 1888

Frankenmuth was put on the map by German settlers in the 1880s, and the German influence abounds in the form of gingerbread house architecture, wooden carving, a brewery and brewing museum, and other nods to the homeland (note the clock towers and blue and white Bavarian flag checkerboard patterns on window shutters!) Christmas is also a major contributor to Bavarian culture, and in the spirit of this the town is illuminated and festooned to the hilt for the holidays!

IMG_1395

Frankenmuth Clock Shop

Many German traditions are practiced in Frankenmuth, including the wood carving of cuckoo and other German clocks here at the Frankenmuth Clock Shop. Craving fine German cuisine and great beer? Frankenmuth boasts many great German restaurants!

IMG_1394

Covered Bridge

At night Frankenmuth becomes perhaps even more spectacular – as the sun goes down and the lights come up. Whether strolling over the old Covered Bridge or holiday window shopping on a Silent Night at the brilliantly bedecked River Place Shops, Frankenmuth is truly a Christmas delight. For me, Christmas came early being here in Frankenmuth, Michigan!

IMG_1392

Holiday Shopping at River Place Shops

Watch my full tour of a Frankenmuth, Michigan Christmas on YouTube here!:

 

 

 

Jaunty, Jovial Juneau, Alaska!

IMG_1065

Mt. Roberts Tramway, Juneau

Juneau, Alaska is one of the more “metropolitan” destinations in Alaska, yet maintains its Old West, quaint town feel. On this day, I was feeling even more than that… I was feeling drenched from the torrential downpours that happened upon the city on that densely overcast day! Unfortunately, a highlight of Juneau, the Mt. Roberts Tramway, was not on my agenda with visibility from the peak nearing zero! Many others made the trek in spite of cloudy skies.

IMG_1060

“Downtown” Juneau

I opted instead for a stroll, umbrella in tow, through the main streets. While a small handful of what could loosely be defined “skyscrapers” dot the downtown district, most of the architecture harks back to an earlier time. Some of the building fronts resemble an Old Western movie set, the shadowy fringes of treetops on the mountains peeking out from billowing clouds looming in the background. I imagined Bob Ross capturing these mountains in a painting…

IMG_1061

Old Western Style Building Fronts

If you wish to venture out further, there are glaciers available to visit on a day trip. If you choose to embark on such an adventure, or a tramway ride, I am hopeful your weather will be more cooperative!

For a short video tour of a rainy day in Juneau, you can watch my YouTube video here:!

 

Ketchikan, Alaska: Quirky and Wild

IMG_1041

Clan House, Totem Bight State Park

Ketchikan is your typical first Alaskan stop on an Alaskan cruise itinerary, and it offers a tantalizing contrast in cultures to explore! The best place to start your adventure first is Totem Bight State Park, where you can discover and learn about Native American culture in Alaska, their totem poles, and enter one of their clan houses, brilliantly restored and preserved.

IMG_1043

Richly decorated totem pole

Totem poles served a variety of different purposes. In front of a clan house, it could serve as an “address” marker, much like our address number and street. Others convey local legends, or honor a local clan. And others serve as grave markers, much like cemetery stones.

IMG_1048

This one is akin to a cemetery stone

The totems are decorated in rich, bold colors and depict a wealth of different designs. Animals are abundant in totem design. At Totem Bight State Park there are many different types of totems to compare and contrast. And, if you’re lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of a whale from the waterfront!

IMG_1051

Welcome to Ketchikan sign near the port

The area around the port hosts many retail shops, and can be crowded when multiple cruise ships are docked. Perhaps the most interesting sight here at the port is “The Rock” statue.

IMG_1050

“The Rock”

According to the Ketchikan Story Project, “The Rock tells the story of how Alaska’s First City came to be. Six of the seven figures on the sculpture represents a prominent archetype in the city’s history – a fisherman, a miner, a logger, a bush pilot, a frontierswoman, a native drummer. The seventh represents an actual historic figure – Chief Johnson, a Tlingit who stands on top of ‘The Rock,’ symbolizing the fact that his people were the first to make their home in SE Alaska.” (www.ketchikanstories.com)

IMG_1054

Fishing culture

Fishing is a vital component of the Alaskan culture, and there is no shortage of evidence of this here in Ketchikan. Boats bob peacefully along the docks in a “skyline” of masts at the port, while beyond them brightly colored wooden houses dot the shoreline, and towering dark green mountains are nestled in puffs of mist and clouds behind them.

IMG_1053

Creek Street Boardwalk

Another not-to-be-missed attraction in Ketchikan is the historic Creek Street Boardwalk. It can be a challenge to navigate – attracting hoards of eager tourists – but it is well worth the effort. Here wooden houses in a rainbow of colors sit upon a lengthy boardwalk creek front, where miniature waterfalls provide a chance to witness leaping salmon. There is history here, including “Dolly’s House,” a brothel from 1919. Of course, retail shopping opportunities abound as well, given the crowds.

Ketchikan is quirky and wild, a place of great contrasts, and an excellent place to start your Alaskan journey!

You can view my tour of Ketchikan here:!

Donation

I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

$1.00

Alaska’s Inside Passage: Mysterious Beauty and Pristine Wilderness!

IMG_1082

Some trees appear to float on air in the mist

During the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship’s Alaska itinerary, the trip through the Inside Passage’s wonderful wilderness is a breathtaking highlight. It is a surreal world of icebergs, weightlessly wafting puffy clouds of mist, placid green-hued waters (so tinted due to sediment from the glaciers), and endless armies of pine trees descending mountains alongside strings of waterfalls that lay like whimsical ribbons on the landscape.

IMG_1070

Waterfall “ribbons”

The journey is slow, as the ship greatly reduces speed through this area, both for safety (icebergs abound), and because this is not a path of travel or means to an end, it is a destination in and of itself. There was one time on the cruise it seemed like everyone else was on their balcony too (I know because I was out there all the time when not at port!) and this was it, the clicking of photos being snapped the only sound echoing in this peaceful paradise.

IMG_1075

Calm waters melt into the soft outlines of mist

With the waters so calm and the mist so surreal in its softness, at times the outline between the two is only a faint one. The icebergs peeking through the serene waters and hunter green humps of land peering through the billowy mists breach the illusion and tell you where the outline begins.

IMG_1080

Thick rows of fog striping the sky

The thickness of the fog completely obscures the land behind it at times, as if keeping the secret of a great surprise it could reveal at any moment… and does. It stripes the sky in rows… and dissipates rapidly only to form again, a playful shapeshifter.

IMG_1085

Where does the water begin?

The inside passage is like an alien world in its mysterious beauty and pristine wilderness. While the Bliss did not continue all the way to Sawyer Glacier as planned for safety’s sake (amid the thick fog and weather conditions), I was completely satiated after seeing the spectacular wonder of wilderness that is the Inside Passage, and would later see other glaciers in Skagway.

My video tours of Alaska’s Inside Passage and the Norwegian Bliss may be found here!:

Inside Passage:

Norwegian Bliss:

Donation

I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

$1.00