Sitting down in a small independent coffee shop in Fayetteville North Carolina, the sun has been steadily growing stronger since my coach from Atlanta, Georgia, arrived at 6:30am, till at 8:30am it is already burning the back of my neck. This is the first chance I’ve really had to write for a few weeks, and there’s something I have to get off my chest.
Since being invited to America last summer and booking my flights in November for the best deal, I had patiently been awaiting my adventure with no small amount of trepidation. In all honesty, I had never really thought about going to the States at all, or at least it wasn’t on the top of my list. However, when a couple of very good friends I made whilst working as an au pair in Rome invited me out, I suddenly couldn’t get it out of my head. Originally the idea was to spend the summer up in Maine with one of the girls, where we could relax and pretend to be in Rome before travelling down to North Carolina to celebrate with the second friend at her wedding reception.
Within months those plans had changed, the wedding reception had been postponed and the first girl had accepted a position with Cityyear with Americorps and was due to be in San Antonio, Texas half-way through my journey. ‘Road trip?’ I said. ‘Road trip.’ She agreed. So the plan changed. A month in Maine, a week long road trip down to Texas with my friend and her wonderful mother, a week in Texas helping her to explore and settle into the new flat, then a three week journey by myself back up to New York City for my flight home.
So I’d like to say some thank yous. Firstly, and probably most importantly to the Flanagan family. In the time I spent with them they treated me like a family member, making me feel absolutely at home and welcome in the time I spent with them. They taught me about American history and current politics and culture, drove me hours to show me amazing sites such as Salem, which had been a dream of mine since I was a child, and Boston, where I was surprisingly not hated automatically for being from the wrong side of the pond. They introduced me to their friends and family, who it seemed were just as happy to meet me as I was to meet them finally, after having heard so much about them, although looking back that may just have been typical American hospitality. This family provided so much for me and treated me so well that I will be grateful forever, and never forget my time there.
Secondly, a word of thanks to the strangers. Thank you to the bartender in Boston who poured me a large glass of free whiskey after I looked upset when he asked me what I thought about Brexit. Thank you to the Flanagan’s family members who hosted us on our trip down, I learnt so much from you and you showed me such kindness. Thank you to the Turkish man in San Antonio, who teared up and thanked me heavily when I returned to his store to ask him if his family was okay the day after the coup in Turkey started. Thank you to the bus driver in New Orleans who refused to let me leave the bus station until he had confirmed that I knew exactly how to get to my hostel and that it wasn’t too far. Thank you to the Jack Black lookalike from New York City who took me out that next night, got me drunk for free and regaled me with stories about his travels in south and Central America. Thank you to the couple from Kansas who invited me out with them and took me to see one of the coolest blues bands I’ve ever heard. Thank you to the Brit/ Aussie who got drank hurricanes with me on my last day and talked to me about such deep things? Thank you to my couchsurfing host in Atlanta who provided me with a double bed and silk sheets and explored the city with me, I had an amazing time with you.
Thirdly, a word of forward thanks, to the friend hosting me here in North Carolina, despite having a busy household with a beautiful Siberian Husky and a new puppy. Thank you to the family friends in Virginia who have been looking after my backpack for a month to save my poor shoulders, and who will be putting me up for a few days next week. Thank you to the couchsurfing host in New York City who is just as excited as I am to show me the city and see it from a strangers eye
Finally, thank you to the family and friends I have back home, who have provided me with the life skills and character to be able to get through the difficulties of travelling. It really is rough sometimes. Sometimes you are there, sitting in a hostel, craving a conversation with someone who really knows you, a hug from someone who feels safe, a coffee with an old friend. You guys have given me the foundations, now I’m learning to build for myself.
Written by Bethany Naylor
Read about my final arrival in New York City here!