What Home Means To Me

What Home Means To Me


This past weekend (yup, we’re still on winter break at my college!), my family and I took a mini-vacation trip up to our new, second house in a quaint town in Maine. After saving up for a while, my family decided it would be nice to have a tiny cottage to retreat to when we wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, when I returned back to my “real” house in southeastern Connecticut last night, I realized I’d gotten so much more than a simple vacation.

Let me fill you in a little bit here, first. I’d gone to a teeny-tiny private high school on my college’s campus for the two years prior to attending my college. This marks my fourth year of college, which means this is my sixth year on the same campus! Not gonna lie, there were times when I was filing out transfer apps because I just could not take it anymore -- the same buildings, with the same people, with the same memories of past heartbreaks. Everywhere I would go, I felt like another painful memory would be triggered.

On this floor of the library, my best friend and I realized that we were growing apart instead of together -- and we are no longer friends. At the Starbucks in that town, my ex-boyfriend and I got in a terrible fight because he was yelling at me in public for wanting to go home because I had had a stomach ache (but he wanted to stay.) There’s the classroom where I almost threw up during an oral presentation my freshman year.

Everywhere I go seemed to have some sort of traumatizing, negative connotation and I wanted out -- and fast!

But, I stayed. Little by little, the bad memories seemed to dissolve because I focused on making better, happier, more positive memories instead. I went back to that floor of the library with a new friend. I went back to that same Starbucks that used to make my stomach hurt just thinking about it with a new guy. I walked into that putrid classroom when no one was around, and I smiled. Because I survived.

I made so much progress in leaving the past in the past, which made me happier about my present, but I still felt even more excited about the next chapter of my life. Grad school! A job! I have options! I had been feeling ready to get the heck away from this area of Connecticut, and go somewhere brand new -- somewhere where I could start fresh. By that, I mean, somewhere with new buildings and new trees and new faces and new everything. I would certainly never end current relationships (with my boyfriend or true friends) in my search for newness; what I mean by newness is more of just a sense of new surroundings so that everything would feel like an adventure!

However, something changed when I went up to Maine for these past few days where everything was, indeed, new. The outlet mall there was much, much different from the outlet mall that is right by my Connecticut home. People spoke with a slightly different accent. There was like, half a frickin’ foot of snow and yet all of the restaurants and shops were still entirely open! I even sheepishly removed my faux-fur hat with earflaps when I saw that the cashier in LL Bean was wearing shorts. The seafood barely had that quintessential “yup, I’m eating fish” smell that I always make some uncomfortable joke about at my favorite Lenny & Joe’s Fishtail Restaurant on the Connecticut shoreline. There were signs for “Moose Crossing” instead of “Deer Crossing.” Subtle changes, but that subtly made them paradoxically even more prominent. I was not expecting to feel any sense of change, and because it wasn’t some huge major change -- not a palm tree in sight in both Connecticut or Maine -- it made me almost afraid.

Culture shock in such a subtle way, such as visiting a different New England state when you already live in New England, can be far more powerful than blatant culture shock found in say, living in chilly Connecticut for the vast majority of your life, and then going to visit family down in hot and sunny Florida! I wanted to feel instantly comfortable and at ease with my surroundings, but a sinking feeling in my stomach told me otherwise. I actually missed my southeastern Connecticut lifestyle that I had spent so many years wanting to run away from.

I missed the mini nature preserve at the end of my Connecticut home’s private road. I oddly missed having to avoid certain places to see people I knew if I were donning my beloved baggy sweatpants/no makeup combo. I even missed having to drive to places to get to them (mainly so I can jam out to some JBiebz), rather than just being able to walk down the street to village-style civilization. Despite the lack of an incredible amount of difference, my heart could tell the distance.

As soon as we completed the three and a half hour journey back home to Connecticut, I settled into the couch with some food and contemplated my life choices. Why had I always been wanting to get away from this place? I have it really, really good here. Even though I have felt ready for a new adventure, who’s to say that I can’t have adventures in my own backyard, that I can’t play tourist in my own town and neighboring towns? For some reason, even though I have done some minor traveling here and there over the past several years, this quick trip to Maine really struck me -- perhaps because having an entire house there is a lot different from merely visiting, say, Boston for a weekend and staying in a hotel that you do not actually live in. Maybe I knew, deep down, that I would have to feel a little lost for a while in order to fully fall in love with all that I already have. I am at that place, now.

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The Joys of Traveling Abroad

I wouldn't trade it for the for the world

Over this past spring break, I was lucky enough to go on a choir trip to Spain. We went to Barcelona and Valencia, and it was of the most amazing experiences ever.

There were about 55 people on the trip, 2/3 were the female choir I'm in, Voices, and the other 1/3 were the male choir, Singers. We prepared for months, getting song after song ready for the trip. The whole thing started off with a bit of a bump when winter storm Riley decided to postpone our trip for two days, cramming our plans in Barcelona into two days.

We had the chance to sing in some of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen and I met some of the most amazing people ever, as well as strengthened old friendships.By the time I got back, I was dog tired and proceeded to stuff my face with a pizza and then passed out for 13 hours.

I don't know how I already feel nostalgia for something that just ended, but I do. I miss watching movies with the girls while braiding hair. I miss creepily hitting on everyone on the trip. I miss some of the most amazing food I've ever eaten. I miss late night deep conversations with my roommate.

I know I can still see all these people, but it just isn't the same. These one in seven billion people are the coolest, funniest, most talented people I've ever been lucky enough to know, and I know the memories I made over the past week will last for a lifetime.

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Why You Should Visit New Orleans

There's more to the city than just Mardi Gras

For my last Spring Break, I decided to do something a little special and venture outside of New Jersey for the week. My friend and I packed our bags, but instead of heading to Florida like many college students, we headed to the Big Easy. While NOLA may not have a beach of its own, there's plenty of other reasons why this trip was so memorable and amazing.

1. The food was amazing!

From gumbo and jambalaya to Caribbean taquerias, New Orleans has so much to offer in the way of flavor and food. And much to my surprise, they had plenty of options for vegetarian, vegan, an gluten free diets.

2. The architecture was beautiful.

The unique architecture of the city will pull your eye in and make it really hard to look away. Picturesque and gorgeous homes litter the streets of the city, especially in the Garden District.

3. Cemeteries

Since the city is mostly below the water table, and due to the influence of the Spanish, many cemeteries in New Orleans feature the unique concept of above ground burials. You can visit the tomb of Marie Laveau and the tomb purchased by actor Nicholas Cage (who is notoriously obsessed with New Orleans).

4. Voodoo and Hauntings

Speaking of Marie Laveau, New Orleans is special because you can explore the world of voodoo in an area where Caribbean and Catholic influences alike contributed to this unique culture. Visiting one of the most haunted cities in America opens up doors for lovers of all that is creepy-- you can go on ghost tours and visit the sites of some of the most gruesome murders and notoriously haunted establishments.

5. Drinking on Bourbon Street

Walking up and down Bourbon Street is an experience in and of itself. The only rule about carrying alcohol on the streets of New Orleans is no glass bottles. Other than that, its open range for walking the streets with the crazy cocktails Bourbon Street has to offer.

6. Jazz on Frenchmen Street

Jazz is one of the first things I think of when I think of New Orleans. Its hard to walk around the city without hearing the soulful sound of a saxophone or trombone. On Frenchmen Street, you'll find more of a local vibe where bars have open doors and jazz bands playing almost 24/7.

7. Shopping at the French Market

Although a bit overwhelming, you'll find almost anything you could need from trinkets to food to cocktails from the various vendors in the French Market.

8. Steamboat tours on the Mississippi

One of the best ways to tour the city is on the Mighty Mississippi. Grab a cocktail, some authentic Creole food, and watch the sights pass you by.

9. A Huge Casino (with a nightclub).

Enough said. Central to many areas of the city is a Harrah's Casino with their own nightclub, Masquerade. If you aren't afraid of your wallet being mad at you, go spend an evening at the casino.

10. Festivals and Parades.

I was lucky enough to catch the Top Taco Festival during my visit, and it was one of the best nights of the trip. A ticket got me endless tacos, tequila, and cocktail tasters, and the vendors were very accommodating to the fact that I was vegetarian.

11. Beignets and Cafe Au Lait

If you didn't get Beignets and Cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde, did you even go to New Orleans? And don't you dare say it is the same as donuts and coffee, because it just isn't. If you're looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, look no further.

12. The Restaurants and Shops on Magazine Street

A little different and more laid back than the French Market, this is a must visit area of New Orleans. The Rum House has some of the best cocktails and tacos you'll ever eat, and its worth the wait for a table.

13. Explore a city with a very rich history.

I was blown away by the amount there was to see and learn during the day in New Orleans. From French rule to Spanish rule, to the Louisiana purchase that made New Orleans part of America, the city has seen the influence of many different cultures as well as the impact of natural disasters such as fires, floods, and Hurricane Katrina.

14. National Parks, Museums, and Art Galleries

If art, nature, or history is your thing, you will love the Big Easy. With plenty of art all around the city, Museums on Mardi Gras and World War II (just to name a few), and plenty of gorgeous parks to stroll through.

15. You'll remember it forever!

Because of all of the things listed above, New Orleans will be a place that I will never forget, and only hope I get to visit again.

Cover Image Credit: Rachel Kleinwaks

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