There are not a lot of places that feel like home for me. My house, obviously is my home and is where I am most comfortable. Aside from my house, I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents and their houses also feel like home. When I was growing up I was always the girl that hosted the sleepovers. I very seldom stayed at other friends houses and a lot of the time, I had my mom pick me up before everyone went to bed. Even as a teenager, and now young adult, I'm still more likely to invite people to my house before I go to theirs. For as long as I can remember I've always had that "homesick" feeling when being away from my house. Even just staying the night at my grandparents houses which are 5 and 10 minutes away. I loved sleepovers with my grandparents, but I would toss and turn and struggle so hard to stay asleep. There were no cell phones or social media when I was a kid so it made for incredibly bored nights, some of which I was pretty scared and never slept at all.
As an adult, I'm much better but it's still something I struggle with. My friends and boyfriend will probably agree that they spend way more time at my house than I do at theirs. I am very much a homebody and I love my bedroom and my house and the people (and animals) who live in it. This fact became very clear to me when I attempted to go on my first beach trip without my parents. I was 17 and I was supposed to stay for the entire week with friends about 2 hours away from home. I lasted one night. It was too late to drive home so I called my friends mom who was also in town and stayed the night at her house because it felt safer than the dirty hotel I was supposed to stay in. I drove home the next day, spending less than 24 hours away from home, and never thought twice about it. It didn't feel right to be at my normal family vacation place without my family and especially without my parents.
Now, to make a long story short, I am obsessed with the show One Tree Hill and they have conventions in Wilmington, North Carolina. I won't go into detail about it other than my sister and I decided to go to our first con in July of 2016. We got a room at a crazy hotel and spent 5 days exploring. Although we had a great time, I still felt those homesick, anxious, and uncomfortable feelings before going to bed each night. That wasn't the first time my sister and I had traveled alone. It also wasn't the first time I traveled alone. But it was the first real trip for both of us without our parents, other family members, or friends parents. Even though we were both legally adults, I know I still felt a little helpless and scared to be "alone." Although I felt a little uneasy at times we had an amazing time on our first trip and knew immediately that we wanted to go back one day.
On our first trip we spent a lot of time at the convention. We also spent a lot of time doing One Tree Hill related things. Like visiting the filming sites and just learning as much as we could about how the city connected to the show. One spot that we went to visit was Airlie Gardens. It's about 10 minutes from downtown and not too far from Wrightsville Beach. The garden is beautiful! Our only regret was going at the end of July when the flowers wen't blooming. But even without the flowers, it was breathtaking. The trees and plants and statues were incredible and we can't wait to visit one day in the spring!
Well, that "one day when we go back" was less than a year later. We decided to find a place to stay in the downtown area in May of 2017. The streets have the cutest names and we learned the city really well on our first visit so we knew our way around. We found a really nice AirBNB on Front Street in Downtown Wilmington. The second trip was also for an OTH con, but we took some friends and made a vacation out of it. On this trip we went to Wrightsville Beach and took a little trip about an hour away to Topsail Beach to watch the sunrise. We spent an entire day there laying in the sun and swimming in the ocean. We got badly sunburned, but it was one of the best days ever!
On that second trip, we also got to try out some of the local restaurants. My sister and I stayed in a hotel on our first trip so we didn't eat much other than fast food places close by because we were too far away to walk to downtown. We ate at The Reel Cafe (try the nachos), Front Street Brewery, Hell's Kitchen, and Bourbon Street. We also got breakfast at Java Dog and got Kilwin's ice cream a few nights during our trip.
In addition to eating at the local restaurants and shopping at the local stores, we went on our first Ghost Tour. There are a lot of tours offered in the downtown area, from OTH tours, to movies tours and historical tours. The Ghost Tour is ran by the Black Cat Shoppe and it's a nightly walking tour that takes guests all around the downtown area telling ghost stories about certain houses, bars, and graveyards. It was during this tour that we had our first encounter with the Bellamy Mansion and decided that on our next trip to Wilmington, we were going to take a tour of the house.
We took a third trip in October of 2017. Yes, only 5 months later. This time we toured the Bellamy Mansion and went to Carolina Beach. The Bellamy Mansion has five floors and is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. We also went on another ghost tour and this time we were taken to different spots and heard different stories than the first time. The tour has over 30 stops and each tour is different because you only get to stop at five or six of the places.
The river walk takes my breath away with each visit. I love walking down there and sitting on the benches in the morning and being by the water. It's such a peaceful place and beautiful no matter what time of day it is. There are always people running or walking their dogs. We ate lunch one day at Anne Bonnie's which is a barge in the river. We were walking down the street trying to decide what to eat for lunch, and a man walking next to us overheard our conversation and he recommended it, so thats where we went. It was a perfect place for lunch to just sit by the water on such a nice day!
During our third trip we stayed at a place called the Pontiac Place and it was of the corner of 2nd and Walnut. I actually got to take a fourth trip last week and my boyfriend and I stayed across the street from the Pontiac Place in another AirBNB. This was my boyfriend's first time in Wilmington and I was so excited to show him exactly why I loved it. It rained the entire trip and we went to the aquarium and spent some time on Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, and Wrightsville Beach in the rain. We spent a lot of time walking around downtown in the rain as well. I showed him my favorite stores and places to eat and we even ordered carryout one night before walking to get ice cream.
Another thing that captures me about this city is the people. The night life is so alive and all of the bouncers that stand outside are so friendly! No matter what store you go into you can always strike up a conversation with the person behind the counter and everyone is so helpful! All of the servers at the restaurants are nice to talk to and always strike up a good conversation. It's a college town but it's also mixed with these gorgeous historical houses and so many stories that go along with them. Everyone there has a different story and I love hearing where people are from or what they do in the city.
I have been to this city four times in less than two years. I have never felt more at home (other than my actual home) in any other place on earth than I do in this city. It is beautiful and it has this vibe that is almost magical. The beaches are incredible and I could sit there for hours, even in the rain. I love being able to walk almost everywhere and the hospitality that is given. I love the food and the atmosphere and everything about this city. I love feeling safe and comfortable and excited to wake up each morning when I'm there. I no longer get those feelings of homesickness when I take trips there and thats a big reason why I think I love it so much. I can actually enjoy myself without the anxiety. I will always credit One Tree Hill for introducing me to this place, but it's the magic of this city that keeps me coming back. From the live music at night, to the friendly hello's exchanged on the street, it just keeps me wanting more. I cannot wait to go back!