After returning to the U.S. from Guatemala, I was faced with the task of driving my parent’s car from Colorado back to their home in New York. Normally, this great American road trip would be the stuff of wanderlust travelers’ dreams and I myself have still been itching to do a proper two-lane highway adventure, but alas, this particular trip wasn’t about the journey or the destination – it was about the people. Specifically the focus of the trip ahead of me was making good time on the road so I could see friends and family from Chicago to Kentucky and up to New York. I sacrificed time spent wandering through strange remote towns to spend a few extra hours conversing with the people that make my life just as enjoyable. Moving along, one of my stops on the way from Colorado to New York was in Whitesburg, Kentucky for the timeless “Meet the Parents” ritual. All of that was fine and lovely, unlike any dramatic movie depiction of the event, but the real reason for posting about Whitesburg is that my experience here provides a great example in support of the argument that travel is what you make of it. It’s entirely possible to have a memorable and exciting experience in a seemingly dull town just as easy as it is to have a horrible time in a bustling city.
Why Small Towns Are So Great
One of the first observations I made while in Whitesburg was the difference between a small town such as this one and a proper suburb where I was raised. In small towns, there’s more of a community feeling where everyone knows each other and the local business owners, whereas in suburbs, everyone is more private and almost on lockdown in their organized developments out of which they venture off to strip malls and other anonymous shopping centers. I have to say, I much prefer the gossip-laden banter of small towns as it’s much more entertaining and interactive than sitting on your couch and watching a drama series unfold. There’s even a dedicated section of the local newspaper called “Speak Your Piece” where residents can passive-aggressively and slightly anonymously sling mud at each other for all to see. I read one week’s edition and I was hooked.
Then There’s Nature
Another enjoyable aspect about Whitesburg is the natural beauty surrounding this Appalachian town. Driving in off the interstate at Lexington, the scenery is an endless sea of lush green leaves rising and dipping with the road. I actually felt as if I was driving through Guatemala once again. Later on I ventured out on an ATV with Dillion and his friends for an up close view of the wildlife in the mountains. We rode along for quite a few hours actually and we stopped in a few spots to take in the sights. While doing so I also picked up some coal, which I was meant to give my sister to use as a prank against the children come Christmas time. A shame that was!
Along with the enjoyment of nature I also took this chance to shoot my first gun. All political issues aside, my line of thinking was that shooting guns is a part of the culture in the South and if I really wanted to experience it, I should learn how to shoot a gun. In a way, I also just thought it would be rude of me not to participate in this recreational gun shooting in the woods as it wasn’t harming anyone and the boys were just having a grand ole time. Just as well, actually shooting a gun does help you understand a little more about what you’re arguing regardless of which political position you hold. With all my reasons for why I went gun shooting out of the way, I can now talk about the actual experience which in summary was astonishingly eye-opening. It’s really quite enjoyable in that shooting a gun and hitting your target does become a bit of a challenge. I had beginner’s luck with my first shot and hit a water bottle from 10 feet away, which was actually quite fortuitous because I earned instant respect from Dillion’s friends who then proceeded to show me how to shoot a larger gun. After this point I didn’t do so well, but nonetheless it was great skill development. Hey, who knows when I may need to go hunting for food or help a spy thwart an international terrorist?
When it was finally time to leave Whitesburg I was a bit overwhelmed and surprised with the whole stay. I had imagined a very quaint and relaxing with nothing of specific interest to report, but then again, that’s how travel always surprises you and why you must do it whenever you get the chance and for whatever reason. My trip to meet my other half’s family turned into another reminder of why I love this lifestyle.