Writing Prompts: Travel and Adventure
(What culture interests you the most?)
There are many places I’d like to see, speaking from a purely historic and/or scenic perspective. The reality, though, is that I’m never going to be a world traveler. I’m 74, a little late to be starting, and especially with my cranky old back to take into account.
But here’s another reality: Just about every culture that I’m interested in can be found right here in the USA!
For instance, I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish. We live maybe 1 1/2 hours from one Amish community, a lovely drive. We’ve stayed overnight in a B&B run and owned by a couple who are Mennonite Amish. We went to church with them, and were invited to enjoy a meal with them at one of the members’ farm. What a treat! We asked lots of questions, learned lots of things about their way of life, and we ate some of the best food you could find anywhere. All within two hours of home!
If we go north, we could land in New York City. There are SO many neighborhoods there! Irish, Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, Chinese and more. You pick a culture you’d like to know more about, you can find people who will be happy to talk with you about food, customs, religious beliefs, and especially why they came to America.
Go back south toward the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains, and you’ll come across people whose lineage goes back to Scotland, England and Ireland. Some are not open to talking with strangers, but others are open and just as curious about you as you are about them. We took a dirt road nearly to the top of a mountain years ago, and met an older man who was digging along the roadside. He leaned on his shovel and talked with my husband for quite some time. We could hear kitchen noises coming from his cabin, but “his woman” never peeped out the window or the door. I love their music.
If you go farther south, you could land in New Orleans. There, you could meet descendants of the original Cajuns, whose cooking is wonderful. Some of them live right over the water, literally–cabins built on stilts. You would also meet descendants of slaves, all over the South, as well as north, east west–you can find communities that have been created by those who went west on wagon trains, or just stayed on the plantations on which they were born, making a living, just barely. Many became sharecroppers, always a risky business. Lots to learn from all of them, if they’ve been told about their ancestry.
And speaking of west, you can meet some of the most laid-back people ever in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho. Lots of the people out West have lineages back to Norway and Sweden, and have ancestors who came to America to farm because they’d heard about the rich soil and that land was literally dirt cheap. Some of them may have started in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Of course, you also have Indian reservations out West, and you can learn a lot of history from those who have ancestry that extends back into the mists of time.
You may say, “Well, what about. . . . . . ” and list a whole bunch of places I haven’t mentioned. America is truly a melting pot, and we have a wealth of cultures right here, if we want to go looking and are willing to try to get people to talk with us. Generally, we have found that if you are genuine in your interest, people will respond well and you can leave with a whole new understanding of what makes up this great nation.
I don’t have to travel the world to learn about culture. I just have to open my eyes and my heart and take a good look at my own country to find a wealth of knowledge that is different from my own.