A Day Trip to Salem

My boyfriend’s parents are visiting Boston and were kind enough to take my boyfriend and I on a day trip to Salem. I have lived in Boston for three years and have never been to Salem. It’s absolutely outrageous. Luckily, last Monday I was able to visit for the day and was finally able to attach history and geography.

Salem is a beautiful city, it is right by the water and much like Boston, still maintains the historical charm while accommodating to the needs of modern life. A $15 roundtrip ride will get you to Salem in 31 minutes. Perfect for a day trip!

When we arrived to Salem, like good tourists we followed the signs to the Peabody Essex Museum. What we did not know is that the museum is closed on Mondays (a good thing to know if you are traveling specifically to the museum.) We weren’t too disappointed, however, since there is plenty to see and do in the city.

Bird Nests
Bird Nests

We decided to walk to the House of Seven Gables which is a 15 minute walk from the museum. On our walk we spotted many cool stores. Unsurprisingly, most of the stores sell souvenirs, as well as anything witch-related you can imagine. My personal highlight was the Harry Potter wand store, called Wynott’s Wands. We also got to see the Naval Maritime Museum, as well as the U.S. Custom House which is a very pretty historical landmark.

When we finally arrived to the House of Seven Gables, we took a tour. First, we went into Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth house. It was moved from its original spot, but was still intact. It was a lovely way to see how people in the 17th century lived, the things they used and what was considered fancy at the time. I am not a personal fan of Hawthorne, but it was still extremely interesting to see the places where he use to write and keep his manuscripts.

Then, we took a tour around the House of Seven Gables. This is the original house from where Hawthrone drew inspiration for his novel. The house has a beautiful view of the water and is still incredibly intact. The rooms inside the house are decorated lavishly, showing the wealth of the family. Apparently, Hawthorne’s cousin lived in that house and was the one who told him to write about it. During the tour I also learned that Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather (John Hathorne) was a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. He was the judge who carried the trials on and never repented of accusing people to be witches. To eliminate the bad reputation the named carried, Hawthorne added the ‘w’ to his last name. The tour of the houses was very inspiring. They were both beautiful and entering them was like traveling through time.

House of the Seven Gables
House of the Seven Gables

Once we had seen both houses, we went for a bite to eat. We decided to try Boston Hot Dogs. It was definitely a good choice, they had all sorts of crazy hot dogs and many options to choose from. They also had vegetarian and vegan options, a huge plus for me.

After the good food, we went on our night tour. We took a Historical Salem Night Tour. The guide was himself a practicing witch and had grown up in Salem. He took us around to the Memorial and to some of the other landmarks where the witch trials had occurred. The guide was very good in debunking myths about the trials and gave an informed overview of what had occurred historically. We did not see any ghosts or witches during the tour, but we did happen to walk around the second oldest cemetery in the nation. Having our good feed of Salem history, we were happy to get on the train back to Boston.

Memorial for people accused of witchery
Memorial for people accused of witchery

The trip was very successful. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about American history, while also engaging on a fun look at witchery stores. It is also great to go during summer, since the weather is nice and it is not nearly as crowded as it is during October.

View from House of Seven Gables

Vang Vieng: How to Get Lost in Asia

We soon arrived in the virtually stoned, hippie village of Vang Vieng, tucked in the jungle mountains of northern Laos. Feeling a little daunted and alone since our good friends had stayed behind us in Luang Prabang, we were both relieved and freaked out to see a ton of Westerners on outdoor cafe beds watching TV reruns of Friends on two big screens. (They sat there all day and all night.) The Westerners were sleepily lounging with their smart phones, criticizing Instagram posts while enjoying a glass of Beerlao or a fruit smoothie.

As we walked, our guide told us that three British men that were on our tour had “hopped off” for two months here. My jaw dropped. Of all of the places in Asia, they had chosen this drugged-out Grateful Dead satellite village to stay in for two months? Did they forget that the world exists?

I looked around to see a tanned young man in a muscle t-shirt and board shorts (the standard for a white “phalong” in Southeast Asia) crossing the street barefoot, one headphone dangling on his chest. My look of incredulity ceased when I realized that this was the dream. Who wouldn’t want to walk around barefoot in this little make-believe heaven, switching between beer and fruit juice for nourishment and sleeping with all of their new best friends in front of flat screens showing Friends? And if you’re feeling somewhat sick of sitting, sleeping, lounging or chilling, you can take a short, but very bumpy, tuk-tuk drive to the blue lagoon. Yes, it’s exactly how it sounds: clear, crystal blue water trickling under a bridge with trees and rope swings to jump off of. I could have gotten lost there.

It’s very easy to want to get lost in Southeast Asia. There’s always a little bit of home to be found in even the most remote places: Friends reruns, 80s American ballades blasting from a roadside bar or the occasional local sporting an American flag t-shirt. It’s easy to take these similarities and internalize them, embracing the Asian culture but also remaining separate, unknowingly creating your own version of the Southeast-Asian life. Because the truth is, you don’t see  locals watching Friends. The only people that relish in this feaux-American village are the Westerners that are trying to run away to something different, but only to find something similar. As we move on from Vang Vieng to the capital of Laos, Vientiane, I decide I prefer to take these Americanizations with a grain of salt. I left home to escape and don’t want to escape back just yet. For now, I will choose to see the foreign in the familiar, even if I am eating Ritz crackers as we wind away through the jungle.



Stuart, Florida

Small Town Tourist

When I originally pitched my idea for this blog post I planned on going out, exploring my town like a tourist (seeing things like museums and parks) and then going back home and writing about them. In the process of writing this article I would look back on my day and think something like: “Huh, my town really isn’t that bad, I’ve been acting like a brat these last 12 years.”

A few weeks have gone by since I pitched that idea. In the mean time, I have worked on articles for Atlas and other blogs that discuss my life in Stuart, FL. I’ve thought a lot about my position here and planned to give this article more of a positive spin.  I even went out to a museum, saw a show and was prepared to write about that.

I realized in this process though that going out to new places I wouldn’t normally go to (though an interesting experience) was not going to change the tense relationship I have with my hometown. This happy conclusion was the point I was assuming I would make at the end of my original article. When it came time to actually write that though it felt extremely sugary and fake.

The truth about Stuart is that no one here is a tourist. I guess there must be people whose cars break down on their way to Key West and instead of being tortured by serial killers or sacrificed to fields of hay, they are greeted by a town full of charming citizens. Those are the only people I can think of who might reside in the rooms of our local Marriott Hotel.

This is mostly because Stuart is strictly a family town. My hometown, like so many others, is extremely safe and quaint. It’s ideal for bike rides, Christmas parades, and cub scouts, perfect for raising children. (I had a job when I was 16 where my only responsibility was to go around to festivals and shops and blog about how cute my town was. Seriously. That was my job. It was for a real estate company and they said Stuart’s charm was its number one selling point for new families.) Everyone here is part of a family and they probably have a sister whose best friend is dating your brother and works at the local barber’s shop. Most of the “festivals” are exhibits of old locals paintings and the shops cater to dog lovers and new parents.

Because there is no reason to stop here on your road trip, there is no reason tourism would exist. Because of this, I found it extremely hard to look through the eyes of the nonexistent tourist.

But then I thought- and this is where this post gets super meta- what if there was a tourist in Stuart, what if I had been a tourist all along? It makes sense. Sure I lived in Stuart, but it never really felt like I belonged there, so it wasn’t a home. I’d always planned on leaving and going to school in a big city, so was I not just biding my time until I moved on (like Stuart was some kind of cheerful, hotel-like purgatory)? So, I originally planned to impersonate the tourist identity for a day, only to discover I had been residing in it all along.

Of course, I’m not the only teenager who feels this disconnect from where they grew up. (Isn’t that feeling the characterization of every young adult novel available in Barnes and Noble?) But because of this realization I now find that I can write about how to act like a tourist in your hometown. You don’t have to go to museums and live theatre (though they’re totally cool) you just gotta act like the rebel babe you already are. For me, personally, this means at least these three things, all day, every day.

1.) Drive around your town with the windows down playing loud, mildly offensive music. A personal favorite of mine is Kanye West (but the clean versions; your act of rebellion should not hurt the children). Bonus points if you have a cute, unassuming car.

2.) Wear the weird ass clothes you normally wear at Emerson and let people call you a hipster but whateves because you look great. You’re expressing yourself and they just don’t understand.

3.) Get mad at your parents even though they didn’t do anything wrong. Feel bad for them and yourself, apologize and continue to glare at the world outside your window.

It’s a tough life feeling like a stranger in your own town. Of course as a tourist it is implied that you’re traveling and wandering, so rest assured that your days of wandering will one day end and you can go and discover a place that feels more like home.