In April 2016, I started crashing on couches in unfamiliar places; the idea being that traveling alone with no agenda or companions would throw me outside my comfort zone and challenge my definition of home. Thanks to the help of some long distance friends, I’ve been able to visit cities all over the world and learn a few things along the way.
First up on the couch surfing roster was Raleigh, North Carolina, and there were a few reasons for this. For one, it’s home to a very dear friend, and my visit was long overdue. This is us.
Friend reunion aside though, I was excited to get familiar with one of the most urbanized areas of the Bible Belt. The city has both rural and urban influences, and you can sense the two elements in virtually everything. There were mason jars and flannel shirts; farm-to-table meals and Southern accents. There was also abstract art in the middle of a hiking trail – that was the North Carolina Museum of Art Park, and it was probably my favorite part of the trip.
The Raleigh Little Theatre was a close second, if for no other reason than the smell – and not even in a weird way. This place is essentially a tiny stage that’s surrounded by a huge rose garden with flowers in nearly every shade of pink. It’s gorgeous, it’s sweet, and it’s where every local female has probably dreamed of a romantic proposal. But there were no proposals on this day. Instead, there was just a fake ‘NSYNC concert on that tiny abandoned stage, performed by yours truly.
We spent some time smelling the flowers and enjoying the scene before heading off to the beach. Located just a few hours outside of Raleigh, Surf City, NC, was our next destination. Even though the forecast was cloudy, we packed our towels and bathing suits and hoped for the best – and no, this isn’t an uplifting tale of beating the weather gods and enjoying a perfect day at the beach. We got maybe an hour of sun before the sky opened up and drowned us with torrential rain.
That said, there was something beautiful about the gloomy skies serving as a backdrop to paradise. Even with this imperfection, it was one of the most memorable beach days I’ve had. The storm washed up some of the life beneath its surface, so we got to explore stingrays and jellyfish at our feet. The wind brought some activity to flags that would have otherwise been stationary. Not to mention, I’ll always remember sprinting barefoot through the wet sand and laughing uncontrollably the whole way back.
Sometimes dancing in the rain is more fun than basking in the sun.