On My Way Home

Living on the Jersey Shore, surrounded by 24 hour diners, dark-haired greaseballs, and leopard print yoga pants, I couldn’t really be much further from Italy, where well-dressed people enjoy shots of expresso and kiss on street corners. I think nostalgically about my time in Italy daily, often wondering how I ended up back here surrounded by the congested parkway and the smog of the nearby city. Often, it feels like that was another world, another lifetime, and it becomes more and more difficult to remind myself that was me there and not a body double. However, during every afternoon run on the boardwalk, gazing out over the pink sky and quietly whispering winds, I sometimes forget that I’m here at all and instead, I’m taken back to being that carefree, kind-of-dirty kid one year ago.

The Jersey Shore beach doesn’t really look like any of the beaches I ever saw in Italy did. It doesn’t look like the spotted mountainside beach towns of Cinque Terre, nor does it possess the sunny winding roads of Sorrento or the wilderness-ridden cliffs of Capri. The air isn’t as light and clean here and the people aren’t as happy and slow-moving. Hell, even the water here doesn’t have the turquoise dreamy tides of the Mediterranean. However, seaside smells and salty air are the same no matter what town you’re in, and the little towns on the Shore are no different. Sometimes when running on the boardwalk, I almost want to close my eyes and, just for a second, remember my first weekend trip to Cinque Terre.

The more places that you go, the more that you realize how remarkably similar many of them are. Don’t get me wrong here – the world is a quirky place, reminiscent of a family of black sheep where each cousin is a little different from the next. There is no place in the world with the tres chic of Paris, the art splendor of Florence, or the loom of Budapest. However, they all have sister qualities within them nevertheless. New Orleans is the dirty, rogue sister of Savannah, San Francisco, the big-city hipster brother of Seattle. And when you happen to run into one of these unexpected family members, even in a place as unsexy as the Jersey Shore, it’s always a welcome reminder of the home that once was.

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The Best Place I’ve Ever Been

Being that I spend a lot of free time scourging travel blogs on the Internet, there is one phrase that I often come across that really gets under my skin…

It was the best place I’ve ever been. 

Oh yeah, really? The best place you’ve ever been, huh? The most beautiful, fraught with culture and life, brimming with excitement hiding underneath the budding underbelly? Somehow, I doubt that.

Not that I don’t believe a place can be like that, because they are. And that may be the exact issue… that there are many places like this. There cannot be one best place you’ve ever been, because that’s like throwing every destination into prepackaged, nicely organized ribboned boxes, when let’s get real here, Seattle doesn’t have a whole lot in common with Sydney. More accurate phrases would be New Orleans is the craziest city I’ve ever been to. Paris is the most lovely and lacy city I can imagine. I’ve never had so much barbecue as I did in Kansas City. 

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I can’t really blame people though when they ask me what’s the best place you’ve ever been? because as a journalist, it is exactly these questions that must be asked, this searching for extremes, simply because we want to hear what the hell you can possibly say. On the contrary, being trained as a journalist, you learn to never yourself state these extremes, because you lose your credibility with these dramatic and overused phrases when you’re supposed to stay without a side at all times possible.

However, the way a person responds to these questions says a lot. But a quiet wonder, a shrug of the shoulders, a damnnn I really have no idea… Now it’s those responses I listen awfully closely too. Because those are the ones who have seen the world and live to tell it enough that you have to ask first.