I have visited 48 out of 50. (Sorry Alaska and Hawaii) I believe you can find something good everywhere. It takes a little effort, but you can find it. There’s one thing, though, that I believe can’t be faked, and that’s charm. Charm is palpable. When driving into a city, I can almost tell immediately if I would like to stay.
We usually pull into the nearest Starbuck’s for the boost in wi-fi and caffeine. At every Starbucks, I can get a non-fat, extra hot vanilla latte, and it will taste the same, but the experience, no…. In some states, cities, there are people with charm. I’ve tried to put my finger on why, and I’ve come up with a few possible answers. People in these cities have similar qualities – they are proud of their city, and interested in where you have come from. I guess this is education, and curiosity. This beams from their faces, welcomes you, and you can really feel it. The people who are curious, light up when we say we have come from France. “WOW!” they say. (And it deserves a wow – we’ve come a long way!). The educated know about their city. Big or small. They can lead you to the interesting and photo worthy. These people make travel exciting. Exhilarating. They inspire!
A couple of days ago we pulled into a city (I won’t say the name. I don’t want to offend.) Inside the Starbucks I gave my order to dead eyes – and they got the order wrong. I explained the order again to dead eyes. I asked about the area. Nothing. Nothing from the six eyes that looked back at me. Nothing when I mentioned France. Nothing when I asked about their city – in fact they said go to the next city. This made me sad. Made me want to leave. We did leave, soon after.
This is rare, but devastating. Not for us really, we have a ticket out, but for them. What do you have to live for if you don’t like where you are, and you don’t care about what else is out there? Now some may say, well that’s not fair, maybe they’re poor. And I understand that, but it’s not only about that. I’ve been poor. Very poor. And we have visited poor, and have been charmed. A couple of years ago we stopped into the smallest town in Arkansas. One store. It had coffee, candy, some groceries. The sign on the door said he would be back in a few minutes. We waited. He was. “So sorry,” he said while arriving. “I had to go to the doctor.” We smiled. No worries. “Where you from?” “France.” “Wow!” He said. Giving us free coffee. A free magnet – a razorback from his beloved state. He was happy and welcoming. We spoke of his little town, his health, his interests, our travels, and I will never forget this charming man, in this yes, charming place.
If the goal is to live a charmed life, and for me I think it is, then open your mind and your heart. Learn everything you can. Be curious about everything. Everyone. The world is a magical place. People can be delightful. Life can be beautiful. Everywhere.