Personal

Preparing for future elections with America’s national parks

I visited Mount Rushmore National Monument on a 2009 road trip across the country, where I met up with two friends from Vietnam and one from Lithuania who had come to the U.S. for the summer. Our decisions as American voters have impacts on the rest of the world, and I hope we make choices that benefit those within our borders as well as on foreign shores.

I visited Mount Rushmore National Monument on a 2009 road trip across the country, where I met up with two friends from Vietnam and one from Lithuania who had come to the U.S. for the summer. Our decisions as American voters have impacts on the rest of the world, and I hope we make choices that benefit those within our borders as well as on foreign shores.

Over the past year, I’ve journeyed back and forth across the U.S., exploring big cities, small towns and some really obscure destinations, but primarily using America’s national parks as the anchor points for my travels. As this year’s election has approached, it’s become more and more apparent to me how relevant our parks are to many of the issues currently at stake, and after absorbing several dozens of parks’ worth of information on our country’s people and history, I felt much more equipped to vote with confidence and conviction today.

America’s national parks don’t just provide brilliant backdrops for our vacation photos; they tell the story of our nation and its place in the world, and they provide insight on how we became the country we are now. I’m not just talking about the big parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, although those do have a lot to teach us. I’m talking about lesser-known but still monumentally significant parks like Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas, which reveals personal stories of the fight for integrated schools, and Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Tennessee, New Mexico and Washington, which dives into the difficult decisions and actions behind the development of the nuclear weapons that ended World War II, and Boston National Historical Park in Massachusetts, which gives insight on the reasons why America decided to separate from Britain and how much they were willing to sacrifice for freedom.

Our 413 national parks each share a different piece of our story, and they offer the benefit of hindsight on historical events and give us information so we can each determine how we might have acted under similar circumstances. They don’t tell us what to think; they tell us what to think about. And they give us context that can help us make better decisions for our world and its future. Continue reading

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Renewal

Not gonna lie, I found it pretty weird to be on the subject side of an interview! Many thanks to Taylor Wyllie for her kind words :).

Not gonna lie, I found it pretty weird to be on the subject side of an interview! Many thanks to Taylor Wyllie for her kind words in this profile :).

One year ago this week, I stood on the porch of my beloved old farmhouse in Leesburg, Virginia, sweeping off the steps in the sunshine, when a moving truck pulled up and a guy stepped out. His U-Haul at the bottom of the steps matched mine in the field, as he was the new tenant moving in that day and I was moving out. We chatted for a few minutes, and since I was there, he asked if I could show him any quirks with the house that he might need to know. I agreed, and we spent a few minutes walking around and talking about how to keep the pipes from freezing, where he could find the breaker box and water shut-off valve, the cheapest place I’d found to buy firewood for the two wood-burning stoves and a few tricks I’d learned to help coax the stubborn old lawnmower into submission. He thanked me and began carrying in boxes while I swept off the last few steps, then I hit the road.

As I drove away, it didn’t escape me that I knew how to manage that house I was leaving, but by and large, I had no idea how to do the thing I was leaving it for — a life of freelancing and freedom and travel. Sure, I knew how to pitch an editor, write an article, book a night at a hostel and find a cheap shower on the road, but I didn’t know how to monetize a website, publish an ebook, pay taxes as a full-time self-employed person or do lots of the million other things I needed to know to become successful as a freelance writer. Essentially, I had decided to jump and hope the net would appear. And I had no idea whether, or how, it would. Continue reading

Categories: Adventure, National Parks road trip, Personal, Travel | Tags: | 8 Comments

Things are about to get interesting

In the summer of 2009, Paxton and I hit the road for a month and trekked all over the country.

In the summer of 2009, Paxton and I hit the road for a month and trekked all over the country. There are more stories out there than one person could ever write in one lifetime, but I’m aiming to tell as many of them as I can.

A few days ago, I saw a tweet celebrating Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken, which was, according to the article, published 100 years ago this month. The timing struck me as particularly apt, because I’ve recently decided to take an unconventional path of my own. When I look back on my life in 50 years and consider the choices I’ve made, I hope this will be one that “made all the difference.”

For six years now, I’ve worked as a magazine editor, and although writing articles has always been part of my job, I’ve had to devote less and less time to writing as my career has chugged along. Although I’ve enjoyed learning about and handling the other tasks necessary to put out a magazine every month, my main passion is researching new subjects and interesting people and sharing what I’ve learned through the written word. Continue reading

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Adding a new New Year’s resolution

A look at post #1 from my cross-country road trip.

A look at post #1 from my cross-country road trip.

Last night, while looking at the Facebook history between me and a good friend, I noticed a couple of comments we messaged to each other a few years back that referred to some posts on my old blog. I launched it in 2003 when such things were set up as online journals used by individuals for free expression, not as the structured social media business outlets that we have today, and for several years, I updated it regularly. Since my last post on there in 2009, however, life has kept me pretty busy with working and all, and I’ve totally fallen out of the habit. I started that blog as a simple outlet where I could write out whatever was on my mind, and I kept it for years primarily for my own benefit. In looking at it last night, though, it really hit me how I don’t write like I used to anymore. Continue reading

Categories: Adventure, Outdoor Recreation, Personal, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

In Tribute — Sept. 11, 2001

Everyone remembers where they were ten years ago today when they learned the news of the terrorist attacks. I was a high school sophomore sweating out biology class when another student ran in, telling us to turn on the news, and it’s fair to say I lost a lot of my innocence that day. All of us did.

Today, while driving back from vacation in Rhode Island, I passed within eyeshot of both Manhattan and Washington, D.C., and with the radio broadcasting the memorial ceremonies and replaying coverage from that awful day, it’s easy to find myself back in the terrified mindset of a previously naïve teenager. A few months after the attacks, I wrote a poem to try and capture my still-fearful feelings and memories of the day. My experience as a high school student in North Carolina who didn’t personally lose anyone and wasn’t physically close to the sites of any of the crashes doesn’t come close to the devastation felt by those who experienced or felt the effects firsthand. However, spending the day (and the weeks and months that followed) glued to the TV and worrying about the unknown is how most of America processed what happened. I doubt any of us have lived a day in the ten years since when we haven’t remembered.

The below poem was written in November 2001 and attempts to capture my thoughts following the attacks. A sculptor who received scrap metal from Ground Zero created a work of art titled “The Gates” and inscribed the last section of the poem in his piece. Although it’s clearly written by the simple hand of an unpolished student, I hope it is seen as a tribute to those who died and those who live on in their memory. Continue reading

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