Reconnecting In Maine

She was my childhood best friend and, at my persuasion, she moved in with me in New York from Pittsburgh. For nearly a year, we conquered even the most harrowing parts of city life together. She was a painter. We shared a studio space. We collaborated to create events that combined both music and art. When my band went on tour for the entire summer, she came with us and helped with driving and selling merchandise. But all of that concentrated time together backfired and by the end of that year, we had a falling out. She moved out of my apartment; she moved out of New York. She started a new life in Boston. She got a puppy. I sent her emails every now and then, hoping to maintain a thread of contact despite our mutual need for general distance. She always wrote back, even if it took a week or two. She came back to New York once for a night to visit her friends, including mutual friends. I saw her for a second, but the climate between the two of us was still tense and unforgiving. Twenty months of embarrassingly little communication passed and then I asked her to go to Maine with me.


Maine was the only continental U.S. state I hadn’t seen at the time. I read about an oceanside, dog-friendly resort just north of the Maine border and brainstormed a plan and presented it to her. After making sure she could get the time off from work, she agreed.

The cheap Chinatown buses that run nearly every hour from NYC to Boston and other major East Coast cities were means of regular travel for me. I arrived to the dumpy sidewalk corner where everyone waits for the bus thirty minutes early, luckily lugging only a backpack. I boarded a subtly bad-smelling bus and did what I always do on buses: alternated between staring out the window while listening to music and focusing intently on my laptop screen writing. She picked me up in downtown Boston. I was happy to see her – relieved even.

We went back to her house in Newton where I met her nearly 2-year-old Boxer and walked bemusedly into and through her strange home. She’d been living in a house that belonged to her godfather and she didn’t have to pay rent, but there was a catch: her godfather’s family stored anything they wanted in the house and on the property. A few rusted cars, all of which were out of commission, lined the driveway. I twisted through the maze between a handful of couches in the dark living room, passing an adjacent room that was so thick with the brush of dusty excess that it served no purpose other than storage. There were a few bedrooms upstairs and old mattresses were scattered throughout them. My eyes scanned each scene with rapidity, immediately finding items to remark on as if I were perusing the merchandise in a house-sized garage sale. The only section of the house she’d organized was the basement, which she had turned into an art studio. I asked her if she’d thought of ways to create more functional living spaces in the rest of the house, but she seemed to think that if she worked hard and made it look nice, that someone in her godfather’s family would suddenly notice the improvement and decide rent was owed. So she left it all the way it was.

We used her car to get to the resort in Maine, a place called The Cliff House Resort & Spa. Barring just a few wrong turns, it didn’t take us long to reach our destination. We pulled in late afternoon and were shown to our room. Our room belonged to the comparatively dingier side of the resort that contained the older building wherein dogs were permitted. No one else was staying in that wing of the hotel at the time and our balcony overlooked steep rock cliffs that dropped off into the Atlantic. It was perfect. We woke up at sunrise to walk the dog and stared out at the orange and pink beams of light over the ocean with gratitude. We stuffed ourselves with delicious seafood, blueberry pie and wine for three days. I had mussels, foie gras and raw oysters for the first time. When we weren’t eating, we were in the hot tub or the pool. When we weren’t soaking, we were getting massages or body wraps. We even had a masseuse come to our room and give the dog a massage, as if to prove to ourselves that such a service really did exist. He didn’t seem to like the massage at the time, but he fell asleep drooling as soon as the masseuse left – comatose. And when we weren’t doing any of those things, we talked. I had a crush on my now-husband at the time, but I wasn’t quick to admit it.

“I don’t know, E. Sounds to me like you like this guy,” she told me.

“Maybe,” I confessed.

Instead of taking the highway back to Boston, we decided to drive down the coast (I wrote about the drive for the Iconic Road Trips series earlier this summer). It took us roughly five extra hours to take this route, but it was worth it. We stopped for coffee (Seacoast Coffee Company) and photo-taking and got back to Boston with enough time left over to join her colleagues for a dinner at the restaurant where she worked before I boarded the 10 p.m. bus back to NYC. I hobbled onto the bus drunk, having taken too many generously poured, gratis glasses of wine from her manager. The bus smelled strongly of urine, as most Chinatown buses by nightfall do in my experience. I smiled, despite my gagging, at the small vacation I now had under my belt. I’d seen a new state, tried a handful of new things and made good with one of my oldest and closest friends. I woke up in Manhattan and took a taxi back home to Astoria.

First Flight: How Travel Helped Me Grow Up

The cold snapped at my calves, which were covered only in panty hose and exposed beneath the hem of my coat. The wind gushed and ushered me into the airport terminal entrance and my parents, who were both damning the weather under their breaths, were right behind me. I had never seen a moving walkway before, but I was about to step onto it. I had never been on a plane before, but I was about to step onto one of those, too. I had received a ride home to Ohio for Christmas with a friend, but the holidays had blurred into the horizon behind me, as they do, and the solo trip back to New York was before me.

My father, who at that point hadn’t been on a flight since his honeymoon, tried to comfort me as I hugged him goodbye.

“Everyone does it. It’s easy. Just read the signs,” he told me.

Flushed over with naivety, my heart was racing. I pursed my lips, stood tall and did as my father had instructed; I read the signs. Although I didn’t have enough money to buy anything in the airport, I had dressed up in an outfit I perceived to be elegant, under the impression that only rich people flew. Once I boarded the plane, I listened attentively to the flight attendant’s emergency instructions, begging my brain to record every single word, just in case. When she was done preparing me for the worst, I flattened my face against the cold windowpane and witnessed the world shrink beneath me for the first time. I imagined what childhood must have been like for my friends who had been flying since they were babies. They knew what French sounded like in elementary school. I envied their world-weary nonchalance as they described the long airport security lines, their disdain for the airplane food and small seats as they shared their summer stories. They were boarding planes by themselves in high school for spring break. I felt poor and inadequate by comparison. I was determined to stay silent beneath my headphones rather than risk admitting to the person beside me that I was on my first flight.

When I arrived at LaGuardia, I stepped outside feeling different somehow. I had quietly moved through a rite of passage. Adulthood wrapped around me like a soft blanket, soothing with the strange comfort of the unfamiliar. That pride vanished on the train ride back to my dorm and in its place moved an unshakeable knowledge of what else I had yet to do. I felt crushed by the weight of my own ignorance. I had never eaten asparagus or cherries that weren’t out of a jar – my list of edible food was laden with high-fructose corn syrup and embarrassingly short. I had never seen the Pacific or the desert, the Redwoods, or any mountains other than the old and low ones I grew up in, the Appalachians. Aside from a short trip to Toronto with choir in high school, I had never left the country. I could not even guess which languages were being spoken around me during my first few months in New York, nor did I know the difference between Islam and Hinduism or Judaism and Buddhism. I recoiled at the thought of myself, doe-eyed and dumb. I felt like a child and I thought like a child, but I promised myself to become as absorbent as a sponge, to seek out that which did not first seek me. I swore to myself that I would, somehow, learn about the world. A decade later, I’m not sure I would recognize that version of myself, but I’d like to think that if I met her, I’d give her a chance to learn from me and I from her. After all, intrigue is not marked by the experiences we are given, but rather by those we pursue.

Blogger Elizabeth Seward

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Elizabeth Seward.

Where was your photo taken: Puntarenas, Costa Rica. I was lounging at the Los Suenos Resort there (on the Pacific side of the country) for a few days. This photo captured me mid-thought, writing alongside the ocean. It should be noted, however, that I might have just been gazing off at a Scarlet Macaw.

Where do you live now: I’m a newbie to Austin, TX. I recently relocated from New York City. Fed up with the things in NYC that one easily becomes fed up with after nearly a decade of residence, I decided to learn a thing or two firsthand about this much lauded southern city. People told me Austin was great for music, the outdoors, nightlife, food, and weather, and those people were right. While I’m still navigating my way around, say, having a house and a yard (with a pecan tree out back), the transition into Austin has been smooth… and warm.

Scariest airline flown: I don’t routinely get jittery on planes. I prefer to anxiously deprive myself of sleep the night before, powerlessly succumb to deep sleep mid-air, and let the landing jar me awake. But a recent viewing of a “World’s Most Extreme Airports (!!!)” kind of show clued me in on the fact that I’d flown into, apparently, two of the most EXTREME airports out there: Saint Martin/Sint Maarten and Vail, Colorado. And yeah, when I think back to those flights, I’m pretty sure I was wide awake well before landing.

Favorite city/country/place: Anything not overrun by kitschy tourist attractions probably appeals to me. I don’t have any sort of rain forest vs. mountains vs. desert vs. city preference, but I did go somewhere this past summer that was remote and took my breath away: The Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan. This sliver of land farther north than the city of Quebec juts deep into Lake Superior. In the summertime, daylight sticks around until 10pm (or after), the weather is warm but not too hot, and the lake is, I kid you not, glistening.Most remote corner of the globe visited: I once took a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica and from there I caught another little plane (only 6 of us, including the pilot, fit on board) to Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica (about 4-5 hours by car south of San Jose). I then took a boat across Golfo Dulce, a body of water teeming with dolphins and brightly-colored wildlife, to an eco-resort called Playa Nicuesa. Playa Nicuesa can’t be reached by car because it’s in the middle of a more or less untouched and protected rain forest–no roads even go there. The open-aired resort serves delicious local and seasonal food. And the best part? There’s no TV, Internet, or cell phone use this deep into the rain forest, so you’re alone with nature, whether you like it or not.

Favorite guidebook series: The only travel guidebooks I own are the ones I find in thrift stores (or the ones my mother finds for me in thrift stores) and among those, it’s not easy to pick a favorite. The photos are usually as inspiring as the information is outdated. I enjoy meandering through places using my own kind of guide: some combination of tips gathered from cutting edge travel sites, friends’ Facebook feeds, and recommendations made by locals.

How did you get started in travel writing: I got into travel writing by way of an industry that encourages travel: music. While on tour, I found myself with a lot of free time between arriving at a city and performing in the evening. Reflexively, I began documenting my travels (venues, restaurants, vintage stores, good trails, off-the-beaten-path stuff, etc.)in my journal. My fascination with exploring became more public when I started a website,, to help me keep an organized database of my favorite places (and eventually the favorite places of other writers, many of them also touring). The launch of the website simultaneously acted as the launch of my travel writing career and now I often find myself in a reversed situation from where I started–trying to squeeze shows into my free time when I’m traveling.

The ideal vacation is: A vacation that gives me freedom from the stresses back home. I travel all of the time for work, be it writing or music, and people will get mushy about my travels (“Oh my gosh! I wish I could just take off work and travel all of the time!”) without considering the fact that I’m actually still working when I’m traveling. I’m almost always still plugged in, still dealing with email, and still seeing news headlines in my peripheral vision. My ideal vacation is one that allows me to actually check out, detach, and detox while my inbox overflows.

Type of traveler–vagabond, luxury, camper, package, adventurer, etc.: I’ve had my favorite travel experiences while living in a van and driving across the USA on tour, washing my hair in McDonald’s bathrooms no less. Inevitably, vagabond and adventurer has to be my reply… but I openly embrace what every style of travel has to offer. READ: You won’t find me snubbing my nose at a pampering massage treatment, freshly caught lobster, or plush hotel beds.

On your next trip, you are forced to schedule a 24-hour layover. You have $200 to spend. Where do you spend the layover and why:

Less than 24 hours to have some fun? Bring it.

$20 cab into town from airport, it’s evening.
$30 bed reserved at likely awesome spot with probably good people, courtesy of Air B&B.
$19 round of drinks for me and my hosts at their favorite dive bar in town.
$1 two songs on the juke box.
$20 admission into the circusy loft party the guy at the dive bar tells me about, the one where people are fire dancing and hula-hooping and the live band is inviting me, and everyone else, to come on stage figure out a way to be percussive.
$15 late night/early morning breakfast at the best 24-hour diner in town with new friends from the loft party. Maybe my Air B&B hosts are with me, too.
$3 coffee I grab at the first coffee shop I see that looks good, and by good, I mean a coffee shop that looks like it’s been around the block a few times.
$7 earrings I talk myself into buying from the nice girl outside of the coffee shop.
$2 tip for the talented musicians playing on the sidewalk.
$3 local newspaper to read while basking in the park’s sunshine.
$15 ticket to borderline-pretentious-but-maybe-still-cool early afternoon cultural event.
$5 post-event obligatory purchase (roasted peanuts? bookmark drawn by a child in need?).
$20 lunch at some tasty spot, a place with a low tourists-locals ratio.
$20 thrift store purchases.
$20 cab back to airport.

Done. Why? Because 24-hour layovers suck. Getting an authentic feel for a town is way better than getting an authentic feel for an airport.

Photo Credit: Ben Britz