Recently, I took a travel writing course offered by Peaceful Life Writing Workshops instructor and author, Katherine Tandy Brown.
The class was conducted on the second floor of The Charles Street Gallery, and my classmates and I were surrounded by Net Results – an art exhibit by Melba Cooper and Kim Keats. The exhibit imaginatively focused on the lowcountry’s abundant ocean and marshlands, the culture and color of our local people, our seafood industry, and the indigenous textures of fisherman’s nets, tree bark and driftwood. The three hours I invested in learning about travel writing were deliciously rich in Katherine’s knowledge, the class’s diversity, and the exquisite art of the enveloping gallery.
At the end of the seminar, we were challenged by Katherine to pick three places we would love to visit, and figure out a way to get there through the merits of our writing. I picked Rome, Nova Scotia and the Galapagos. After class, I drove home, returned to my “real” job after a half-day’s vacation into my personal daydream land, and have not yet determined how to transform my travel fantasies into reality.
Six days after class ended, with my mother at my side, I went on a mini-expedition through Beaufort, traversing our local terrain of religion, food, culture and entertainment.
Our trip started at St. Peter’s in an Adult Education Room where a parish sub-committee met on the issues of website redesign. This was followed by a spaghetti dinner in the Social Hall, hosted by the Knights of Columbus, and usually held the third Wednesday of every month. Six bucks for adults, three dollars for children and kids under six eat free. My mom ate while I attended the meeting, and afterwards, we traveled from Lady’s Island to the Boundary Street corridor of Beaufort’s mainland to the next stop on our tour – the Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony of the Arts Council of Beaufort County.
J.W. and Jenny Rone, their super-hero staff and dedicated Board, along with Arts Council members and volunteers, are creating an arts community in Beaufort County that is vibrant, tingling with innovation, and soon to take up residence in their new location at the Beaufort Town Center. Local artists and dignitaries, worthy award recipients, and even small contributors like me, celebrated in an atmosphere of art and community fellowship. My mom and I left the meeting immediately after the grand announcement of the new arts center and made our way to our final port of call in the evening’s excursion.
Traveling a five-mile southbound stretch of Ribaut Road from Boundary, mom and I arrived a tad late for the stand-up comedy show at the Port Royal AMVETS Post 70. Although a bit smoky, we shared some laughs as Kerry White, a comedian from North Carolina dissed NASCAR, the KKK, and fat white chicks line-dancing in country music bars. I sampled a five dollar basket of fries and chicken fingers, had a diet Coke, and laughed along with the mixed crowd of beer drinkers clad in tropical shirts, halter tops, or Harley attire. I have not been to a comedy act in quite awhile, and I have never been to the AMVETS club, so when the club’s doorman marked the middle finger of my right hand with a black Sharpie, demonstrating the sign I should make for readmittance should I go outside for any reason, I knew I was adding an incomparable cultural experience to my lowcountry travel portfolio.
Our June evening concluded with our northbound trek across the McTeer Bridge, arcing over the Beaufort River, and lit by the strawberry June moon close to fullness on the warm summer night. Irene and I marveled at the vast array of experiences we had encountered in five short hours. We started in prayer with church volunteers, sipped drinks with art-lovers engaging in thoughtful conversation, and ended in laughter with colorful locals and one another.
My dreams of global travel and the opportunity to share them with readers of the AAA Magazine or Condé Nast have yet to be realized, but sometimes what we fail to recognize are the opportunities in our own backyards. Beaufort is a microcosm of the world at large. Our culture and art, our spiritual and community influences, and more importantly our neighbors, friends and family who share our daily experiences, make up the travelogue of our lives. Enjoy your Fourth of July, anticipate the upcoming festivities of the Beaufort Water Festival, and revel in the delights of all that is good in this environmentally rich landscape. Happy traveling!