Asheville is a city in the middle of a forest. Go any direction and within five minutes you’ll be surrounded by forest, quickly traveling up some of the highest mountains on this side of the Mississippi. I never made it up Mount Mitchell, but driving all the way to the top didn’t sound that interesting, and I didn’t have the time for a full day hike up the mountain.
I wandered some of the area around Blue Ridge, but the peace of the forest can be hard to find. Most of the convenient trails are within earshot of the highway. If you just look, it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of Spring here, but the sound of the wind in the trees really makes a difference for how a forest feels.
The city itself feels like so many others I’ve been to, calm and quiet in the day, filled with art and bars, and a sense of history throughout. Most newer cities are planned, built on a grid pattern, but the older ones follow the old roads and trails, dating back to the Natives who followed the trails of their prey. Further out the mountains dictate where it’s possible for roads to be cut in. I’m used to the big cities now, surprisingly enough. I still prefer the fringe to downtown, but a small town seems strange now.
I wonder how long it would take me to get used to that life, but then I don’t know that it’s much different. I met so many people randomly in Taipei, more than in any other place I’ve lived. The idea of the small town is there, just faster and more polluted.
I spent the week there working, cutting out an old heating system, cutting trees, and prepping the house for what’s to come. It’s so hard to see any progress when you’re still in demolition. All those shows on HGTV teach us the lie that a house can be reworked in a week or two. It’s possible, when you put enough people and resources into it. In most people’s worlds, it takes time, to learn, to plan, and to do. There are always mistakes, but there is something fulfilling about repairing your own home. Changing it into the place you imagine.
It was mostly a time to relax for me. I had long conversations with new friends, kindred spirits of a sort. There is something about meeting with other travelers, seeing what I feel reflected in others. There is so much to see in the world, but you have to sacrifice so much to be able to see it. I read, and rested, and took some time alone. I love my family, but without even having my own room it’s hard to be home for so long.
There’s a little more than three weeks before I leave for San Francisco. I had them fly me in a week before staging, but I only had the option of United. At least I have the time to take the deal before they bump people. I could use the extra airfare when it comes time to head back home.
Staging is taking place across the street where I worked at Glide in San Francisco. We worked with formerly homeless people, getting them a place to call their own, and now I’ll be staying across the street in a hotel that can cost two hundred fifty dollars a night. I love San Francisco, but the thin line between rich and poor always strikes me.
I’ll have a week up there, time to see friends, and wander the city. I didn’t do it any justice last time I visited, and there were too many people I didn’t get to see. It’s the last place I’ll see while I’m here, probably for the next three years.
I’m already planning for what comes after. I think I’ll go to Mongolia while I’m in the Peace Corps, and after I’ll start with Thailand, then Vietnam, Cambodia, and down through to Australia and New Zealand. I was invited to Hawaii, and I’ll probably finish my tour there before heading back home.
That’s the question though, what will home be by that point? I don’t know if I’ll settle back down here, or if I will never really finish traveling. There is too much to see in this world, and too much to do. I think it really depends on who I meet along the way.