In August, our 2016 Wildsam Travel Fellow, Justin Armstrong, of Boston MA, drove 2000+ miles through the South. It was his first trip to that part of the US. Starting today, we begin sharing his stories, beginning with a note from Justin about imagination vs. reality.
I grew up in northern Canada, and now teach at a college near Boston. The ten days I spent traveling through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, for Wildsam were my first south of the Mason-Dixon. Until then, the South for me was a galaxy all its own, a constellation of worlds within worlds that spiraled in my imagination. On the road, the South slowly seeped into me, swirling independently, then erupting into a stunning and magical weirdness.
But sitting at a Denny’s in late August outside of Madison, Florida, the South came into a new and more tangible focus for me. On the surface, Denny's didn't seem a revelatory kind of location, but it was there that I realized that everyone around me had fascinating lives of their own, with unique ideals, worldviews and values. I listened to their conversations, watched interactions between customers and waiters, and recognized the subtle significance of the patterns in their everyday lives. There was a clear beauty to it. I felt that I'd witnessed the inside of this place for a moment, beyond my imagined South, and everything made a bit more sense to me. And I felt like a foreigner. - JA