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We spent the last six days in Rhode Island for our son's wedding. This new milestone in his life was an exciting time for all of us, but it's a relief it's over and we're back in good ole South Carolina.
Travel brings adventure, especially when you visit somewhere new. When we read or write about characters on an adventure, they often encounter some of the same things we experience as leisure travelers. Their journeys, whether physical or emotional, involve encountering things foreign to them.
As I thought about this last night, while snuggled in my bed instead of an unfamiliar hotel bed, I began to think about all of the rich details writers can add to the adventures of their characters. I, for one, have some depth to add to my writing after this. Maybe you do, too.
AccentsTravel anywhere outside of your region, and you'll begin to notice a difference in how people talk. The South is known for it's drawl which we don't notice because we live here. I, first, realized we were in a different world as I sat in a hair salon with my granddaughter, listening to the nasal tones of the beauticians chatting with their customers. The most significant trait of this accent is the way they handle the letter r. You can have chowda, but in the South we say chowder. My name is Barbara, but in New England it becomes Barb (which I detest) or Babruh. Just like the South, there are those with stronger accents and those with softer ones. I must admit it was weird to be surrounded by so many people who spoke differently than us.
FoodSpeaking of chowder, everywhere you go, they have New England Clam Chowder. I tried it in several restaurants, and although it was good, I prefer Charleston's She-Crab soup. Every restaurant had chowder and other clam dishes. I got a bit tired of seeing it, to be honest. Did you know there are three kinds of chowder? White, clear, and red. The first night there, I ordered a meal that had chowder as it's side, and stumbled over this question: Which color did I want? FYI, the answer is white. We tried the clear and I don't recommend it.
WeatherI live in the sunny South. The Weather Channel predicted a bit warmer than normal October for Rhode Island with highs in the low 70s and lows in the low 50s. We'd had similar temps at home before the trip, so I took clothes that fit those temps. Alas, Mother Nature gave us high 80s most days except for the day of the wedding. I missed my full wardrobe where I could switch to something more practical based on the eccentricities of the weather. Of course, the locals complained of the humidity. Haha! We came home to real humidity.
PeopleTypically, I've found people to be nice no matter where I am. Sure, I've experienced odd looks in Philadelphia when I say hello to a passing stranger, but in coastal Rhode Island, the people's manners matched what I've known all of my life. People smile, they say please and thank you, and are generally easy to get along with. They are helpful, sociable, and friendly. One woman ran after our car on the first night there to flag us down and let us know we'd just turned around on a One Way Street. She didn't have to do that, but she did.
ServiceWe received excellent service almost everywhere we went. Just like here, you will find someone who provides poor service, but as a whole, we got great service. Most of the people I dealt with were friendly and helpful. They didn't mind if we took a bit longer than normal to order food. I guess they heard our accents and realized we weren't locals.
ChainsI don't think you can travel anywhere in the US and not find a Walmart, McDonald's, or Starbucks. While we tried to eat at local establishments for most of our meals, I'll admit it was nice to go to Panera Bread on our last day to have lunch. Local food options can be a bit of a challenge when feeding children. Luckily for us, we have two kids who can be persuaded to try things, but by day six I was worn out with coaxing them to try one more new thing. I wanted to go one place where I already knew what to order without asking them.
There's more to this idea of travel, so come back next week as I talk about what things made it nice to come home, again.
Meanwhile, what differences or similarities have you experienced on your own travel adventures? Have you worked these into the books you're writing?