USA

South Carolina: A state of Mind.

Looking for a bus from New York City to Savannah, South Carolina was a tasking process. My aunt Mary lives on the border of South Carolina and Georgia and finding a bus that stopped near there was proving to be near mission impossible. I didn’t want to fly because I’d left it so last minute a flight ticket wasn’t far off a deposit on a house so I really only had one option.

The bus I booked was operated by a company called “starlight express” and ran from the south east corner of Central Park. Little did i know that was actually a pretty dodgy area, in the middle of a place most locals know as “china town”. I got out my Uber and I swear I felt like I had been transported right back to Hong Kong. All the street signs were in Chinese, there were no signs of a 7/11 to buy any water, only dim sum, and my “bus terminal” was a hole in the wall on the sidewalk with a little Asian man periodically screaming out names and destinations.

I stood on the corner clutching my bags for grim death waiting on my bus arriving, trying hard to avoid the swarm of little folk crashing into me as they bundled up their boxes massive suitcases onto the underside of the bus. I sat down in my seat and quickly realised I was the only young, white, girl there – very aware of the fact that I’d maybe chose the wrong time to stick to my budget…& also acutely award of the fact I wasn’t gonna get a wink of sleep for the next 14 hours. Fantastic.

The bus hurtled down the east coast, seeming to stop every hour, on the hour, with people getting off and on the entire way down. I had an alarm set on my phone for the time we were due to arrive in Hardeeville but it proved to be futile in the end anyway. I was over 2 hours early arriving in South Carolina and my poor aunt Mary ended up showing up to get me with wet hair because I pretty much sprang it on her that I had arrived, early and very very exhausted.

First impressions of South Carolina were pretty good. The city skyline of New York was long in my rear view and was replaced with long, wide motorways lined with masses of trees and bushes acting as a curtain to shield the numerous residential areas on either side. Mary lives in an area called sun city, a village consisting entirely of people over 55, where young kids aren’t allowed except for visits and everyone scoots around the quiet little roads on golf buggies, smiling and waving away.

There’s an abundance of activities and things to do within the community as well. Mary and her cronies love to play marjaun, taking turns every week to host and have a chin wag over some tea and crumb cake. Mike is also an avid softball player and would frequently appear in the garage drenched in sweat from a right tough game of senior softball. It’s a great life they’ve got. They’ve got a better social life than most 20 year olds I know, and their pals are all really nice as well.

I was taken for dinner to meet everyone and they all gushed over my travels and told me stories of their own adventures, most of them still jetsetting around the globe themselves. We went for drives, had sunset picnics on the beach and Mary’s friends even took me for a wee cocktail one afternoon, watching the volleyball players and having a nice little political debate. I live for those conversations. Idle chit chat has never been my forte. I find it mundane and truthfully, a waste of time. I’d rather set the world straight with a gin and tonic than have a half assed conversation about the weather or how quickly the year has flown by.

So I was pretty content in South Carolina. We took a day trip into Savannah and tried some fried green tomatoes, wandering along the water front and watching the massive container ships lurking away into the ocean. One day we even took a road trip to Charleston with another friend of Mary’s who actually manages a Scottish shop just on the outskirts of sun city. She was born in Charleston and was just an absolute mine of information, better than any tour guide I could’ve hired myself.

We had lunch in a little Irish pub and I fell asleep like a nodding dog on the way back again, great road trip company eh?

For me, South Carolina is one of those places where life moves at a slower pace than anywhere else. No one is in any great hurry, and that “southern hospitality” is very much a reality there. Nothing is too much trouble for the residents, especially in the area where Mary and Mike live, and everyone looks out for each other like brothers and sisters. It’s true, South Carolina is a state of mind.

I spent that entire week basically recharging my batteries for the week ahead. I was heading south again to Miami on the Amtrak train and was actually pretty excited. I’d never been on one of those stereotypical silver bullet trains you see in the movies before, where you need to climb up a few steps to even get on to the thing. I also knew it was gonna be a wild couple of weeks…it was Miami Beach after all. Although in hindsight nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead when I arrived…

Stay posted for my antics in Miami Beach, making dodgy hostel choices, sharing a room with 4 “dancers” and moonlight flitting to escape gang battles at 3am in the morning.

Sorry mum…

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