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How The South Showed Me What I Could Never See

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I’m writing this while on a plane back to the West Coast for a retreat I am leading. This flight marks the completion of almost eight weeks of traveling through the Southern part of the United States in Andi. And, she definitely feels like home now.

Let’s talk itinerary first.

After visiting the Kindred Spirit Mailbox near Wilmington, NC we spent three days in Charleston, South Carolina in an amazing campsite near Folly Beach where Jeremy was finally able to surf! We then spent two weeks on Hilton Head Island parking Andi at what is called an “RV Resort.” This was a fun diversion from staying at State Parks as the Resort had a pool, jacuzzi, and even a gym. We really enjoyed jumping into the pool after a workout and popping into the hot tub after work to meet other travelers. We met an 85 year-old-man who drove his Sprinter Van from Stowe, VT to perfect his tennis game in two-hour a day, five-day- a-week, tennis clinics with his wife. We talked with an Executive Coach from North Carolinian who told us his twenty-plus year marriage is spicier than ever since his wife started splitting her time between their home base where his son is in high school and their RV in Hilton Head. Wherever we go, we continue to be delighted by the stories of those who RV.

While we were in Hilton Head we drove an hour to Savannah, Georgia, where we surprised Jeremy with a visit from our youngest daughter who flew in from Seattle! We finished this leg of the journey by spending ten days in Atlanta, staying at the home of my best friend from high school while Andi was being serviced at National Indoor RV Center.

And while Jeremy drove to Austin, Texas where I will meet him in 10 days, I spent my last night in the South having dinner in Atlanta with my friend and three of her closest gal pals. It was a joy to be in the company of such incredible women, two of which are born and bred Southerners, and my friend who moved to the South from Iowa more than 25 years ago. One is still a full-time mom, one runs the Georgia State Department of Transportation while her husband is a stay-at-home dad, and my friend is an executive at one of the largest consulting firms. All of us were so different, yet the conversation flew as if we had known each other forever. The discussion traversed a wide landscape of topics from reality TV, to ‘the weirdest place I ever pumped while breastfeeding,’ to what it’s like to be a woman right now working in government and corporate America, and what it is to be Southern. We talked about change. We talked about how we want to stay the same.

Then the conversation turned to my experience thus far as a Midwesterner turned Californian exploring the South. I shared that the lens I have had towards a part of the country I had limited experience in had been skewed by what I had been conditioned to know. From the education I received about American history conveyed in text books growing up in Iowa, to the life I lived in Chicago as a woman in my twenties. To being Jewish, raising a family in Los Angeles. Even my experience of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement through the literature I made a point to read in the last two years. It was all skewed. I realized all I had been experiencing had been from the limited perspective of what I have known for 55 years. That is, until this Radical Living Challenge.

I could not know what I did not know.

While I had intellectually tried to understand so much, I could not know in the same way without experiencing this part of America first-hand. The South is far more than country music and red states. It has a wisdom about it too that comes with age. There is southern pride. There is also southern shame. Walking through the cobblestone streets of Charleston and Savannah, hearing the history of these beautiful cities as told to me by passionate guides, I developed a new way of understanding what this country has endured, the depth of it seeping far beyond my intellectual understanding. I felt it in my skin. In my heart. I truly saw it for the first time.

Throughout the eight weeks in the South, I have listened, observed, and asked questions.
I have seen an alligator at a Walmart, and eaten far too many sweet potato biscuits to count.
I have tasted grits and seen seashells.
I felt white sand between my toes and set my eyes on an expansive view of the ocean I will remember for always.
The sweet smell of jasmine and the majestic beauty of Spanish Moss will be forever tangled in and around all of my senses.
I understand in new ways why we fight for freedom and why we go to war.
I have discovered the power of humanity to be resilient.
I have discovered the power of humanity to be resistant.
I may have only traveled 2500 miles, but in my experience thus far of Radical Living, I have traveled to galaxies I never even knew existed.

About the Author

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MARNI BATTISTA

I am Marni Battista, entrepreneur, mom of three, wife, and lover of travel. My husband and I have spent the last three years being intentional about creating a life that feels like an authentic expression of us as individuals and together. We have a mutual love of adventure, nature, peace, and freedom which has resulted in a series of experiments in honor of our desire to experience a radical living challenge! This blog represents the beginning of this journey.
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