Traveling is not only the gateway to adventure, it is the passport to personal development.
I never had the pleasure (yet) to travel abroad, unless Google maps and reading an assortment of world literature counts (sometimes it does!). However, I have traveled through the vast majority of the United States. One particular trip that lead me to the path of personal development was my first trip to Mississippi. I was about twelve years old and it was my first trip out of my home state of California.
I had never physically met my grandma on my father’s side, but I grew to know her through many phone calls and letters (yes, letters). My father decided it was time for me to see his childhood stomping grounds and to finally put a face to the voice. Talk about a major culture shock. A born-and-raised California girl spending her whole summer down South. Basically, I was trading sun and palm trees for mosquitoes and humidity.
Tunica, Mississippi is a small town thirty minutes from Memphis, Tennessee. Once known as the poverty-stricken “Sugar Ditch Alley,” Tunica is known as a prosperous casino town today.
Open land and a galore of stars scattered across the sky. That was my positive perspective of Tunica. Otherwise, I was not a fan of southern living (especially when it came to the food). I thought I kept my feelings hidden, but you can’t fool the wise.
I remember my grandma telling a neighbor that she knew I was not enjoying myself and I HATED being here. Hated? Hate was too strong of a word to describe how I felt, but that is how she felt. It was at that moment that I decided to change my negative attitude into a positive one.
I started eating the foods that I once found strange and foreign. Big-boned buffalo fish, goat, deer, and other delicacies of the South that turned out to be delicious (this was during my pre-vegertarain days). I began spending more and more time outside exploring the beautiful scenery of Tunica and the surrounding communities. I saw the continuous action found on Beale Street and the uninterrupted movement of the animals and people at the Memphis Zoo. The best part of all during my first time there was I made a friend and confidant, my grandma.
My grandma, Bertha Lee Liddell, and Tunica became a familiar face and place I tremendously enjoyed seeing until the day my grandma died. I haven’t been back since but I do plan to visit again (with an open mind of course.
Take my advice: Embrace the culture. Embracing is the first step to a memorable experience. Close-mindedness will prevent you from seeing what the culture has to offer. Explore all you can and make memories every minute you are there; that is how the fondest memories are created.
Contributed by Courtney Liddell