Thanks to Silver Wings, every year I am able to take a small mid-semester weekend getaway to a city or state in the South for our Area/Region Conclave. While this year’s was quite different, as I played a part in the organization, planning and running of the conclave, it was quite eye-opening as well. This year’s conclave was in Auburn, AL and Tuskegee, AL. Although it was my second time in Auburn, it was my first time getting to truly explore the city, and it was my first time visiting Tuskegee. A lot of people might wonder, “What’s even in Auburn or Tuskegee?” So, here I am, ready to backup those cities and shine some light on their significance.
Cool, Auburn is home to Auburn football…but it’s so much more than that. Driving into Auburn you can’t help but to be in awe at the beauty of everything around you. The university buildings are truly remarkable, almost making you question why you didn’t choose that college over your own. Everything is within walking distance – restaurants, shops, bars, classes, etc. Of course, our first stop was Toomer’s Drugs for some of the famous lemonade. Seriously – this stuff is life-changing. And addicting.
Our next stop was to take those completely cliche and overly popular pictures in front of the university. But, it’s completely necessary. I mean, look at that building. My clock obsession didn’t help either.
That night we went to Moton Field, in Tuskegee, home to the famous and previously controversial Tuskegee Airmen/Red Tails. I thought I knew about them before, but this museum truly opened my eyes to what they went through and how hard they fought just to be able to fly planes. The short film we watched really gave us insight on their struggles and how people viewed them during that period of time.
The next day was a day of running business sessions, public speaking (which has improved tremendously since my first year of college), minor freak outs, presenting the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action ceremony speech at our banquet, meeting the wonderful AFA President for the state of Alabama, hearing Colonel Eric Wydra speak, and making tons of new friends from Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. That night we all went out and experienced the Auburn nightlife, and I realized that I am still not into clubs, but rather enjoy actually hearing the people I’m having conversations with. Below are two wonderful people I met earlier this fall, who have become great friends and just happened to make very long drives and flights from Oregon and Washington to visit their favorite Region President at her ARCON.
I make this post to conclude with many things I’ve recently learned. While I harp to many people on the fact that I have met so many wonderful people from Spain and Taiwan, the United States has beautiful people, too. Without the organization Silver Wings, I more than likely would have never had the chance to meet the amazing people that I have. To me, it’s crazy to think that without it I would have very few true friends, but since I became a part of it, I now have lifelong friends all over the United States – from Alabama, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, New York, South Carolina, and so many more. I know that these people would be there for me in a heartbeat if I needed them because of the bonds we’ve created through these passions and dedications we have.
I’ve come to realize that although my heart is begging for me to go to other countries and see the years of history and so many different cultures they have to offer, that these things can be found at home, too. While the U.S. might not date as far back as other countries, we still have history. We still have the Tuskegee Airmen, that are often overlooked because no one remembers that Alabama has something that amazing lying within it. We still have different cultures and lifestyles that are quite obvious when you step out of your backyard and talk to others from a different state.
I say these things to encourage myself to continue opening my mind to what is still here in the United States. After my trip abroad this past summer, things seemed dull here – so common and un-extraordinary. But Auburn and Tuskegee showed me that even I, living in Alabama all my life, have not seen everything it has to offer. I am so ready to see new countries and new cultures that sometimes I forget I haven’t even seen the beauty or history of my own state. And while my wanderlust will never go away, and I will never try to limit where I can go, I realize that need to try and tell myself that things will come when it’s time. I will get my chance to visit India and Germany and South America and everywhere else when the time is right. With the passion I have for visiting new places and meeting new people, I know they will happen, but it will take time. Going abroad isn’t as easy as visiting a state in your own country, and why not do that while you can?
“A wise traveler never despises his own country.” – William Hazlitt