1. Where is your current hometown and how long have you lived there?
When I’m not traveling, I’m living and working in my adopted hometown of Saxapahaw, North Carolina. My first time passing through this little village was four years ago. I was a student at Elon University at the time, and a professor who lived in Saxapahaw brought us there for pizza at the General Store on our return trip from a local biofuels plant. I remember how taken by Saxapahaw we were, from its emphasis on local food to the restored apartments in an old cotton mill building to the lush river views. I loved it, but I never ever would have guessed I would live here. Right before graduating the next year I happened into a job serving at the local pub, and Saxapahaw’s been my home base ever since! Honestly, I’m still amazed by this tiny place having become my home. I feel pretty lucky.
2. For many people, travel is not always feasible or desirable all year round. How do you make the most of your hometown when you are not traveling?
When I left North Carolina to teach English in Thailand a couple of years ago, I sold my car. Living in Saxapahaw since, I’ve been mostly carless. In a little village like this, it’s hardly a hassle! Everything is within walking distance. When I’m not traveling, I kind of luxuriate in being settled in one place. For me, making the most of my hometown means appreciating all the little details of my everyday life here: walking past woods and fields to work, running along the trails next to the river, popping into the General Store for lunch and catching up with all of the familiar faces and friends there. I like to write at our local coffee shop, Cup 22 — to me, it’s the most beautiful of any I’ve worked in. All of these details, these routines, all of the people — they’re a lot of what makes Saxapahaw home. Being here is always a good reminder to be present, to slow down and appreciate the here and now.
3. What is the most creative technique you use to save up for your travels while you are at home?
For me, saving up for travel centers on living somewhere with a low cost of living. When I’m in Saxapahaw, my rent is low. I rarely buy gas. I’m lucky to work at a restaurant that feeds me, and so my food costs end up pretty low, too. I love getting out and exploring the Triangle (Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham are each twenty minutes to an hour away), but I definitely save a lot of money choosing to live in a small town rather than in any of those cities. It makes a world of difference.
4. What is the best part of your hometown that other visitors should know about?
This is such a tough question — I would love for visitors to check out all of the special little pieces that make this place amazing! Still, I think one of the coolest, most unexpected aspects of Saxapahaw has to be the music the Haw River Ballroom brings in. It’s a beautiful music venue, housed along with several other businesses in the restored dye house of the historic cotton mill. We get some seriously good music here — Aimee Man, Jenny Lewis, Grouplove, Dr.Dog, Tallest Man on Earth and Sylvan Esso are just a few examples of musicians that have played here. Best Coast and Beach House are both scheduled to play this fall. It never ceases to amaze me that some of my most favorite bands end up performing in my little hometown.
I’m going to cheat and mention one more thing visitors have to know about: the sky. The sunsets here are ones to remember, always, and the stargazing at night is incredible. Go for a night canoe on the Haw in the early summer if you can — watching the stars above and fireflies in the trees together is just magical.
5. Finally, we can’t forget about the food! Where is your favorite place to eat in your hometown and why?
I actually laughed out loud a little when I read this question, for two reasons. First, there are really only two main places to eat. Second, in a lot of ways, Saxapahaw kind of revolves around food. People drive from hours away to eat here and to check out Saturdays in Saxapahaw, a summer farmer’s market with free live music. All of the food’s incredible. In Saxapahaw, there’s a huge emphasis on local and sustainable, with a whole lot of love for our local farmers. So while there aren’t a lot of places to choose from, it’s also what we’re all about. The Saxapahaw General Store and The Eddy Pub are our two restaurants. I love the General Store — our “local five-star gas station” — but my heart’s at The Eddy. It’s where I work when I’m back home. The Eddy focuses on elevated pub food with local, sustainably-sourced ingredients. We’re known for classics like our pimiento cheese fries, pork chop, and Braeburn Farm burger. The bar has a pretty extensive wine selection and all North Carolina beers. I especially love our beer dinners, five-course meals with beer pairings. My favorites are those when we partner with Haw River Farmhouse Ales, our neighboring brewery. Honestly, the beer dinners have become one of my family’s favorite things to do together. It makes for a pretty special night out.
I’ve never been good at staying in one place. I grew up moving around the United States every couple of years, and in college I worked and studied international and sustainable development in both India and Costa Rica. After graduating, traveling was my main priority. I taught English in Thailand and traveled around Southeast Asia for a year; now, I’m working my away around Australia and writing all about it at my travel blog, Hummingbird Away. I usually travel slow, seeking out nature first, reveling in brunch and wine second and chasing sunsets always.