The first time I’d ever been to New Orleans was in February of 2016, while Caleb and I were on our honeymoon.
I’d visited the city before—safely ensconced in a vehicle, en route to a particular destination (like the airport or the Audubon Zoo.) But I’d never had the chance to walk the streets and join the city’s pulse. Never had the chance to lose myself in a throng of people. My dad had too many hubcaps stolen off his truck while he was on business trips there to trust the city with the safety of his children. The only redeeming factor New Orleans has to offer, he believes, is the WWII museum. I’m not a people person either, so cities don’t usually attract me.
But, New Orleans has always been the exception to everyone’s rule.
To me, it seemed fitting to open a new chapter in my life: one of trailblazing, of real freedom—with a trip deep into the heart of the city I’d only met briefly and in passing. So for our honeymoon, Caleb and I decided to do something that had been forbidden to both of us: Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
It’s an experience I’m glad we had; there is truly nothing like carnival season. But I will say again: I’m not a people person. New Orleans can be crowded on a Monday in the dead of winter. Mardi Gras was no joke. Thankfully, as any local will tell you, there is more to the city than it’s festivals.
To me, New Orleans is a little slice of Old World Europe in the middle of the deepest south. The architecture alone makes it worth a visit. I could spend an entire holiday just wandering the Quarter shooting historic buildings.
Then, of course, there’s the food. Caleb and I are saving up for our next trip, so we packed a lunch and only got beignets while we were visiting. (But our honeymoon was an entirely different story.)
And then—it may surprise you that I am the one saying this—there are the people. Yes, even my introverted self can attest to the fact that New Orleans is a place that draws people from every walk of life, and is better for it. From a gaggle of German tourists to the nice Texan couple (who have the same passion for thrifting as I do!) we met in line for Café Du Monde, to the guy who almost managed to start waxing Caleb’s running shoe(??) for the sake of some harmless, hilarious extortion, New Orleans is one of those cities that truly feels international.
But most importantly, our honeymoon in New Orleans was the first time I really got a sense for what unfettered travel felt like. Some of it (a large part, I’d wager) was of course due that post-wedding, “holy-crap-we’re-actually-married” high. But when I told Caleb that I wanted to go on a day trip this weekend, New Orleans wasn’t the place I had in mind. I gave us a 200-mile radius and told him to help me pick something that we could visit on one tank of gas. And while we were driving down I-10 to the crescent city, I remember leaning back in my seat and taking one hand off the wheel to wave at the road in front of us—to point it out to him, the same way anyone else would point out a stretch of beautiful scenery or an interesting billboard. “Look, Caleb,” I remember saying. “Just look at how beautiful it is.”
Just seeing the road stretching out in front of me quiets my soul. All the stress I don’t know I’m carrying tumbles onto the highway behind us and scatters in our wake. It didn’t matter where we were going. It just mattered that we were going.