I never say no to a cool opportunity. Especially if it involves travel, but especially if it involves travel and eating. In April, I ran into my amiga, girl hunter Georgia Pellegrini, at Austin Food & Wine Festival. After sharing a few margaritas, she invited me to go dove hunting with her Labor Day weekend in Arkansas. Sure, why not!
There were only a few issues. I’d never hunted before. I don’t own a shotgun. In fact, guns give me heartburn. I’d never taken hunter’s safety. The South? Pssshaw, totally heard of it I think. I knew Georgia, but not extremely well. And then there’s the fact that I am a hardcore animal lover. Would I be too big a pussy to get the job done?
Ah, details! I figured the worst that could happen is that I chicken out and end up faking the flu, then get my nails shellacked at Walmart. So I did what I always do when I’m being a fraidy cat: I bought the flight and rented a car and got a hunting license (didn’t need to complete hunter’s safety if it was my 1st year… now that should scare you). No turning back.
As Labor Day approached, Georgia told me a bit more about the trip: we’d be staying with GP’s friends in a small town two hours southeast of Little Rock. I got the impression that I would have a bed to sleep in. There were to be lots of parties and food and cigar smoking and bourbon drinking. I could borrow a gun from a guy named the Commish. We would buy ammo at Walmart. It all sounded as new and thrilling as it did slightly unsettling. I mean, if things got weird, I was basically trapped on the Mississippi-Arkansas border. What would that be like?
I trusted Georgia. We’re the same age with a lot in common. I figured if she was cool with it, I’d probably be cool with it. With that, I boarded a flight to Bill & Hillary Clinton International Airport. And pardon my English, but the trip was fucking awesome.
Southern hospitality is a thing! The Michael’s, our hosts, treated me as if I’d known them forever. We cooked together, set up for their annual dove season kick-off party (where they hosted 100 people at their beautiful home on Lake Chicot). On my second morning there, I shamelessly dug through their fridge for leftovers and helped myself to coffee. I did it without asking; it was encouraged. And when we finally went hunting at the crack of dawn on Sunday, my newbie status was celebrated (more on that tomorrow). Best case scenario on all fronts.
This isn’t the first time I’ve traveled without knowing much about my travel mates, the destination or what we’ll be doing. It’s my preferred method. It lends itself well to personal growth and letting go of expectations. And so what if it kind of sucks a bit here and there (like the time my [now very good] friend Kimberly invited me to Barcelona… we started out the trip nearly strangers, but had few secrets after a serious case of food poisoning brought us to our knees. Even still, it was one of my most favoritest trips ever!) Keep that in mind next time you casually invite me to Utah/China/Australia. ‘Cause I’m buying my ticket on Kayak right now.