The Travel Effect

November 01, 2013

Perhaps this happens to you? You go on a trip someplace, and come home filled with the desire to make changes, to simplify and purge, to get things done, to live fully and embrace life.

Or is it just me?

I came home from our trip to New England filled with plans to:

Redo my schedule, setting aside much more time for reading and writing.
Learn about early American history.
Read and reread Louisa May Alcott’s works, and Walden. (FYI: note that Walden and Little Women are both free through Amazon’s Kindle. Links are below.)
Clean out all my closets.

And much more. Will I do those things? I don’t know—it depends on how long my recharging lasts. (I am so missing the cool, crisp weather, for it is repulsively warm and humid here right now, but We Will Not Speak of This. Cooler days are coming, I just need to hang on!)

I’ll write more about the trip next week, and share more photos, but today I’ll give you a little taste of two of my favorite experiences. (Click to enlarge the photos.)

Walden Pond

I read and enjoyed Walden several years ago, though I’m embarrassed to say it didn’t make much of a lasting impression on me. Still, when I found that we could visit Walden Pond, and see the site of Thoreau’s cabin while we were in Concord, I jumped at the chance. And I’m so glad I did. Walden Pond is a “kettle hole,” formed by a retreating glacier, in some places over 100 feet deep. We were able to walk all the way around it, soaking up the fresh air, the bright leaves, and watching people enjoying the park in their own ways—we saw men fishing, several families with children walking in the woods, a paddle boarder and two wetsuit-clad people swimming! Even though there were quite a few others there (and I’m sure it’s mobbed in the warmer months), it didn’t feel crowded and you could sense the peace and beauty that must have drawn Thoreau here.

Thoreau's Cove
Cabin site

Cabin replica
Orchard House

Just down the road from Walden sits Orchard House, the Alcott (as in Louisa May) family home for 20 years. Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women while living here, at a small half-circle of a desk her father built into a wall of her room. (No photos were allowed inside, so I can’t show you what it looked like.) The house was already old when the Alcotts lived there, with the settling you’d expect of an old house. Orchard House was named for the apple orchard that once surrounded it, but Louisa called it “Apple Slump” because she felt like it was “slumping” into the ground, according to our tour guide. The Alcotts were an interesting and talented family—one of Louisa’s sisters was an actress, the other an artist—we saw much of her art work in the home, including sketches drawn directly on window casings and woodwork of her room. Alcott’s father, Bronson, was a philosopher and educator (though his revolutionary ideas about education kept him from being successful in his day) and her mother was essentially what we’d now call a social worker, according to our guide. The home was simple and warm, and filled with many items that belonged to the family, since Orchard House had only one owner after the Alcotts, and became a museum in 1911.

Now back to laundry and sorting through travel ephemera and photos. Stay tuned next week for autumn leaves, historic houses and more!


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  1. Sounds like you had a great trip. I'll be watching for photos. I never thought about visiting Walden - I wish we'd done that. And the Alcott home would have been interesting too, although unlike you, I didn't care much for Little Women. But it still would have been interesting to see. I guess we'll just have to go back!

    I admit to reading Walden in high school, or maybe just the Cliff Notes, and it didn't leave much impression on me either, but DH appreciated it.

  2. No, I don't think it's just you…I think once we're gone from our normal environment we return with "new eyes." We see the clutter and things we've become blind to from over exposure. I think too, where we've gone, can have an impact. Like seeing how simply others have lived.

    Looks like you had a fabulous time! Can't wait to learn more!

  3. Cheryl--I liked some of LMA's other books better than Little Women, and I admired her as a person, so I really enjoyed seeing her home. I love to see writers' homes and workspaces. LMA's proves that you don't need much of anything physical to write an important book. I can hardly think of a simpler layout than she had.

    I guess you will have to go back--I think you and your husband would enjoy Walden. It's lovely, peaceful and not too touristy (in the fall, anyway).

  4. Laure--That's true--seeing how other people live can be educational and inspirational. Maybe a "grass is always greener" phenomenon? Whatever it is, I need the boost that different surroundings give me.

  5. Hi Kathy,

    What a cool post! I loved seeing your pictures and learning the history behind things.

    I bet that when the weather cools off that you will get a lot of stuff done that you want to. It is sometimes hard to get motivated when it is hot and especially humid (something that I don't have to worry about).

    Can't wait to learn more of your trip.


    Kathy M.

  6. Kathy--Glad you enjoyed the post. Part two just went up. We've gotten a little cooler, but it's going to be in the high 80s again this week! I sure wish I could have brought some of that crisp weather home with me.