C-Day is the start of Cassey’s Excellent Adventure.

In the morning, as Christine and Kenny got ready to leave for work, I was outside packing up the van and getting ready to head out as well. Since the start of the trip, I was tried not to drive more than 3 hours and at this point so far had only done one five hour day. The road from Charlotte to Charleston is direct and only takes about 3.5 hours so I was on the road by 9, stopped at Walmart to stock up on a few consumables: Toilet paper, paper towels, all natural cleaning supplies, a USB fan, etc., and then I was off.

The drive was pleasant. I have been listening to back to back audio books from the Navy’s MWR online library, which is free for active duty, reservists, and veterans, and the drives go by so much quicker when I listen to audio books and podcasts. Coming back to Charleston, S.C. is very interesting because I have been here one other time, and that was when I was still in college and got to go on vacation with one of my best friends to Kiawah Island. It seems that in this past year I have been able to come full circle on so many occasions and this is no different.

When I was younger, my family’s vacations were all the same. We would go to Wisconsin for all of them to visit my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. We did really fun things on these trips but we never changed it up. When I got the opportunity to go on a trip with all of my friends to Kiawah island, I was so excited. It was a trip of many firsts. First time on a long trip with just friends, first time worrying about alligators as a real threat, first time trying sushi (Yes, I was 19 when I first tried Asian food), etc.

Kiawah island is not far from Charleston and so for one of the days we went to see the Angel Oak tree and then drove into Charleston South Carolina. Mind you I was not in the military or affiliated with the military in any way at this time so it was very new to me. We went to the Charleston Markets where I bought a frame with butterflies in it which I still have and a couple other trinkets. Then we had lunch and headed back to Kiawah for the evening. At that time the days were filled with so much promise. I was only a freshman in college. I had no idea what the next step was for me. I had barely seen anything of the world. I had no idea that I would be driving back through this town, surrounded by those old memories and feelings 13 years later on my way to South America with a whole new outlook.

I arrived during the week, so finding parking was not hard. I parked just down the road from the markets and went there first because that is what I remember most about my last visit. After meandering through the markets and downtown I stopped to get a lemonade mint slushie because it was very hot and then drove over to White Point Garden to enjoy the shade and sit on a bench and catch up on my planner, my gratitude journal, and my quote book. These are all things I have been keeping since the start of my trip.

It turns out that a couple that I met in Naples Italy, Jeff and Lydia have since moved back to the states, Jeff has gotten out of the military, and they have settled in Charleston for the time being, buying a quaint little house which was very beautiful. Jeff now works for a company called Deckit which is an innovative flooring for boats/other things that does not involve as much maintenance and cleaning requirements as wood or teak. It was actually Jeff’s Birthday so I ended up meeting up with Lydia the next morning and did not get to see Jeff while I was there.

We walked to a small coffee shop near her house and I tried the yogurt and granola bowl which was very good. We could not stop talking! There was so much to say. I actually had seen her one night while I was still living in Hawaii because she was helping a friend out who just had a baby while her husband was on deployment. We talked about many things, specifically about that Italy life and how crazy it was for such a long time, how it would be so different if we went back now, and just what we are thinking about for our futures.

After spending the whole morning with her, walking amongst the quaint Charleston houses back to her house, admiring all of the artwork they have collected from all over the world, and taking a sparkling water for the road, I was off to Jacksonville to meet a very close friend who has just gotten out of the military and would be starting her journey back to Idaho the same time that I was coming through town. It couldn’t have worked out better!

This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.