When in Rome… Or, perhaps, Hartford

Hartford

As I just confessed, I’ve been spending a lot more time thinking about writing (and about traveling; and about travel writing) than I have actually writing.

So, when I had to make a couple short trips to Hartford, Connecticut, for work, I thought a lot about making the most of whatever kind of travel I have the opportunity to take. Was Hartford on my “top 20 destinations” wish list? Not quite. I don’t think it would have made a top 100 list. But, it’s somewhere I’ve never been, and I was traveling on someone else’s dime. Granted, it was a very non-luxe dime, but this budget traveler is easily pleased. As long as she’s well-fed.

So, in the spirit of making the most of life, here are some moments I loved in Hartford, Connecticut:

  • It’s a state capital. As someone whose childhood included some very proud moments memorizing state capitals (and winning spelling bees), visiting a heretofore undiscovered capital city made me happy. In a geeky sort of way. (Did I mention the spelling bees?)
  • New England snow falling, shining in the lights of Connecticut’s 200-year-old Old State House, with a glimmery Christmas tree street lamp decoration nearby? You gotta stop and smile for that. But not for too long, because it was freaking cold up there.
  • I was working in a big office tower with two or three separate elevator banks, a couple of banks at ground level, a concourse with several restaurants upstairs—and it took me no more than 30 seconds to spot the green mermaid smiling at me, tiny logo though she was, and discovered the secret path through a back door to get my afternoon Americanos without venturing outdoors. Thanks, Starbucks, for being both ubiquitous and consistent.
  • Eating delicious food at a trendy place for what feels like a 20% discount over New York.
  • Friendly, fabulous New Englanders. I had people offer me rides, jobs, copies of their novels, drinks, and rooms in their homes if I ever want to vacation there. I love meeting new people when I travel.
  • Discovering that not all of Connecticut is WASP-y and posh. Hartford was kind of rough, yo. Not all over, but I drove through some patches that evoked my drive from Park Slope to JFK down Atlantic Avenue. (Let’s just say it’s a door-locker.) I’d subconsciously stereotyped Connecticut as uniformly idyllic. This qualifies as a “moment I loved in Hartford,” because I love learning, even when it means I’m wrong.

I’m not planning a return to “The Insurance Capital of the World” any time soon, but I’m glad I went, not least because it opened my eyes to the pleasure of exploring just about anywhere, even when “anywhere” isn’t so sexy. Since I came back from Europe, I’ve been reminding myself that great “travel” adventures are to be had even here in my own city. All that’s required is opening my eyes, slowing down enough to be surprised, and a little willingness for adventure.

There’s room for that in every life traveler’s budget.

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3 Responses to “When in Rome… Or, perhaps, Hartford”


  1. 1 Jackie 19 December 2010 at 14:39

    Jen, I like this post. Not only because you have such a talent for writing, but because the older I get, the more I agree. Some of the most interesting travel happens closer to home than we can ever imagine. It’s all a matter of opening your eyes and your mind. ALWAYS something new to learn.

    • 2 travelinglightjs 19 December 2010 at 16:03

      Indeed! And, I believe, always something to enjoy. I think so much of life is about choosing an attitude that’s grateful for everything we have (e.g. a trip to Hartford) even if we don’t have everything we want (e.g. a trip to, say, Australia. 🙂

  2. 3 Jeff Crabtree 19 December 2010 at 16:34

    nice 🙂


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