By Corrin Harris
Water. Any place that has water. Growing up on the coast, water runs through my veins, physically and figuratively. I’ve always been drawn to places that are along the coast or contain many rivers and streams. Something about the water is so calming and soothing, and I always find myself most content when I’m near the water. I can sit for hours and watch the small ripples of the water go past me and just think about nothing. The water is the one place where my mind is not running a million miles a minute and I am able to just think about nothing, which is nice when I normally think about everything. It also intrigues me how there is a whole different world under the surface; one that is vastly different from life above sea level. Every time I am around a body of water I can’t help but think about life underneath and how much more there is to explore.
I wish I could find the words to explain how I feel by the water, but it is a feeling like no other. I’m able to completely check out from reality and completely relax. The laid-back lifestyle of a marine community is one I have grown up with and yearn to live in once I graduate and move on from my studies. Traveling also runs in my veins, and I have been bitten by the travel bug more than once, especially since I visited Europe last summer. I feel the need, the want and the desire to explore near and far. Baltimore is great, but I know I’m missing out on so much more. Water is one of life’s hidden treasures to me, even though it makes up 71% of the earth (I guess it’s not so hidden), and that is how I stumbled upon Chesapeake City.
I typed “Maryland cities with water” into the Google bar. It sounds so pathetic and uneducated, but I was fascinated to see what would show up. Ocean City. I grew up there, and I work there during the summer. Absolutely not. Baltimore Inner Harbor. I’ve been a tourist there way too many times. Also, let’s be honest, I can’t afford it. Cambridge. Eh. Annapolis. It’s beautiful but been there done that. Chesapeake City. Wait, what? “A historic town on the C & D canal.” I had no idea where that is or what that is, but sure. As soon as I clicked on the website and saw the picture of the sun setting over the canal, I was hooked. An historic city? I don’t really care too much about that; show me the water. I realize this type of mentality isn’t exactly the best when it comes to picking places to travel, but it’s worked out in my favor every time, and I will continue to use this simple mentality until it gets me in trouble or I find myself in the middle of the ocean.
The slogan for Chesapeake City is “Hidden treasure of the Chesapeake.” The first thing I noticed was the huge bridge that looms over the city. It was kind of creepy, but it made for pretty pictures, which is all that matters. The main street looked like it belongs in a Nicholas Sparks movie. The street was lined with large, mature trees and the sun peaked through the leaves to shine light on the old, but beautiful, homes. Each one sported a plaque that explains the historic value of a house, except for the one home with a wrought iron sign that says, “On this site, nothing happened.” I could be neighbors with these people. The end of the street consisted of cute and simple store fronts, but my eye was fixed on the gleaming water at the end of the road. My mom was busy worrying about which shop to go into first, and as her voice trailed off, I was already down by the water. For most people, they go down to the edge, take a picture, and leave. Me? I plopped right down in the grass. I could feel the sun’s warmth on my back, and I tuned into the gentle rippling sound of tiny waves splashing up against the shore. It was paradise.
It’s hard to imagine how people don’t love the water as much as I do, but I am very aware that I am “obsessed.” My mom dragged me along Main Street and into one of the stores. It’s cute. The front of the store was filled with antiques and a toy section filled with toys kids beg their parents to buy but never play with again. Take me back to the water. I tried to act interested so I keep wandering around. “Oh my gosh! I didn’t expect this.” “The sign out front says candy,” said a middle-aged woman in a bright pink shirt behind the counter. Oh Lord, where is my mother? I followed her voice to the back of the store, which is actually an old house, and I saw her talking to a lady behind a candy counter. My mom has a major sweet tooth. Naturally, we had to purchase some of the homemade chocolate. Three words: seasalt, caramel, and chocolate. Holy mother of all things dessert, it was the most amazing chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. But the water. I’m still fixed on the water. My mom, on the other hand, is beside herself about this chocolate. “This is perfection!” Just a few moments earlier I was thinking to myself about how being by the water is perfection, but to my mom this chocolate is perfection. This was when it hit me that we all have our own version of life’s “hidden treasures.” I was suddenly intrigued by this theory, and I needed to find out more.
I have never traveled to find meaning, nor have I ever dissected my travels, maybe because most of the time my destination is a Caribbean beach or Disney World and there’s not much to dissect. I know many people do travel to find meaning, some of them travel writers, and I’ve always envied that. So many people have found the purpose of their life, found out different things about themselves that they never knew, and even found their soulmates while traveling. It seems as if I’ve only found a way to get a really bad sunburn. I never knew how to find the meaning of a trip, and I always thought you would have to go into the trip with a certain mindset. I was wrong. I went on this excursion to Chesapeake City as a way to explore different areas of Maryland and to visit another waterfront town. I never expected to leave with a completely changed perspective and goal in mind. I was more interested in the hidden treasures in others than my own, so I gave myself homework. This trip turned from a small getaway to a journey of finding out people’s hidden treasures and how they differ from mine.
Challenge accepted. We continued to wander around and find a quaint bed and breakfast called The Inn at the Canal. There was an adorable older couple sitting on the porch who let us in. Believe it or not, I’ve never been in a bed and breakfast, but it was so charming. No wonder my parents stay at them all the time. The older gentleman who let us in went to get the owner, Bob. A taller man, he loomed over me, but had a friendly and warm smile. Before I can even get a word out, he started excitedly explaining his business. Built in 1870, the historic house had been his bed and breakfast for nine years. “It’s a little gem,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. I’m serious, he had a twinkle in his eye. “People come from all over the world…from China, Australia…it’s a dream come true.” I haven’t talked to many people that are so in love with their line of work, especially being a student who works in a major business city. I was actually taken aback at the idea that he adored his job and business so much. I think it takes someone special with a special job to truly love what he does. An ordinary man who moved to Chesapeake City has found and created a hidden treasure for himself and for others by opening a small, seven-room bed and breakfast. I was immediately inspired. Walking out the front door, I was so ready to go home and graduate, and make a major difference in the world somehow.
The C & D Canal museum is nowhere near a hidden treasure for me. The old building just consisted of a bunch of plaques with a lot of information that didn’t capture my interest. I’m more of a visual person and the interactive display didn’t work properly. The canal doesn’t even fill up with water. I was practically asleep against a wall when I suddenly heard one of the volunteers, an older lady with snow white hair, tell a couple the story of how Chesapeake City was founded. She was so enthusiastic about it, I had to eavesdrop. She explained how settlers in the late 1800s realized they should build a canal to cut the travel time in half. The settlers built a town for those who travel along the canal. I was getting ready to walk away and classify the eavesdropping as waste of time when I realize, Wait, this city, this canal was a gem to those who used it to cut their travel time in half. Even in the 1800s, when life was complicated, in my opinion, settlers were still able to find things and places that brought joy to them.
This new task I assign myself leads me to some of the most bizarre places. Never in my life did I expect to end up at an alpaca farm. But somehow that is where I end up, and I loved every second of it. To my surprise, there is an alpaca farm called Painted Sky Alpaca Farm about 15 minutes away from Chesapeake City. (Side note: I didn’t even realize alpacas were an American animal.) They always sounded so foreign to me; but they indeed are an American animal. Driving up a dirt lane to a farm house, I begin to get nervous. There were no cars in the parking lot, also known as “alpaca lover parking,” and there was no one around. Thankfully, a lady wearing dusty jeans and boots walked over and began talking as if I’ve known her my whole life. She led the way to the entrance of the back fence, and before I knew it six alpacas surrounded me. All I could do was laugh. It was the most bizarre moment, and I really didn’t know what to do with myself. It was also quite hilarious that they are my height and are just hanging out next to me. In between giggle fits, the lady educated me all about alpacas, their history, and all about the farm. After about 25 minutes, we walked out front to the other fence that had more alpacas. I begin asking the lady about her profession before she retired; she used to be a bus driver. “But now, I love helping out my neighbors. There’s something about being on a farm with sweet, lovable animals that you can’t replace.” I almost felt bad at this point for laughing about being around alpacas, but it is amazing that she is most content around furry animals that look funny when they run.
People’s gratitude of life’s treasures didn’t really hit me until I ate lunch after the alpaca farm. I was sitting on a quiet patio right by the water, enjoying every second when all of a sudden I look over to the table next to me and see an older couple. Obviously, this town isn’t the new up and coming scene for young people. Even I know that when you are out eating with someone, you should put your phone down and enjoy each other’s company. This couple stayed on their phones the entire time and barely said a word to each other. I was actually appalled. When I think of being with someone and being married, I think of treasuring that person. It was astounding to see this couple not communicating at all and that they actually seemed somewhat annoyed to be at this beautiful restaurant together. Witnessing this scenario was upsetting to me but also showed that many people do in fact over look what is right in front of them and take it for granted.
Everyone is guilty of taking items, experiences, and people for granted. I take a lot for granted, a lot more than I would like to admit, but this experience to Chesapeake City has opened my eyes and showed me that there is a lot to be thankful for. I normally travel for the experience instead of the lessons, but this travel experience has been one big lesson to me. This quaint, little town showed me that regardless of backgrounds, interests, or hobbies, everyone comes together because of one thing they have in common, that they all love living in one area that’s so close to everything yet so far from everything. From being content living near the water, to eating homemade chocolate, to working on an alpaca farm, every person has a reason to be grateful and content with the life they are living. It is important to recognize life’s treasures because without them, there would be no place or reason to feel content or happy.
It is fascinating to me how you can travel and observe complete strangers and learn so much about them based on what they find the most enjoyable in life. I feel as though I learned far more about this town from observing people, talking to them and discovering what brings them the most joy in life than just simply walking around “reading” history. I was able to find the common theme of Chesapeake City based on the one common hidden treasure every person I talked to had, which was truly enjoying living in a quiet, charming town along the water.
This journey reassured me about the things and places, I love but it also taught me a few important life lessons. The older couple at the restaurant taught me to truly appreciate the things around me and live in the moment, rather than be caught up in the cyber world that so many people do nowadays. I have grown up in an environment that values the art of being so busy you don’t have time to breathe, and I have grown unappreciative of the idea of relaxing and enjoying the company of others. Chesapeake City, a small town on a man-made canal, taught me to put my foot on the breaks every once in a while and take time to relax and truly enjoy the things and places I love most, like the water. The water that runs through my veins, physically and figuratively. The water that brings me so much joy and contentment. Water will forever be the best simple joy for me. It brings peace, solitude, serenity, and leads me to the most beautiful places on earth, inside and out.