Today on the Life in Another World Podcast, I sat down with my roommate, Claire Hulstrom to discuss the ups and downs of her recent trip to New Orleans, and how everything about it has changed her perspective on life.
A trip doesn’t need to last a year to change your life. Sometimes, a quick week can alter everything about who you are now, versus who you were before the trip. Each trip comes with trials, tribulations, ups, downs, and everything in between. It then becomes how we face those fears and appreciate our experiences that help us grow.
Planning the Getaway
Even short trips take preparation, and even they aren’t safe from the setbacks that can occur.
It’s easy to feel like every time you get ahead, you fall another step behind. Before long, a constant cycle of roadblocks threatens your way with attempts to impede your trip.
Claire spent a year planning her journey to New Orleans, only to have money persistently pose an issue. As most of us can relate, every time she paid off one bill, another one materialized.
If money is your primary issue, remember this:
It always works itself out.
Where there is a will, there is a way, and when you travel, that way usually unravels on its own.
Finding Free Activities
With Christmas, birthdays, and the general holiday season surrounding Claire’s trip to New Orleans, her bank account never reflected the amount of money she knew she needed. On departure day, she had $130 to last her until the paycheck she’d receive while in New Orleans.
Determined to take a negative and transform it to a positive, Claire did the next best thing:
From walking tours, sightseeing, checking out museums, or merely window shopping, there’s always something free to do. Ever heard the phrase, “The best things in life are free?” You don’t need to pay for every memory.
Experiencing New Orleans
Even outside of the Christmas season, New Orleans is always decorated to the nines.
A city rooted in culture that breathes a different energy than most, New Orleans grabs hold of you whether you want it to or not. Its history breathes through the cracks and crevices and seeps into your pores the moment you enter its borders.
If you’re someone who’s into the supernatural, New Orleans needs to shoot to the top of your “visit” list. Have a walk by Madame Delphine LaLaurie’s house, and perhaps even snap a picture of a ghost or two. While you’re at it, take a visit to the grave of the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau.
Free Things to Do in New Orleans
When all else fails, walk. Exploring things on foot is the easiest way to study your surroundings and look for the things you can do without spending any cash.
If you’re a history buff, the French Quarter Visitor’s Center is sure to tickle your fancies. In this museum, you can check out all of the histories from the Creoles to the Cajuns and everything in between that’s helped shape New Orleans throughout the eras.
Are you a fan of vampires? If you’re interested in seeing props from most of the vampire movies inside of the United States’ only vampire shop, don’t pass up an opportunity to visit Boutique du Vampyre. Everything in the shop is handmade, and backpacking off the supernatural theme in New Orleans makes this shop a must-visit.
Not So Free Things to Do in New Orleans
Post Katrina, tourism in New Orleans is at an all-time high.
If the supernatural element of New Orleans intrigues you, look into walking tours that guide you through old sets from horror films while discussing the supernatural references in the city.
Want something more in depth? Consider checking out Ghost City Tours. Options range from experiencing the ghosts of New Orleans, hearing the details of the horrific things that stain its history, or even joining in on a ghost hunt for yourself.
For an opportunity to veer off the usual path other New Orleans ghost tours wander, check out the Killers & Thrillers tour. The only tour that is adults only, you’ll learn about the real horrors of New Orleans’ history in excruciating detail. You’ll have the opportunity to see more than the pedestrian sections of the quarter as you delve deeper into its darker parts.
Can’t get enough haunts? If you’re brave enough, sign up for one of the cemetery tours, if you dare.
Outside of the supernatural elements in New Orleans, a lot of people also choose to see the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes, we need a reminder as to what natural disasters can do, and why we should never take our surroundings for granted. You can look into walking tours to accomplish yourself, or sign up for the guided tour for a detailed history of America’s worst natural disaster.
Where to Stay in New Orleans
In general, throughout America, hostels can be hard to track down. That, however, is not the case in New Orleans.
For a hostel located on the famous Magazine Street, check out the Atlas House. In the earlier days before Katrina, the area this hostel is located in wasn’t necessarily safe. After the devastation that swept through the city, it has been transformed into a prime location.
If you’re interested in a hostel that’s a little more posh, check out Hostel Auberge. Located in The Lower Garden District directly between Uptown and Downtown New Orleans, this is a prime location for scouting out all of New Orleans’ highlights.
Mixing in the Flavor
As an executive chef, one of Claire’s main reasons for her visit to New Orleans was the food.
And, as with most cities in the Southern States, the gumbo is something she refused to miss out on.
Although you can find a multitude of different foods throughout the streets of New Orleans, the Creole and Cajun inspiration is everywhere you look. Deeply rooted in French culture, particularly from the Cajuns after their migration from French Canada, the food is packed with flavor.
You’ll find lots of cayenne pepper, and mixed with the soul food Louisiana is known for, your taste buds won’t even know what hit them. New Orleans is the culinary mecca for things unexplored. From the deep nuttiness of the roux used in gumbo, to the brininess of the oysters, shucked while you watch. The earthiness of Turtle soup, and the delicate way the Beignet pairs with chicory coffee. This city will leave you gob-smacked, not quite knowing what just hit you, but eagerly anticipating more.
Taking the Leap
Like most people ready to embark on a trip, Claire was shrouded in fear. All she wanted was a nice vacation during the Christmas season, and all she seemed to find along the way were roadblocks.
Those roadblocks, however, didn’t stand as hindrances for long, and they each left a lesson that strengthened her.
At the end of it all, here’s the skinny:
If all of your decisions are fear-based, you’ll never progress in life. When you’re standing on that metaphorical ledge and looking out into the darkness, the longer you wait to leap into it, the more likely you are to talk yourself out of it.
Along the way, other people will attempt to instill fears in you, and it’s up to you to decide what you’re capable of doing.
It is then up to you do it.
Making friends with strangers will be a breeze, and even after a few days, you may find people who stick by your side forever. When you meet people on the road, it’s like connecting with someone from a past life. In a place like New Orleans where its spiritual history stands at an apex, these opportunities will open your eyes and help you realize you’re never truly alone.
Traveling can get you out of a funk you don’t even know you’re in. It can change your life in ways you never thought possible. More so, it can shape you into the person you’ve always wanted to be.