I had the privilege of taking a literature course in this wonderful city for the entire month of May with the University of Southern California. We read literature that was written about New Orleans and its surrounding areas, analyzing the landscape we were exploring through the different perspectives of the authors and fictional characters; this kind of reading experience, titled "bookpacking", is a concept created by our leader of the trip, Andrew Chater, a producer for the BBC.
The trip itself was unique. Me and seven other USC students piled into our oversized, black Mercedes van with Andrew and took off for some location we had read about, taking photos and trying to spot alligators along the way. We attended a local potluck and jam session with some Cajun locals of Lafayette, and walked through the towering graves of the St. Louis Cemetery. In the short amount of time we were there, I absorbed so much of the culture and ambiance of the city than I would have if I had just come for a weekend to party on Bourbon Street. We even witnessed the historical event of the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Lee Circle and the political aftermath surrounding it. A more in-depth log of my travels can be found here, alongside the seven other USC students who came with me.
To me, this trip encompassed everything that I love about traveling, reading, and writing. Because of the books I read, I got to see so much more of what New Orleans holds underneath its jubilant surface; because of the sights I saw, I became inspired to write about its history and the tangible feelings of nostalgic wonder that overcame my senses. The company I held, my fellow eccentric English majors, was so imaginative and thoughtful that exploring the city with them was an adventure every moment. What I learned on this trip was that (of course) I want to keep traveling to different places, but to also pay attention to the lives of the people who live there, to put down my phone or camera for a moment and really see where I am. This trip taught me that travel can be completely immersive, both physically and mentally, and that this is the way travel should be experienced.
Overall, New Orleans was - and is - unforgettable. I definitely have to go back now, especially to visit all of my favorite restaurants down there again. Yum. For those of you who may want recommendations of places to eat or things to see while you're down south, please feel free to shoot me an email or comment below.
Until next time. Au revoir.