Asheville, North Carolina is the mecca for the wandering soul in America. In my extensive travels around the United States, there is no other place that welcomes the travel kids of the world to unite and even thrive as much as this eclectic town tucked away in the Smokey mountains of Western North Carolina.

This beautiful red head that I have been blessed to know since high school moved to North Carolina some years ago and I knew in an instant when I was looking at my atlas that she was getting a visit from Ruby SueBerube (my car) and myself.  Katie is the type of gal that if you know her, you love her. She’s a singer and guitarist and she climbs boulders in her spare time. I don’t believe that I could have had a better tour guide for one of the most colorful cities in the country.

I felt this immediate sense of excitement in this place. I felt like things were happening all around me, and I couldn’t wait to see my friend and explore. It felt like there was something to see everywhere you turn. I even got to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway one afternoon, one of America’s best drives.

Asheville has been voted beer city USA three years in a row. There are at least 10 (and counting) micro breweries in town with a wide variety of different beers to choose from. I got to try my fair share, and Katie had me drinking dark beer, which I now think I am a huge fan of.

I spent the week roaming around town, checking out the art that was plastered everywhere around the city. It was in my time spent downtown that I noticed a really strong presence of kids with backpacks who looked as if they had been traveling for days. They sported Grateful Dead patches sewn onto their packs and dreadlocked hair — not exactly “locals”, but I knew they were here for a reason. These kids intrigued me and I needed to know more.

Katie explained to me the concept of the “travel kids.” They come from far and wide, all over the country, and it seems as though when they get to Asheville, they stumble upon a thriving epicenter of like minded individuals who care about sustainability, music, art, and creating an environment where anyone can feel comfortable. These travel kids seemed to really band together and have a powerful presence in the city. Many of them had guitars to strum or journals to write in. It appeared as though many of them teamed up, not knowing each other from before, but rather it was like they found themselves a new, temporary family. It’s not uncommon to see kids walking around looking like they just stepped off the train and are looking for a new place to settle for a while.

Someone I talked to at a party for one of Katie’s friends told me, “The greatest thing about Asheville is the people.” And he was right. The people are what make this town so funky and bright. Another kid I met at The Wedge Brewery told me he heard about Asheville while living in Florida. He was told it was the most amazing city, with the world’s most beautiful bohemian women and that he could live out of his Toyota truck and be king. As he said this to me, he sat back in his chair, put his hands behind his head and, with a smile, said, “And here I am, seven years later, at home in Asheville.”

Tears filled my eyes on the morning I had to leave Asheville. I was so welcomed by Katie’s roommates and friends. I was engulfed by this feeling of wanting to stay. But the rest of my cross country journey awaited me and I could not stop here. It was a great place to visit so early on in my trip and the travel kids definitely inspired me to take everything in and really welcome strangers into my heart. My spirit was revived and I was ready to face the rest of my journey.