Collecting Dust

Like most Peace Corps blogs, this one has sort of fallen into disrepair.

That was something I always thought was sad before I lived abroad; I would spent hours pouring over these other people’s lives in another country, and then one day it would trail off, an unfinished story. I found my blog linked in 155 Inspiring Peace Corps Blogs recently, the same day I had a long talk on the phone in broken Armenian with my host mom, and it reminded me of this little unfinished, imperfect corner of the internet.

It reminded me how, like everyone eventually does, my story drifted off to a very awkward and strange, real end.

Hello Stranger as a blog still exists; the brick-and-mortar blog lives here, in a more practical iteration of what this was, with much much better SEO. Hello Stranger also exists on Substack. If you want to keep following my travels, are interested in outdoor ethics conversations, or just want to keep seeing the pictures I take, you can toss your email over there to stay in the loop.

I am still writing, and I didn’t ever really stop.

But it is interesting to me, as someone who has read a lot of Peace Corps Blogs and read a lot of popular travel blogs the way someone becomes a writer. I think the transition between this version of Hello Stranger and the current one really speaks to that. The blogs are similar, but they’re also different. In a lot of ways, I like the way I used my blog in Armenia much better. I wrote more creative nonfiction than I do now, and I miss that.

Realistically, writing creative nonfiction for your online blog isn’t something that pays, so it hasn’t really made sense to me to use my current version of Hello Stranger the way I used it when living abroad. Current Hello Stranger is a much cleaner version of this site, clearly designed to get client work. It’s heavy on Midwest travel content and listicles, because that is what drives web traffic, which directly translates to better freelancing gigs for me.

I’d really like to get back into creative nonfiction (CNF) the way I used to (you can find some of the recentish published CNF I’ve written here) but I haven’t found a way to seamlessly integrate CNF back into this kind of blog in a way that didn’t feel clunky and awkward, and honestly a little vulnerable. Writing about my life in America is a lot harder than writing about my life in Armenia.

All this to say, this blog is collecting dust.

But I think that’s okay. We outgrow things, whether it’s clothes or past lives, or the Peace Corps Blog you used to pour your heart into.

But I’m still writing, and if you want to keep up with that, you can follow me on Substack.

In the meantime, here’s what you might have missed:

A windsurfer on Lake Superior from last week. These were roughly 4-5 ft waves. It was 50 degrees and spitting rain. Gnarly.

Marine fog rolls in over Lake Superior hills this spring. This was one of the prettier days of the year.

Paddling through the Sand Island sea caves on a calm June day. I was able to make it out to the Apostle Islands twice this summer; this was the first time.

I live in Northern Minnesota now, and don’t make it back home to Michigan very often. I was back in Traverse City area this June to visit my family. This photo is from the dock at my grandma’s place. I came down early in the morning and had a cup of coffee here.

I spent a good amount of time after leaving Armenia quarantined up here with my grandparents, and this place always feels sort of soothing, even in a really anxious time.

An iPhone shot of Manitou Falls on Lake Superior through a small arch.

Lake Michigan in the Sleeping Bear Dunes as shot from above. Also pictured: a tiny seagull.

Paddling up to Manitou Falls on Lake Superior. Manitou Falls is the only waterfall in the Minnesota North Shore to cascade directly into the Big Lake. It’s only accessible by boat, and it was a 12-mile paddle round trip to get here.

Basically, not many people make it out there in their lifetime. It felt really special to be out there.

High Falls on the Canadian Border in all of her moody spring glory. Every now and then I hear people (travellers mostly) complain how the Lake Superior Region is pretty, but doesn’t really compare to places like Colorado or Iceland or Alaska.

I think they aren’t looking hard enough.

Also I wrote a book! Hidden Gems of the Northern Great Lakes is a trail guide that covers hiking, paddling, my favorite campsites and more throughout Northern Michigan , Wisconsin, and the North Shore of Minnesota. Included is a detailed section on Isle Royale National Park, a guide to hidden and less known sea caves in the Apostle Islands, and my favorite canoe routes near Traverse City.

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