August 5, 2012

Exploring your World: Mexican Cook-Off

Before the Hubs was The Hubs, I considered myself quite the adventurer. I liked exploring new places, and trying out new things. I've seen and done quite a bit.

Funny thing is... I didn't know what adventure was until we started our life together. The military lifestyle adds whole new meaning to the word.

You learn to be flexible, otherwise you'll break. You learn to make friends quickly, and you learn too often how to say goodbye. I know how to manage our finances, change a tire, and fix a leaky toilet. I carry in all the groceries, even the heavy ones (of course, the bottled water might only make it to the stairs for a few days!). We explore our surroundings together while we can, because tomorrow we might be somewhere new. 

What I've learned is that I wasn't really an adventurer before this. Sure, I did fun things with my friends. The same fun things weekend after weekend. Once a year, I travelled to NYC or the beach. I ate at the same restaurants, shopped in the same stores. I didn't realize it at at the time, but I was quickly slipping into a rut. 

Moving so often forces me to try things I'd never even thought of before. When you live in a place where all the roads, stores, and restaurants are unfamiliar, you learn to Google... A LOT. Entertainment which was popular back home might not even exist in your new space. I find myself searching the net with phrases like, "Fun things to do in... (fill in the blank)". Or "Where to eat in... (fill in the blank)". 

On a whim, I once typed in the name of my hometown. A few familiar things popped up on my computer screen, places I'd been or events I'd attended. What surprised me, though, were how many things I never knew existed! After living in the same town for 20 years, I should have known all about the area... but I didn't. There were parks and museums I'd never explored, local events I'd never attended. Hundreds of restaurants and shops I'd never crossed the thresholds of. 

All of that adventure and excitement in one town... I expanded my search to the surrounding counties and cities, and guess what? More stuff than I ever imagined! Turns out, my hometown isn't so boring after all. And I've missed out on a lot of adventure simply by not taking advantage of it while I could. 

The Hubs and I don't ever want to lose those opportunities again. As a military spouse, it's always in the back of your mind that today could be the last day before any number of things take you away from each other. You've got to explore, laugh, and live while you can. Even when the Hubs is away, exploring with friends is an important part of keeping yourself sane. You must get out of the house occasionally, or else risk the slow descent into Crazyville. 

This weekend, a friend and I explored a little section of our world. A local event, a Mexican Cook-Off, was occurring downtown. The advertisements promised excellent food, along with traditional dancers and mariachi bands.

They didn't disappoint. 

The mariachis and dancers performed intermittently throughout the day. Front-row seats for their exhibitions were hard to come by, but we managed for several events. The food was as promised: amazing! After checking out the menu at each tent, I finally decided on loaded chicken nachos. 

Mmmmmmmm..... nom, nom, nom, nom..... mmmmmmmmmm........ 

Yep, it was that good.

We enjoyed our street food while watching the various shows. The performances are so different from anything I've seen before. And I love it! The mariachis performed traditional music, but they also transformed modern rock songs, blending the old with the new. Totally fun, and completely surprising. The dancers encouraged audience participation, often pulling spectators in with them. We are all grateful I wasn't one of them!

For a few hours, we experienced something unique to this area. If our next duty station is in Kansas or some such place, I highly doubt we'll find performing mariachis. And those nachos? Pa-lease. Not going to find those in Kansas either (no offense to my Kansas friends!).

My advice to you? Get out and explore!! Find the things unique to where you are, and enjoy them while you can. Whether you're on a budget or not, there are things to see and do. Last night's Mexican Cook-Off? The entrance fee was a mere $3. That fee bought a lot of fun, and an evening to remember.

If you don't know where to look, or how to find your local attractions, try these websites:

1. Trip Advisor
2. Uptake
3. Virtual Tourist
4. Yahoo! Travel
5. UrbanSpoon (for local cuisine)
6. U.S. National Park Service

Also, look for state and local parks. Google is your friend!! Search through your local paper, check websites for local news stations. Often the city will publish a monthly events calendar or magazine. Local churches hold fundraisers, chili cook-offs, and lots of other fun events. Be creative, get out and explore your world a bit. I promise, you won't regret it.

Happy exploring, my friends. I'd love to hear about your adventures, feel free to post in the comments below!

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