A Travellerspoint blog

Wander Sphere Celebrates 5 Years!

With overwhelming pride, I write these next words: My travel blog Wander Sphere is celebrating five years!

When I posted my first entry 61 months ago, I was an idealistic 23 year old trying to navigate post-college life during the Great Recession. I felt lost - caught between obligations and dreams. I recently had completed school with a degree in political science, but that is not the person who I became after graduation day. For four years, I thought I wanted to be a political reporter, but why did I feel so restless? It was an uncertain and confusing time in my life.

So, I did the most logical thing that a person named Rachel Wells would do: I took an impromptu trip, which turned out to be a life-changing experience full of important personal revelations: I was not lost after all - I was meant to wander, to explore. Funny how I found myself while getting turned around in West L.A. When I came home, I decided to follow my true passion - I started writing about my travels, beginning with my adventures in California; Washington, D.C.; Paris; London; Colorado and San Antonio.

I kept traveling, and I kept writing, while also balancing my day job. After a while, I found a rhythm with what I wanted to do. I saw and experienced many exciting new places, including New York City, Vancouver, San Francisco, Hawaii, Montreal, Seattle, Santa Fe and Las Vegas. Oh yes, and most recently: Philadelphia, from where I just returned a couple weeks ago. Some of my favorite memories over the past five years include ghost hunting on Oahu, celebrating New Years Eve in Montreal, spending three months traveling across the U.S. Southwest during last summer, and hiking from Los Feliz up to Griffith Observatory in L.A.

Has it always been an easy journey over the past few years? Of course not. It is never easy to deal with stress at the airport or to unpack after an amazing trip. There have been setbacks and disappointments. Also, some people do not understand what I do and why I love to do it. Does it bother me? Sometimes. Do I let it stop me? Absolutely not.

Through everything, travel has been my steadfast teacher and companion. I have been humbled when things did not go my way. I have learned to be resourceful when I miss the last train and need to figure out how to walk the long way home. I have tried speaking the native language in a foreign country, even when my pronounciation sucked. I have been self reliant while traveling by myself. I have learned customs of different cultures. I have marveled at gorgeous scenery. I have photographed unique sites. I have connected with people of all different backgrounds. I have had the most amazing adventures of my life. And with each new trip, I am reminded of what an incredible place our world is.

Five years later, with lots of cool experiences and more than 70,000 page views, this blog has exceeded my wildest dreams. I sincerely thank everyone who reads my blog, because it really does mean the world to me (no pun intended). My passion and my life is travel, and I know that I will continue to explore now and in the many years to come. So, where am I going next? In three weeks, my friend and I are taking a road trip Roswell, New Mexico and Marfa, Texas - I can't wait for an out of this world experience!

Posted by rachwells 30.03.2014 19:53 Comments (1)

Snow on St. Patrick's Day

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When I looked outside of my hotel room this morning, I saw...snow. Not tons, but quite a bit of it. I already knew that particularly chilly temperatures and snow were predicted for today. So, how did the weather affect my itinerary? Shopping Day!

On most trips that I take, I set aside some time to casually browse some fun stores, and today, I made sure to savor this particular opportunity - I slept in, I had brunch at a cozy cafe down the street, I read a good novel at bookstore while sipping some coffee. I took my time, enjoying the good life at a slower pace for my last full day in Philadelphia.

And then I went shopping. Luckily, a number of hotels in Philadelphia are located on either Walnut Street or Chestnut Street, both of which have great selections of stores nearby. I almost bought an adorable 1960s maude-style dress at Buffalo Exchange. I also particularly enjoyed Joseph Fox Bookshop, which had a great selection of travel-related books that I had never seen at other stores.

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As I walked around from shop to shop during the early afternoon, the snow came down pretty heavy. Yet, the streets and sidewalks mostly stayed clear. I saw snow trucks patrolling the roads, and shop owners put salt/sand on the sidewalks. Cars kept driving, and people kept living their lives pretty much as normal. Inches of snow lingered on tree branches, car roofs, grassy areas and building tops, giving these surfaces a nice wintry embellishment. I felt like I was in a Northeastern winter wonderland. In fact, I came across Rittenhouse Square, and this outdoor park looked especially lovely in white.

Funny, according to weather reports, it was 65 degrees at home in Dallas today. Last week was Spring Break in many parts of North Central Texas. Meanwhile, winter still lingers in Philadelphia and the mid-Atlantic. Especially today. That's okay with me. I am happy to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a mix of celebratory green and glistening white in this lovely city.

Posted by rachwells 17.03.2014 20:32 Comments (1)

LOVEing Philly Art

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An amazing, beautiful city, I really admire Philadelphia's prevalence of visual art. And it is not just displayed on museum walls. Monumental statues, intricate tile designs, and impressive, large-scale depictions of local culture are found across the city. During my explorations of Center City and Old City, I have seen so many creative embellishments on building facades and additional amazing works of art. And I know there are so many more incredible works of art in the city than what I will have time to visit, but here are some of my favorite pieces that I have seen thus far.

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Of course, the famous LOVE statue, located near City Hall, is a popular tourist site. And the statue is a great photo op. Couples embrace, friends take fun group poses and other tourists turn the camera 180 degrees in their hands to take an artsy 'selfie' portrait.

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Philadelphia is well-known for its vast number of street murals. During my explorations of Center City and Old City, I have seen numerous, beautiful depictions, and I am glad to see that the city embraces local art in such as prominent way. Again, there is no way I will have time to see all of the great ones, but I am glad to see what I have come across over the past few days during casual strolls. I came across this particular mural (see the photo above) while exploring South Street this afternoon.

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Speaking of the city's well-known, lively thoroughfare, I also visited the Philadelphia Magic Gardens on the same path. Mosaic murals on the walls, mosaics on the ground, mosaic stairs and tunnels everywhere. Indoors and an outdoor space. It is absolutely incredible - detailed and intricate, a real labor of immense creativity and craftsmanship.

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Did you know that Philadelphia has the fourth largest Chinatown in the United States? The Friendship Gate is a lovely, welcoming archway into this thriving neighborhood. It is a busy area, so you can't stare idly for very long, but I loved viewing the colors and the incredible detailing of its structure.

Posted by rachwells 16.03.2014 20:50 Comments (0)

Edgar Allan Poe's Legacy, Evermore

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Legendary writer/literary critic Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia (residing in a few different houses) for six years of his life - some of his most productive years, as a matter of fact. It is here where he published The Tell-Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. There also is speculation that Poe began writing The Raven while staying in Philadelphia (later published when he moved to New York). In fact, the famous poem's namesake has a statue in the yard of the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, which is the only remaining of the houses where he and his family lived in Philadelphia.

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When I visited the home at the corner of 7th St. and Spring Garden St., I was surprised to see that this preserved home is very different from the residences of other famous, historic persons. There is absolutely no furniture, and the walls have been stripped to their bare, original state. Of course, when you first enter the National Historic Site, the entry looks like an inviting, mini museum of the man and his life's work. You are greeted by very friendly and knowledgeable guides. The entry and museum portion technically are add-ons and what was the neighbor's house (if I understood the guide correctly). I am so glad that they offer free guided tours. You also can do a self-guided walk around, but I really learned a lot by listening to an expert.

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The guide took us through Poe's house itself, and again, the rooms were very bare, except for a few visual aides, which were references to his work and personal life. Like the orangutan stuffed animal, which is a reference to one of Poe's writings. In another room, the guide showed us a photograph of Poe's wife. Nearby, we saw a large illustration over the windowsill, which demonstrated what his neighborhood would have looked like at the time that he resided there.

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A particularly interesting thing that we got to see during the guided tour was the basement, which served as inspiration for The Black Cat. Appropriately, a stuffed animal of a black cat sits among the exposed bricks. The guide actually told us the story of Poe's The Black Cat while we were looking around in the basement. So surreal to stand in the place that inspired the story and to imagine the creepy details as you hear the tale.

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Poe was definitely eccentric, but he also wrote intriguing poems and stories, which still are read to this day and served as inspiration for other famous storytellers like Alfred Hitchcock, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and many more. And hopefully his complex, mysterious legacy will carry on many years into the future...evermore.

Posted by rachwells 15.03.2014 22:32 Comments (1)

Celebrating Women's History in Old City

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While looking around at the Liberty Bell Center, a park ranger invited visitors to hear a mini-presentation about leaders of the women's suffrage movement. I am glad that I stuck around for the talk, which is part of promoting March 2014 as Women's History Month.

My favorite story: The park ranger told us the 1876 Centennial celebration at Independence Hall when Susan B. Anthony and another women's rights advocate interrupted the festivities by giving the Vice President the "Declaration of Rights for Women". Not wanting to seem rude, he accepted the document. Next thing you know, "the Declaration was well received by the Vice President". Nice. And that happened at a site that I visited this morning. Being here in Philly, I appreciate and understand American history in a different way. It's not just written in the history books - real people, real women worked very hard and put themselves on the line for the benefit of future generations.

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This afternoon, I also visited the Betsy Ross House where the famous seamstress made the first American flag. A widow (several times), a mother of seven and an upholstery shop owner (until age 70), Betsy Ross suffered great personal hardship, but she also went on to become a great inspiration. Again, I learned so much more than I ever knew about the woman by visiting where she actually sewed the Stars and Stripes.

Walking around the rest of the Old City section of Philadelphia today, I was amazed to see so many historic, significant sites within a few block radius. And I am glad that they are there to remind us - and better inform us - of the bravery of not only our Founding Fathers, but also of the courageous women in our nation's history.

Posted by rachwells 14.03.2014 21:16 Comments (0)

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