New England Adventures

So I wrote most of this post at 30,000ish feet in the air, and thought it was as good a time as any to write a bit about my adventures from this past week in Boston and Old Orchard Beach.

The trip came to fruition after Matt was asked to play with the Household Troops band on their tour to Old Orchard Beach. After some thought and many discussions and pro/con lists, I decided it was feasible for me to travel out to the US with him. My reasoning was that I wanted to see/tick off 3 new states, I wanted to do some sightseeing, being jobless meant I didn’t need to get holidays from work, I wanted to experience the Salvation Army USA style, and I wanted to support my husband and see him do something cool that he loves doing. Oh, and of course I wanted to see him wear one of their iconic helmets (side note – he didn’t look too ridiculous in the end…..)

So I made the plan of sightseeing in Boston and staying there on my own for the first two days/nights, then getting the Amtrak train up to Old Orchard Beach to join Matt, and attend the events the band were taking part in, in between exploring the area on my own, plus a couple of bits of free time with Matt too.

Despite being almost 25 and married, people kept reacting surprised and incredulous when I said I was staying in Boston on my own, asking how I’d cope staying on my own or eating in restaurants alone, if I would be ok. Either it wasn’t something they would want to do, or was something they hadn’t thought I was capable of. But in all honesty, I wasn’t apprehensive at all about this part of the trip. I was confident and excited to get out there and explore, proving that my shy, quiet exterior wouldn’t stop me having a brilliant time, adventuring on my own, travelling around the city and seeing everything I wanted to.

And it was fab. I explored, I ate lots, took loads of photos, shopped a bit too much, and saw lots of sights. I took the hop on/off tour bus round the city, I visited Harvard University (bucket list type thing for me!!), I saw Fenway Park and sat and read my book by the harbour. I asked for a table for 1 in the Cheesecake Factory, and ignored the possible looks of ‘why’s she on her own’ from the tables beside me as I tucked into my massive plate of nachos. It was fab, and I’m thoroughly glad I did it! I so often let the ‘quiet’ thing hold me back, I think it’s a hindrance and it lowers my confidence on a lot of things. But I proved to myself and maybe others that it doesn’t need to be. I had no issues communicating, I made small talk with taxi drivers, chatted to a girl from Scotland in a cafe at Harvard, and asked strangers to take my photo. Key message – don’t let yourself hold you back!

I then got the Amtrak train up to Old Orchard Beach (again a success – other than my strong man act trying to lift my 24kg case onto a shoulder height luggage rack, where about 6 other passengers walked past without helping!!), got an Uber to the hotel (another new experience!) and met Matt. Not going to lie, meeting up with the band was the bit that made me most nervous on the trip. I didn’t want them to think I was weird for coming with Matt – I was worried they would judge me for tagging along on a band trip or being on the band bus, and I certainly didn’t want them to think Matt was under the thumb and that I was following him about cos that definitely wasn’t the case!!! I’m never too comfortable meeting new people, but I was even more nervous than normal. I was trying not to be too shy, but at the same time I was trying not to stand out (hard combo!) or draw attention to myself. Equally, I was trying to spend some time with Matt, while not wanting to steal him away or get in the way of him being part of the band and the banter.

I have to say though – everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming and made me feel almost at ease pretty quickly. I’ve spoken to nearly everyone in the band (a big feat for me haha!) and have met some really lovely people, and hopefully made a few new friends. I’m super grateful to the band for making me feel welcome and including me in the banter and the socialising – I hope I wasn’t an intrusion! – and I really enjoyed my time with them! What a lovely (and super talented!!!!) bunch!

Old Orchard Beach was a crazy wee place. Tacky pier, massive beach that stretched for miles, and lots of little food kiosks. During the few days I was there, I think I tried the Pizza, Nachos, Ice Cream, Smoothies, and copious amounts of fries. To be fair, what more can you want?! I spent some time doing my own thing in OOB and wandered along the beach one afternoon and paddled in the sea, and it was lovely. There’s something you just can’t beat about walking along the sand with your toes in the sea!

Seeing the Salvation Army in the USA was something I was looking forward to – I knew it would be different and I was right. I mean in many respects it’s the same – but to me the main difference was the level of enthusiasm they have. I’ve been to UK congresses and divisional or territorial events, but I’ve never seen as many people go to the mercy seat, praying together, as I did on Sunday morning. It was eye opening, touching, and slightly unsettling haha! Their commitment and excitement for God and Jesus in their lives was palpable at times – it was impressive and infectious. They were much more open with it than I find we are in the UK – we’re just naturally much more reserved I guess.

The short march down to the Pier was one of my favourite moments. Firstly there’s just something special about seeing an army band marching down the street – it might be a bit old fashioned or traditional, but there’s something spine-tinglingly special when you hear Emblem of the Army blasting towards you. Not just for army folk though – because the interest and excitement was clear from the faces of passers by who stopped to watch too. Young and old, they all stopped, pointed, listened, photographed, videoed. It had an impact.

The thing I found most compelling was on the Sunday Morning, when the ‘ARC’ choir took part. I can’t remember what the letters stand for, but it’s a group of at least 100 people who have been helped by the Salvation Army for addictions, whose lives and families have been torn apart by their drug or alcohol addictions. They sang a song called “We believe”—

“In this time of desperation, When all we know is doubt and fear. There is only one foundation, We believe, we believe.

In this broken generation, when all is dark you help us see. There is only one Salvation, we believe, we believe.

We believe in God the Father, we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Holy Spirit, and he’s given us new life. We believe in the crucifixion, we believe that he conquered death, we believe in the resurrection, and he’s coming back again, we believe.

So, let our faith be more than anthems, Greater than the songs we sing. And I. Our weakness and temptations, we believe, we believe! “

Now they might not have been world class singers, but the conviction they sang these words with was SO powerful. The rawness to it made it all the more powerful. They’ve been through some desperate, dark times, yet they now know that the power of God’s love is strong and can get them through anything. My eyes welled up when they were singing – it was more than just words to a song, but living truth and true belief coming through those words. I saw 2 guys fist pump when the song ended, and i couldn’t help but grin. They were happy and proud of what they’d just done, and it was really special to see! They were some of the people praying in groups later in the service, and it was so inspiring to see – that declaration and action of love and God’s love was perhaps more powerful than a half hour sermon often is. Belief in action and all that. It was exciting to be witness to, and I’d love an ounce of their enthusiasm and belief.

This is a bit of a mismatched blog post – it’s been a while since I’ve written anything at all on here, my head’s on the messier side at the minute trying to figure out what courses and jobs to apply for and all of the joyful stuff that comes with that (potential future blog post…), and I’ve been awake for like, 30 hours, but I wanted to write about my week.

I’m not sure I’ve captured what I was thinking, but I think the essence is, it was another great adventure. If an opportunity arises, grab it. Explore. Push yourself out of that comfort zone. Make the most of things. All such cliche statements, but so relevant and true.

Go for it.

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