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Real places, real people and real culture to explore

I would like to set the record straight on the same constant question I’ve received since moving here.

Bria Barton
Bria Barton
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I would like to set the record straight on the same constant question I’ve received since moving here.

No, I haven’t had a Minnesota winter.

In my defense, I never realized living through Arctic Tundra-like conditions would be considered a rite of passage in some places -- but hey, this South Carolinian is still learning.

Just five months ago, I was days away from graduating college -- and clearly scrambling for a job -- when I found myself seeking career advice from possibly the least helpful professor I could’ve thought to ask.

As I spoke the words “I want to be a travel writer,” his eyes rolled to the floor and he snickered. Amid hurls of discouragement, one jab in particular stood out.


“Why don’t you look at the Midwest? There’s not much going on there, so competition shouldn’t be too bad.”

Yikes, the Midwest. Ten hours that way, take a right at the cornstalk and if you hit the Rockies, you’ve gone too far.

Preconceived notions can be funny things, and as a loyal East Coaster who had traveled only as far west as a layover in the Houston Airport, I ignorantly had them.

I walked out of his office discouraged and wholly convinced I would never, ever live in any one of those 12 states.

But the universe has a twisted way of bringing things full circle.

Unbeknownst to me, I would soon be moving to a Midwestern town whose name I could barely pronounce, where it is so cold auto companies test freeze resistance on cars, and where my pigeonholed assumptions would promptly be sent packing back to South Carolina.

I’ll admit, I was nervous about moving to the Northwoods. I found most publications featuring Minnesota tourism rarely veered off the Twin Cities, Duluth and North Shore course of coverage.

So what was I supposed to do with a glossed over town, which was kinda-sorta on the map, but still virtually unknown outside the state?


Well, I’m really still trying to figure that out.

Yet if my intentions could be summed up, it would be through the words of master traveler Anthony Bourdain.

He said: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

If anything, I want to leave something good behind for you all, our readers.

I’ve lived in a lot of different places -- New York City to a town in Massachusetts smaller than Bemidji -- and not one of them has surprised me for the better more than here.

As my preconceived notions continue to come crumbling down, I’m finding that not all Minnesotans are nice (although most are really, really nice) and not all food is cream of mushroom soup topped with tater tots (although a good hot dish never steered anyone wrong).

There’s real places, real people and real culture to be explored here.

For that reason, I’m beginning a series called Trip on a Tankful, which takes you on a drive with me to the noteworthy, the alluring and the just-plain-weird treasures of Minnesota.


But I can’t do it alone. I’m eager to hear your stories, taste your foods and discover your places, so don’t hesitate to drop me a suggestion for my next story.

And as a final word, I’d like to ask you something: Have you ever had a South Carolina summer?

Bria Barton covers travel and tourism for Forum News Service and is based at the Bemidji Pioneer. A South Carolina native and USC grad, she can be found exploring Minnesota’s abundance of towns, food and culture. Follow her on Instagram @briabarton.
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