English cottage with hedges and flowers in frontI’m going to let you in on a little secret: traveling wasn’t always my thing.

The times I have enjoyed traveling most are always associated with home in some way: playing red rover under the tall palm trees in my great-grandma’s front yard in California; taking a road trip to Salt Lake City to visit my aunts and uncles; and doggy-paddling in the pool at my family’s favorite spot in St. George, Utah. But when I was a kid, my family rarely traveled beyond the West Coast and almost never took airplanes.

Then things changed. Great-grandma Woodbury passed on, and we lost our strongest family link in the Western United States. Grandma and Grandpa Woodbury moved to Maine, and other aunts and uncles relocated to the East Coast. My siblings also started moving away from home for college. Then my dad began traveling to the East Coast for work.

In these strange years of transition, my family left our car behind and started taking airplanes. One year, my sister and I got the crazy idea to visit her friend, Sarah, in England to celebrate our graduations. It was the first time I had crossed an ocean for a vacation.

After almost 14 hours of air travel, we landed in a strange but beautiful country where greens were even greener than in my Pacific Northwest home. Everything here—the architecture, the history, the mindset of the people—seemed old, so much older than anything in the United States. The homes were smaller and the food was unfamiliar.

Instead of touring with a group, we drove from Manchester to London and back in Sarah’s little car. I felt the same sense of wonder that I had had while road tripping through California and Utah with my family as a kid: choosing to stop because the view looked nice or taking a different direction when the highway split.

For the most part, we stayed in friends’ houses rather than in hotels—joking, laughing, and eating together. We talked about their lives rather than about England. Somehow this helped me feel more comfortable asking a beefeater for a picture together, admiring Queen Elizabeth II’s lavish dresses, and walking the shores of Lake Windermere.

As familiar mixed with unfamiliar, I was impressed with a new thought: home can be in more than one place. This new place was beginning to feel like home to me. It made me want to stay, even though I was usually done with vacation after just one week. This issue of Stowaway is all about finding your favorite homes locally and far abroad.

Come find the people of Spain welcoming you into their homes along the Camino de Santiago (page 32). Or visit the accogliente people of Ragusa to enjoy the slower pace of southern Italy (page 44). Or discover your inner Philadelphian by learning how to take on a cheesesteak just the way the city’s natives would (page 64).

Whichever experience you decide to enjoy first, each article has been handcrafted by one of our Stowaway family members just for you. We hope that we will inspire you to find many new homes away from home —both here in the pages of Stowaway and in the places you visit in the future.

—Eve Hart Smith, Managing Editor