The Geisha of Charlottesville

The Geisha of Charlottesville

Written by Heather

Topics: Planning & Reflection

A few years ago I found myself at a local restaurant with three friends — two visiting from London (on their first trip to the US) and the third had recently returned to our hometown of Charlottesville after living in Japan for two years. As the three discussed the plans I had to show the Londoners around, my English friend Kev announced I was “Yoda” — wise in the ways of my hometown and eager to teach people about where I live. The friend who had just returned from Japan jumped into say, “I think she’s the geisha of Charlottesville.”

While I’ve lived in this wonderful town for 13 of the last 16 years, I still don’t consider myself to be an expert. I know little about the outlying parts of the county and am not as well-versed in our downtown area as I would like to be. So being called Yoda and a geisha in a matter of minutes? Flattering. I mean, my ability to recall facts, trivia, and other tidbits might make me a reasonably informative guide, but I don’t think I’ve quite earned the title of a skilled artist and entertainer…or a Jedi master.

This conversation from three years ago came to mind when I welcomed another friend from London to the US last week. I thought I would write a post about playing tour guide to my UK friends, but instead I found myself reflecting on what it meant to be called Yoda and a geisha. And I had a light bulb moment as I connected some dots to things I’ve already been thinking about this summer.

Trying to be a career counselor for myself

I’ve thought quite a bit about what I like, what I’m gifted in, and what I want for my future since being home. And it’s a big fat work in progress. Especially the “what I want for the future”.

But what do my previous experiences and the “Yoda/geisha” comments say about me and maybe suggest for the months to come?

I’ve spent most of my time working as a career counselor or academic advisor for pay. For free, people have asked me for tips on travel, exercise, and nutrition (um, maybe not the last two in recent years :-)).

Across the board, no matter what I’m doing, I love advising others, sharing information, and being a resource for folks with questions. I enjoy researching and learning about a topic and then sharing my knowledge — AND doing so one-on-one. Small or large group workshops and presentations make me nervous, no matter how comfortable I am with the material.

How might my love of researching and advising fit into my future? And do I want it to overlap with travel? Besides expanding my role as tour guide of Charlottesville to other destinations, a couple of ideas have come to mind. And I’m eager to continue brainstorming.

While I’m brainstorming, I thought I’d share a little about my previous attempts at playing tour guide.

What does this Charlottesville tour guide offer?

— Pick up and drop off at Dulles International Airport (IAD) near Washington, DC. Though we have an airport in Charlottesville, it would be ridiculously expensive to fly in from overseas. Dulles is about two hours away.

— DC monument walk. I haven’t seen half of what DC has to offer, but I can guide a newbie around the monuments.

Touring on the first day

— Introduction to one of the country’s best universities and college campus life. The University of Virginia (UVA) finds its way into top rankings for USA’s public universities for good reason. And as it just so happens to be in Charlottesville, visitors learn bits of history and culture during a walking tour — led by me. Not only am I an alumna, but I’ve also workd at UVA for 6 of the last 9 years, so I have a few things to say. Usually we go to a football or basketball game too.

Orange and blue!


— A taste of the local wine scene. Virginia has more vineyards and wineries than I can count, and a handful just happen to be within a 30 minute drive. My favorite place to take friends is Horton Vineyards, home to 40-ish wines and free tasting.

Enjoying a local apple orchard before wine tasting
Robin and me atop Carter's Mountain

— American holidays and culture. This November I will host my fourth Londoner for Thanksgiving. For the three previous visitors, the day has been quite the event. From watching my dad take on deep frying the turkey to helping me and my mom prepare side dishes, everyone gets involved.

Fry time!
Tom has steam piping out...

I’m looking forward to hosting another friend for Thanksgiving this year and welcoming a friend or two from London in December. Until then, I’ll continue thinking about “what’s next” and how I can enjoy more of what Charlottesville and the world has to offer.

17 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Gav says:

    I loved the tour you gave and the interesting facts and commentary you provided on the walk around the grounds. The football was a great experience, even though the Hoos made hard work of it. I loved everything about the trip and hospitality of a wonderful family.

    I really can’t wait for another trip :-)

  2. Laura says:

    I’ve recently discovered on this US road trip just how exhausting it is to play tour guide… I much prefer the flipside of not having to worry about the details and just going where someone tells me to πŸ˜‰ That is, if they have the same taste in travel as I do. When are you free? I think I’m due for a visit in Charlottesville!

  3. Jaime says:

    I hope one day I will be the person you host. I haven’t seen any of that part of our country. I have so much to see at home that it is sad. I like that you actually take the time to show your friends around… that is so cool. I know when I get back home I am going to love hosting people and showing people my Houston. I love Houston, but not many other people do… maybe one day I will even host you!!!

    You could also go all Slumdog Millionaire on your guest and lie about the things you are showing them… just make up stuff as you go…lol!!!

    • Heather says:

      I’ve only been to Texas once and I was three years old — would love to visit you in Houston! And I’d be happy to have you in C’ville :-)

  4. Mom says:

    I must take the Charlottesville tour with the Jedi/Geisha. I have lived in my own little side of town and need to expand my knowledge/horizons of this beautiful little city!

  5. Deidre says:

    Well, if I’m ever in the area, I know what tour guide I am going to call!

    • Heather says:

      Ghostbusters just came to mind — but yes, call me! If (praying WHEN) I’m in Melbs again, we’re baking and going to cafes!

  6. Erik says:

    Sounds cool- I will be back in that area eventually, and I haven’t explored Charlotteville yet. Will keep this in mind!

  7. Rebecca says:

    I have such good memories of Charlottesville! Drove through on a family vacation back in like 1992 or something and after peaking into one of the open dorm rooms on the quad (I think, that area in front of the library, someone had left their door open and my family and I gave ourselves a quick 3 minute tour:-)) I announced I wanted to go there for college. Yeah, that didn’t happen of course, but even as a 12 year old, I thought it was beautiful!!!

    • Heather says:

      Ahh, you were looking into the Lawn or Range rooms then :-) They tend to have their doors open if they’re around. It’s the most prestigious place to live at the University, as it’s the original part of the University! If you find yourself back on the east coast any time soon (or ever!), let me know!

  8. Nicole says:

    You were such a fabulous tour guide when I came to visit you in Sydney that I decided to move here – put *that* on your resume!! LOL πŸ˜‰

    • Heather says:

      YES! One of my favorite comments since I started the blog. That’s a great bullet…may add it to my LinkedIn profile πŸ˜‰

  9. Nicole says:

    You totally should! πŸ˜€

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