By: Sarah Jane Casciato
Before I had even heard of Asheville I was living in Jackson Hole Wyoming, a paradise for those who love the outdoors and extreme sports. Out there in Jackson, Asheville was a well-known South Eastern destination for the same good stuff: hiking, kayaking, and climbing, plus it was rumored they had something Jackson was short on… women! I moved to Asheville in 2006, following my beau at the time, who saw WNC as a climber’s dream come true. He worked summers as a climbing guide at a Brevard summer camp and made do the rest of the year. I came along and climbed nearly every weekend. This trend of moving to Asheville for its outdoor adventure buffet is still going strong. Asheville is on the map as a place to live or visit, for a whole host of outdoor activities.
Being a California transplant, I expected to be a bit rare in the South. But here in this liberal pocket of the Bible belt I was anything but. Especially having come via Jackson Hole, which put me on the outdoor city circuit like so many others that now call Asheville home. I have met more people in Asheville that have once lived in Jackson; Northern California; Austin, Texas; Flagstaff, Arizona; Montana; and a host of other areas known for the outdoors. Given the places I had been before, it was not strange to folks that I ended up here. I admit to itchy feet and wander lust, but even to someone who has traveled a great deal, Asheville is just hard to beat. WNC is a place where people stay, and stay healthy because they truly enjoy the environment they live in.
I used my move to Asheville as a kick-off to healthy living. I started with a Yoga teaching certification at Asheville Yoga Center, known as the South East’s best program. I also trained for a marathon here, did local sprint triathlons and joined the Asheville Master’s swim team. Training in Lake Eden, biking to Marshall along the French Broad River, and running through Biltmore Forest was as picturesque as training could get! In addition I grew a garden for the first time (which requires more sweat than anyone lets on), and climbed peaks that made me want to pee my pants. Asheville has helped me enjoy life, appreciate “settling down,” and healthful living.
I am not the only one who has been convinced that WNC is where it’s at. Word has spread across the Atlantic that Asheville is a beautiful, hospitable, outdoorsy, and interesting place to visit or even call home. My wonderful job allows me to share this magical place I now call home with young people from across the globe. This summer, in both July and August, teens from Spain, Italy, Germany and France will call Asheville home for three short weeks. Their program, steeped in outdoor adventure that highlights what Asheville is all about, is provided by Xplore USA. This student travel education operator has been running programs in Asheville since 2009 as its sole U.S. location. In earlier years, Asheville was not exactly on the map for European teens. But now, with a great deal of positive feedback from past families both in Asheville and Europe, the program is expecting triple numbers this summer. It is clear the word is out. Asheville has got something special. Small enough not to be intimidating, large enough to provide plenty of entertainment, and armed with its triple threat: southern hospitality, open-mindedness, and sheer beauty.
I for one am grateful that Asheville is hosting these students. I can’t think of a better place for foreigners to get to experience America. Plus, having this growing international limelight is not too shabby for our hotels, shops and restaurants downtown. Before I became the program coordinator for Xplore USA, I had considered a move to a more popular international destination so that I could continue my work in international education. Luckily, the universe just recently dealt me a great hand. I am thrilled to be here in a place I love, doing what I love. I have the opportunity to let international visitors see for themselves why I chose to call WNC home.
So this summer I will be hiking with these students, doing a ropes course, white water rafting, tubing, volunteering for local organizations like MANNA FoodBank and the WNC Nature Center, and just playing outdoors. I’m not telling you all about my great summer ahead just to brag. I am inviting you to be a part of this experience!
For WNC moms, or women wanting to play host mom for three weeks, this summer provides an opportunity to get fit by enjoying the outdoors while sharing all that we love about our area with a student from abroad. Sometimes all it takes is playing host to get us out of the house and enjoying what is in our own backyard. I know I found most hikes, bikes, waterfalls and climbs while showing off my area to friends and visitors. So this summer, I encourage you fellow ladies to get outside and play! And if you want your family to have an unforgettable experience while you are at it, sharing your home with one of these amazingly courageous teens, then look up Xplore to bring one along for the ride. www.xplore.de/en/hostfamily
Sarah Jane Casciato is a first time writer for WNC Woman who enjoys the outdoors (clearly!) and spending time with her family in Weaverville. Planning to graduate on June 1st with a Masters in international education, Sarah Jane is developing new opportunities for global education in the WNC area. email@example.com