As a winner of our 2015 Travel Writing Scholarship, Sarah traveled to the U.S. to explore this confounding and captivating melting pot.

Sarah O'Donnell from the UK
Winner Writing Scholarship 2015

Sarah's assignment was to write about the places and personalities she encountered on her U.S. road trip. Her mission? To explore everything weird and wonderful about the states. 

Atlanta, Georgia: Junkman's Daughter

Junkman’s Daughter is the beating heart in the body of vintage shops, galleries and restaurants that make up Little Five Points. The store moved to its present location – a converted supermarket - in 1994, and every inch of this 10,000-sq-ft alternative Target is occupied with the eponymous ‘junk’: an Elvis bust lamp, kitschy clown portraits, and a sequined ball gown for your Dolly Parton cosplay needs. A giant red stiletto, the highest of heels, provides a staircase to footwear and accessories. I also discovered that it’s not unusual for visitors to be greeted by a kitten or two, as staff here regularly adopt strays. Community is an important part of the store’s ethos, and Junkman’s Daughter is clearly a linchpin in the Five Points neighbourhood.

Savannah, Georgia: Hearse Ghost Tour

Ordinarily, being the only body in the back of a hearse is a once in a lifetime experience.
But when I climbed aboard the last Savannah Hearse Ghost Tour of the night, ‘Spooky’ Steve, my driver and spirit guide for the evening, informed me that while the open-top hearse normally seats 8 on its nocturnal crawl through Savannah’s ghostly history, I would be its only passenger. Gulp.

I heard tales of mischievous childlike apparitions at Planters Inn and grisly goings-on at the infamous Mercer House. Disfigured orphan Rene Rondolier made Colonial Park Cemetery his home in the 1800s and reportedly haunts there still. As we drove by, something loomed out of the penumbra.

Steve hit the gas and we screeched on to Churchill’s Pub for a stiff drink.

Bangor, Maine: Stephen King tour

For fans of Stephen King, no pilgrimage to Bangor (known in his books as “Derry”) is complete without joining the Stephen King Tour of Maine. Stu Tinker, former owner of the King-specialist Betts Books and a lifelong resident of the city, has operated the three-hour tour twice a day for almost two decades. Stu and Steve go way back, and as well as trivia on dozens of landmarks from the Maine topography, King fiends will especially enjoy the personal anecdotes peppered throughout the commentary: when the Thomas Hill Standpipe is destroyed in IT, Stephen ensured Stu’s house was first in its path of destruction.

Whether you’re a casual reader or an ‘Annie Wilkes from Misery’ type, the Stephen King Tour of Maine is a nightmare come true.