Mission Accomplished . . . 5,800 Miles Later

I crossed the California state line in San Bernardino County at 3:18 p.m. October 2, not far from where the Mojave Desert meets the San Andreas Fault. “Not far” being a relative term for a woman who had already logged more than 5,000 miles on her Toyota Prius – much of it on Route 66.

Even in spite of earthquake warnings, it felt good to be home. For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m a California girl by birth, born in a city made famous by the song my parents sang to me as a toddler. Those same parents laughed at the idea that yes, the Golden State might really be hit by an earthquake that would knock it into the ocean one day. Turns out, as I arrived in California, the fear of another earthquake loomed large. That’s okay. I survived one earthquake here in 1999. I was driving on I-580 near Pleasanton, and never knew it happened until I heard my coworkers discussing it.

Driving through the desert, my car’s thermometer told the tale: it was a balmy 99-degrees outside. I was surprised, though, at how cool it felt. No doubt the dry climate was responsible, for 99-degrees in Florida (or West Virginia) would have drenched me in sweat.

Speaking of sweating it out, during my trip west I listened to the audio version of The Girl on the Train. Can you say red herring three times really fast? It was one of the most twisted tales I’ve ever heard (or read). Nothing was as it seemed.

I haven’t visited California in a while, but since two of my four children are here, I’ve been trying to return for the last three years. So I’m long overdue. But I’ve been a little busy, writing several books during that time, so no wonder it’s taken me this long. I drove through miles and miles of desert, thinking about the direction my life has taken, and looking forward to seeing my son and daughter again, when several hours later, my car’s odometer hit 130,000 miles. Not long after I holed up for the night in a little motel in Ventura, California, one block from the beach.

The next morning, I woke up in time to see the sunrise, roll up the cuffs of my pants, and enjoy a barefoot walk on the beach, where I collected beach stones and watched seagulls at play. When I returned, a woman named Cheryl caught me snapping photos and offered to take one of me standing in front of the motel’s colorful mural. In return, I gave her a copy of one of my books and we parted friends.

After I got on the road, I drove by vineyards and fields full of crops, passing migrant farm workers along the way, before hitting Highway 1 and winding my way up California’s rocky coast. I stopped at Pismo Bay, where I watched pelicans swoop and dive, as a pod of whales swam in the open waters. Further north, I dropped by Morro Bay, where sunbathing sea lions entertained me. As my little car climbed higher and higher along the coastline, distant memories of Monterey and Carmel and Big Sur returned, and in my mind’s eye I saw my four children, running into the surf, hiking through the redwoods and sequoias, and posing for the graduation photos I snapped along the water’s edge.

This coastal drive is, hands down, the most spectacular in the country. Wild and wonderful and unspoiled, with only a few commercial businesses along the way. (And nary a restroom along one particular two-hour stretch, which left me rushing to the ladies room when I finally happened upon one.)

By 4:30 p.m. I was crossing the Bixby Bridge, a suspension structure not unlike the equally impressive New River Gorge Bridge I left behind in West Virginia. I stopped along the road at several places, my shutter snapping away, and even climbed down a narrow, rocky path that offered a closer view of the magnificent architectural feat. The fog hadn’t yet moved in, so the views were breathtaking.

After spending an hour there, I tried to make it to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, which I last visited in 1998. Alas, I arrived too late. Plus, I had many miles to go before reaching my destination.

That didn’t happen until 10:30 p.m. – after the first near-miss of my entire trip. I was traveling about 70 miles per hour on I-680 north when a car parked on the berm pulled directly into my path. The driver had not gotten up to speed, so he was probably cruising at 30 m.p.h. Regardless, he was going far too slow to avoid a collision, so I instinctively jerked the wheel and cut across one lane, grateful when the driver on my left did the same.

Other than that, I wasn’t pulled over once, nor did I run out of gas (despite a close call). In fact, the only downer during my time on the road occurred when I realized it was probably the first and last time I would experience such a journey. For the most part, I found friendly folks throughout the country, and came away with so many new stories I’ll be hard pressed to find time to tell them all.

All in all, from North-Central West Virginia to the southern most tip of Florida and back up, and clear across the wild, wild West, I drove 5,799 miles, going from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean in 34 days. The journey of a lifetime, it’s one everyone should be so fortunate to experience.

And I loved every single minute!

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Winding My Way through the Past, and the Petrified Forest

Last time I blogged, I promised I’d write about the drive from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Monterey, California. Well, I completely forgot about the miles between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Flagstaff. So Monterey will have to wait.

Let’s begin this leg of the journey with a story: when I was younger, I was famous for running my car out of fuel. I wound up stranded along the side of the road more times than I can count. Usually, that meant calling a friend for help. Or a husband. Not this time, though.

I had so much fun at the balloon festival that I left 90 minutes later than I planned, at 10:30 a.m. After dropping by Cracker Barrel to rent an audiobook, I stopped at Garcia’s Kitchen for brunch. There, I ordered sopapillas, which I hadn’t eaten in two decades. Not since the last time I was in Texas with family. I split open the delicious pockets of deep-fried dough and filled them full of butter and honey. And was I on Cloud Nine!

My book on tape kept me occupied, and awake at the wheel, since I’d gotten up at 3 a.m. to see the balloons. Before I even knew it, I had driven through Gallup, New Mexico, and then finally, crossed into Arizona. Where I found myself smack dab in the middle of the Painted Desert and the Petrified National Park – which carried me back to my childhood days, when my parents, my sister, Lisa, and I visited on a family vacation.

It felt like déjà vu, and when I snapped a quick photo of some pieces of petrified wood inside the shop for tourists, I was certain I had been there before. The clerk said I was actually standing in the original building, which had been much smaller. But yes, it had been there since the 1950s. How’s that for a good memory? Even as I grew more bleary eyed by the moment.

I didn’t plan to drive through the entire park, just wanted to grab a few photos and then hop back on I-40. But a nice park ranger said if I wanted to keep going, the road would lead me back to the interstate 20 miles or so later. And I’m so glad I did. It was one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring portions of my entire journey.

Having logged quite a few miles already, I really wanted to break early for the night, but every motel I passed was full. Then, as I left Winslow, I realized I had forgotten to fill my gas tank. My digital dashboard said I the tank would be dry in less than 15 miles. I hoped I would find a gas station somewhere soon, since I was already on the entrance ramp and in the midst of traffic.

I was wrong.

I even exited again, not long after, when a sign with the word “Shell” held out the promise of fuel. That sign lied – plus, I was the only soul there. So I headed west on I-40 again. By the time I drove 16 miles past the zero on my dashboard indicated the tank was “empty,” I feared each successive minute would find me stalled along the road. It wasn’t late, not quite 8 p.m., but the traffic on that stretch of lonely highway was sparse. And pitch black!

So when a road sign with the words “Twin Arrows Resort” appeared, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Surely, where there was a resort, there would be a filling station, right? Nope. Not a single one. Instead, bone weary, I drove into the parking lot of the resort, which turned out to be a Navajo Casino. And there, the nicest young man, a valet attendant, used his walkie-talkie to contact hotel security. He wasn’t sure they would have unleaded fuel, though, or how long before security would arrive, so he suggested I grab a coffee from the café inside. Considering I’d been awake since the middle of the previous night, I did just that.

Now for a confession: I’ve been inside a couple of casinos throughout my life. But I have never even operated a slot machine, much less played blackjack or any other game. Not once. (I have, however, learned that I am a gambler. I’ve gambled twice now, on husbands. Let’s just say I didn’t hit the jackpot either time.) Instead of playing the slots, I wandered around looking at the luxury all around me, and felt compelled to take a photo of the lobby chandelier, which looked like it was created from beads of oil.

Thirty minutes later, the casino manager gave his approval and a sweet security guard poured unleaded fuel into my tank. I wasn’t even a paying casino customer, but they refused to take a nickel of my money to cover the cost. Someone has since told me that’s true western hospitality. Call me a believer.

I made it to Flagstaff after another 30 miles, and by then it was close to 10 p.m. I checked into a motel and fell into bed. All in all, I’d driven 430 miles. Leaving another 800 or 900 to go.

I hope y’all will join me next time, when we finally cross the California state line and wander up the most beautiful coastline in the country.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Driving Through the Wild, Wild West

Leaving Mississippi last Monday, I turned my little car west and drove across miles and miles of flat Texas land, thinking of my father and our trips south to see him each summer, before his death in April 1999. While Dale Berry’s final resting place is in our family plot somewhere up a holler at the top of a Jackson County, West Virginia, mountain, those Texas tumbleweeds I passed will be forever synonymous with the man he was.

It seemed appropriate to stop in Mesquite, Texas, for the night. After all, we used to light up the limbs of a tree by the same name, grilling many a burger and steak for family cookouts. My grown children may not remember, but nothing much beats the flavor of mesquite, when it comes to wood smoke and meat.

I got on the road quite early Tuesday morning, planning to reach Cochiti Reservation by nightfall. Twelve hours later I did, and found myself in the home of a local artist who graciously let me have the run of it for my visit. I felt like I was in a Native American art gallery, and it was exquisite.

Wednesday morning began with a big breakfast of huevos rancheros, which took me back to those authentic Mexican meals we used to eat in Texas. (And which my mother, herself the daughter of a chef and having been raised in the Southwest, often cooked for us.) Then was I in for a real treat: Lee Maynard chauffeured me to the top of mesas and all over the Jemez Mountains, turning into a tour guide as he pointed out such local sights as Cochiti Dam, the artisan town of Santa Fe, Bandelier National Park, Valles Caldera, formed by an ancient, mega volcanic eruption, and Los Alamos, not far from where the Manhattan Project was developed. And where we ate the best sushi ever.

Before I met Lee several years ago at the Annual West Virginia Writer’s Conference, he was more of a myth than a man. Once we became acquainted, it was easy to see that he was down to earth and really no different than most Appalachians. So I was happy to have him as my tour guide, and we enjoyed bouncing story ideas off each other. If there is anything a writer loves, it’s having another writer to talk literary shop with. He regaled me with accounts about the area’s colorful history and even deadpanned for the camera, striking a similar pose to one I took while holding my first book.

That wasn’t as good as it got, either. The New Mexico sunsets I captured with my iPhone were absolutely, hands down, among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. A Facebook friend wrote, telling me that the locals say, “the sky is on fire.” And so it was – every single night. If you’ve never been there, you really don’t know what you’re missing. (You can still make this year’s event, which lasts through Oct. 9.)

I didn’t plan to stay in Cochiti as long as I did, but after learning that the largest balloon festival in the world was slated to begin in a few days, I hung around. I hit the road at 4 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, making it to the fairgrounds just in time for the 7 a.m. mass ascension. Where 550 balloons took to flight, providing a view of the sky unlike any other.

My trusty little iPhone captured some great photos, but I only wish I’d known about the Canon booth before my morning began. The company will loan you any number of its high-powered 35mm cameras, for free, and all you need is an SD card, which lets you take away as professional a photo as you’re capable of shooting.

Hot air balloons have a longstanding legacy in my life: I read Around the World in Eighty Days as a child, rode in one as a passenger in 1988 as a green news reporter, and again a year later, at the Mountaineer Balloon Festival, and then finally, in 2002, I got married in one. In Las Vegas. So for decades, I have dreamed of seeing the Albuquerque International Balloon Feista. It was all I ever thought it would be. And more. I snapped photos of colorful silks covering the ground, of balloons in various phases of inflation, and of people watching the giant spheres as they magically floated up, up, and away. (For many more photos, check out my Facebook page and group.)

And next time I go – after experiencing this year’s festivities, how could there not be a next time? – I will be shooting with a 35mm.

Although this journey has come to its end, my last day on the road was simply amazing. I hope you’ll join me next time, as I travel from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Monterey, California. And to all points in-between.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

My Flight From Honolulu to Oakland—Just Call Me Amelia

We had a great time at the Haleiwa Farmers’ Market.
I left Oakland, California, on Sunday, March 10, for Honolulu, Hawai’i. Not piloting a plane—I wish!—but as a passenger aboard a Boeing 737. When I returned Wednesday night, flying from HNL to OAK, I realized we were following the same route Amelia Earhart had in 1935. That’s when she became the first pilot to fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland.

In March 1937 Earhart crashed her Lockheed Electra on takeoff from Ford Island, in the heart of Pearl Harbor. In June, she attempted to set a record for a transcontinental flight around the world. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, never made it. Many people believe her own miscalculations (or those of Noonan) did her in. When I boarded an Alaska Airlines jet Wednesday night, I didn’t think about the possibility of Earhart’s disappearance having been brought on by her own error in judgment—until the next day.

When I almost didn’t make it home. Because of my miscalculations. I mean really, who in their right mind would think it wise to schedule four flights in a 24-hour period, crossing six time zones in the process? Especially a pilot and a former member of Earhart’s club, the Ninety-Nines? Quite honestly, I don’t think I even realized I had done so, when I made reservations months ago after being invited to be a guest speaker at a conference. I just saw it as smart planning to drop in on family and friends in California, en route to and from Hawai’i.

The first leg of my trip home began at HNL at 8 p.m. Wednesday. I changed planes in Seattle, Washington, at 7 a.m. Thursday, boarded another flight and arrived at OAK about 8 a.m. After a quick visit with loved ones there, I boarded my third flight at 3 p.m. and headed to my final destination in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With a brief layover in Denver, Colorado. That’s where I received some first-class medical attention, all because by then I was exhausted. And dehydrated.

The USS Arizona submerged beneath Pearl Harbor.
I began feeling ill about 11 a.m. while still in Oakland. My friends made sure I rested for the next two hours. I still felt a little out of sorts when I boarded the plane. So I slept most of the way to Denver. When I did wake up, the two deadheading Southwest employees next to me were still engrossed in the same tête-à-tête they had been when I boarded the plane. So much so I hated to ask them to let me to use the restroom, stretch my legs or get a drink. And when I finally did force myself to interrupt, their demeanor was definitely not friendly—mahalo very much.
All of which meant I didn’t drink enough water. As soon as I deplaned, it hit me. I was dizzy and felt like I might pass out. So I asked an airline employee if someone could take my blood pressure. I figured my blood sugar or blood pressure was low.

And that’s how I found myself on my back on the floor, my legs propped up against the floor-to-ceiling windows that give waiting passengers a nice view of the planes as they come and go. Did I tell you I was wearing a dress? Yep, I was. A little Hawaiian sundress I thought I’d impress my husband with when he came to fetch me from the airport. Which means the airline workers on the tarmac below probably got a nice view, too—if a fellow passenger and a Southwest employee, both women, didn’t wrap that shawl around my legs in time. (Then, I felt too bad to even care at the time. Now, hindsight being what it is and with the Steubenville trial behind us, I realize it’s possible my nether regions are now fodder for someone’s Twitter or Facebook feed. So if anyone has that particular photo of me, I’ll pay you good money just to make it go away.)

Paramedic Ben, who said my symptoms required an EKG to rule out any heart issues, had a great sense of humor. “I don’t have my appendix,” I said as he felt my lower right abdomen.

“No problem, neither do I,” Ben replied, clearly skilled at defusing tension in patients—like me—who are on public display in an airport terminal while hundreds of people walk by. After as thorough an exam one can have in a public airport, Ben ruled out everything but dehydration. I signed a waiver saying if I died in the air it was my own fault, then I boarded the plane and safely made my way home. By the time I retrieved my checked bags, it was 12:30 a.m. Friday. Even if I hadn’t missed my husband so much, I would have kissed him anyway—because he knew I’d be exhausted and decided in advance (all on his own) to book a room in a nearby hotel. Where I slept for hours and hours.

It’s taken me until today just to feel human again, and well enough to write about my journey. Speaking of which, did you know Hawai’i is both a state and an island? The state of Hawai’i is comprised of eight islands, one of which is also called Hawai’i. I went there because that’s where a violence and abuse conference was being held. It was in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. Known as “the gathering place”, Oahu is the third-largest and probably the most popular island. It certainly has the most people, given that 75-percent of the state’s 1.2 million people live there.

I’d never been to Hawai’i before, so I was eager to experience it. Swim in the ocean, go snorkeling, attend a luau. Turns out, there was much more to do. For instance, for aviation aficionados and history buffs like me, there’s Pearl Harbor. I went twice. The first time to check it out, the second to take a tour and see the Pacific Aviation Museum. (I’ve been even more curious about the place since I saw Ben Affleck in the movie. Locals who grew up there tell me Pearl Harbor was remarkably accurate in its portrayal of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack. And I wanted to see the USS Arizona Memorial.)

The golf ball sits in Pearl Harbor, so I could see it up close and personal. A 28-story-tall defense radar system, it cost $900 million and helps protect the United States from rogue missiles. I saw it every day from LeAnne’s house and was mesmerized by it. It’s gigantic in itself, but it sits on an even bigger Norwegian oil platform. Yet when it isn’t at dock, it floats.

Early morning sunrise at Diamond Head

While on Oahu, I went on a dinner cruise and got some spectacular sunset pictures in return. I was dining solo, so I could just soak everything in. Since my fellow passengers were from all over the world, it turned into a cool people-watching evening for me. (The young college couple next to me was from Connecticut, and want to come hear my TEDx talk next month at Connecticut College. That was a cool coincidence, as was meeting a Virginia couple the following morning. They live in the same town as Ken Lanning—the retired FBI special agent who wrote the foreword for my book. That and their son is in law enforcement.) Oh and I didn’t just watch a hula dance—I was in one. The best food on the cruise? A taro (or poi) roll, made from the purple taro root. It wasn’t just pretty, it was yummy.

Back on dry land, my new friend LeAnne took me to the Haleiwa Farmers’ Market on the North Shore. We met some of the nicest people and sampled some of the best local food there. Musubi, the thing I turned up my nose to, turned out to be the most delicious. With just four ingredients—a block of rice, a slice of grilled Spam, nori (dried seaweed), and some sesame seasoning—it’s cheap and simple to make. This small but mighty market was next to the Waialua Estate, where we sampled coffee from the homegrown beans, and saw cacao (chocolate!) growing in the pods on a tour. (I can’t believe I originally balked at LeAnne’s suggestion we visit a farmer’s market, thinking if I’d seen one, I’d seen them all. Nothing could be further from the truth.) And now that I’ve tasted the chocolate-covered Waialue coffee beans, I’m hooked. I swear they’re the best ever!

Another new friend, Candy, treated me to a delicious Thai lunch and took me around the island. We went to Nu’uanu Pali State Park, where during the 1700’s Chief Kamehameha fought a decisive battle. He became Hawaii’s first king after driving more than 400 opposing troops over the edge of a cliff. Myra, yet another new friend, took me out on the town Saturday night. We went to a street fair, where we saw some unusual street performers and a fashion show; drank delicious vetiver tea; met Joy, a local artist who sells cool jewelry on Facebook; and listened to some lovely native Hawaiian music. The first group, Olamana, was very popular in the 1970’s, Myra insisted. The second, Kapena, continues to gain popularity.

My one-mile hike up Diamond Head crater ranks near the top of my favorites list. I experienced an absolutely stunning 360-degree view of the famous Waikiki coastline, as well as great views of the Pacific Ocean. This area (which was where parts of the hit show Lost was filmed) was formed from a single volcanic eruption 300,000 years ago. Diamond Head once served as both a lookout station and a lighthouse, and bonfires burned at the edge of the volcano. During World Wars I and II, Diamond Head served as a military observation point.

David, our Diamond Head tour guide, said the vast majority of plants aren’t native to Hawai’i, and the palm trees and coconuts were brought there during the ancient Polynesian migration. I checked and he’s right about the coconuts. But the rest? Not so much. One type of palm tree is quite native to the islands, and his claim that Oahu owes its beautiful beaches to Australia isn’t true, either. But the sand was shipped from California during the 1920’s and 30’s. (Any sand shipped from Australia was for construction purposes.)

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor
It’s hard to name my top Oahu memory. There were so many! But I think it was making new friends, like Candy, Myra and LeAnne. And being treated to such lovely hospitality while there. From the aromatic leis LeAnne placed around my neck at the airport, to the delicious feast she prepared that night to welcome me. From taking me to wading in the lagoon on Pupukea Beach to showing me some of the best parts of Oahu, including the painted trees (Rainbow Eucalyptus), I’ve learned a lot. Namely, that I want to be this kind of hostess, when friends visit my home. I want to show such genuine love and warmth that my visitors never want to leave. Like I didn’t, when it was time to go.

Nothing about my trip to Hawai’i or my flight home was planned, other than the speech I gave. But isn’t that when you get the greatest gifts in return? Life is about dealing with the unplanned, uncharted and often turbulent waters swirling around us. So plan for the unexpected, and live a little. Or live a lot and go out kicking and screaming. Either way, you’ll be glad you did. Aloha!

Editor’s note: Berry is the executive director of Samantha’s Sanctuary, Inc., a new 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping empower abused women and their children. She invites you to join her when she gives her first TEDx talk in April 2013. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read an excerpt, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout”.

My Big, Fat Hawaiian Vacation or “How to Have Fun While Working Away From Home”

That’s me, in front of one of Hawaii’s many harbors.

The best thing I can tell you is to get to know the locals. They’re key to enjoying yourself while working away from home. This trip has been in the works for almost a year, after I was invited to speak at the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma’s annual Hawaii conference.

IVAT is an organization doing its part to help educate people about abuse, and to help survivors heal. I love being a small part of that, as well as knowing it was my memoir that led IVAT to invite me. With more and more people finally revealing their own abuse, it’s important for as many of us who have the tools and can help them, to do so. That’s what I’m doing now behind the scenes, and what I’ll be doing next week, in a more public arena.

In the meantime, though, I’m working to finish ongoing projects after dark. But during the daylight hours, I’m loving every minute of this Honolulu sunshine! The people are amazing: kind and generous, gracious and hospitable. I wouldn’t experience this as much if I just rented a car and went to see the local sights on my own. That’s why I grabbed some locals–my newest friends–and they’re giving me a tour of this lush, historical island. (To see more photos, check out my Twitter feed, my Facebook page or the “Hawaii 2013” event I created there.)

(Of course, given that a historic trial is underway about an hour from my home back in West Virginia, I’m a little distracted. I keep checking to see what’s happening in the Steubenville rape case, while wondering why one single teenager who saw what was happening didn’t text the photos to police, instead of tweeting about it. I’ll blog about this case tomorrow and then I might–just might–unplug for a day or two.)

This, my friends, is the key to frugal living. And to having a great time during a working vacation.

Editor’s note: Berry is the executive director of Samantha’s Sanctuary, Inc., a new 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping empower abused women and their children. She invites you to join her when she gives her first TEDx talk in April 2013.

Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country.Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read an excerpt, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout”.