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Travel Notes: Northampton, MA

As I mentioned in my latest journal entry, I'm going to start publishing travel notes here on the places that I visit. These notes will contain anything from short anecdotes to odd experiences to conversations with people that I meet during my travels.

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My first stop on the 2012 USA road trip was Northampton, Massachusetts where I met my friend Jasmine Lamb. Northampton is located in the western part of Massachusetts. I had never driven that far out west, but I wasn't surprised to find that it didn't feel much different than the rest of the state.

Northampton itself is a small but noticeably older town that was settled in the early 1600s. I couldn't decide if I should pronounce it 'north-hampton' or 'nor-hampton' but Jasmine told me later that she always pronounced it 'north-hampton'.

In the downtown area, there were lots of cafes that seemed quite busy and I got the sense that the town was popular with the younger crowd. A little research on Wikipedia taught me that Northampton has a large and politically influential LGBT community and that the city is part of something called the Knowledge Corridor.

After meeting Jasmine in a local cafe and talking over a cup of jasmine tea (ironic, huh?), we walked around town a bit, first through the bustling downtown area and then on an old railroad bed that had been converted into a walking trail.

We talked on a wide array of topics, but one part of our discussion that really stuck with me was a story she told me about her brother: While traveling in a developing country, he learned that amputee children would often outgrow their prosthetic limbs and then need to wait long amounts of time until someone older than them outgrew their prosthetic limb and passed it down to them (that is if they were lucky).

Instead of seeing the problem and just thinking how unfortunate it was, he decided to invent a prosthetic limb that could be adjusted in size to account for the child's inevitable growth. That way, once the child gets a prosthetic limb, it remains the child's limb regardless of their growth.

Such a simple invention and yet he did something that I think few would-be inventors (including myself) actually do: believe in the invention enough to make it a reality and then overcome the discomfort of following through.

It takes more than belief in the idea to make it a reality. Jasmine told me how her brother also spent many years learning other things related to business -- stuff that he wasn't even remotely interested in -- to make his invention a reality. He was committed to creating a solution to the problem he observed and as a result his adjustable prosthetic limbs are now being used by children in developing countries.

My next stop was Saratoga Springs, NY, where I got to fly a small airplane for the second time in my life. This second experience seems to have given me the 'flight bug' and now I'm itching to become a pilot. I'll write more about the experience in my next travel note.

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