For fall break this year, I hit up the most popular place for Duke students to get away, excepting D.C.: Asheville, N.C. While promises of hiking and seeing the Biltmore seemed appealing, my chief reason to go stemmed from the desire to wear a sweater without having to worry about heatstroke by midday.

There were many highlights of the trip: the fall foliage (the one thing I really miss about New England), finding a real-life functioning video rental store, and, oh yeah, seeing a bear run across the Blue Ridge Parkway right in front of our car. But the one event that sticks out most to me is our Monday night at the Grey Eagle.

This fine establishment, while usually used as a Taqueria and music hall, was transformed on Monday nights into a contra dancing space. That’s right: the event featured a caller, a live band, the whole deal. The space was filled with older regulars, couples, and a few first-timers. My friends and I arrived just as the beginner’s lesson was ending, meaning we had no chance of keeping up with the more experienced dancers.

Don’t get me wrong: I do love to dance, in larger group environments, when nobody is really watching me. Apart from an ill-advised tap and jazz class in fifth grade, I had no experience with real dancing, especially dancing with a partner.

We only knew about contra dancing from an Asheville tourist site of questionable quality, and when we walked in and only saw a few older people milling around, we ducked outside and held a spirited debate about whether or not to go in. In the end, not wanting to be cowards won out, so we walked in.

After a brief introductory lesson, the night kicked off with the band picking up their instruments and the caller beginning to call out moves I had never heard of. The next hour passed in a blur of twirling, accidentally bumping into people, and saying, “sorry!” to whatever partner I had at the present moment. Despite discovering that I had literally no dancing talent, I enjoyed myself. The live music was catchy in a small town sort of way, and the dances, when I could follow along, were fun to try out.

Apart from the dancing, looking around at the regulars of contra dancing was also fascinating. Sure, there were plenty of newcomers, both single and in couples, but it was clear who came there every week. They danced better than everyone else and formed a sort of rhythm with each other as they twirled around the room.

Even though we were only in Asheville for a total of four days, it was enlightening to be able to be a part of something so central to some people’s lives. We were just passing through, but some participants spent months or possibly years learning how to do dancing that is much more difficult than it seems.

What really stuck out for me for fall break this year was having the opportunity to really appreciate a different part of the country. Despite having studied at Duke for over a year now, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to experience different parts of North Carolina, or break out of the “Duke bubble” if you will. Monday night at the Grey Eagle, I was able to appreciate a culture that I would never likely have experienced otherwise, having barely even heard of contra dancing before we went.

Last year, fall break served as a break from the hectic atmosphere of Duke. I took full advantage of laying on the couch and watching entire seasons of shows on Netflix. This year, I couldn’t help but start thinking of how little time I had left at Duke, despite only being a sophomore. How many times in my life was I really going to have the opportunity to pack some of my best friends up in a car and drive to paradise? Was it better to decompress from Duke by napping the day away, or was it worth it to make some memories stronger than any twist ending on Netflix? I decided dealing with homesickness for a little longer would be worth getting to explore a part of North Carolina that I had always wanted to visit.

Did we stay longer than an hour? No. Did we master any part of contra dancing? Not even close. But, separately from making for a decent Instagram post, it is one hell of a memory.