Reina-Shay Broussard
That Crazy Aunt

That Crazy Aunt

In July 2017, I embarked on a year of adventure. I stayed two weeks at a time with 27 different people over the course of one year and one month. My number one objective during that year was to complete my thesis, which was a novel, in order to complete my degree in creative writing. I’m happy to say that I achieved that goal, and I graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing, editing, and publishing in May 2018. It was my original intention to write a blog about my travels that could maybe someday be turned into a book. During that year I was also working as a freelance editor, so between writing my novel, freelance editing, and engaging with my wonderful hosts, I just didn’t have the time and energy left over to write a weekly or regular blog. I did chronicle much of my travels at my Facebook page That Crazy Aunt, though I see now that I lost a bit of steam regarding posting pictures in the final months of my adventure.

Map of the first three months of my Crazy Aunt Year of travel

When I first came up with the idea to reduce expenses by staying with friends so that I could free up my time for writing, it wasn’t really my intention to travel all over the country. I’ve had more opportunities than most to travel outside of the United States, and I had often joked that I had been more places outside of the US than within. As it turned out, I have wonderful and generous friends and family willing to host me and who live all over this country, so by the time my year was complete, I had traveled to or through 25 new states that I had not been to before. In the first three months, I traveled north to Illinois and Wisconsin, south through Colorado to Arizona then California and north again to Washington. Heading back to Texas, I went through Montana and again through Colorado to New Mexico before resting in the greater greater greater Houston area for the winter. Since the Houston area is home to me, I had quite a few friends in the area willing to host me, and I wasn’t interested in colder climes throughout the winter. In June, I ventured off again in my alien green Kia Soul, aptly named Roswell. After visiting yet again my beloved Colorado, I traveled north to Illinois again and Michigan, east to upstate New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, then to Washington, DC, and Ohio and through Kentucky on my way to visit family in Louisiana and finally back to Texas.

The things that were wonderful about this Crazy Aunt Year are challenging to name as they were mostly about the people I encountered and the relationships that were deepened.

What a whirlwind year! Moving every two weeks was a bit exhausting, and I’m not sure I would recommend it unless one has plenty of energy and an extraverted personality, two things I don’t really possess. But then again, my unique, flexible personality made nearly all of my stays pleasant and enjoyable. Every new arrival was exciting and welcoming. Because I was working on my novel and as editor, I told my hosts that I would be busy. I invited each host to think of one or two places or experiences that I simply must not leave their town without visiting. Many of my hosts had a close friend they wanted me to meet over lunch or coffee, as well. Very little of my year was spent doing touristy activities, but when I realized I would be driving in the vicinity, I did make a detour to visit Niagara Falls. The things that were wonderful about this Crazy Aunt Year are challenging to name as they were mostly about the people I encountered and the relationships that were deepened as a result of living with someone longer than what is usually comfortable for a houseguest but ended just before it started to feel like we were roommates. At the end of every visit, I didn’t want to leave but had to force myself to continue following the plan I laid out. My hosts usually didn’t want me to leave, either. One of the most affirming things I heard from one host as I was preparing to leave was, “When you come back this time next year, we can…” I am so grateful to each and every one of my hosts who made this journey possible and gave me space to finish my thesis.

February 11, 2021


I’m That Crazy Aunt. Are You?

(November 14, 2017)

I’ve always been a little different. Introvert. Dreamer. Overweight bookworm. As a child, I was an avid reader. My favorite character in various novels was “that crazy aunt.” You know the one—the world traveler who comes for a visit and makes a bit of a splash or offers some wise advice that changes the course of the story. She was the character I looked up to and secretly wanted to be.

You know the one—the world traveler who comes for a visit and makes a bit of a splash or offers some wise advice that changes the course of the story.

World Traveler

My world travels began when I was only nine years old and lived in Singapore for two years with my family. A friend of mine from middle school recently told me that she felt a little intimidated by me when I returned. There I was—a world traveler—and she had never left the suburb of Houston where we grew up. I didn’t think I was all that different, but my tendency to an open-minded approach to life had been birthed by my experiences. It’s difficult to pinpoint any particular knowledge or behaviors I gained, but living outside of the USA definitely broadened my perspective.

A summer working in Aberdeen, Scotland; a two-week tour through Europe; a year studying in France; a week white-water rafting in Costa Rica, and four years teaching in the Philippines—I started telling friends that I had been to more places outside the US than inside and that I’d like to rectify that some day. Beginning this adventure with That Crazy Aunt has allowed me to see parts of this country that I’ve never been to before.

Traveling, to me, though, is about more than moving about geographically. It may sound a bit cliché, but I see my life as a journey of growth. Willingness to change and learn keeps me young and vibrant. I hope I never grow too old to embrace the opportunities that life brings me to be more and the best of who I can be.

Wandering Seeker

I’ve never lived in the same place or worked at the same job for more than four years in a row. I didn’t set out with the intention to live such a wandering life, but I seem to have a gypsy soul, so I’ve embraced my inner calling. Each of my moves has been prompted by feeling drawn to something more—opportunities on offer that would expand my experience and my life in some unique way.

I’ve been a teacher for most of my working career. I taught English as a second language to middle school students and young adults for many years. Teaching ESL allowed me to apply my creativity in making a difference for students who had a practical need to learn and practice the native language that I have a love for and expertise in.

My father once told me that he expected me to be a life-long learner—a student of life—and this is true about me. I love learning! So, I went back to school. And then, did it again.

I have a Master’s degree in oriental medicine from the American College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, am a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist in Texas, and ran my own practice for three years in The Woodlands, TX. More recently, I’ve been working on a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, publishing, and editing at Sam Houston State University, where I taught freshman composition and technical writing. I’m “all but thesis” on the MFA and am working to finish my creative thesis—a contemporary novel about the goddess Fortuna.

What’s next for me? I’m not sure yet, but I’m looking to channel my talents and passions into making a difference in the world.


I am an aunt, of course. My 21-year-old nephew and 15- and 17-year-old nieces are dear to me, and I take my role as an aunt seriously. When they were younger, I spent time with them as often as I could. As teenagers, their lives are busier, but I hope they know they can always turn to me for help or connection.

I’ve also been “auntie” to the kids of a number of my closest friends. I’ve been present at four births, supporting my friends through their labor and deliveries. Not having children of my own, I’m happy to adopt as many nieces and nephews into my life as will allow me to do so.

When I was a child, my aunts were important friends and role models for me. I appreciated having adult mentors in my life other than my parents, and I think most children can benefit from the same—a sounding board, someone to confide in when parents don’t seem to understand, a friend who sees the best in them and their potential. I hope that I have contributed something special to all the kids’ lives that I’ve touched.

Maybe A Little Bit Crazy

Maybe, I’m not really all that crazy. I’m not hyperactive or an attention-seeker. I’m not nonsensical or unreasonable. I’ve lived most of my life just on the fringes of normal, enough not to get sucked into the treadmill of materialism and superficial success. I’m not mainstream, but you might not be able tell that just from looking at me. Once I get a chance to share what matters to me, though, it becomes clear that I have some big, crazy ideas. Big, crazy ideas that inspire people to make the most of what life has to offer and turn dreams into realities.

I have some big, crazy ideas. Big, crazy ideas that inspire people to make the most of what life has to offer and turn dreams into realities.

Are You That Crazy Aunt?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “that crazy aunt” means to me, and it’s not just about me. That crazy aunt is someone who might have eschewed a traditional, mainstream life to seek out adventure, build a career, or find personal creative expression. That crazy aunt represents a type of person we need in the world—one who thinks outside the box, asks unique questions, and encourages young people to dream and reach for the stars. That crazy aunt doesn’t even have to be an aunt—or female for that matter. Whoever you are, you can be that crazy aunt, too.

Did you have that crazy aunt in your life? Do you see yourself as that crazy aunt? What does that crazy aunt mean to you? How can that crazy aunt be a role model for all the young dreamers out in the world looking for someone to believe in them?


I’m Not an Adventurer Yet. Are You?

(November 29, 2017)

My Social Adventure

“Why is she doing this?” my friend’s incredulous husband wanted to understand the motivation behind me setting out on this social adventure, staying two weeks at a time with 26 different people for a year. “She taught 10th graders for a year,” my friend told him. It’s as good an explanation as any. As much as I love kids and teaching, I found 10th graders especially challenging to connect with in the classroom. I needed something more than to spend my days trying to convince 10th graders that they want to learn.

I have a tiny obsession with tiny houses. Over Christmas break, I watched the film, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things from The Minimalists, which clarified my interest in the movement and its ideals. I spent my spring break vacation outside of Austin, TX visiting two different tiny house communities—the Community First! Village and another advertised through airbnb—where I was impressed by the display of living community that I experienced. I returned home with a renewed commitment to minimalism: Reduce my stuff and reduce my expenses. Seek out a job that would be a better fit for me, my skills, and my passions. Finish writing my thesis. I knew I needed a change.

A Crazy Idea

Maybe I’d look for a nontraditional living situation, renting a room in someone’s house. I reminded myself to remain open to ideas beyond the boundaries of my day-to-day thinking. A friend invited me out one evening to enjoy Pasta-bilities, an incredible pasta bar of gustatory delights. Well, maybe the energy of possibility touched me—I joked that maybe I’d be “homeless by choice.” Then suddenly what popped out of my mouth was, “All I have to do is find 26 people to stay two weeks at a time with for a year.” She immediately responded, “And you can blog about it!” Truth-bumps ran through my body.

The next day, feeling quite unsure of myself, I told one of my closest friends about this crazy idea of mine. Funny thing, though, she didn’t think it was all that crazy; she invited me to stay with her for two weeks. And the next day, after telling another dear friend, she also invited me to stay for two weeks. Not only did none of my best friends discourage me, but they encouraged me by inviting me to stay with them for two weeks. Before I knew it, I had ten friends who had invited me to stay with them. Then, my Facebook post announcing my plan got me nine more responses in one day! Invitations have continued to trickle in. In fact, I currently have 29 people on my list! Who knows how long this might continue?

When we are willing to go without our accustomed comforts, we can discern what we truly need in life and what we can live without.

Home Free

I understand that my privileges in life make me able to consider being “homeless by choice” without facing the potentially dangerous circumstances faced by the homeless and disadvantaged. I am tremendously grateful for having friends and family who are willing and able to extend their hospitality and generosity toward me. Without making light of those facing more difficult situations than mine, I see great value in the willingness to give up many of the conveniences that come with a stable living situation. When we are willing to go without our accustomed comforts, we can discern what we truly need in life and what we can live without. Also, detachment is a powerful tool in manifesting the life I want to live—a life of peace and freedom. As my new friend Jane Sibbett recently suggested, I’m not homeless; I’m home-FREE.

I haven’t read The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless in America by Mike McIntyre or The Kindness Diaries: One Man’s Quest to Ignite Goodwill and Transform Lives Around the Worldby Leon Logothetis, though I recently added these two books to my Audible wish list after they were recommended by friends. They recount the adventures of two men who traveled around the US and the world, respectively, depending completely upon the kindness of strangers. I wish I could say I was brave enough and adventurous enough to set out on a trip like those. Maybe I’m not a true adventurer, yet.

Road Trip

As a single, middle-aged woman with potentially serious health issues, I did not feel drawn to the idea of depending on strangers for my shelter and safety; I created an opportunity that felt challenging but doable to me. Through my plan, I get to spend time with people I like and get to know them better through extended close contact. I’ve also met new people along the way—even some who have invited me to come and stay with them for two weeks!

I spent the first three months of this adventure traveling around the country. Bloomer, Wisconsin; Lafayette, Colorado; Prescott, Arizona; San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington—these were the first five locations where I spent two weeks at a time. I didn’t set out with the intent to travel the country, but the first three months turned out to be quite the road trip.

“I have work to do,” I told each of my hosts before I arrived. “I don’t want to be a tourist for two weeks.” What I wanted—and mostly got—was to see my friends’ towns and their lives through their eyes. As I suspected, two weeks has been a good amount of time for each visit; it’s long enough to feel like living rather than just visiting and short enough not to overstay my welcome. But I was visiting places I had never been before and spending time with people I love but had not spent time with in person in a long time.

I was tired after months of selling furniture, culling through all my stuff, and packing up my belongings. Long days of driving to get to each new destination left me feeling fatigued. My body was exhausted from adjusting to changes in the altitude—or from several long years of graduate study and teaching when I barely could get a space of time in which to breathe. I didn’t get much work done, but I spent quality time with wonderful people. I had engaging conversations. I cooked and ate delicious, nutritious food. I was fed. I played. I rested. I meditated.


I drove nearly 9,000 miles and visited 15 states, ten of which I had never traveled to before. I discovered that I could take a cross-country car trip by myself. I discovered this beautiful country that we live in—and that a picture is not worth a thousand views. I discovered mountains—oh, gosh, how did I live so much of my life without mountains constantly on the horizon? I discovered there might be places in this country—other than my home states of Texas and Louisiana—where I might like to live. Most of all, I discovered that still, quiet space within myself that so easily gets lost in the midst of busy lives, work schedules, social engagements, and mundane routine.

I started off by calling what I’m doing a social experiment, but very quickly, I decided it’s more of an adventure—an adventure of the spirit—and one that I am thankful to have embarked on. What qualifies as an adventure might be different for each of us. What matters is trying something new, breaking away from the routine of daily life, and re-discovering oneself.

What qualifies as an adventure might be different for each of us.

How can you create a challenging but doable adventure in your life? It doesn’t have to last a year (though you may want it to), and you may not even need to leave home to achieve it. What if you could stretch the limits of the boundaries you currently live within? What if you could find peace and freedom on the other side of those boundaries?