Q: I have been away from the great state of Texas way too long, and I am saddened to say that I’ve been living in Tennessee while serving with the U.S. Army at Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division. Right now I find myself deployed to Afghanistan. My question is quite simple: What would be your top five things to do, see, eat, and drink the moment I step foot back on Texas soil? Besides giving mama a big hug, of course? Any and all help is appreciated. Thanks for the great reading, and rest assured that I show Texas Monthly to all my non-Texan buddies as often as I can. They can’t wait to venture out there.
Sergeant Anthony R. Garcia, Clarksville, Tennessee

A: It might be a little shocking to hear this coming from the mouth of the Texanist, but leaving Texas is a fine thing to do. There’s much to see and do out there in the wide world beyond the Lone Star State. Even in Tennessee, the supposed home of country music and the actual home of some fine whiskey (as well as a state university that some dare refer to as “UT”). The Texanist can’t speak to Afghanistan, as he’s never been to that part of the world, but he’s sure that it is, well, for lack of a better word, fairly exhilarating. You have, presumably, seen and done quite a bit over there on the other side of the world, and your sacrifice in service to your country, including but not limited to being away from your Texas home for an extended period, is an admirable endeavor. On a personal note, the Texanist thanks you.

The thing is, while traveling to foreign lands can be a fun, fulfilling, and sometimes fraught exercise, the Texanist, in all his fifty-plus years of life, has yet to experience anything quite so sublime as the feeling he gets upon returning home to Texas after having been away for a spell. In fact, by the Texanist’s estimation, which is undeniably biased as he really hasn’t been anywhere outside of Texas for long enough to consider it “home,” there is no better place on earth to come home to than Texas. Unlike your buddies who hail from places that are not as appealing to return to, you should count yourself lucky in this regard. Are any of your friends from Oklahoma? Can you imagine the dread those poor bastards must be feeling at the prospect of having to leave wartime Afghanistan? The Texanist jests, of course. No matter where your pals are from, home’s going to feel good to them too. And so will that trip to Texas!

Now, to the main point of your note; five top-notch recommendations for things to see, do, eat, and drink upon your return. In pondering this, the Texanist kept thinking back to a response to a letter he got in 2014 from a recently repatriated countryman who was looking for help in compiling a Texas-style bucket list that included a dozen or so superb entries. The top five from that list, if the Texanist were to whittle it down, would probably include dancing the cotton-eyed Joe alfresco at Crider’s on the Guadalupe River outside Hunt; mastering a trick on one of the rope swings at Blue Hole, in Wimberley; paddling Caddo Lake solo; eating a Frito pie from the concession stand at a Fightin’ Bucks football game in Alpine; and, lastly, and very apropos to your letter, not giving short shrift to life’s simpler and less-harrowing pleasures by taking time to just throw a ribeye on the grill as the sun sinks below a faraway Texas horizon.

For some reason the Texanist also included on that list waking up alone and moneyless in Acuña and, against all odds, finding your way back to Del Rio unscathed. For legal reasons, the Texanist is no longer recommending this activity.

But, really, why stop at five, right? Texas is a big and wonderful place, and opportunities of the sort you’re after are endless. So the Texanist would also suggest a grand road trip to far West Texas, which is always a good salve for the soul and which would also be a lot of fun to do with your buddies; gorging on barbecue; gorging on tacos; gorging on Whataburger; researching and compiling your own “Best 27 Margaritas in Texas” list; summiting El Capitan in the Guadalupe Mountains; beachcombing until you find a Lightning Whelk, the elusive state shell of Texas; knocking back some cold beer to the tunes of Ernest Tubb at a favored honky-tonk; making your way through Willie Nelson’s entire catalogue; entering a jalapeño eating contest; visiting the state capitol; sand surfing the dunes at Monahans Sandhills State Park; rafting the Rio Grande or tubing the chilly Comal; enjoying a plate of Tex-Mex; and just enjoying a little well-earned R&R.

Man, oh, man, the Texanist is eager for you to get home, plant a kiss on that sweet Texas terra firma, give your mama that big hug, and have fun partaking in all of the aforementioned. Thank you for your loyal readership. And be safe out there.

Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.