The Story of Me & Star Trek – Part 1

As some of you may know, I’m currently filming a YouTube series (possibly soon to become a Podcast!) with my friend Dr. Erin Macdonald, about watching Star Trek for the very first time.


I wanted to expand a bit on why this means so much to me.

I mean, why not just watch Star Trek for the first time quietly on my couch? Why broadcast it to the world?

It’s NOT just because I am of the generation that shares everything.

It’s something that goes much deeper, and that story is what I’d like to share today.

I think I was in Middle School when I first saw Star Wars (not a typo – read on), maybe earlier. I received a box set of three VHS tapes – the full trilogy.


It was a Christmas present, and because my parents were neeeever sci-fi people, even to this day, I’m sure this was the sort of thing where they thought “well, it’s a cultural icon, yeah, the kids should see Star Wars, even though I don’t really know why…”

Little did they know how much I would take to it.

And in case you’re wondering where Star Trek figures into the story – well, give it a minute…there’s a lot to unpack here.

A few years prior to seeing Star Wars, I had the unfortunate experience of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – if that phrase can even be applied to seeing a tv show 🤔

As a young kid I HATED anything scary. To the extent that the preview for “Hocus Pocus” gave me nightmares, and I hid under a table when the movie happened to be shown at a slumber party.

And claymation gave me the willies so I never watched “The Nightmare Before Christmas” until I was 27. Also because “nightmare” was in the title I figured I should just avoid it anyway. (Watch: what I thought after seeing it for the first time!)


(Side note: claymation actually still freaks me out. If anyone wants to try and make me watch Wallace and Gromit…don’t).

I was about 8 years old when I watched my first Star Trek episode – and my last Star Trek episode until my early 30s.

I can still feel the sheer terror of seeing the events of that episode unfold. I couldn’t comprehend how or why anyone in their right mind would want to watch this show. I swore I’d never ever watch Star Trek ever again.

Preparing to watch Star Wars, a few years after the fateful Star Trek incident, armed with stuffed animals and blankets because I thought it was the same thing – I was fully ready to have this just be another movie.

Boy was I unprepared for the effect Star Wars would have on my life.

Part 2 – coming soon! : How Star Wars Changed My Life, and what the heck this all has to do with Star Trek

~ Keep Exploring, Historians ♡


March 2018 Disneybound Challenge, Day 3 – “Fab 5”

Ok, I can’t be the only one who didn’t ‘t realize that Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto are known as the “Fab 5” right? And I consider myself a die-hard Disney fan.

Anyway, moving on…

As I say in the caption, I never really felt much of a connection with these characters and I’m not sure why. Maybe they seem so ubiquitous that I can’t really find a personality or core to connect with.

That said, while I was studying film in college, I got really into animation. And I mean REALLY into it. Disney and non Disney, but the roots of my excitement for the art form and it’s history are in Disney.

I watched Disney documentaries non stop, and devoured all the old films, particularly the shorts.

The sheer innovation of the early days of Disney is astounding. The way the Disney studio tested the limits of animation, constantly striving to improve, see what else was possible with the art form has always inspired me.

“Steamboat Willie” (1928) stands out a mile above the rest for it’s place in animation history – adding synchronized sound to film, just one year after “The Jazz Singer”. Nothing beats watching an inky black and white Mickey steer the boat whistling his heart out, or the perfectly synchronized kitchen scene, banging out a beat on the pots.

My Score: 9/10 – top marks for anchor detail on the shirt, deducted point for not making even one take black and white (face palm).

Instagram score: 31 likes

March 2018 Disneybound Challenge, Day 2 – Disney Sidekicks

Boy they really threw some of the best themes at us right at the beginning! This post could have been so much better I think toward the end of the month after I’d gotten the hang of Instagram Disneybounding. That said, I think it’s the Disneybound post with the most comments so what do I know 😉 .

Lady and the Tramp has always been one of my favorite old Disney films. It’s so beautifully drawn, and the music is just lovely. And the dinner scene is only a liiiitle bit racist, which is kind of saying a lot when it comes to Disney’s early works.

What else are you supposed to do when you have a “newsies” hat (which actually belonged to my Grandfather) and an argyle scarf?

My score: 6/10 – points for lipstick. points deducted for effort…

Instagram score: 54 likes!

March 2018 Disneybound Challenge, Day 1 – Big Hero 6

Day 1 theme for the March 2018 Disneybound Challenge was Big Hero 6 (2014). I’ll admit while I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, it didn’t quite stick with me the way so many others have. I also saw it on a plane, so that could have something to do with it.

This was also the first “official” Disneybound I’d ever done, other than Alice in Wonderland at Fall Dapper Day 2017. So safe to say still getting my feet wet, and well, it’s pretty sucky.

Personal Score: 1/10

Instagram Score: 45 likes…really guys, what were you thinking?


The Anglophile Chronicles – Part 1, Introduction

Hello Explores! Pip Pip! ‘Ello art lovers!*

*Who can guess today’s obscure film reference?

Today I am excited to announce a new series on Exploring Historian: The Anglophile Chronicles.

This is in preparation for a 3 week solo jaunt I have planned through the UK this coming September. (But also it’s because I’m obsessed with all things English, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish…)

My goal is to write 1 post a month. Detailing all things I love about the UK; historical sites I’m excited to see; and my personal journey to hunt down my ancestral roots in Scotland and Ireland.

I’m so excited to bring you along on my exploration!

~Keep Exploring, Historians

Where Zen Lives – Japan and Religion

I’ve never been a religious person.

I’ve always considered myself a spiritual person, but to me that’s a very important distinction.

Visiting Japan last year, I came more closely in touch with religion than I have ever before – from a positive point of view rather than a critical one. Internally I felt a shift as I absorbed the peace and calm of zen buddhism, which permeates the Japanese religious culture.

Before I go further, I must explain what our guide continued to reiterate over our seven days exploring Japan:

“Japanese people love religion” he’d say. “But we don’t ‘practice’ in a traditional sense. We are welcome and open to many expressions of religion. In Buddhist temples you see Shinto shrines, and in Shinto shrines you see Buddhist influences.”

“When we visit other countries,” he’d continue, “We visit religious institutions of that culture. It doesn’t matter where religion happens or how.”

I understood and appreciated all this from a philosophical and cultural perspective but still didn’t feel connected on a personal level.

Until we took a walk through one of Japan’s oldest Zen temples, Daisen-in, in Kyoto.

This traditional rock garden is set up to bring one through all the different stages of life. The gardens are designed to represent birth, life, and death, and as you walk through it becomes clear how cyclical life is and how many common experiences we all share.

What works for me about Zen practice is that it’s based on simple, pure, non idol or restriction-based ideals. The entire religion is based on finding inner peace without strict rules on the “right” kind of peace or the “right” way to find it. It appreciates the individuals path.

It’s about living in the moment. Appreciating the exact time, place, and feel of right now.

“We cannot change passing time. So all we can do is accept.”

– Kozo Yamamoto, G Adventures Guide – Japan

As a chronic over thinker, this is not something I excel at. I try to be spontaneous and carefree, but often anxiety or fear gets in the way. It’s inconvenient, annoying, and frustrating.

Upon returning home to San Francisco, I took myself to City Lights Bookstore in hopes of stoking my interest with some focused and explanatory reading material about Zen practice. Currently I’m reading “Turning the Mind into an Ally” by Sakyong Mipham. Stay tuned for my thoughts in a future post!

~ Keep Exploring, Historians

Emotions Running High – Visiting Hiroshima, Japan

I recently returned from a visit to Japan on a wonderful guided tour with G Adventures. Upon returning home, everyone has asked me my favorite part of the trip. Normally I need a bit of time after I travel to truly asses what my favorite aspect has been.

However this time, almost without hesitation, I’ve answered “visiting the site of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.”

This has been met with some surprise.

Obviously there were many, many incredible experiences. I chanted with Buddhist monks at a Monestary in Koyasan, walked through a beautiful traditional Zen temple, and saw the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, who is believed to have been mediating since the year 806.


But the most intense experience was definitely the privilege and opportunity to pay my respects at Hiroshima. To acknowledge the tremendous and horrific loss of innocent lives at the hand of my country. To not look away from the gruesome photographs and exhibits in the museum. To bow my head over the river where thousands flung themselves, in effort to stop the burns and pain, and drowned.


At risk of turning this post overtly political, in one week the United States will elect our next president. One of our candidates is overly enthusiastic about the idea of nuclear weapons. And I can’t help but feel if he were to take one look at the images of tattered clothes, faces blown off, radiation burns, and read the stories of side effects permeating entire generations, and take a moment to quietly sit among the spirits of so many horrifically lost lives — he might rethink his trigger happy ideals.


At Hiroshima, I witnessed an elderly white gentleman humbly purchase a small paper peace crane from an elderly Japanese man. It was a powerful moment and one I’ll never forget. I watched the acts of war be silently forgiven as they quietly made the exchange.

Visiting Japan was special for so many reasons. But for me, the emotional walk through Hiroshima Peace Park will remain front of mind for a long time.




~ Keep Exploring, Historians

Finishing the Hat – My Encounter With George Seurat

This weekend while on a trip to Chicago, I ventured into the Art Institute. Wandering through, finding my museum pace, drinking in all the incredible works, listening to their stories and backgrounds through my handheld “I’m a tourist” device, and fully entering the zone when suddenly Sunday in the Park by George Seurat appeared before me.

Sunday in the Park

Seurat’s magnificent piece was a groundbreaking moment in pointillism, but I and many others know it from another groundbreaking work: Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.”

The musical, starring Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin in the original cast, tells of the paintings creation – while simultaneously offering a discourse on the act of creation itself. Creativity and the pressure to “come up with something new” are major themes throughout.

Seeing the original work in the flesh, so to speak, was unexpectedly moving. The musical touched me deeply and I had the image of Sunday in the Park as my computer desktop for years. It serves as a reminder of the importance of finishing creative works. As a classic INFP, I have a lot of creative ideas but barely finish anything; or my perfectionism gets in the way and I produce but never publish.

Sondheim’s George Seurat feels his artistic vision is compromised by its presentation to the public  – if it simply stays in a state of incompletion is can remain his – away from critics prying eyes. By Finishing the Hat he thereby exposes himself to others opinions, but also to their praise.

Keeping your work to yourself is perfectly valid, but only if it’s for the right reasons. And it’s important to make a choice though the choice may be mistaken, the choosing was not,” as Bernadette’s “Dot” character (get it? Dot? Point? Pointillism? Genius) gently reminds him.

Sunday in the Park

The experience of finally meeting the real Seurat was profound – as the musical and reality collided to become one in my brain. What a moment!*

~ Keep Exploring Historians!

*(And for my really nerdy Sondheim friends, yes that is an Into the Woods reference).

Where Shall We Explore Today?

We hold the key

Welcome to the Exploring Historian! I’m so glad you’ve found your way here. I’m Samantha and this is my journey to explore the world through travel, art, and history – three pillars that I hope will bring us on an enlightening and enjoyable journey.

On this blog you will find many different things, but ultimately it’s a place where exploration & discovery reign.

Join the journey!