+ Discussions

Discuss: The Road Away from Home

My Brother and I are very different people.

I am Norman, leaving home to explore the wide world.  And he is Paul, unwilling to leave the fish he hasn’t caught.

This week, I read an article in The Atlantic about a similar brother and sister pair.  The brother slips the chains of his small-town upbringing to seek experiences, culture and fortune in the big city.  His sister stays behind, becomes a teacher, raises a family and never longs for anything beyond the bounds of her front door.  And he thinks she is the poorer of the two, until he returns home and realizes that some things are more important than ambition.

From the time I was in pre-school, I saw my path through life very clearly, and that path led out of the mining town where we grew up.  My Brother never seemed to feel the claustrophobic strangle-hold of small town life, and instead saw our hometown as the gateway to a wilderness that he cherished.

I saw the forest. He saw the trees. And I was desperate to get out of the sticks.

High rise apartments, Chinese food delivery, a job in politics, cocktails with the girls at a fancy bar and a closet full of gorgeous clothes is essentially what I saw in my elementary/high school/college dreams.  But you know what I do in my free time, at 1:00 AM on Saturday when the buzz from the $12 cocktails is wearing off?

I search the Montana realty listing for a small house in the mountains with lots of land.  Water-frontage preferred,but optional.

So when my Brother posts photos of his travails in the great Big Sky, I get a little jealous.  Not because I wish to be riding a snowmobile through 6’of white snowy powder in the middle of April, but because he appreciated what I failed to see:  There really is no place like home.



  1. Christina says:

    I am half a country away from my home and I couldn’t agree more.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  2. T says:

    How timely. I’m approaching my 30s and starting to think about a family, etc. and whether I want to raise them so far from my own parents and family. Complicating the matters, of course, is my wonderful job 2,500 miles away, a boyfriend (and his entire family), and the gaggle of good friends I can’t imagine my life without. Life really is all about compromises.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  3. Liz says:

    I think a LOT of people feel this way… I couldn’t WAIT to get out of my small town and away from all these people I hadn’t spent a day away from since kindergarten (cue Dixie Chick’s Wide Open Spaces). I still love my city life, but boy do I long for everything I once took for granted!

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  4. Anonymouse says:

    Interesting post. It’s similar with my sister and I. Although are hometown is a major city, I always dreamed of going to college in a distinctly different city and the thought never crossed her mind. I now live across the country and my sister still lives in our hometown. Living elsewhere has definitely given me a new found appreciation for my hometown and a longing to live closer to family. I could never move back to my hometown because there are no jobs for the field I’m in, but I would if I could. There’s no reason why we can’t have both the experience away and the resettling back.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  5. MM says:

    I spent 6 years in DC, and loved my job as a Hill Staffer. But I always knew I would go home to my rural home state, and about a year ago I really started to feel the pull. I moved back in December, taking a job in state government, and everyday I am surprised by just how happy I am to be home. Before I left home, I’d never realized what a beautiful place I lived in – but I have moments every day now where I find my breath taken away by the mountains I used to take for granted.

    When I was thinking about leaving DC, I talked to a lot of people who had the same dream of going home, but they were too scared -or couldn’t see how – to make the jump. Finding a new job that I love involved a lot of hard work – but it certainly wasn’t impossible. And in the end, all those things I was scared of didn’t happen – I’m paid better here, have a much bigger (and more affordable!) home, and actually have time to do the things I love because we work normal hours here – while life here doesn’t have the same exciting moments (no State of the Unions or celebrity sightings), day-to-day life is so much more enjoyable.

    DC was fun, but this is really where I belong. I thought after I came back, I’d feel some regret about leaving, but I really haven’t. Spending those years in DC was wonderful, but now that I’ve done that I can really appreciate being home.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  6. Caroline says:

    Also, the grass is greener on the other side. It’s easy to romanticize small town life if you’re not stuck living in it.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  7. Addison says:

    Great post Belle! I was born in the Midwest but was raised in Texas, spent a 3 year detour in Arizona, moved back to Texas, moved back to a different city in my “home state,” then, most recently, moved to DC to start my career (and no I’m not a military brat, everyone always asks that!) . Like you, I was born in a very small town, one which my parents left as soon as possible, wanting my brother and me to grow up in a place with more diversity and opportunities. We all call Texas home, even though none of us were born there, because we lived there 14 years and loved everything about the state. Now the four of us are scattered across three states and my parents have only been living in their new state for about 2 months. So while I definitely agree that there’s no place like home, my “home” will always be wherever most of my family is and it will probably continue to change states on a fairly regular basis.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  8. Erica says:

    My time growing up in a small town in Montana, too, was spent fantasizing much like Belle’s. I now live in DC…sometimes I think I miss the peace of my hometown, the beauty, the uniqueness. Sometimes I think how cool it is that I am living my dream, achieving success. I think a previous commenter really nailed it when they said “the grass is always greener on the other side”. Perhaps those of us in DC or another large city need more balance to temper the hustle and bustle of city life? Perhaps the city life is only meant to be temporary for those of us who ached for it years ago…I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that I related to this article more than I’d be willing to admit to the people I left behind in my small town…

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  9. Danielle says:

    I can relate to a lot of people here in the comments. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. I didn’t get as far away for college as I would have liked, so I moved to the Seattle area at 24 and then to North Carolina at 28. I don’t miss “home”–my father still lives in my hometown, but I don’t even have a bed in his house–but I miss my memories. Every time I go home, I drive out to see the house where I spent my first 13 years. I visit my college friends who still live in state and we talk about indefinite plans to all get together again sometime.

    The Seattle area was beautiful but it never felt like home (I lived in a suburb with teenagers and their parents). North Carolina is the closest thing I have right now. I’m happy in a relationship and a job, both of which I’d like to last a very long time. And my mom relocated here and we’ve rebuilt a relationship that was threadbare when I left for college.

    I feel the pull for home, but it’s a smattering of loved ones and cherished memories spread across four time zones.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  10. Chiara says:

    Oh, my… This post really made me think. I left not only my town, but my Country as soon as I graduated to cross the Ocean and land to NYC, where I lived for 3 years before moving to Buffalo. Then decided to come back to my Country – not town.
    Now I have a job and a husband, but I keep feeling the itch to go away. May be I picked the wrong career and life choice, I should really have been traveling through my whole life without getting attached to anyone. I don’t seem to be able to settle anywhere, and trust me, it’s not a good thing.
    PS – my blog is “Forever out of place”. It’s not by chance.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  11. Cynthia W says:

    I can’t say that I’m really attached to the PLACE that I grew up, but I do miss the people who I grew up with. I went back for Christmas last year and it really hit me how much I had missed not being able to watch my best friend’s kids grow up and not being able to hang out with my best buddies much.

    That being said – it isn’t feasible career and money-wise to move back there and I can’t really say that I would do it even if I could. I love Texas and most of my family, including my fabulous niece, live here.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  12. Nellie says:

    Nice, Belle. My grandfather is also from Montana and our family loves A River Runs Through it, so I love the analogy.

    April 26, 2013/Reply
  13. Caroline says:

    This creative writing course might be of interest, it’s an exploration on this exact topic, entitled: ““Home is a Hard Lesson: Writing the conflict between who you are and where you’re from.”

    Perhaps it might offer a chance to those gathered here who are seeking a deeper answer that can only be found within. There’s even a second part to the course, if one go ’round isn’t enough.


    April 29, 2013/Reply