“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Pratchett
Every winter I see it on my social media feeds. The posts accompany dozens of likes and comments of solidarity and agreement, except from me. Instead, I’m often boggled how so many can spend their lives living here and not appreciating where they are and what’s around them. I’m left confused as to why they don’t take advantage of the absolute infinite variety that their area has to offer them. In fact, my heart breaks for the people who are missing what’s right before their very eyes. They’re itching to get out of a place they don’t even know and haven’t even explored in full, nor ever could in a lifetime.
“I’d give anything to be in California right now.” “Really considering moving to Florida.” “New Jersey sucks, it’s the worst state ever.” The posts go on and on…
And as I trek the snow-laden beaches with the most magnificent sunsets, breathe in the matchless salt air that smells unlike any other salt air in any other part of the country and the world, I wonder what that Facebook chatter is all about. I guess they have never spent a day photographing at Island Beach State Park in the dead of winter or the abandoned barracks up on Sandy Hook on a Fall morning. I wonder if they’ve ever gotten lost in the Pine Barrens or soaked in the beauty of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on a Summer, Spring, Fall, or Winter dusk.
Having been to almost all 50 states and multiple countries in Europe and Africa, I will still say that the northeastern United States is by far one of the most unique and beautiful places to have the privilege of being born and living.
A few days ago I walked the banks of Lake Eola in downtown Orlando while a blinding sun beat down upon the glittering water. From Jacksonville to St. Augustine, Daytona to Miami and all the way down to Key West, my Florida exploration couldn’t have occurred at a better time than brutal January. Back home in the northeast, frigid temperatures plummeted and icy air smacked faces coming up from out of the Philadelphia subways, swirling a snowy dust down the Ocean City boardwalk. But there in that southern peninsula that stretched out into the Gulf of Mexico, I was wearing shorts, wiping a light sweat from my brow and re-adjusting my sunglasses. I was happy. A taste of summer in the dead of winter. But after a month of traveling, from Ohio to Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, I was actually looking forward to putting on jeans and warm socks, zipping up my leather jacket and wrapping a scarf around my neck.
“But I do wonder if a down-easter, sitting on a nylon-and-aluminum chair out on a changelessly green lawn slapping mosquitoes in the evening of a Florida October– I do wonder if the stab of memory doesn’t strike him high in the stomach just below the ribs where it hurts. And in the humid ever-summer I dare his picturing mind not to go back to the shout of color, to the clean rasp of frosty air, to the smell of pine wood burning and the caressing warmth of kitchens. For how can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?” – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
I have travelled all over, lived from Kentucky to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore. Cities like San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Nashville, Boston, Montreal, Quebec City, St. Augustine, Las Vegas, Toronto, Seattle, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Portland, London, Paris, Madrid and Nairobi have left me with deep, unquenchable wants, yearnings and lovesickness. I have imagined my life in so many places, wondered what it would be like to live here and there. But in the end, I think of the enormous, matchless, unrivaled blessing it is to call the northeast my home.
No place else in America or even the world has such an immensely dense and infinite variety than the sacred stretch of Megalopolis – from D.C. to Boston. And smack-dab right in the center of all that action is still what I believe, after all of my immense traveling, America’s greatest city, the birthplace of liberty and the country itself: Philadelphia.
Where else can you have breakfast in Washington and dinner in Manhattan? Where else do you have six major cities at your fingertips, beautiful countryside, spacious mountain ranges and (I don’t care what anyone says) some of the most beautiful and unique beaches. From Sandy Hook to Cape May, from Coney Island to Montauk, from Lewes to Virginia Beach and the Chesapeake Bay, the northeast triumphs and reigns as supreme beast over anywhere else.
Those who long only for an escape have either not traveled enough to appreciate where they’re from or where they’re living, or they haven’t adventured, explored, or fully grasped their surroundings and all of what’s available to them. Most likely it’s a combination of the two.
Unlike anywhere else in the U.S., we have the oldest and most exciting history. From the signing of the Declaration of Independence on 5th and Market Streets in Philly to decapitating a portrait of King George with a cannon ball that revolutionary war soldiers fired through the window of Nassau Hall in Princeton. Where else can you explore the nooks, crannies and dives of a major city to the quiet forests, mountains and beaches and shore towns, all within one day? And, to top to all off: the chance to experience them all throughout the seasons.
I’m hard-pressed to find anyone who’s more plagued with wanderlust and a need for travel than myself, but calling the northeast my home is nothing short of a divine honor that I owe to fate.
Your life has a plan. It’s determined by the thoughts you create and the decisions you make. No matter who you are or what journey you are on, there is always another window or outlet. Sometimes you have to break glass to see what’s on the other side. Go discover someone new, look at something different, create the life of your dreams.