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October 14, 2010

Trail ride home

I still sometimes struggle with the realities of living in a small town. I am a city person and I miss the noises, the hustle, the diversity, the excitement, and the liveliness of a city.

While I can’t say that I dislike life where I am now, I also get overtaken by a strong longing for life as I knew it in Munich or in the other cities of my past. I miss going to the opera for only 8 Euros, I miss the people-watching and the fashion, I miss having a selection of many wonderful restaurants and even more wonderful beer gardens and sidewalk cafes, I miss having the choice of many different parks and beautiful running routes – some that make you forget that you are in a city entirely and others that snake around the Isar river and along busy urban streets full of life and entertainment. I miss that I could not have plans for a Friday night and just jump on the subway from my house, ride it to Odeonsplatz in the heart of Munich, get off and climb the stairs to a most beautiful plaza, then following the crowds and getting swept up in the rhythm and hustle of the city. That the night would be bright and loud and alive.

Meanwhile, life as I know it today…

What makes me most happy in life is being with my husband and our animals – our little family. I could be back in the boonies of Mississippi – a place to which I decidedly never acclimated – but still be happy to come home to the people and creatures I love. But despite knowing this and appreciating that home is where family is, I still can’t help but long for the places that I’ve discovered, loved, and am sad to have left.

So I’m looking for ways to feel alive and happy in the here and now. To live in the present. And as cliché as this may sound, riding my bike has much aided this resolution. Nothing makes me feel even more trapped and isolated than driving alone in a car the same routes to work and home and never really encountering strangers, overhearing conversations, noticing the changing seasons, or making impromptu stops. Riding around town, I look at the houses now all decorated for Halloween, I stop and take pictures whenever I feel like it, I wind around and take impromptu turns and find new routes for getting home. I discover campus and frequent my favorite thrift store, telling myself that I’m just locking my bike up for a minute and only just peaking in. I peruse the used bookstore aisles and watch the leaves turn orange and feel the morning air get colder.

And then I slowly pedal home, park my bike in the driveway, remove my helmet and walk on into our house, where an excited dog greets me and where I am – no matter what – always home.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2010 13:25

    Bless your heart!

    When you’re feeling trapped in a small town, it’s nice to have the internet— now it’s easy to check in on the rest of the world.

    Maybe this is the chance of a lifetime to catch up on great books or save up for travel. Or to ponder deep, philosophical questions.

  2. October 14, 2010 14:54

    Sometimes I think we must live in the same small town, because you are so good at writing exactly how I feel! I’ve lived in my current small town for over six years now (!!!) and when I’m feeling particularly bored or trapped or limited, I think about all the things I’ve managed to accomplish while here. Got a MLS, started running and ran a marathon, played roller derby, started a literary reading series, made the best group of friends ever. Then I only feel marginally bored, trapped and limited. But I still have an escape plan! (That helps, too.)

    I’m glad you’ve found solace on your bike. Running, even though I cover less ground, makes me feel free in the same way. :)

    • October 14, 2010 15:48

      Yes, running is also something that keeps me sane, no matter where I am. But that’s what’s been though here – the lack of really great trails or parks to run through. I hate running just through neighborhood streets. But it’s getting better, I’m finding more routes that I like (cycling and exploring the town helps with that too).

      And yes – an escape plan is very important! :)

  3. October 14, 2010 16:27

    I know just what you mean – at least about longing for another place. Though we live in a city, and arguably a very nice city, I can’t help but yearn for the cities in Europe we have experienced – their history and aesthetic, but also their accommodation of human beings and their relaxed, easygoing atmosphere – the ability to just pop into a cafe at night and sit and have coffee or beers, the less frantic pace of life, and the space in the city to just meander, breathe, and feel open and carefree.

    We can make something which kind of resembles that for ourselves in Portland, but it takes work, and we have to be very intentional about it, because it isn’t the normal way people live. Most people are hurried, must always have something to do or somewhere to be, there is no public space (except parks) which are free of cars where you can just meander calmly (either on a bike or by foot), and in a city of coffee, there are no frigging coffee shops open after 6pm! :)

    There are a lot of amazing things about Portland (it’s a food paradise, for one), but I understand how you feel, in terms of longing for another place :)

    • October 14, 2010 17:45

      Dave – you captured Europe exactly. Those are all the things I love about living there and why I’m constantly telling my husband that we need to move there – we’re keeping our eyes open for jobs abroad for sure. If we move back to Europe, you and Trina will definitely have to come visit! :)

      • October 14, 2010 17:53

        Well, we may have some plans up our sleeves as well… so if you move back to Europe, we may eventually end up being closer to each other than we are now :D And they actually have functional trains there, so visiting shouldn’t be a problem :)

        Just curious, is your husband European as well, or American?

      • October 14, 2010 18:15

        He’s American. He’s been to Romania a couple of times to stay with all of my family there, as well as to Germany, Austria, and Prague, and he really enjoys life there as well. I think he likes many of the things that you’ve listed in your comment and he’s very willing to give life there a try. I’m trying not to get my hopes up until something pans out, but I would LOVE for that to happen.

        Now I’m very intrigued by *your* plans!

  4. October 14, 2010 18:37

    Yeah, everything has it’s pros and cons. One only really appreciates normality when it is gone. However, I also miss the green fields, and forests with the many colorful leaves in fall. Vienna is just grey at this time of the year. And cold.

  5. Jennifer in Scotland permalink
    October 14, 2010 20:16

    You make me want to visit Munich again! I lived in Regensburg as a student and worked in Düsseldorf for 18 months more recently. I loved living in continental Europe and it felt very different in many ways to life in the UK. The street-side cafe culture, easy biking and relaxed pace of life were all very enjoyable.

  6. G.E. permalink
    October 14, 2010 21:44

    I suppose we always think things are greener on the other side of the fence. It is the nature of being human, I believe. I will say that at least you have some lovely greenery and changing seasons to observe, which I would love to be able to see every day. I pretty much see this ( every day from around mid-June through April – though sometimes it is snow covered, so that changes things up a bit. :) The skies are beautiful, but I miss trees because we live outside of city limits (where apparently no trees ever grew or were planted?). Living abroad would be fabulous! My loftiest goals at the present are just to live where there are squirrels, trees, and any sort of civilization closer than 10 miles away. Kind of sad, isn’t it? I’ve lived in big and small cities/towns, and they definitely each have their advantages. Finding the joy in the present can often be the biggest challenge, but it can offer great rewards as well. Learning to love the little things in life becomes a beautiful thing, and perhaps we will appreciate the next stop or step in life even more?

  7. October 15, 2010 01:37

    I live in the tiniest of towns, in South Texas. I would love to see what you can see.

  8. October 15, 2010 01:55

    I definitely feel this post. Had a chance to visit Munich and it is a wonderful city. My wife and I lived for a time in Paris where we taught math. Would love to go back. I liked how Dave stated that European cities are accommodating to human beings. This is so correct; whereas, American cities seem to accommodate cars. This is finally beginning to catch on in the US with the New Urbanism movement.

  9. October 15, 2010 19:54

    So.. just found the blog and absolutely love it! I’m in the opposite arrangement…. living in a city (that is not bike friendly) having just left the small town (where I biked everywhere). Happy to be near family & have a tenure-track job, but sorely missing my a little bit of country life.

    PS: Are those cherries?

    • October 16, 2010 14:11

      Hey Andrea,

      thanks for the comment and welcome to the site! I don’t know what those little red things are but we have so many of them here around campus. Well done on being in a tenure-track job now! Hopefully you’ll start enjoying your new city more and more as you get to know it

      If not, I’ll trade you ;) You can have my Lecturer job in a small town and I’ll take your tenure-track job in the city!

  10. October 16, 2010 14:29

    Wow, this post, S.! I have similar feelings, having moved from Evanston (Chicago-area), which I loved with all my heart, to a small town in Texas (which is growing on me, and I’m determined to make it work, for many reasons). I loved the energy and excitement of living near a big city. I miss the trains and Lake Michigan and Whole Foods and of course all my friends who still live in that area. I do not, however, miss the cold! The warmth of Texas goes a long way toward making me feel happy here :-)

    Interestingly, I did not have a bike in Evanston, but I have one now, and it really makes living in this town so much more fun. I feel like I have access to a lot of fun and beauty with the bike. It’s the best way to get around town!

  11. October 16, 2010 17:03

    I love the fall colors!! I just moved to Arizona and am excited about biking all winter, but I miss all the colors of fall. I just got my first road bike and am wishing I was somewhere with fewer cars so that I could get more used to it. For now I will live vicariously through your blog! Up until a couple of days ago I have been trying my hand at a fashion blog and realized that my heart wasn’t into it. I have started a biking blog and I love it and am excited to explore more blogs out there. I guess you inspired me that way since I have been following your blog since you started. Thanks for all the fun pictures and thoughts to think about.

  12. October 17, 2010 23:32

    I’m happy you discovered: All roads lead to home, and home is where the heart is. That said, I do like living near the city, a train ride away, but still where I can sit out on my front porch and read. I selfishly want the best of both worlds.


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