For some, traveling is an endless vacation where the whole world is home and for others of us, traveling is an event and home is more localized. Last week I took the opportunity to head North to Ashland, Oregon with a good friend and two bikes, a tent, hiking boots, a climbing rope and two ice axes for an adventure to a town I had never seen. While I was up there I fell in love with the community and activities that could be experienced there and for a few moments, I thought that I might just be able to move there myself. That thought sparked an interesting exploration into what separates vagabonds from residents and what makes a town a hometown and why SLO will always be my hometown.
In Ashland we encountered numerous vagabonds that were temporary residents of a town that accepted the presence of their vans, campers and wanderlust. Some of them were hippies avoiding the confines of societal norms, others were simply transients looking for their next trip and still others were adventure seekers looking for the next peak to climb or trail to ride. They were all distinguished from residents however, by a freeness. None of them seemed to have a sense of urgency to be any particular place at any particular time. If anything, they were eager to explore whatever caught their fancy in the moment. So let’s say that what defines them is that they live in the moment absent of any boundaries.
On the other hand we have the residents, the people that have established addresses in their town with jobs and distinct roles in their community. Residents come to different communities for different reasons; failed attempts at vagabonding, job relocation, family and the list goes on. What set’s them aside from the vagabonds is that they value the sense of a central community and while they may enjoy traveling, it’s not a lifestyle for them. Residents don’t see the county line as a boundary like the vagabonds do, rather, it’s a welcome mat to their hometown and they bustle around their hometown going to and from places, meeting people and accomplishing tasks gladly. It can be said that residents are defined by their responsibilities to their community and may not be bound to a geographic location but certainly identify themselves with their hometown.
So what makes a town a hometown? In my opinion it’s a sense of belonging, for whatever reason. I proudly call myself a San Luis Obispo native resident because I am comfortable here and my lifestyle allows me to thrive here. I love being out on the trail and the smell of the ocean as well as the gentle hum of industry that SLO has. From my office window I get to see the towns personality as tourists and residents wander the shops beside business owners, government officials, doctors and attorneys rush to appointments. All the while, I can get home after work in 4 minutes driving without big city traffic and go for a jog on a beautiful open space trail without pollution induced asthma.
In Ashland I saw a lot of the amazing things that the community offers to people like me including endless trails, gorgeous sunsets, rural and historical beauty and that small town vibe. All of that being said it didn’t feel like home, it felt like a destination. A destination that I can daydream about riding trails in the fall colors and sampling local beer with fellow outdoor enthusiasts while we pretend that we don’t have responsibilities “back home.” Nothing against Ashland but as we drove home last Sunday I got a twitch more excited as we first crossed the California State line then subsequent county lines and by the time we crested the Cuesta Grade… I was anxious and excited to be back home. And as with all of my trips, I felt a little post vacation depression which quickly wore off as I realized, “I’VE GOT HOMES TO SELL!”
So tell me, what makes your town a hometown?