It’s the season of spring break and many of us have traveling on our minds. It can be easy, for me anyway, to romanticize places other than home.
I have a mixed relationship with traveling. I would actually love to travel if it wasn’t for the travel. In the future, I will be the first to download the teleportation app our children’s children invent one day. No need for airplanes or long car rides!
Seeing new places and unique people around the world are all rich experiences, offering a different context my soul often longs for, especially as I’m cultivating a creative life. Leaving home helps wake us up, asks us to pay attention, and invites us to be open to transformation.
But if I depend on a change of scenery as my main catalyst for rest, inspiration, or perspective, I’m in danger of cultivating a sour mood towards home.
The truth is we don’t need to be in a different zip code in order to experience a meaningful vacation or a break from the daily grind.
If work, money, or lack of time is keeping you home this spring break season, perhaps you can still discover a getaway for your soul without all the fuss by being a tourist in your own hometown.
Last week John and I went on the best overnight date night we’ve been on in years and we didn’t have to go far to enjoy it.
A few months ago, I saw that Jewel was coming to Greensboro. Her voice served as a soundtrack for my freshmen year of college and then last year I read her memoir, Never Broken. Plus one of our favorite shows, Alaska the Last Frontier is all about her family so of course we decided to snag tickets and make a night of it.
I haven’t always been aware of the types of things I enjoy, even less able to plan my own nights out. Call it a good girl thing, but I spent a good amount of high school and college Maggie Carpenter-ing my way through decisions. Not that I left a lot of men at the altar, just that I wasn’t always aware of what I wanted, what I liked, and who I was.
That’s an important part of the discipline of touring your own hometown. I believe anything can be a spiritual discipline when we recognize the presence of God with us in it. So whether you moved here just last month or if you were born in the hospital down the street – this place is part of who you are now. This place holds your story, at least a piece of it. This is the place where God wants to meet you, for better or worse.
One way to honor the place where you are is to tour it on purpose.
A lot of things came together for our date night – good weather, great food, and lovely music – but most of all I think I enjoyed myself because we found the fun right here in Greensboro.
I picked the kids up from school and took them for a McDonald’s “smoothie” (can we call them that?) I want them to have good memories associated with us leaving for the night. I’m thankful John’s mom lives nearby and was happy to come stay with them for the night.
We checked in to a local hotel and set out on foot for the rest of the evening.
That felt important, walking through our town on foot. You see things you miss just driving through, and spontaneously run in to people you may not normally see.
We spent a little time browsing Scuppernongs, a local independent book store. We didn’t buy anything this time (although last time I was there I snagged a signed copy of Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing).
Can you say The Shop Around the Corner? Because I had to hold myself back from twirling in the aisle and spelling F-O-X.
We sat outside to eat dinner slow, ordered appetizers, entrees and dessert. Is all that food essential to a great night out on a tour in your own hometown? No, but it was a nice treat. Besides, we saved the money we would have spent traveling. Win!
We waved as a former student passed by on Elm Street, then later chatted with one of the girls’ middle school teachers we spotted eating outside a restaurant. We stood in line at the Carolina Theatre with an old friend from church.
And can I just talk about Jewel for a minute? She opened the night with an a cappella version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and then stood there singing for two hours with the simple company of two guitars, an adorable dress, and a voice that could slay dragons and win wars.
We walked back to the hotel after 11 pm which is typically way past my bedtime. But as we walked down familiar streets humming Who Will Save Your Soul, I was deeply grateful for our city, where both beautiful things and hard things have happened.
This is where we live and where our people live. We’re learning to love this place and to receive what it has to offer. In turn, we’re learning where we fit and finding our voice among her people.
In a way I can’t explain, spending the evening together in our own hometown brought out the me in me. And I liked what I saw. Also? If you plan to practice the spiritual discipline of touring your own hometown, might I suggest buying the t-shirt too?
Because we totally did. Why buy a shirt from a place you’ll only visit once? Grab a shirt from your own town and celebrate home right where you are.