Where I live, in the West German countryside, I’m not a local. I’ll never be a local, and I’ll only be a resident here for a few years. It’s hard sometimes to feel connected to my current surroundings in a way that just happened naturally in Idaho. I specifically remember walking through the streets of downtown Boise one afternoon, looking down at the paving stones on the sidewalk, and thinking to myself, “This is exactly where my feet belong. I am a part of this beautiful city, and it is a part of me.” And oh, the sound of the river…I miss it dearly. Small as it may be, I know and love the city of Boise intimately.
One of the things I loved the most was the ability to eat and shop locally. There were farm-to-table restaurants, farmer’s markets, local meat markets, dairies, veggie stands, corn stalls by the side of the road, bakeries where they grind their own wheat in the mornings…it was such a simple and yet deep pleasure to have those kinds of options available to me. I also loved that I never turned the wrong way down a one-way street in Boise because I knew them all.
Now I find myself feeling so far removed from that kind of life. First, I can’t go anywhere without my GPS. Secondly, I have a language barrier to consider. When I go to the farmer’s market here in Germany, it’s not the same because I can’t communicate with the vendors in a meaningful way. Most all of the people I encounter are so generous with their effort to understand me, but I can’t help but long for more sometimes. To be understood, literally and figuratively. Translation apps don’t have any suggestions for “heirloom tomatoes.” The products are wonderful, but it just feels different. And it is different. Restaurants introduce the same kind of shallow experience sometimes. I’d love to talk to the server about the menu items and ask about where they come from, how they’re made, etc. But the culture is different in Europe. Waiters are known for their brevity above all else. That’s not to say the food isn’t as good here, or the people aren’t as friendly – what I’m trying to say is that it’s just different. And that’s a good thing in its own right.
After all, I have probably become different. Living in and traveling to places far from home for the last several years has taught me to adapt and appreciate other ways of living life, different point of views, and to look at the world differently. It has been and continues to be a tremendous blessing and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop this life I live now; travel has become a part of who I am. And as thankful as I am for the opportunities I now have to travel and see the world, I’m thankful for having had such a wonderful community back home. It’s true what they say, that you appreciate home all the more once you leave it for a while. Geographically and personally, I may never end up where I started. But I’ll keep trying to belong where I am along the way.