confessions of a hometown tourist

I’ve been in a pit of dispair little bit of a funk over the last few days. Between already fighting a vitamin D deficiency and seasonal affective disorder, cold, dreary weather and being back in the office after the holidays, it’s been a challenge to bring up my mood in the first place. Pair that with being in the midst of Whole30 and seemingly all of my friends traveling or getting ready to travel (including my boyfriend) – I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit of a monster to be around. I apologize, but I’m doing my best okay?

I looked down at my watch this afternoon and saw that it’s currently 65° outside – man, I love the South – I had had enough and decided to take a break. And away from the office this time.  I tend to get caught up in my work, and I have a hard time saying no. I eat lunch at my desk, I take phone calls while I’m eating, and work straight through lunch. Yes, I’m working on it, but old habits die hard. But, not today. I peeled myself out of my desk chair, and took myself down to the coffee shop I’ve been wanting to try.

Maybe it was the sunshine and fresh air. Maybe it was the steamy mug of coffee straight from Papua New Guinea. Maybe it was being able to be the one asking the questions, even if it was just “Do you recommend chemex with this roast?”, and then being able to sit down and enjoy that damn mug of coffee. Whatever it was though – talk about one major (and much needed) reality check.

I might not be headed to Italy/Spain/Ireland with LJ next month, or planning a beach trip getaway to break myself of these winter blues – and that’s okay. I might still be a glowing a little green with envy, but it’s okay. I’ve already written (in pen) trips to Orlando, Panama City, Charleston, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Gatlinburg in the next few months. Not to mention penciling in an (my first!  … excluding Canada) international trip this fall. AKA, time to quit my whining and belly achin’ for a minute or two.

I’m only human though. I’ve never been a homebody, and I get restless when I’m not seeking adventure. But, if sitting in that coffee shop with the latest library book reminded me of anything, it’s how much fun it can be to be a tourist in your own city.

“I love to walk a city, whether I’ve been there once or a hundred times before.
It’s amazing what sort of inspiration you’ll find when you steal a second glance.” — Erin Hiemstra

Growing up in a small town, there wasn’t exactly a ton of “exploring” to be done unless you got creative. Granted, even still many of us ended up having the same ‘spots’ but I found my solace at one of the less-frequented boat launches at Lake Wilhelm. There is something so calming about driving down a dirt road, turning your car straight into the woods, and spending some quality alone time next to the water. It is still one of my very favorite places to go when I make it home (except in the winter!) Funny how places stick with us.

That need to explore followed me to Louisville, where I was constantly on the hunt for new places to try. It wasn’t hard to find new places when you’re not only living in National Geographic’s #1 Food City in the WORLD (don’t believe me? check it out for yourself) – but also in a city literally overflowing with culture and diversity. I could spend an entire lifetime in Louisville and still not see and do everything I want to see and experience.

That very same need to explore followed me 500 miles to North Carolina – where it took a little bit of a different form. While I lived in Greensboro, I continued my love for coffee shops and quirky places off the beaten path, but along the way I developed a love affair for hiking.

I made the short trek up Occoneechee Mountain more than few times, and spent my Saturdays with climbs at Table Rock, Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock just to name a few. I’ve always been a salt water soul, but there is something about the stillness and pure peace that you only find on the top of a mountain that has helped me to find myself in ways I never knew were possible.

When I first moved down to South Carolina, I found myself adventuring all the time – much thanks to a job with an extremely flexible schedule. I explored parks, coffee shops, even visited Pretty Place Chapel, which had been on my bucket list for quite some time. I climbed mountains, asked for local recommendations from store owners, and soaked in absolutely everything that the Upstate and Asheville area had to offer that I could. But then, corporate America came knocking on my door, and a 7:30-6 schedule made exploration a little bit more challenging. (Read: pretty much next to impossible.)

I have mentioned a few times that I want to make 2018 a year of growth, and today I realized remembered that growth doesn’t always come in big “A-HA!” moments. More often than not, the seeds of some of the biggest personal growth are planted in coffee shops and on city sidewalks. They are planted on rooftop bars and in biergartens. In museums and community theaters.

Luckily for me, Spartanburg is full of all of those things. One of the slogans (yes, they’re cheesy. yes, every city has them.) here is “love where you live” and I’m making that my personal mission. People asked me all the time when I lived in Louisville if I grew up there, and my answer was always, “No. I just dove in head first and haven’t stopped exploring since.” And I think it’s time for me to make that same commitment here in South Carolina – specifically in the Upstate, but in the surrounding areas as well.

The coffee shop I visited today may not be a café in Paris, and the biergarten may be on Main Street instead of Munich, but they’re worth discovering. Table Rock and Chimney Rock may not be Mount Everest or Kilimanjaro, but they’re worth climbing. These small, quiet moments may not be the big moments full of exciting travel, but they’re still worth living to the fullest.

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it.
I want to have lived the width of it as well.”

I feel a little better than I did when I stepped through the door of Little River Roasting Coffee Bar this afternoon.

Maybe it was the sunshine and fresh air. Maybe it was the steamy mug of coffee straight from Papua New Guinea. Maybe it was being able to be the one asking the questions, and then being able to sit down and enjoy that damn mug of coffee.

Or maybe, it was taking a breather and a step back to really put things back into perspective. But, you know, just maybe.

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