Finding My Way Home

Natalie - Excelsior, Minnesota
Entered on January 4, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: change, place

I believe in travel. I believe in putting your body and your mind in a place where people don’t dress, act, or think like you do. A place where you are either welcomed as an outsider or a place where you are not. A place that forces you to face your cultural core values head on and make you confident in your true beliefs.

I thought I hated almost everything about my cold, snowy Midwestern home state when I sprinted for the sunny southwest three weeks after I turned 18. I’ve spent the last three years exploring and sinking my feet into every single new turf I can possibly get to. In high school, I used to laugh at my hometown and make fun of it from every possible angle. But as soon as I left, I found myself defending and deflating its stereotypes with a passion I had never before felt for it.

When I left to spend a month in England the summer I turned 19, I considered myself less than patriotic. I was having a hard time stomaching the current administration in power, and I considered myself more of a citizen of the world. But I spent the month I was there doing the same thing I did to Minnesota in while living in Arizona, taking pride in my true home. I lived with my friend’s English relatives for a month and found myself not only longing for the familiar of my snowy roots but also taking a pride in them that I never knew I had.

It wasn’t until I was halfway across the world that I realized how much my roots and my culture were truly a part of me, and more importantly, how much pride I really had.

My travels made me redefine my definition of patriotism. I once aligned patriotism, to an extent, with the term “ignorant American.” Now I realize patriotism means taking pride in my birth country and heritage, and loving the snow storms, icy roads and funny accents for making where I am from unique in its own way.

And if it hadn’t been for my spirit to travel outside the familiar and throw myself into the unknown, I never would have been able to see my life from the inside out.