Suburban Ohio is a hard place to flourish.
Just outside the capital city, flat plains stretch on in bone-chilling monotony for several gray months of the year. The clouds churn and broil in the spring, falsely threatening to let loose a tornado or a hail storm. Summer can get hot. Like Florida hot. Lighters and ignitions flick on, people drive with (or to) AC to relieve themselves from the heat.
But sometime in mid-September, something changes for a little while. The last of the humidity burns off in the receding summer sun and a breeze sweeps through the whole state. It taints the tips of all the leaves and sends families out to pluck pumpkins by their roots. All of Columbus is dusted in crunchy orange and red leaves that have fallen on its streets and pathways. Drive down any back road in the through the beginning of November, and you’ll quickly see the magic, too.
But it doesn’t last, because it can’t. And those other months of the year are measured in dull cycles of weather patterns. I know this because I spent my whole life trying to leave. I had some pretty good reasons for it, too, that had nothing to do with weather.
Now I’m gone, and I used to think I left because I hated how Ohio had nothing to offer. But I recently returned for the longest visit I’ve had since I left, and being there reminded me of something I think travelers sometimes forget.
It doesn’t matter if you have a passport with fifty stamps or zero. No matter where you are tonight, tomorrow will begin with the same person who fell asleep in bed the night before: you.
You take you wherever you go. You take your boredom, your prejudice, your preconceived notions. It’s much easier to ignore them when you first explore a new place, but in time, routine will settle, you will find comfortability, and you will suddenly, inexplicably, find yourself feeling bored, tired, or ready for new scenery in Prague, Johannesburg, Bangkok.
It doesn’t matter. Homesickness, anxiety, anger and resentment are carry-on baggage. If you’re running to hide from something, it will find you every time.
It wasn’t Ohio that was boring and monotonous. It was my attitude about it. I understand now that you get out what you put into a place. It doesn’t need to be a secluded rainforest or the origin of civilization to be interesting. You don’t have to be at the top of a skyscraper to see the beauty in the city at your feet.
All it takes to find entertainment, new friends, unfamiliar places (and maybe even happiness) is the courage to take the first step out the front door. No matter what season, no matter what city: it is, and always will be, what you make of it. Happy travels.