And now for today’s real challenge . . . where have I lived and what was the best and worst part of each place. I’ve lived a lot of different places. You might remember from Day 2 that I’ve moved a lot. Not all of my moves were to new towns, but several were–and there was something beautiful about all of them. So, here are my hometowns . . .
1. Bourbonais, IL — Bourbonais is a “suburb” of Chicago–it’s about an hour south of the city. I was born there and spent the first three years of my life there. Honestly, I don’t remember any of it, but I’ve been back several times and my favorite part of Bourbonais is that it’s close to the city. My least favorite part is that it’s not that exciting of a town.
2. Somewhere outside of Springfield, IL — Seriously, I have no idea where it was, other than it was a house next to a pig farm in central Illinois. I lived there from the age of three to five. My only memory of it was that sometimes we would come home from church and the pigs next door would have broken down the fence and invaded our yard. And then we would chase the pigs around in our church clothes trying to coral them back into their pin. As I look back, this sounds both disgusting and hilarious.
3. Monmouth, IL — This is where I spent most of my childhood. I lived here for a year after living in Springfield, moved away for a year, and then moved back and stayed until I was 17. Monmouth is a tiny town of about 9,000 in northwest Illinois. It is a very quant lil’ place–old store fronts, beautiful old houses, and home to all the best and worst parts of my childhood. I think the best part of that little town for me will always be family. But second best is easily the amazing group of teachers I had growing up. I had so many teachers, especially in high school, who profoundly impacted my life. I think the entire English department of MHS is responsible for me turning out a book-loving nerd instead of a homeless delinquent. The worst part of Monmouth? Definitely it’s size and lack of absolutely ANYTHING fun to do (hence the strange tradition of cruising the 1/2 mile strip as the only form of entertainment).
4. Cameron, IL — The one year we moved away from Monmouth our family lived in Cameron–a village about 10 miles outside of Monmouth with even less people. A lot less. Think 600. Can you even call that a village. Worst part? 600 people. Best part? The stunningly beautiful weeping willow tree in our yard.
5. Nashville, TN — Nashville is where I did my undergrad, and it is an incredibly cool town to live in. The best part was clearly the amazing experiences I had there with people who have become life-long friends. I loved my school–Trevecca. But I also loved late night runs to Krispy Kreme, Pink Poodles at Fido’s Coffee House, SATCO, the tiny Caribbean restaurant with amazing beans and rice, incredible days at Centennial Park, the Old Spaghetti Factory, Shakespeare in the Park, music playing on every street, concerts in tiny venues, and so much more! I honestly don’t think there was anything about that place that I didn’t love.
6. Raleigh, NC — One summer of college I lived in Raleigh. It’s a really beautiful area, and I had a job that I never expected, but found really fun. The best part of my summer was that I spent it with an amazing friend. Worst part was probably the traffic around the Triangle.
7. Kansas City, MO — I went to grad school in Kansas City. It was a tough time to try to acclimate–I was going to school full time, working full time, and volunteering about 20 hours a week at my church. The city was a place of wide disparity. You could be in a neighborhood of million-dollar mansions and then drive 10 minutes and find yourself in a slum. It was crazy. There were some nice things about KC– the Crayola Museum and the Ice Skating Rink. Best of all was my church. Worst part– probably the disparity in economic status, the racism that occasionally roared it’s ugly head, and the state of child services.
8. Washington DC area — I didn’t actually live in the city, but close– I lived in Springfield and Burke and worked in Annandale. This is a great area to live–there’s so much to do, the public transportation is amazing, there’s tons of museums and activities that are totally free, people tend to be more open-minded, and it’s just a cool place to be. I have life-long friends from my time in DC. The downside is definitely the cost of living.
9. Orlando, FL — I lived in Florida for three years, then moved away and came back for another year and a half. It is an amazing place to live — Disney, Universal, cool theaters, beaches nearby, great weather . . . well, you get the idea. The best part though was the people–I made some amazing friends there! The worst thing was probably all the lizards. And tree frogs. And bugs. And alligators.
10. The Middle East — I lived for a year in the Middle East (in a couple of different countries). Despite what you may have heard through the media, the Middle East is really an incredibly great place to live. The people are so hospitable, the food is amazing and fresh, there are beautiful landscapes and treasures, and you’re forced to live a more relaxed life –which is incredibly beneficial for work-a-holics like me. I made amazing friends, whom I’ll cherish forever. And I actually talked more to my friends and family back in the U.S. than before I left the country. The worst part? No bacon. Just kidding. Maybe it was the cost of computers. (I had to replace my laptop while I was there and paid almost $3000 for a Dell. Yikes.) Seriously though, it was an amazing place to live, I loved it and hope I can return one day.
11. Fredericksburg, VA — Fredericksburg is a town about halfway between DC and Richmond. It’s not that big, but has an inordinate amount of shopping and restaurants. In addition to incredible friends, I also loved the downtown area of “the Burg” –it’s filled with really old buildings that have tons of charm. The worst part was probably the stinkin’ cannons they would fire at those ridiculous Civil War reenactments. (Seriously, in what other part of the world do people habitually celebrate a misguided war that they lost?) Those cannons were often fired early on Saturday mornings about 1000 feet from my bedroom window. Ugh!
12. Syracuse, NY — That brings us to the present. I now live in Syracuse–the snowiest city in the country. Which, let me say up front, is by far the worst part of Syracuse. It is winter here for about 9 months out of the year. At least, that’s how it feels. I hate it. I miss my Florida sun. But there are so many amazing things here. Number one is the people–I love the people here, my friends, my coworkers, even my boss. I also love the cool festivals that are always going on here. Seriously. There is a festival here almost every week. A festival for every nationality, time period, food, or other craziness that you can imagine. I also am excited about all the adventures that I haven’t yet tried. Even with all the crazy snow and winter weather, I love it here. It’s a great place to live.
And that’s it in a nutshell–all my hometowns. What about you? What’s the best place to live, in your opinion?
Here’s Karla’s itinerary. We have both lived all over–and even shared a couple of hometowns.