Home can mean so many different things to different people. Some people think of home as the place where they grew up. Others think of it as the place where they are currently living. To me, home is any place that you really love. It’s a place where you feel comfortable and happy. It’s a place where you feel like you belong.
When I think back, I couldn’t even begin to count all of the places I’ve been that have felt like home to me. That is a really incredible feeling. To fall in love with a place you never thought you would even get to visit, and to be accepted by the people who live there, is pretty awesome. Sometimes the place is so amazing on its own that you fall in love with the place. Sometimes the people you meet can make you feel welcome and make you feel like a local. The most special places are the ones where the place and the people both make you feel like you belong.
For six years, I got to live my lifelong dream of traveling across the U.S. with a band. When you get to do something like that, the band isn’t just a band. You spend so much time together and travel so many miles together that you become a family. Throughout my time spent on the road, I reminded myself every day how fortunate I was to be able to live my dream. I have so many incredible memories from that time in my life that I could write a book.
When I take the time to look back at that time in my life, it’s pretty over-whelming to think of all of the places we visited and all of the people I met. In countless places, we arrived and were greeted by a local saying, “Welcome home”. Visiting a city that feels like home makes staying out on the road for long periods of time not only tolerable, but very enjoyable. The first time I ever experienced this was the first time I got to visit the Cincinnati/Dayton area. When we arrived at the club to set up for the show that day, a group of die-hard fans (people I am happy to say are still good friends of mine years later) were waiting to greet us. They knew the “new guy” was going to be with the band for the first time that weekend and were curious to meet me. I will never forget jumping out of the band van and hearing, “Welcome home!! You’re gonna love Ohio. We’re happy to have you here.” They had no clue how right they were about me loving Ohio. Even though Cincinnati was an 18 hour trip for us, I always loved getting to go back and looked forward to it for months before each trip.
Throughout the years, several places became my favorites. The same thing I experienced on that first trip to Cincinnati happened in these other cities. I fell in love with the cities and made some really amazing friends. I was fortunate to make such great friends, but I’m even more fortunate to still be friends with these people, even though I haven’t seen most of them in years. I miss getting to visit all of those places on a regular basis, but, most of all, I miss the people.
Probably the biggest surprise for me was Chicago. Chicago is a huge city, and it gets a ton of negative media attention. My personal experience in that city is the opposite of the image most people have, thanks to negative stories in the news. A lot of it has to do with the specific places I got to visit, and even more of it has to do with the specific people I met. Chicago, to me, has always felt like a massive small town. I think that is the highest compliment I can possibly pay to a city. Millions of people live in this huge city, yet the people I met made it feel like going back to a small town every single time. I always told people in Chicago that I was happy to be “home” again every time we were there, and I meant it. The people made Chicago feel like home. I hope some of the people I met there are reading this right now, because I don’t know if I ever really properly thanked them for how well they treated me and the rest of the band. We were all extremely well taken care of, and I could never thank those people enough. I had always wanted to visit Chicago, but never thought it would happen. To make friends there and to be welcomed into their world was truly special.
I don’t want to make this too terribly long, but I could easily keep talking about other cities that I loved. I’m sure I will talk about some of them in posts sometime in the future. When I look back at my time on the road, I tend to most often think of my favorite places and the people in those places more than anything else. I miss those people and I miss those places. I miss Cincinnati. I miss Chicago. I miss Mankato. I miss Minneapolis. I miss Rapid City. I miss Sturgis. I miss the friends I made in other cities, too. There are just too many to list all of them.
The more time I spent on the road, the more I realized how much I enjoyed being on the road. The saddest day of the week for me was always Sunday when it was time to go home. Before even getting home at the end of the weekend, I already started looking forward to the next weekend on the road. I looked forward to seeing my family and friends, but grew increasingly disinterested in my hometown. I knew that eventually something would have to change. Home should be a place that you look forward to getting back to, not a place that you look forward to leaving.
I now am proud to call Orlando my home. I fell in love with this place the first time I ever visited, and I decided within a weekend on that short trip that someday I would live here. Although I’m no longer traveling every weekend, I still have a place that feels like my home away from home. It’s a place most people wouldn’t expect. My home away from home is now Walt Disney World. Specifically, Magic Kingdom. Most people think of WDW and immediately think of chaos, huge crowds, screaming kids, and stress. For me, it’s a place to shut out the outside world and just relax. It’s a place to take time to think and remind myself just how fortunate I am to live the life that I’ve had. It’s a place where I can just live in the moment and love everything about the joy and magic that fills the parks.
Since I moved to Florida, I have gone back to visit my hometown twice. I enjoy going back to visit, and love getting to catch up with family and friends, but I noticed on both trips that, as much fun as I was having catching up with everybody, I was excited to get back home to Florida. On both of those trips, I found myself spending a lot of time wondering what was going on in Orlando and wondering what I would be doing at that time if I were at home. That, in my mind, told me that I am now living where I should be. I have found a place that I look forward to getting back to when I leave.
So, what makes a place “home”? Is it the place itself? Is it the people? Is it your current life situation? Is it something else? To me, the answer is obvious. Yes!! Home is something different to everybody. It can be anything or any place. It can be a specific place, or it can be any place where you’re surrounded by your favorite people. We all have to find our own place that we’re proud to call home. When you find it, life just feels better.