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In the Passenger Seat of My Discovery

by Alesia McNeal about a month ago in photography

A different kind of hometown

"Icky Vicky" The Land Rover Discovery 2

The concept of a hometown is a broad idea. Some people find solitude in the places they were raised, others in the places they found along the way. But for some of us, the hometown idea is not only a hard one to grasp, but a hurtful one to think about.

Mural near where I grew up in Edmonds, WA

I grew up 30 minutes north of Seattle, Washington in a suburb called Mill Creek. In the 18 years spent there I made friends, got my heart broken, and worked through high school and college. I knew it wasn’t where I would live forever, but I still managed to find comfort in the familiar streets. By the time I reached my 18th birthday, the home I thought I had began to crumble beneath my feet. A turbulent relationship with my parents soon turned toxic, and somewhere between the lines of teenage hormones and adult responsibilities, I found it best to move on from the place I had come to know so well.

View near Wenatchee in Chelan County, WA

Leaving the only place I’d ever known for an uncertain future felt exhilarating and terrifying simultaneously. I moved in with my boyfriend, who I had only known for three months at the time, and somewhere along the way I gave up on the idea of finding a home. We’d settled down in the small city of Wenatchee, Washington. The valley views and Columbia River access were enough to leave me content for a while, but eventually my heart ached for a familiar feeling. I found that feeling in the Summer of 2020.

In the midst of a global pandemic and faced with cabin fever from, what was at the time, a six month long quarantine, I decided that I had spent too long cowering behind my comfort in dissatisfaction. The sting from knowing I had wasted so many of my younger years being content with monotony felt like a punch to the gut. Passions withered away with each passing day, until finally I had enough.

All packed up

With what little money there was and all the spirit I had left, we packed the car and hit the road. One hour turned into two, turned into four, turned into six. With each second that passed I felt the departure of my sorrows and ushered in something else - excitement. That first day on the road felt like a savior to my soul in a time where nothing else could go right. And finally, after over 400 miles and several side-of-the-road bathroom breaks, I could see a break in the trees, and just beyond the curve of the road was a sight I’d been longing for: the ocean.

My fiancé and our two dogs, Lucy and Tony, on Beverly Beach in Newport, OR

I ran to the beach as soon as the car was parked. The tent could wait, my snarling stomach could wait, but I couldn’t. I felt the sand melt between my toes and the sight of kites off in the distance added even more glory to the sunset. The salty air slapped me in the face as if to say, “what took you so long?” Watching the sunset over the waves that first night felt like something out of a dream for me. I closed my eyes and whispered mantras of positivity and hope. I put words into the universe and hoped they would someday find their way back to me. Right then and there, I knew I had found my home.

But despite what you may think, my home isn’t the beach I sat on. It isn’t the sand or the ocean, as much as they do have a way of healing my sorrows. I knew that home, for me, wasn’t a stationary place.

Somewhere in the mountains in Washington

Home was in the adventure, in the unknown. I spent the summer exploring every corner of the Earth I could, with the littlest budget and the biggest aspirations. I wanted to see any and everything there was to see. Home was in the waves of the ocean and the crickets of a riverbed. I found home in the singing of the trees between gusts of wind and random gas stations in towns I’d never heard of before.

Me and fiancé at the end of the 9 mile Lake Valhalla hike in Washington state

And in between all those places, home was in the passenger seat of my Discovery. Watching my fiancé’s hair fly in the wind, us holding hands in the sunroof. Home was in the car I had bought a year earlier for $1,500 and could never be sure if it would get me where I wanted to go. But, hey, at least it has leather seats.

The top of the Hidden Lake hike in Lake Wenatchee, WA

The in between was the most amazing part, if you ask me. Seeing places pass by out the window, watching people go about their lives as we drove through towns. There was as much joy in the journey as in the destination. From my passenger seat I saw my dogs stick their heads out the back windows of the car and wag their tails like their lives depended on it. But most importantly - I got to see myself become who I was meant to be. I saw myself smile and laugh. I got to experience what it was like to be free for the first time in a long time.

Ready for the next adventure

It’s not a hometown, per say, but it’s my home. The comfort some may feel in familiarity, I find in mystery. I hope that one day I get to be home forever, bouncing from place to place in a bus or a trailer, only settling down when I find a remote piece of property where I can watch wildlife pass by my front windows at night. But until then, my hometown remains a 20-year-old unreliable hunk of junk that I couldn’t love any more than I already do.

Decorated and ready to go

photography
Alesia McNeal
Alesia McNeal
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Alesia McNeal

An outdoorsy girl with a spooky side

22-year-old blogger and photographer

Follow along with my adventures - Instagram: @livinglikealesia

See all posts by Alesia McNeal

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