What makes home feel like home? Home is comfort, familiarity, and a place where we feel safe.

When we moved it felt at times like I was without a home. Not the physical building of course but a place that I could just be. Here, no one knew me. I knew no one. I drove around. I talked to my dog. I waited for my husband to get home from work. I wished for my people across the United States to wake up so I could call them.

My car’s navigation system became my best friend. It spoke to me and told me where to go and made my car ride less lonely.

One day, after speaking with my son on the phone, I recognized that I couldn’t articulate why he would grow to like it here when I was having trouble doing that myself. What did I miss about the place that had always been home?

I missed knowing where to go, how to get there, what I could expect around every corner, what restaurants to go to, what trails to walk and the almost automatic way I ran through my life. One day I decided to buy a map. A tangible, laminated, hold it in your hands, write on/wipe off map. My friendly car nav turned out to be not so helpful after all because I am somewhat directionally challenged and I needed to get my north-south-east- west compass bearings.

Almost every street is lined with trees in the Carolinas. The streets change names even when you haven’t turned. Sometimes you must travel on the 485 which is a circle highway that loops around Charlotte proper. If you do the math you would concur that there was the likelihood I would travel north first to end up at a destination that was actually southwest to begin with. In California, I found comfort in the mere fact that if I got on the 10 freeway and headed west I would be in Santa Monica on Pacific Coast Highway along the coast. I could travel on PCH from Canada to Mexico if I really wanted to. I could drive thru one of the canyons and land at home. The mountains and beach were my guide.

Then it hit me…I needed to get to really know my new states (“states” since we live literally on the border of both Carolinas). I took the dog and we drove to Columbia to the zoo. He wasn’t allowed in but I felt a sense of accomplishment anyway for, all alone, we went on an adventure and made it home without navigation. My map got its first blue circle. The next week my neighbor friend and I went to Greenville. The next week we explored Isle of Palms and Folly Beach. Two weeks later we went to Asheville. Every road trip was like a mini-vacation. My map started filling in with blue circles.

Next up, was getting my husband and kids to see the beauty all around this amazing part of our country. We would pick a bold word on the map and then each of us would search for things in the area to do, places to see, and restaurants we had to try. I can say, this past summer, that Hilton Head did not disappoint!

My personal map legend now had 4 colors on it. Each one representing a member of the family. We have been here just over a year now. And my map is a colorful, wonderful mess. I knew California like the back of my hand from San Diego to Lake Tahoe, I had visited so many beautiful, amazing places many times. It was second nature, no nav was needed and it was our home.

I am not done exploring nor have I seen all there is to see but I have a fantastic start in really making this our home. We have some familiarity, there is a level of comfort and we feel safe. I can now make my way all the way around 485 and know where it’s taking me. I know which one is the inner and which is the outer.
Do I sound like a Carolinian? I think I do!

Photographer credit: Kelley Conrad

Kelley Conrad || Instagram

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