Over on my blog, Expat Not Abroad, I often write about my transition back to the US after living abroad in London for a year. I write about the joys of travel, and how I long for that carefree life of weekend trips and centuries old history once again. Reading my blog, one would think that I’ve been living this traveler lifestyle for ages, but the truth is I was a straight-up New Englander for a very long time.
Growing up in Rhode Island, I always had aspirations to leave – quite typical of any young dreamer – to escape the small town (state) monotony and see the world. I planned with the best of intentions, but when the time came for me to flee to NYC for college, I chose to stay close to home instead. During my time at Providence College, I never once regretted that decision. It was, in fact, the right one – for my education and my development as a person. I also got my first taste of international life during this time when I studied abroad in London. It was that first short experience that taught me one of the most important things about travel, moving, and home – that you never truly truly appreciate a place, until you’ve left it.
Over the years, I slowly moved farther and farther from RI, but the farthest I got was Quincy, MA. I hardly considered that the “escape” I had dreamt of, so I kept pushing. I decided to quit my job, uproot my life, and move to London to get my Masters degree. Cue monumental life change. That year abroad changed everything – who I was, who I wanted to be, and my perspective of the world.
When I was living in RI, all I ever wanted to do was leave. That’s a horrible thing to think of the place you were raised, and where all of your family and friends reside. Once I left though, that’s when it all changed. That’s when I learned to appreciate the state, and I often find myself acting as a RI Ambassador wherever I go, teaching other people all about our tiny yet amazing state.
After London, I tried to move back. I had missed it and learned to appreciate it, but I still wasn’t ready to stop exploring. This time, I left because I wanted to experience more, not because I wanted to leave something behind. I headed west, and have made Seattle my home for now. But let me tell you one VERY important thing. The West coast is not and never shall be the best coast. Seattle is cool. But New England, and Rhode Island, is way cooler. Let’s talk about all the things that RI has that Seattle is severly lacking:
- Dunkin Donuts – sure we’ve got Starbucks, but sometimes I want my coffee and bagel in under 2 minutes and with a side of attitude, you know?
- CVS – CVS is the holy grail of drugstores. Bartell’s comes close, but it is not the same. Luckily, expansion is planned, and we’ll have one here in Spring 2016!
- Stop + Shop – specifically, I miss that Easy Scanner thing. There’s nothing cooler than scanning your groceries as you go. Sure, now they have to cut staff members, but I prefer the efficiency.
- Rude people – Honestly. Sometimes I don’t want to have a casual chat with the person serving my coffee or bagging my groceries. I miss abrasive, blunt, and downright rude people, and I am not ashamed.
- People who can drive – Granted, some may argue that Rhode Islanders aren’t that great at driving. Try Seattle. At least we drive like we’ve got somewhere to go back in RI. I miss our defensive driving and general disregard for traffic laws. SO MUCH.
- Real beaches – You know, the kind you can swim in. And tan at. And spend all day long at without getting bored.
- Italian food – Sweet Jesus, I miss Federal Hill. No explanation needed.
That’s just a sampling of the things I’ve learned to appreciate since moving out of RI. But the point isn’t what those things are – it’s the appreciation itself. It’s the “distance makes the heart grow fonder” and “you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone” thing. Truly deeply appreciating a place can only be achieved when you’ve pushed yourself to leave it. I can honestly say that I love RI now. I never could before. All I ever wanted was to get out. But that was good – that’s what taught me it is worth loving.
Will I ever move back to our lovely Ocean State? It’s hard to say. I’m a big city girl at heart, so I’m not sure it will ever be enough fulfill that part of me. Boston may pull me back someday, where I can have my city and still be close to home. But one can never truly know. Maybe I’ll settle in Seattle. Maybe I’ll live on a sailboat in Barcelona. I can’t know the future – that’s what makes it exciting – but I do know one thing, Rhode Island will always be my home. I will always come back to see the people and places I love, and I will never again under appreciate everything it has to offer. It might not be the place for me forever, but it’s the place that made me, and I have to think, that’s better.
More About Kerri:
Kerri is a social media marketer living and working in Seattle, WA. Her blog. Expat Not Abroad, explores the complex emotions that one experiences after living abroad. Kerri was born and raised in Johnston, RI, attended Providence College, and worked for a high end retailer in Providence and Quincy, MA, before giving it all up to go to graduate school in London and starting this exciting new adventure. But no matter how far she wanders, her heart will always belong to Rhode Island.