A part of why I became someone who loves travel is that I was unhappy. My family and I moved to Cullman, AL when I was fourteen.

It was very different. I had lived my whole life in Canton, GA. I didn’t know anyone. I always felt like an outsider. It never felt like home.

When I left and someone asked me where I was from, I took my time telling my life history to avoid saying “Alabama”. I always made the distinction that I wasn’t “from” there, I just “lived” there.

It was bittersweet to have to return to Cullman after I had spent almost 3 months living in Peru. I had gotten used to the pace of Huaycan, the sights and sounds of it. In ways that Cullman never had, it had become my home.

I’d had a purpose in Peru, a job to do each day, people who enjoyed seeing me and whom I loved spending time with. I knew my neighbors and was always occupied with some kind of project. I can’t say that it was easy being there, but it was always interesting.

Being back was disorienting. I was thrown off by how quiet things were. Where was the sound of my upstairs neighbor stomping around and their cat running over my head at night? How come I couldn’t hear the tamale guy or the knife sharpener yelling down the alley to drum up business? Where were my all loud, lovable housemates?

I found the lack of noise eerie and couldn’t sleep at night. I searched for things to do with my day.

I had been walking a lot in Huaycan, so I decided I needed to put in the effort to at least go for a walk each day.

I had to go to one of our parks if I didn’t want to be killed by a car. I tried Heritage Park, but it had no personality, which only served to remind me I was no longer in a bustling little Peruvian shantytown. Eventually, I went to Sportsman Lake Park.

I could hear ducks quacking before I opened the car door. Sunlight filtered through leaves onto my skin.

As I walked around the lake, I slowly lost some of the sadness that had been hanging over me. It was still and quiet, but the wildlife, other people, and general sounds of nature helped drown out the silence.

My worries started to fade and the rhythm of my steps on the path became enjoyable.

For a while, I was able to forget my troubles and be in the moment. The feel of sun on my face and arms was soothing.

I still noticed how unlike Peru it was, but in a way that made me appreciate the differences. It was the first time in awhile that I had felt content.

Somehow in leaving Cullman, I was able to come back and find a little slice of that feeling of home that I had been missing. Now I find that I don’t hesitate as much to just say “Alabama” when someone asks where I’m from.