Have you ever been to a place that just instantly clicks with your soul? A place that, although you’ve never been, feels familiar the moment you step into it, like an old friend hugging you after years of being apart?
That is how I felt in Montana.
It seems silly because I was only there a week, but when I left, my heart felt homesick for it. I went home to my bed, to the place for which I pay rent, but I didn’t feel at home. I felt as if I had just flown across the country away from my home. I’ve left my heart in many places around the world, but this place swallowed it whole.
Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before. ― Warsan Shire
Perhaps it was that I left my family in Montana where they spent another few days without me. Perhaps it was that we had such an amazing time in Montana and Wyoming, hiking, white water rafting, fly fishing, horseback riding. We did and saw it all. We didn’t waste a single moment of our family vacation.
Yes, perhaps it was that: the fond memories and being away from work. Or perhaps it was something more. Perhaps I was meant to live in Montana. I did, in fact, name my childhood dog “Montana” without ever having stepped foot in the state. I don’t know why the state of Montana seemed like a proper name for a dog, but I liked it. And he was a perfect Montana. In fact, Montana would have loved Montana. I now wish I could have taken him.
It was the way the sun glowed behind the mountains before its rays made their way over the mountain tops each morning. It was the way the sound of my footsteps seemed to echo in the still morning air. It was the way I woke up at 7:00 am each morning, and without an alarm. It was as if my body knew that this place was special and that it shouldn’t sleep away precious moments to be had in it. It was the way I sat and watched the morning unfold and listened to the world awaken around me as I sipped my coffee at the edge of a still, glassy lake.
It was the way the wildflowers spread across the earth perfectly, but without a plan. It was the abundance of water, the streams and creeks and rivers and lakes and waterfalls and dams, and the life they all gave to world around them. It was how the landscapes slowly, and then all at once, changed from one to another. How you would be driving through a meadow with tall grasses and wildflowers flung everywhere, and then you’d turn the corner into a rocky canyon that seemed to have been forced out of the ground by what can only be described as God. It was how normal it was that a bison would be walking along the road or that a herd of elk would be sitting in the meadow on your hike.
It was the people. It was Brent, our rafting instructor. He went to school in Chicago. He majored in documentary film making, but his passion was biking, so he moved to Montana. He works as a rafting guide to make money (he gets paid to have a blast!) and he bikes when he’s not working! What a life. It was Ben and Wilson, our fly fishing guides. Wilson is 70 years old, mortgage broker turned fly fisher extraordinaire. He teaches fly fishing 6 months out of the year and then goes back to Georgia to work alongside his wife. He has screws in his knees, but he was kicking all our asses hiking through those mountains. And Ben. I have literally never met someone who is so damn happy. He is in his thirties. He has a wife and two small children. He works four months out of the year. FOUR MONTHS. And he doesn’t see it as work. He LOVES fly fishing. On his days off from teaching fly fishing, he wakes up at 4 am to go flying himself. He talks a million miles a minute and laughs at everything.
He said to me, “I love my job. It’s not work. It’s my passion. What day is it today even? I have no idea because every day I wake up I am pumped to go to work! Is it Monday? I love Mondays. I never get “the case of the Mondays” because every day is awesome!” And then he laughed with the joy of a child.
I turned to my dad wide-eyed. I was in awe of his happiness. I didn’t know someone could love their life so much.
He lives within his means, chops his own wood for heating over the winter, doesn’t buy anything fancy. And that is how he is able to work for only 4 months out of the year. What a life.
Maybe that is why I felt so connected to Montana: it made me realize that I can be just as happy as Ben. I don’t have to have a high-paying corporate job with an impressive title. I thought that these things would make me happy. I thought that they would make me feel valuable. But, after a year in a decent corporate job, I can be honest with myself: I am not happy here. I need more.
Luckily I am well on my way to more. I am a year away from leaving corporate life and moving to Europe where I will travel everywhere and anywhere I feel compelled. I will work on farms, as a bartender or waitress, or any odd jobs I can find. I will stay with families or find apartments to stay in for a month or two. I will dig in, to get to know the town and the culture. I will sit in cafes for hours, and I will write to my heart’s content.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.
Where did you feel connected like the way I did in Montana?