It was a Tuesday evening in early July when my boyfriend and I pulled into the infamous town of Jackson, Wyoming. Beside the road I spotted a green road sign that read, “TETONS 4 MILES” but I didn’t see any mountains. My jaw fell into my lap when we finally got out from behind a very large rolling hill and saw The Tetons sitting calmly in the distance. The sunset made them look as if they were on fire and I was speechless.
I did most of my growing up in a city 25 miles outside of Washington, DC. One side of town was for shopping and we had everything. Walmart, Target, an Outlet Mall, hospitals, and hundreds of restaurants, you name it! The other side of town was for living. Every turn was a new neighborhood with it’s own elementary school and grocery store. Every house my mom, my sister, and I lived in looked just like the one beside it. The kids I made friends with in the first grade were the same kids that graduated high school with me. Life was so safe but so small. For years when I was a child, going to Target felt like an adventure. The store in our town was located near the entrance of I-95 but only exactly 5 miles from my front door, a 15 minute drive. However, in my mind it was so far from my school, my friends, and my kitties at home. That’s what the suburbs were to me. A bubble. A perfectly formed, tiny bubble.
When I was 13 my grandparents moved from their home just around the corner from mine to a new house in Pennsylvania. That was the first time I experienced culture shock. Their house was placed high on a hill side surrounded by cornfields and farmland, an Amish carpenter built the cabinets that hung in their kitchen, and their neighbors were all related. It was the strangest place I had ever visited and it didn’t take long to get hooked on the feeling of being a little lost. After graduating high school I was longing for something new. The city that raised me had suddenly begun to suffocate me. I was 19 when I packed a suitcase and moved to Houston, Texas. I didn’t know anything about the area except that my birth father lived there. After arriving, it was clear that I was more confused than I ever imagined. I spent the next few years attempting to make sense of the desire I felt to be comfortably safe and utterly lost at the same time. Around the age of 21 I fell in love with a man that seemed to mirror similar feelings that I had. So when he asked me to leave home a year later to drive all over the country I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I needed to see what else was just beyond suburbia. Something told me that there was so much more to explore on the other side of my backyard.
By the time we reached Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming we had been living on the road for three months and 12 days. I was not in the suburbs anymore. We were sleeping in a small backpacking tent every night, eating non-perishable items out of our trunk, and showering with wet-naps. This wasn’t a trip to Target, it was a real adventure. I was seeing jagged peaks for the first time in my life and they took my breath away from me. I was completely out of my element but I felt more alive than I have ever felt before. I was thousands of miles from the place I called home but nothing felt more important to me than learning to live outside of comfort. We aren’t glued to where we came from and that was a lesson I needed to learn. Growing up in the safety of the suburbs didn’t deprive me from adventure, it taught me to create my own. But I have seen what else is out there and the bubble of suburbia just isn’t big enough to hold me now.