I decided to move down south when I was 25 years old on a bit of a whim. I had grown up in Maine and lived in Seattle for a few years. The infrequent trips to Disney World during my childhood were my only exposures to life below the Mason-Dixon Line.
After leaving the West Coast I stayed with my parents for a month while plotting my next move - pun intended. I wasn’t ready to settle down anywhere permanent. I just wanted to see more of the country and have some adventures along the way. One of my parents’ neighbors mentioned she had lived in Charleston a while back and said it was beautiful. That was enough to convince me.
I did a bit of online research and confirmed that Charleston looked beautiful indeed. I packed up my car, arranged for an apartment share, and hit the road with few expectations. I figured I’d find a job and make friends once I got there. One thousand miles later, I arrived in the city that would make it impossible for me to want to be someplace else.
I fell in love with Charleston within my first week. I was captivated by the warm ocean water, the dolphin sightings from the beach, and the palmetto trees that felt too tropical and foreign to be my new reality. I spent hours walking the streets of downtown, breathing in the mouth-watering smells emanating from the fancy restaurants and marveling over the picturesque mansions on the Battery. I was amazed by how fast I made friends. A lot of the people I met were transplants like me who were pulled to Charleston by its beauty and stuck around for the vacation-like lifestyle. We all just wanted to have a good time and we did.
Eventually I married my husband, another transplant from New England. We were thinking about having a baby and decided it would be best to raise our kids closer to our parents up north. Our decision broke my heart but I couldn’t picture myself having babies so far away from my family, despite how much I was still in love with Charleston. We said goodbye to our dear friends, packed up the U-Haul, cried a bunch of tears, and hit the road once again.
We settled in New Hampshire, about a half hour drive from both sets of parents. We enjoyed reconnecting with our family and friends and found joy in our road trips to the mountains, beautiful fall foliage and swimming in lakes without fear of alligators. We had two sons who were doted on by their close-by grandparents. Despite our good life with our boys, my husband and I shared an insidious restlessness borne of missing our friends and life in Charleston. New Hampshire was special in its own way but we felt we belonged in the Holy City.
Our discontentment grew after suffering some painful losses - the unexpected deaths of my father, my husband’s close friend and his grandmother, all within one year. These losses emphasized to us that life is short, too short to waste time away from the place that brings true happiness.
We sold our house, packed up the U-Haul and hit the road once again to Charleston. We made plans for frequent visits so that our boys could see their grandmothers and grandfather often despite the distance. Thankfully they were understanding about our need to carpe diem. And carpe diem we did!
Our boys fell in love with Charleston right away. They were enthralled by the sight of the “big bridge” and thrilled with going to the beach in winter to see the huge pelicans fly by. They could feel how special of a place Charleston was. My husband and I were welcomed back into our special friend group with open arms. The children we all had while we were away became the best of friends, too. Our discontentment vanished and was replaced by a profound knowing that we were home.