When I started serving with the Parks Foundation in February, I had just moved back from living abroad for over 4 years. I had been teaching English in Shanghai, China and I absolutely loved my life there- my friends, the bustle of the city, and the ability to fly roundtrip to an island paradise in Southeast Asia for only a couple hundred dollars. It was the best four years of my life.
However, eventually I realized that I was ready to move on. I knew teaching wasn’t what I wanted to do forever, and I began to feel burnt out and ready for a change. November of 2019 felt like the right time to close that chapter and see what else I could do. Little did I know that my decision to “move on” would mean moving back. Back to Nevada. Back to my hometown. Back to living under my Mom’s roof. Not ideal for a woman in her late 20’s who hadn’t lived here since she left for college and who had spent the last 8 years living on her own. However, it was a move I needed to make at this point in my life, and in addition to the desired career change, my Grandpa’s health also began to deteriorate. I felt that I was running out of time and opportunities to be there for him and my Grandma and I knew I was needed at home.
At the Bund in Shanghai, 2016
I arrived at Reno-Tahoe”International” Airport the day before Thanksgiving and spent a whirlwind of the holiday season catching up with family and oscillating between feelings of joy and nostalgia and stress and melancholy. However, after the thrill of the holidays and being home for Christmas for the first time since I moved overseas, I began to stress about my lack of job offers, my decreasing savings, and overall lack of a plan. I hadn't planned to be here long term. I figured I’d be here 6 months and move on again. Where, I didn’t know, but the idea was at least to go back overseas. I just needed something temporary to save up enough money to be on my way again. (I’m sure all of you reading this who had overseas plans of your own can imagine how quickly that plan fell apart. Ha!)
I was eventually offered a year-long position through AmeriCorps as the Communications Coordinator VISTA at the Parks Foundation. While I hadn’t initially planned to stay for that long, I felt it was the opportunity for the career change I had been waiting for. I also felt drawn to this position because I loved the idea of working with people, teaching them about our local parks and history, and I especially loved that part of my job description was to do what I was already doing for free- going outside, hiking, and exploring the area. And now I would be getting paid for it! I couldn’t pass the opportunity up. “Okay,” I thought. “I may as well get comfortable, looks like I’ll be here for a while longer.”
Me climbing Mount Huangshan in 2018
Being in Nevada indefinitely was not what I envisioned for myself at this point in my life. When I moved to Seattle in 2011 for university, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t return to Nevada. Naturally, I jumped at the first opportunity to live abroad upon graduation and I never looked back. With very year I spent away, every new place I visited, and adventure I had further cemented that resolve. How could Nevada even compare to the amazing places I got to experience?
Truckee River vs. the Nile River
How could the Truckee River compare to the Nile River? How could Reno, compare to the cute little town of Simferopol, Ukraine or the hustle and bustle of metropolises like Hong Kong and Shanghai? How could the beaches of Lake Tahoe compare to the beaches of Thailand and Bali and the clear, blue of the Pacific Ocean? I wasn’t sure, but 2020 gave me no other choice but to find out.
Reno vs. Shanghai at night
And yet, despite the curveball that this year has turned out to be, my decision to come back home was the right one. My grandpa ended up passing in March, a few short months after I arrived. I’m grateful I returned home when I did and got to spend that precious time with him. And I've come to learn that while Nevada can't quite compare to some of the amazing places I've been, it doesn't mean that it doesn't have it's own uniqueness and beauty to offer.
Lake Tahoe Sunset vs. Maya Bay in Thailand
As I’ve spent more time here re-familiarizing myself with Reno and Carson City, I’m constantly astonished by all the things I didn’t know and all that I missed, despite living here my whole life. I’m rediscovering so many new places and things I took for granted before. And I firmly believe that I have the Parks Foundation to thank for that. If not for the resources they provide and the programs they run, I wouldn’t even know about half of the outdoor spaces available in the area or the rich history surrounding them. Serving with TMPF has encouraged me to explore the space around me and appreciate the beauty of the Truckee Meadows with fresh new eyes. In many ways, I feel less like a local and more like a tourist in my own hometown.
Maybe my perspective changed due to the time I spent abroad. Maybe it allowed me to bring my traveler’s mindset home. Traveling has a way of changing the way you see the world around you, after all. It allows you to see new opportunities that you previously missed. It allows you to see the novelty in things that you previously saw as mundane. Traveling gave me a new appreciation for my home that I never would have had before.
Capturing the beauty of Nevada
I’m realizing that I shouldn’t view coming back as reverting or going backwards, but rather a new opportunity for growth. An opportunity to experience the beauty of the places around here that I had previously ignored or missed. Much like the Mumford and Son’s song, ‘Hopeless Wanderer’, I have decided that “I will learn to love the skies I’m under.” Even if they’re skies that I have seen my whole life and previously took for granted.