Where you from?

When traveling, inevitably the second question after “Isn’t this place beautiful?”, “Sheesh, isn’t it hot here?”, or “what’s that smell?” comes the question “where you from?”

During a five hour bus ride back from Tequila to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last Friday, I had time to ponder that question.

I grew up in a small town called Pinconning, Michigan. Population of about a thousand, tops. I return occasionally, once a year to have my taxes done by an old family friend. These visits let me see the incremental changes that happen in town so I’m not startled by them on the days I return. I spent the first 21 years of my life there, but it’s such a small part of me that I can’t consider it home anymore. A factor, but not home.

From there I moved to Bay City, and spent 6 years there. I suppose it’s what I consider “home”, primarily because my parents live there. I was active there politically through the ’90s, and worked for the state Senator from there, so it’s likely the place I am most anchored to.

I spent another 6 years living in the Lansing area, moving from apartment to apartment. Eventually I purchased a house in Grand Ledge. I don’t know my neighbors, and the only real community activity I take part in is voting. So I spend the night there, but I don’t really think of myself as a citizen.

I’m lucky enough to vacation once in a while, and frankly the places I’ve been to have left a greater impression on me than the places I’ve lived. The kind old lady that described the various spices in the market in St. Lucia. The Dominican man who told me about the healing properties of plants along a trail to the falls. The sea turtles near St. Thomas. The conch fritters in St. Maarten. The silent bliss of walking alone along the beach during sunrise at Mexico. These are the things make me feel part of a place, something closer to what I could think of as home.

So there really isn’t an appropriate answer to the question.

“Where you from?”
“Detroit? De-toilet?”
“No. Near Lansing.”
“How about you?”
They reply with some large city in some state that I recognize, but don’t plan on visiting and don’t particularly care about.

There. Triangulation completed, we now know from where we came, where we are now, and where we will return.

You’ve been all over
And it’s been all over you.