Your Small, Rural Hometown: A Travel Guide

kevin dooley
kevin dooley

Upon Arrival

  • Get picked up at the airport in the nearest big city. Spend the entire ride back to your hometown listening to your parents explaining how the new Walmart is ruining everything. (To show you’re listening, periodically pepper in useful phrases like, “Big box stores are the worst” and “It’s a tough landscape for local businesses”).
  • Survey refrigerator, freezer, and pantry as soon as you get to your parents’ house. It’s important to get your bearings and determine how much things have changed in your absence.
  • Drop your suitcase off in your childhood bedroom, which still has the wallpaper you chose when you were 6 and the Daniel Radcliffe poster you chose when you were 15 (or, if you were born in the 80s, sub Daniel Radcliffe out for Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell).
  • Frantically text any friends who are also visiting or never left your hometown. There are only so many nights you can stay in playing Scrabble with your family while you’re here.

Food and Drinks

  • Check out one of the three local bars (bonus points if it’s a sports bar and the home team is playing). Run into former teachers, high school classmates, and your parents’ friends; feel weird.
  • Meet your friends at that local burger joint you didn’t go to all that often when you lived here. Feign nostalgia. (Useful phrases: “Man, I’ve been craving a [insert signature menu item] since I left”, “You can’t come into town and not go to [insert burger place name]”, “This is what McDonald’s wishes they were”)
  • Since you’re only back in town every so often, talk your parents into taking you to the fanciest restaurant in the region. Depending on what rural town you live in, this is either located next to an Ace Hardware or inside the mall one town over.

Events

  • Play a popular local game called Aisle Fugitive, a fun activity where you go to the store to buy something embarrassing like tampons or condoms and spot someone you went to school with on your way to the register. The main object of the game is to remain undetected, although you can also go for a Hail Mary where you fling the embarrassing item away from you and pretend that you’re excited to see this old friend.
  • Depending on what time of year it is, there will be some kind of Holiday/Harvest/Summer/Legume Festival going on in your hometown over the weekend. Go and don’t be cynical about it; just enjoy it for what it is (which is pretty awesome).
  • Grab some friends and take somebody’s car (or, more accurately, pick-up) out to a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Sit on the hood and look at the stars. Bright stars and quiet spaces are two commodities that big cities are sorely lacking, so enjoy this while you can.

Attractions

  • Drive by your old high school, just to see if it has changed. It hasn’t. They hadn’t renovated it in 30 years when you were there, so why would they start now?
  • Tour the downtown area and check out the street that has set the local record for most lanes (three). While you’re there, make sure that all the stores that were around when you were growing up are still intact. Glare at the Starbucks that is attempting to edge out your favorite run-down coffee shop.
  • Try your luck at the combination bowling alley and casino. Don’t pretend you’re above it; it’s the only place in your hometown that’s open past 10 pm.

Departure

  • Hug your parents, siblings, extended family, and friends good-bye. Head to the airport with a mixture of relief and regret (the exact ratio of relief to regret will depend on your relationship with your hometown). Visit again soon! You know you’ll miss this place when you leave. TC mark

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