Photograph by Devyani Rana: UCLA alum Kelsey Rocha June 8, 2015
Unlike most of my career-driven classmates from UCLA, I decided to do something a little bit crazy after I graduated this past June. Rather than find my own apartment, get a job, and join six dating websites, I moved back in with my parents in Morgan Hill, California. Willingly.Crazier still, I wanted to spend the summer on a 6-week 12,000 mile road trip around the U.S.
The move to Morgan Hill was my 18th relocation.
The question, “Where are you from?” always had a way of inducing panic. When I would answer, “Around,” people would follow up with, “What’s your hometown?” I’d think to myself, “I don’t have one.”
My dad had been a pilot in the Navy and that meant I went to three elementary schools, two middle schools, and (thankfully) one high school. I bounced from house to house, back and forth between Nevada, California, Hawaii, Japan, and Colorado. I lived in a hotel during 9/11. Last summer I lived on a ship. Now I’m live in a Prius named Berta.
Home has been a strictly abstract concept for me since I’ve always lacked an exact longitude and latitude for the label. It was where the heart was, and it was a feeling of belonging. But after 18 moves, my heart had been so scattered around the world I didn’t quite know where to go. I began to feel most at home in hotels and airports, places where no one was at home, where people could momentarily understand my estrangement. I thought that was where I belonged.
It wasn’t until last summer, when I traveled through 16 European and Scandinavian countries that I unearthed how deeply I identified my own country a grander kind of home. I loved America. The land of free ketchup and excessively large portions. Where you have the right to read how much of your bill is a tax. Where you can proudly state your opinions even if they’re offensive or wrong.
People on trains in Europe would ask me if Americans blew up as many cars as they do in the movies. British sailors inquired about why American girls were obsessed with British accents. The people of Ireland traced Barack Obama’s lineage to prove he, like every other American president, was of Irish decent (His cousin in Ireland runs a rest stop which was promptly renamed after Obama’s visit for a family reunion: http://irishfireside.com/2014/06/09/curious-tale-irish-rest-stop-named-us-president/)
Then I realized how little I knew about my home. I’d visited some of the more popular destinations: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Denver. But what about the South? The Midwest? Nearly everything I knew about the Southern states was built off of what I’d seen on TLC. It was time to explore this place.
Now here I am, I spent the weekend exploring San Francisco, and today drove from my new home in Morgan Hill down to my previous home, UCLA, in Los Angeles. Friday, the adventure begins.
Next Stop: The Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.