Lancaster's about an hour west of Philly but it's a world away. As you drive west from The City of Brotherly Love, the clock seems to work backwards. The urban congestion gives way to the gently rolling farmland of Chester and Lancaster Counties. This is the place where the American Revolution played out and Lancaster is the oldest inland city in the US. My ancestors settled there in 1740 and those rolling hills are encoded in my DNA.
When I was younger and living there I felt the place to be a prison. Getting to Philly or Baltimore was a pain and I always felt like I was missing out on something because I lived in a small town. I longed for a change of venue, some kind of different scenery.
What I couldn't see back then was how beautiful an area it is and how fortunate I was to live just a bit removed from the harried nature of life in a major metro. I left the area for good in the early '90s and sought my fortune elsewhere.
A funny thing has happened here in the last couple of years though. The housing collapse reaped a pretty grim harvest in Florida and one by one, most of my friends left the area in search of greener pastures. As they left, I started traveling for work a lot. While this was going on I've found myself looking for an anchor time and again. I needed something to tie me to Florida, to home.
That anchor never materialized however. In fact, as people continue to move away I'm less tied to this place than I ever have been. Part of me knows that I could go out and make new friends, but another part of me doesn't want to put forth the effort.
While all of this has been playing out, I've begun to see the appeal of the land where I was born and raised. I've been back for short visits in the last few years and my beloved brother Steve's been offering me his guest room for a longer stay.
So I'm going to do it. I'm going back to Pennsylvania for the entire month of July. I'll stay with Steve, work from his home and get a first hand look at what life's like in Lancaster now. I can take the train to New York from there without any trouble and I'll have ready access to just about anywhere in the northeast, thanks to Amtrack.
Because it's farm country, the local produce I'll have access to is already making my mouth water. I'm looking forward to baking bread with my nieces and catching up with my nephews and siblings. I have an enormous family and our get togethers are as loud as they are legendary. It'll be great to cook for an army without the stress of having to leave right away.
Truth be told, I'm staying for a month as a test of sorts. I want to see if I can handle living there again. I want to see if I can handle trading palm trees for corn fields. I'm going into this with my eyes wide open and had someone told me five years ago that I would consider moving back to PA someday I'd have laughed hysterically.
July will be an interesting month, that's for sure. As I mentioned in a Let's Blog Off post last fall, my life in Florida has always felt like borrowed time, even after 20+ years. I'm a Yankee's Yankee as hard as I try to ignore that.
As much as I love walking down the sidewalk to the beach, it doesn't really feel real. People in the Northeast think faster, understand things better and forge deeper bonds than they do here. Pennsylvania has a sense of place I miss. Leaving when I did was difficult, I felt that I was severing ties that were supposed to last a lifetime. I hope to reconnect some of those ties next month.
So I'll be blogging like a madman while I'm up there. I'll be experiencing things and places I know already but it'll feel like it's the first time. I love living where I do, but something's missing. Maybe I'll find the missing piece next month. And maybe I won't but it never hurts to look.