For those of you who don't know, I've been working as a business consultant for over six years. Unlike a "normal" job where I go into the same office day in and day out, I work on different projects for different companies (clients) that may or may not be in the city I live in. Every project I've been on has had me travel nearly every Monday through Thursday. Fresh out of college, my first project required me to travel to Northwestern Arkansas (NWA) every week. It was the perfect opportunity for me to learn the importance of redefining "home."
When I first heard I'd be traveling to Arkansas, I was not excited. At this point, I had made new friends, discovered new hobbies, started dating the man (who eventually became my husband) and was finally feeling settled - I felt like I finally had my place in the Houston community. I was afraid of the change that was about to take place in my life. My personal time would become dictated not just by my work hours, but also my flights and when I was physically in Houston.
My first week at the client site was a mess. I flew from Houston to Dallas, and then Dallas to Arkansas. My connecting flight to Arkansas got cancelled last minute, but thankfully I was able to fly standby on a flight 3-4 hours later, which got me to the client site after 5pm. What a wonderful first impression! The next two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) were a blur. My team sat in the basement of the client's corporate office, and the only time I saw sunlight was during my lunch break. By the time my Project Manager allowed us to leave each night (anytime after 6:30pm), the sun was already down. Meanwhile, I had no access to the client's systems, nor could I really conceptualize what I was going to be doing on this project. To top off an overwhelming week, everyone was told to re-book flights for Wednesday night rather than Thursday due to an approaching ice storm. Luckily I was able to get out of Arkansas, and the ice was so bad that we couldn't travel in the following week. Boy was I glad!
Once the holidays were over and I got into the swing of things, I almost liked traveling every week. Key word: almost. I felt like an adult - I was already beginning to accumulate travel stories, frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and (of course) great work experience. However, I felt like I was losing my sense of "home". I felt isolated and alone. Rather than dwelling on that and feeling miserable, I decided to do something about it.
After taking a little over a month to get acclimated to the project and the travel, I began to branch out and explore. I found a small yoga studio close to work and decided to give that a try. The people I met in the classes I attended were incredibly welcoming, and the teacher went above and beyond to make me feel like I was part of the community. For a number of weeks she even let me borrow her blender so that I could make smoothies in my hotel room! And the classes themselves were some of the best yoga classes I've ever taken. Who would've thought I'd find such a powerful class and group of people in what felt like middle-of-nowhere Arkansas?! Discovering that class was a pivotal point for me, and it made me think, "What other gems can I find here?"
As time went by, I was moved to a different role and was no longer in the corporate basement. I finally experienced daylight on a regular basis and got to know more of my co-workers both on the client side and the consultant side. I ended up becoming great friends with a guy (Joe) on the client side, and after we got to know each other he said "you really need to meet my girlfriend - you guys are SO much alike." We set up a dinner where we could hang out and get to know each other more. His girlfriend, Alyssa, and I hit it off immediately. She studied psychology and sociology in college, and I studied business and sociology. How often do you come across someone who you can nerd out with about your favorite social theorists? Or someone who shares your love for the show Seinfeld? Or had an "excited" dance just like you?! She even cooked me dinner and amazing cupcakes for my birthday, and offered to take me grocery shopping when I didn't get assigned a rental car (I want to give her a huge hug just thinking about these things)! Even though they eventually broke up, my friendship with each of them continued to grow. I was definitely not expecting to come to Arkansas and make some of the strongest and most meaningful friendships I've ever had.
After a few more months of exploring and getting to know the area, I finally found the AcroYoga community in NWA. A few searches on Facebook led me to their group page, where I immediately posted looking for people to play with. Soon enough, I found myself attending a few jams here and there (whenever I had a rental car). I slowly started recognizing more of the faces and was able to teach people some new acro skills. I soon realized that the NWA acro community was fairly new, and I believed I could help support and bring new skills to the community. I eventually began teaching weekly acro classes at a local yoga studio for over a year! I could hardly believe it! I had a wonderful opportunity to share my knowledge with people I would have never met if it weren't for my job.
Instead of wasting away in my hotel room and missing all of the things I have going on in Houston, I made a life for myself in Arkansas. Making friends outside of work, helping grow the acro community, and simply doing the things I love made me feel at home. I've learned that "home" doesn't need to be a location. So much of “feeling at home” is determined by the people you surround yourself with. I can be home wherever I go! It took some searching, but it made all the difference finding my Arkansas friends and (acro) family that I could come home to every Monday through Thursday.