Everyone needs to experience small town living at least once in their life. If you grew up in a small community, you understand the aspects that make living in a small place very rewarding. If you grew up in a city, trust me when I say: if I can do it, you can do it.
When I first moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, I didn't know what to expect. Moving from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I had quite the transition ahead of me. I had visited Grand Forks only twice before to tour the University of North Dakota.
I enjoyed the vibe of the town for the short time I was there, but the lack of population was nerve-wracking to me. I had so many questions running through my mind. Nonetheless, the move happened, and I was ready to explore my new town.
I was apprehensive of living in a town so small. I came from a place where there is always something to do, endless places to go, and someone always down to hang out. I wasn't sure what to expect in this town that was the same size as just my suburb.
There is nothing around, no other cities nearby. Once you were in Grand Forks, that was about your only option of doing things. You couldn't drive to the next place over and live it up.
Winnipeg is two hours away and you need a passport to get there; Fargo is an hour, which isn't bad, but it's basically just a larger scale of Grand Forks; and, Minneapolis is about four hours away. I was worried I was going to miss the city feel I grew up around.
Sure, I didn't live right in the heart of the city, but I was close enough that it wasn't hard to get to. So, my adventure in the "city" of Grand Forks commenced, and I had no idea what I was in for.
I had no trouble making friends, everyone was always welcoming. People would talk to you just about anywhere. Students would mingle in class, other waiting customers would chat in line waiting to check out, and parties were always full of chit-chat.
Once I had made a solid group of friends, everything started to fall into place. I loved Grand Forks and it began to feel like a home away from home. This is when my perspective of small town living changed.
The friends I made showed me little quirks of living in Grand Forks. From the downtown atmosphere, which is like nothing I've experience before, to the local restaurants that gave Grand Forks it's homey touch, they opened my eyes to the cool things about living here.
Yeah, we don't get super large names to headline arenas here and sometimes you struggle to find something to do other than drink, but the people I met made it feel like home. Even though the town is small, it feels like so much more when you have the right people around.
Thinking you can't possibly enjoy life in a town much smaller, I was proved wrong once again. My best friend is from a little town called Crystal, North Dakota, population 222. The idea that a town can be enjoyable with so little people was a wild thought to me.
My friend took me back to Crystal for Thanksgiving, and again, my perspective on small town living is changed. Her family welcomed me with open arms as if I was one of their own. We shared laughs and jokes, and by the end of the night, I felt like I had known her family my whole life.
The next time she took me home, we went to one of the two bars in Crystal. Yes, they have two bars for 222 people. The bar, which is owned by her uncles, was an experience I was not ready for. Everyone in the bar knew each other on a personal level. And not just like an "Oh hey, good to see you" type of know each other. Their lives were all so intertwined. Whether it was because they were family or just from the town itself, I had never seen people interact in a manner like they did in this bar.
No matter who I talked to or if I was still around my friend, I instantly felt comfortable. There wasn't a moment in the bar where I panicked because I couldn't find my friend or my drink was empty. It was as if I had grew up with everyone, too.
They have a wall of dollar bills that the local people write their names on or leave a message that's special for the town. By the end of my first visit, they gave me a dollar and I made the wall. My dollar which reads, "AMY… THAT GIRL FROM PITTSBURGH," still hangs on the wall today.
I felt more than welcomed and excited that they liked me enough to leave my mark in this small town. It's just a dollar on the bar of a wall, but to me it sort of felt like so much more. This little place, a place I thought I could never feel comfortable in, forever and always will have a special place in my heart.
I eventually would end up coming back multiple times, for various reasons. I am always welcomed on holidays if I can't make it home and encouraged to stop by the bar with or without my friend.
How could such a small place make someone like me, from a large community, feel so at home? Here I was worried about fitting in while living in Grand Forks, and I end up loving a town that doesn't even compare in size to anything I was used too.
Having an open mind to move here in the first place was a big step, but once I actually got here, the next hard step was allowing myself to embrace the culture. Small town living isn't for everyone, but I feel as if it is something everyone should experience at least once.
It doesn't matter if you think you can't handle it, you definitely can. As long as you find the people that make the town feel like home away from home, you'll be fine.
While I don't want to stay in Grand Forks once I graduate college, I definitely am glad I moved here for the time being. It'll be hard to say goodbye, but I know I'll find my way back periodically.
This experience is one I wouldn't change for the world. So, if you ever get the chance to experience small town living, take it. I promise you won't regret it.