My family and I have been vacationing in Norfolk, Virginia for almost a week. I have been going to our house there ever since I was young. Norfolk is one of a few places where I can truly relax. I don't have to worry about school, jobs, appointments, or social obligations. My family and I try to make it to Virginia at least twice a year: once at Christmas and once during the summer. This year, due to my sister's knee surgery, we couldn't spend Christmas in Virginia so we decided to go for spring break instead. I am so happy we did.

Virginia is the place where my mom grew up. In fact, we bought her childhood home from my grandparents and stay there every time we visit. My mom's high school bedroom is now my bedroom. The yearbooks and photographs are all still neatly stacked on the bookshelf, and her art portfolio is wrapped in plastic underneath my bed. The windows are old and rattle when a storm hits. At night, you can hear the tug boats bringing the ships in at Lambert's Point. During the day, the birdsong is happy and you can see the whole West Ghent neighborhood walking their dogs or running on the Elizabeth River trail.

Norfolk is a beautiful part of the world. Our neighborhood in particular is an especially wonderful place to grow up. My mom spent her high school years here after moving around frequently due to my grandfather's career in the Navy. My grandmother built her small business in Norfolk: Rowena's Jam and Jelly Factory, which soon became Virginia-famous. We still visit with my mom's high school friends who all live in the area. We go to Smartmouth Brewery on Orapax Street and drive to Taste Unlimited for the best sandwiches you'll ever have.


Virginia BeachGrace Bellman

There is a lot of history in Tidewater. Even better, there is a lot of family history in Tidewater. If I have learned anything from coming to this area my entire life, it is the importance of maintaining a connection with your roots, with home. I, like my mother, moved around a lot as a child due to my father's job. If I wanted to, I could easily claim to have three or more "hometowns." But it is much easier to just say my most recent home: Dallas. I know deep down that London, Hong Kong, and Norfolk, Virginia mean just as much to me as my home in Texas.

Traveling home is so special. You are surrounded by people who have watched you mature and develop. They have witnessed all your weird and awkward stages, your not-so-graceful moments, and your most impressive achievements. Some of my favorite memories are with family and friends in our backyard in Norfolk on late summer evenings. The mosquitoes are annoying and the humidity is a little brutal but the childhood stories and laugh-until-you-cry tales are worth it.

The Elizabeth River TrailGrace Bellman

As a college student, I have found balancing my connections with home and making friendships at school challenging. I love all the people I have met at college and I know that I have found some future bridesmaids in my sorority sisters, brothers in my guy friends, and mentors in those older than me. But there will always be that tug home, whether that home is London, Hong Kong, Dallas, or Norfolk/Virginia Beach.

Right now, I am spending the week in Virginia. I am trying my best to live in the present and worry less about the future. We have walked along the trail at First Landing State Park, dipped our toes in the ice cold ocean at Virginia Beach, and eaten over half of my grandfather's almond pound cake in just two days. I feel blessed to have a place like this. Norfolk is somewhere I always look forward to visiting, no matter what time of year. Wherever it might be, I think everyone has their own form of Virginia. And it doesn't have to be a place. It could be home in the form of a house, person, or memory. Whatever it might be, I urge you to treasure it. Keep that connection strong and present no matter where your current circumstance takes you. I feel so fortunate that Norfolk will always be that place for me.