Seattle Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

DAY 38: I’d just reentered America after two weeks in the Great White North. I cruised southward down the 5 with a sizzling anticipation unlike any other #RunningTo stop to this point. In many ways, my first month on the road had been leading up to this.

The Space Needle emerged, Seattle’s distinct skyline unfurling like a blanket in the heavens. The Emerald City captured my gaze for the first time in two years.

I didn’t miss a beat. Cranked some Owl City, just like last time.

I exited the freeway and crossed over Pike Street, admiring the famed market that’s been continuously running longer than any other. The waterfront emerged, and I was taken aback by a giant ferris wheel that hadn’t been there before.

I pondered parking downtown and diving right back into sweet Seattle, but thought better of it. Instead, I drove up up up to my favorite spot in all the city: Kerry Park, high above the bustle, matching one’s eyes with the Space Needle and the otherworldly Rainier, hovering from afar.

For years, Seattle had captured my imagination. It was a westward destiny I had to achieve before driving eastward to camp in 2012. A destiny I must discover lest I writhe in the mystery of her northwestern allure.

You’ve gotta see Seattle, one friend told me.

It’s amazing, said another.

My absolute favorite city, raved yet another still.

Nobody had ever spoken ill of the place, and for years Seattle had beckoned me like a gleaming emerald from that far corner of the country where I’d yet to trek and travail.

Two years ago, Seattle did not disappoint. In fact, Seattle stole my breath away.

I grew enamored by the shores of Puget Sound, the eclectic shops and the creamy clam chowder. I smiled climbing every arduous 60-degree incline amid the heart of downtown. I salivated over the infinite picturesque coffee shops found on every street corner.

Seattle seemed made for me. I hated leaving Seattle two years ago.

But now I was back. Back for a critical juncture in this #RunningTo quest.

#RunningTo: Seattle As I entered the first of six days in Seattle, I experienced a toxic mix of excitement and terror. Much of my motivation behind #RunningTo has been to discover “home,” whatever and wherever that looks like.

Long before my road trip materialized, Seattle was on my mind. Ever since my first visit there, I wondered if, given the right circumstances, I could ever live in Seattle. A city with water and hills and coffee and a glowering mountain that beckons your gaze no matter where you stand or what you do.

Yes, I replied in my heart. I would move to Seattle. Live here in a micro-heartbeat.

And yet what would the “right circumstances” include? A divine encounter, a job offer, a treasure chest of gold coins and coffee?

I committed a whole week to exploring the ins and outs of this city and region, hoping God would manifest Himself here, desperate to determine this pesky matter of a home hardly a month into a seven-month journey.

Wouldn’t that make the next six months all the less stressful if I knew where the seventh would begin?

In truth, Seattle amazed me all over again the second time. The magical buzz of Pike Place, bike rides underneath the Space Needle, and yes, the chance to inhabit coffee shops galore.

All of it was wonderful.

Seattle is gorgeous.

The most beautiful city I’ve ever visited.

And yet I couldn’t help walking her airy streets with a heavy heart, day after wandering day. The last time I’d ventured here was with two beloved others, and we uncovered Seattle’s glory together. This time, I traversed the streets all by my lonesome.

Seattle felt empty.

Sure, I had some fantastic Couchsurfing hosts. Really, they were just so generous and kind when I came home each night.

But everyday I wandered alone, and I wondered if I would ever actually transplant my existence here despite no connections and hardly any money. To venture 3,000 miles back to Seattle at the end of this journey seems absurd.

And yet doesn’t God often call us to the nonsensical? From Abraham to Moses to Saul-turned-Paul, doesn’t He have a habit of charting bizarre courses for wandering souls?

I left Seattle having explored more of her crevasses than last time. I left inspired, but I left disheartened. I didn’t really “connect” with anyone there, and nothing mystical or particularly supernatural happened. God didn’t “speak.”

I kinda felt let down as I eyed Olympia and Oregon on the horizon.

I don’t pretend to know where “home” will be in six months. Where “home” even is on this side of eternity. I don’t know if it’s southern California or if the open road is a more fitting habitat for me.

Still, I find myself often returning to that pivotal question:

If the people and the purpose ever were there, would I call Seattle home?

Yes. I believe I would.

#RunningTo: Seattle, WA

  • C. S. Lewis

    “Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’ I know I am very fortunate in that respect.”

  • Red

    I can’t help but comment on this one as I was browsing your #RunningTo adventure. I live on the other side of the state but I happened to be visiting my brother that lives north of Seattle this past weekend. Such a blessing to drive through the mountains each time and be near Rainier. The magic of the landscape gets better each time I go back because I get to experience it all through the eyes of my kiddos. Hope you make it back some day. Blessings to you Tom.

    • Oh man, Red, blast from the past! It’s always good to be reminded about Seattle, even though my second trip there left me largely isolated and ready to move on. I do love that city with so much of my being, though. Creatively, geographically, spiritually. Next time I visit (or whenever I move there in some near or distant fantasy world), we should definitely grab some coffee at one of the 589 options available!

      • Red

        I would be all over that when that day arrives. 🙂