Why I Moved to Charlotte and Why I’m Freaking Out

Last weekend, I concluded my nine-month road trip with one final adventure to the Smokies. It was a gorgeous time. It was a torturous time. It was a sleepy solitary much needed recharging time.

That cabin in the Smokies was a distraction-free arena to determine my post-journey existence. After nine long months on the road, I’d narrowed down my next chapter to three cities. Three particular places that sparked two parts of the same heart.

There’s my heart for inspiration and adventure, and there’s my heart for the precious people in my life — friends and family alike. Two of those three cities spurred more of the former heart, while another seemed to light more of the latter.

I just experienced 26,000+ miles of inspiration and adventure. My prior four years in California and summer camps across the country also left my adventurous cup overflowing.

Five years of ongoing adventures left me longing for that other pivotal part of my heart, though. The people.

And so, the choice seemed easy — Charlotte. Maybe not the coolest city or even my favorite city seen in 282 days, but a pretty city nonetheless with easy access to east coast friends, family, and relationships rekindled and gathered on the road.

Now that I’ve actually moved to the Queen City, though, this decision doesn’t seem as black-and-white and easy anymore.

Now that #RunningTo has run out, I’m freaking out.

#RunningTo: Charlotte, NC

It took 230 days of roaming the continent before I finally hit Charlotte’s doorstep. Her nighttime skyline mesmerized me with a sparkly glow.

The ensuing days would have me walking uptown streets that never go downtown, and I’d visit one of my favorite churches of the entire road trip. The house opened up to me had an extra bedroom, and as I slept there a month ago I wondered:

Is this really it? Is this the moment I’ve been praying for, the one this road trip has been building toward for the better part of a year and 25,000+ miles? Charlotte?

My heart pulled in three directions, I couldn’t shake this feeling that my finish line was meant for unsuspecting Charlotte. A southern-but-not-really city within afternoon drives of numerous loved ones, and a city of great potential.

“Charlotte doesn’t know how good they have it yet,” a friend told me of the Queen City. “It could grow into a phenomenal city.”

The final night of my road trip, I sat atop my car and simply stared at Charlotte for a few minutes. Started tearing up over this whole wild ride. Prayed that I might bless Charlotte as she hopefully blesses me in the untold era to come.

Do I regret not having chosen either of those other two cities? Oh yeah. Totally. I’m certain I’ll be playing out my two parallel lives for months yet to come.

But my hope is that by satisfying this second part of my heart, the first finds fulfillment as well. After all, inspiration and adventure exist anywhere. Sure, there are mystical Badlands and Rocky Mountain peaks dressed in summer snow.

But there are also Scattergories in living rooms, barbecues on balconies, and heart-to-hearts in coffee shops.

There are two parts of the same heart: the wild and wonderful adventure itself and the wild and wonderful souls who make this whole wild ride even worth wandering.

So, while I’m presently “satisfied” with Charlotte, I can’t stop obsessing over my decision. I’m scared and restless and sad, not necessarily for choosing Charlotte, but for choosing stopping.

#RunningTo WANDER

Yesterday I sat in a Starbucks for 7 hours updating my résumé and searching for jobs and the whole afternoon seemed so utterly unnatural. The mere thought of pushing a shopping cart down grocery aisles irritates me. Unloading my car, unbearable; days later, it’s still 85% jam-packed.

I know it all must sound so silly, that I should just “grow up” as I return to the “real world” like “everyone else.” But this road trip changed me forever, and I don’t ever want to be like everyone else.

I really don’t know what I’m doing right now. I feel very much like a toddler learning to walk all over again. I reached out to a friend who might relate.

“You had a purpose on the road,” he told me. “Survive, explore, meet new people, etc. 100% of your time and energy went into that.”

Now, my time and energy feel like vaporous outputs.

To be honest, I feel ashamed to be writing this right now. I feel as though I should be blogging triumphant things about conquering the continent and finding the perfect new home, but unlike Charlotte’s sunset skyline this new journey will be anything but sparkly.

Please bear with me. And maybe say a prayer or two for me as I learn this strange new dance of wandering anew.

  • MLYaksh

    When I used to do theatre, I would always anticipate post-show depression. I would have spent months with friends, joking around and having fun, preparing for performances- and it would always be an incredible experience! Then, everyone would wake up the next week, down as could be- yes, the show had been exhausting, but it was worth it.

    You just finished an incredible journey, Tom. You did what most people dream of doing- and you did it well! Ending such a journey and settling into a new city- it’s going to be difficult! Your trip changed you. I would be worried if you weren’t struggling with this. But that doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice by choosing Charlotte or by even choosing to end one season and enter the next. It simply means you’re changing seasons.

    You can count on us to bear with you. As someone told me just a few days ago- “Don’t apologize for what’s in your heart.” You can alway speak what you’re feeling with no shame here. Definitely praying for you.

    • I’ve heard the theater analogy from a few people. Such an interesting parallel. Ugh, changing seasons. The worst.

  • naturgesetz

    Would it help to think of yourself as having arrived at a point in your life (and a place) where the Lord is calling you to share what you have with others? Of course, one can be an itinerant missionary; but even engaging in secular work, the ongoing contact with a more or less stable group of people (customers/clients/employers/neighbors) can give opportunities to model a Christian way of life and sometimes bring questions or conversations in which you can give explicit witness to your faith. Your life story can be an important part of that witness.

    God bless you in what comes next in your life.

    • Thank you sir! If nothing else I’m looking forward to penning the book about my journey, but I do hope my missional purpose in Charlotte extends beyond text on a page.

  • Rebecka

    I think it’s only natural that it feels strange and frightening. It
    probably will for a while, it’s a big change for you. You’re in my prayers.

  • “I know it all must sound so silly, that I should just “grow up” as I return to the “real world” like ‘everyone else.'”

    To me the real world, growing up, and what everyone else does is what sounds rather silly, personally. I get why it’s done, but less so why people do it without thought. You are doing it WITH thought, and that makes all the difference. It’s not “because you should” but because this is where your next journey is. Gotta go where you’re called, and do what you’re called to do!

    While the transition will no doubt be tricky some days, stick with the fellowship around you and it will work out. And remember, this whole planet – be it running from coast to coast or settling in one spot – is just a way point for something much, much bigger. None of us are really “home” until we’re truly Home. 🙂

    • Appreciate the insight, JK. From one home to the Next. The journey continues . . .

  • For what it’s worth, Tom, I think you’ve chosen well. Adventure and excitement are fine things while they last, but relationships and community have enduring value.

    I can only imagine how hard it must be to face banalities such as grocery shopping and job hunting after so many exhilarating months of travel. I’m certain your transition back to “normal” life will be challenging, yet I hope all the pieces fall neatly into place for you.

    You have been, and will continue to be, in my prayers. Godspeed!

    • Thanks, Adam. It’s good to be reminded of the value in relationship. So easy to forget when mountains and metropolises across the continent are still calling my name. Appreciate your prayers, brother. You rock. Tell your brother I say hello.

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