For anyone who knows me, they will know that I have a complicated relationship with where I am from. Truthfully, when I used to describe it I said that I hated it. Sometimes I would pretend I was from the next city, just to avoid people wrinkling their noses up at me.
I’m from a place called Bradford in England, somewhere that never really gets much good said about it. It’s often seen as a deprived area where racial tensions can run high. It usually makes the top 10 list of the worst places to live in England. So many people try and change this reputation, but for many it’s simply seen as the home of the 2001 riots. For me, it was the place I felt held me back from achieving what I wanted to do and somewhere to escape.
So I did. In December, I stepped foot on a plane to go travelling, and as cheesy as it sounds, it is only from leaving that I have found a true appreciation for where I am from.
I have always, always loved the people from back home. Travelling only firmed up the level of love I have for those people, which didn’t surprise me. There hasn’t been a day in my life where I haven’t felt lucky to have the relationships that I do. The shock came from the fact that leaving had made me realise that Bradford isn’t all that bad, actually.
I didn’t have to go to the other side of the world for a beautiful sunset. I could have looked out my bedroom window and seen a pink sky if I’d have wanted to. There were nice walks to go on around where I lived. City life was a fifteen minute bus ride away, peaceful countryside a twenty minute drive. The sea was an hour and a half away. If I wanted to see flowers, I could go walk around the streets where I lived. There was beauty around me all the time. I just had to want to see it.
It’s so easy to underestimate the place that you come from. So many of us do it. Of course we do – we’re used to it. It’s almost old news to you. It’s always been around you, it’s beauty going over your head when you have seen it for the millionth time. You walk around blindfolded to what is right there on your doorstep, looking for the beauty everywhere and anywhere else in the world. You see photos of amazing beaches or incredible, iconic views that other people share online. You want a piece of that, and whilst I really believe in travelling, I also now think that sometimes the place you need to appreciate is right there on your doorstep.
There is nothing like home. I get a bit choked up when I think of sitting in my garden with my mum sat next to me in summer, trying to tan our pale legs, closing my eyes and listening to the sounds of the birds that don’t sound like the birds here, smelling the neighbours freshly cut grass because we only get what feels like about one week of summer a year so everyone cuts their grass at the same time. Remembering the journey to the shops that I could do with my eyes closed makes me smile. I miss my one of a kind family, my amazing friends, my neighbours who have been like a second family to me since I was a child. I miss the familiarity, the know-it-like-the-back-of-my-hand, the simple beauty that went under my radar for so long.
It is a big, big, beautiful world. There are so many sights to be seen that are more breathtaking that we could ever express. Photos don’t do justice to the feel of a place. Exploring somewhere new is magical. We are so incredibly lucky that we live in an age where we can explore it.
But Bradford – I’ve been unfair on you. I don’t hate you – I just needed to leave you. But you’re not that bad, not at all. You’re the school playground where my dad taught me to ride my bike, the streets where I played Kirby with my friends, the shopping trips with my mum and sister where we’d spend up and joke ‘don’t tell your dad!’ There’s no place like you and there never will be. You’ve left your mark on my soul and I’m okay with that. I don’t want to shun you anymore. You’ll always be home. Always.