In my first quarter century, I’ve done my best to travel and explore this vast, beautiful planet that we call home. I’ve reached three continents and aspire to explore all seven by the time I turn 30. I don’t pretend to have been everywhere, or even a fraction of the world. “A fool thinks himself to be wise,” but there’s something unique about Nashville, Tennessee that I have yet to discover anywhere else.
Nashville has a captivating aura that’s drawn me in ever since my first visit six years ago. Since then it’s developed into an almost sacred place for me; many others living here share a similar sentiment. It’s home, in the truest sense of the word. It’s the one place in the world where I am able to feel completely alive, day in and day out, and find the inspiration to pursue exactly what I want from this life.
If you’re fortunate enough to come across a place that feels this special, wherever it might be, I cannot encourage you enough to move there. It will change your entire outlook on life. If you have yet to find such a place, set aside time to travel and explore different cities. It’s out there.
The thing about Nashville is that you could drive 500 miles in any direction without finding another place even remotely comparable. Nashville is a city of dreamers and an oasis of culture. It’s technically ‘The South’ but not deep enough to lose any of the four seasons. We still get sweltering summers, the majestic colors of the fall, occasional snowfalls (flurries have a tendency to shut down schools for the week), and spring rains. It’s a growing city, but by no means overbearing. There’s room to escape and catch your breath in the hills that blanket the Tennessee countryside. It’s a far cry from a concrete jungle and isn’t plagued by the cynical undertone that haunts other major cities. In fact, Nashville cultivates a rare sense of optimism.
To most of the outside world, Nashville is ‘Hillybilly Vegas,’ which is fine by me in that it is one of the world’s best-kept secrets. It’s so much more than the honky-tonk bars on Broadway and country music. Although in recent years, this perception has gradually changed, made evident by the influx of new residents from both sides of the country. In just the six years I’ve known Nashville, it’s grown tremendously.
Usually growth comes at an unfortunate price, but Nashville has done well to preserve its culture. Those who live here have made a real effort to provide unwavering support to local businesses, events, artists, and all things unique to Nashville. Many cities preach supporting the local economy, but it’s another thing entirely to put into practice.
One of the most appealing things about Nashville is the distinct character of each neighborhood. Local restaurants, boutiques, bars, and establishments of every kind, line the streets of main neighborhoods. It’s one of the few cities where chains are on the outside looking in. They still exist but are not quite as pervasive.
From my house, I can walk a quarter mile to The Well, a local coffee shop, then head over to Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore proving that such a business can not only continue to exist in today’s world, but thrive. Parnassus connects readers with writers and is a great place to interact with others who share an interest for nerding out over books. It's nice to get recommendations from actual human beings and hold a physical book in your hands. My favorite neighborhood, 12 South, is right down the street, and features dozens of local restaurants, more coffee shops, a couple great dessert spots, and the beautiful Sevier Park – all the necessities.
As far as events, it’s hard to run out of things to do. A couple weeks back I went to Shakespeare in the Park, a month long celebration of Shakespeare that’s been going on for 27 years. This year’s play was a brilliant Americana-infused adaptation of As You Like It. The following weekend I attended Live on the Green, a concert series put on by Nashville’s independent radio station, Lightning 100. The festival features a variety of local and national acts (no country music). The day after, I took a writing class with The Porch, a local writer’s collective that caters to the growing community of writers in town. There’s no shortage of creative organizations, community events, or local establishments. New experiences, a true source of fulfillment, are at every turn.
The appeal of a distinct local culture is one of those things you don’t realize you’re missing until you experience it first hand. Being able to regularly attend gatherings and interact with your local community has such a positive impact on the overall quality of life. The same can be said for being able to walk through neighborhoods and streets with real personality, completely unique to your town, rather than just another bland strip mall.
Few cities can pull this off because people become obsessed with convenience and the cheapest available option. Nashville is quite different in that there’s a great deal of loyalty within the community and most are more than willing to spend a couple extra bucks to support one another. There’s great satisfaction in supporting your neighbors and doing your part to preserve a culture that others look towards with admiration.
My fascination with Nashville is deeply rooted in the sense of community. The only other place where I’ve found as many outgoing, adventurous young people is at the occasional hostel on my travels. Of course at hostels everyone’s just passing through, but Nashville feels like permanent collection of those who share this mindset. It’s reassuring to see other young creative minds unapologetically pursuing their passions. There are enough people in the world content with a humble existence. I’m interested in real people who demand the most from their lives and refuse to settle. Nashville is a haven for those pursuing their dreams. The authenticity of those who live here is contagious and spills out to the streets, coloring the city with character.
I have never loved a place as deeply as I love Nashville. It provides the inspiration I need in order to create; a core part of who I am. The way the city comes together to encourage and share in everyone’s natural talent(s) is nothing short of amazing. Nashville is a rare community of brilliant and imaginative minds. In a time when creativity often feels lost on the world, Nashville is leading a renaissance in many ways. I am fortunate to have found a place where I have such a deep connection.
The intent of this post (besides a declaration of love for my new home) is not to convince you to move here, but rather find your equivalent to Nashville. Search for the one place in the world where you feel most alive and inspired. Once you discover it, dig deep and find the courage to make it your home. Nashville consistently provides me with the greatest gift any place in this world is able to offer, an unwavering sense of hope.