Growing up in West Michigan is quite the experience; you could get a completely different perspective from 10 people that grew up 30 minutes apart. For me, the first thing that comes to mind when I think about growing up here is my small hometown, Stevensville, and the outdoors. Whether it be long walks, days on trails, the beach, or endless hours on a ball field: being outside in nature is a common theme when I look back at my childhood in a town that consisted of one blinking red light.
Moving to Grand Rapids was quite the change of pace. This is as “big city” as I’ll probably ever get, but I love the city and the business buzz on the streets. Walking amongst office buildings and beautiful apartments to go to work or school is mind blowing compared to driving past endless cornfields. Not running into at least five people I know everywhere is also still surprising. Experiencing Grand Rapids has been a huge growth opportunity for me professionally, academically, and socially.
The only thing I still craved after moving here was the quiet and peaceful simplicity of being surrounded by nature and nothing else. I used to love going for long walks outside and being absorbed into the woods or beach to the point where I couldn’t think of anything else. I began looking for a spot where I could find that piece of home when I needed a break. My research brought me an answer only 15 minutes away. A small replica of everything home had and located just down the street: Millennium Park.
A beach to tan again finally, with kayaks and paddle boats lining the water if I got bored. Over 18 miles in trails for biking, walking, or running, and even a small splash pad if I really feel nostalgic. The park is open until the sun goes down, making it my new spot to watch the sunset, study, and just be outside in some fresh air for no cost. I even shared my little piece of paradise with my fellow interns and organized a barbeque there this summer thanks to the free grills and picnic tables available. All of these things were pieces of home only a short car ride away from my apartment, right by the city.
Now I truly get to live the best of both worlds. I work and go to school downtown, and get to experience the rush and chaos of the city as much as I want. However, I can also escape to the outdoors for some peace and quiet when I want to. A short trip to Millennium reminds me of what a truly unique place I live in. Grand Rapids allows me to feel the excitement and thrill of moving to a city as a young professional, but also gives me the chance to get a taste of home if I want it just down the road.