Before we left I had a chat with our airbnb host, as I was telling her how much we enjoyed the city she told me, “yeah, you know I’ve lived a lot of places in my life, but Atlanta is just so livable.” She has indeed lived a multitude of places, including San Francisco (Height-Ashbury, back in the day), so I trust her. And it’s true, for a large city Atlanta is just really livable. It’s not just the low cost of living, or the pleasant weather, the great food, access to outdoors, or gorgeous neighborhoods. There’s something a bit different about Atlanta.
Most major cities I’ve lived in, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York all have the culture and vibrancy you’d expect, but they are all also for the most part, anonymous. Sure you have your friends and communities, but personally, I always felt a mild sense of isolation. Which isn’t a bad thing, I like knowing I can run errands and not run into people. The opposite is true for Dublin, which is more a large town than city. The grocery store is a meeting place (whether you want it to be or not). And I’ve found one reason I love Dublin so much is that it boasts the benefits of a large city, with still being small enough that you feel very much a part of the city and community. That’s the feeling we got in Atlanta. It’s a big city, but people are friendly (generally, of course), engaging and not nearly as frantic (unless they’re driving) as other big cities. It felt like, if we lived there, it would be easy to find a community.
It is in the south. But everyone told us Atlanta was not the south. And that’s true, as far as we could tell. The only aspects that reminded us we were in fact in the south were the occasional accent and how people dress. Men in Atlanta seem to dress in two camps: way better than the average american man (in a very southern, dapper sort of way), or way worse (cargo pants, free-tees), with little in between. Women, in general, were better dressed, but tended towards long, colorful dresses instead of the typical monochrome uniform of most cities. Women also seemed to travel in small packs of 3-4 way more than I’ve seen in other cities. That was it. Of course, I’m sure if we actually moved there, we’d notice a slightly different culture. But our brief visit, it was hardly noticeable.
There are downsides, of course. Its not a commuter friendly city. The public transport is lacking and traffic is horrendous. But, you can strategically live so that traffic doesn’t impact you all that much (unless you run errands at 5pm, which, well, you were warned). And mosquitos. So many bug bites. I presume, my body would adapt, but I really am not a fan. And, of course, humidity. And the general annoyances of city life (air, noise pollution, crime). But it’s also so easy to escape, with beautiful, tree-lined quite neighborhoods minutes from everything you need. We’d be very happy there, and I was sad to leave, hoping it wasn’t the last time we’d be in Atlanta. I was surprised by how much I loved this city, how I’m hoping we end up there. Of course, there are so many places in the US we’d be happy, but Atlanta felt particularly perfect. Regardless, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to spend time there.
Atlanta is also special to me for a different reason. It’s where I finally felt like a runner. Before moving there, I’d been running a few months and making strides. But in Atlanta, partially thanks to the fantastic network of running paths, I made large improvements. I’ve gotten faster, and stronger. I finally felt that moment when running long miles where you just lose yourself completely in the run, and forget you’re running. I felt the exhilaration of a runner’s high. I’m finally picking up speed, slowly seeing my 10k time closer to mid-50’s, instead of slogging in over an hour. I still have a long way until I reach my goals, but the striving for those goals is to me, the best part of running anyway. So I feel a bit attached to Atlanta for that, for the miles and hours I’ve spent on the beltline. An odd, unexpected attachment, but there it is.
And then…that was it. Summer over. Fourteen weeks down. A whirlwind, to be sure. Stressful at times, but mostly joyful. I got to see so many of the most important people in my life, meet new friends, and have a ton of adventures. I couldn’t ask for more. But, at the same time, I’ve been itching to return home, to the familiar, soggy streets of Dublin. And so, after a red-eye we landed back in our city. We moved apartments, and settled back in. The ubiquitous Irish accents are a southing sound. It’s good to be home. As I sit, I’m watching the morning sun over our balcony with boxes I’m neglecting in my periphery. I’m excited for this next (and last) year in Ireland, though I know it’ll go by entirely too fast. So, for now, I’m going to soak it all in. Let’s see what you’ve got, year four!