The photo above was snapped through a side window at 55 miles per hour. It shows a stretch of land in the middle of a middling hamlet in the middle of Delaware, right along Highway 13. The town is called Bridgeville.
What’s significant about Bridgeville? Well, the town slogan. As I was cruising along the highway, it caught my eye. And it caught my fancy. Then I found myself caught up in the metaphysical implications of it all.
“Welcome to Bridgeville: If you lived here, you’d be home now.”
First reaction: That seems a bit desperate, especially because Bridgeville actually can boast hosting annual events called the Apple Scrapple Festival and the World Championship Punkin Chunkin.
Second reaction: Actually, that’s rather clever. If there’s nothing that particularly stands out about a place, one thing is for sure — it’s home. It sure beats the other, all too common small-town boasts like “A Nice Place to Live.”
Third reaction: What a brilliant slap of perspective.
One thing that I love about traveling by RV is the ability to feel a part of the landscape and the opportunity to get more than just a fleeting glimpse of each speck of civilization. You can explore — not just at 55 miles per hour, but by stopping, searching, savoring for a while. Flexibility (a staple of the house-on-wheels experience) breeds freedom. And freedom allows time to satisfy curiosity. And curiosity makes insight possible — insight into what it must be like to live in whatever random dot on the map that you’ve stumbled upon.
I suppose this is why I write American travel memoirs about my journeys through those tiny dots. I stop for a while and do my best to grasp the deeper meaning behind that simple sign in Bridgeville: “If you lived here, you’d be home now.”
So what it is like to live there? What’s the daily view out the kitchen window? What’s the gathering point in town? How might their circumstances — whether it be finances or climate or landscape or dominant subculture — influence their life perspectives?
The highway can take you past these places in the blink of an eye, so you get only a cursory understanding of the profundity of a place. Which is to say no real understanding at all. But if you stop for a bit and look around and flip a switch on the perspective — from the outside looking in to the inside looking out — then you might discover what it means to live there. And while you’re on the road, you just might get a sense of home.