What constitutes a hometown??

Probably the most common question asked amongst traveler’s is “Where are you from?” And you would think that is an easy question to answer. For many it’s the place where you last resided or where they grew up. Both valid answers. But for those of you who might be just a tad bit deeper (or drunk) this question may have more facets than a 14-carat diamond. Let me show you what I mean….

View of The Sleeping Giant, Thunder Bay, ON

Okay, so I was born and bred in the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It’s located on the north shore of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. To be technically correct, I was actually born in Port Arthur, Ontario. However, a very long time ago (I am NOT disclosing my age), shortly after I was born, the towns of Port Arthur and Fort William amalgamated to form the the city of Thunder Bay. Woohoo….a new, modern city embracing all that comes with…oh who am I kidding. Nothing really changed except the name.

Cherry Blossoms in bloom, Vancouver, BC
A moderately sized town of approx 100,000, Thunder Bay was known as a mill town and a bit of a gateway to Northwestern Ontario. According to my parents, Finnish immigrants, Thunder Bay was the greatest place on the earth. I believed them.  I could speak Finnish to anyone in the area of Bay St, people easily knew what Finnish pancakes were and we all knew that Santa Claus was from Lapland (the northern area of Finland). I also knew when locals were speaking Ukrainian or Italian. I enjoyed perogies and pasta dinners from local orthodox churches the Italian Hall, respectively (which to this day I love both cuisines). It was Euro-ethnic heaven. And very blue collar. That’s how I grew up. So why is it that I have such a connection to Vancouver, BC,  where I have spent a mere 7 years of my life and the rest were in Thunder Bay? Yes, I love cities – fairly big ones. But Toronto is too big for me to live in and I hated New York (granted, there were extenuating circumstances when I went to New York that clouded my impressions, but still…) My heart is in Vancouver. It’s also in Paris. I also have no doubt that when I finally visit my dream country of Australia that I will love Sydney and/or Perth. Is it that I love the variety and diversity of larger cities? Is that I just dislike the slower pace of a smaller city or town? With these questions in mind, I often wonder where my hometown really is. If it goes by where I wish I was, I think I’d be an Australian by now even though I’ve never been there. If it was based on the cities that I love for so many reasons then Vancouver is home just as much as Paris is. Or perhaps the city where I grew up and learned to love and  hate it at the same time. I do have nostalgic love of Thunder Bay due to my my past and for my bestest friends who are still there (you know who you are) yet I hate it for being so backwards. And I mean that in the political sense…Thunder Bay is run “ass backwards” just as much as Vancouver ignores it’s problems (i.e. the Downtown East Side). Oh what to make of it all.
Arc d’Triomphe, Paris

Perhaps the best summation is that my hometown changes as I change. It WAS Thunder Bay, ON, it’s currently Vancouver, BC and hopefully in the future it will somewhere in Australia. And always, always Paris owns a part of  my heart and soul. Here’s to our hometowns, wherever that may be.

Burrard Bridge, Vancouver, BC

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