My happy place is Ashland, Oregon.

(I actually have another happy place - Rio de Janeiro, Brasil - but I've only visited once, so I'm not counting that one for now)

My very first encounter with Ashland was when my father, my brother, and I drove from Seattle to San Francisco to move half of my belongings for college. I remember driving past the sign that says "Ashland, Oregon - Home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival" thinking "Who in their right mind would make a Shakespeare Festival in the middle of nowhere?"

A summer later, I found myself driving into Ashland to live there for two weeks.

My first reason for being Ashland that summer was to participate in a three week seminar put on by my university of which I applied and was accepted to. I was to study plays and theatre during my two weeks at Ashland, and then use the final week of the seminar as a time to reflect and also work my final paper for the class. To me, at the time, Ashland was a cute little town in the mountains that was home to both a young, hippie, granola population as well as an older, middle-class white America that frequented the town for its theatre. I appreciated the town for what it was but didn't understand its effects on me.

Five months later, I returned for a weekend trip hosted by my professor of the seminar. As soon as we drove off the highway and I saw the town in the distance, an incredible weight was lifted off my shoulder. I sat their awestruck at the physical change that my body made and was suddenly filled with an immense excitement and confusion as to what was about to happen.

I stepped off of the bus, walked a block, and entered my favorite coffee shop and I was suddenly in an alternative reality. I walked into my favorite book store, was embraced with the smell of incense and calming music, and knew that I had a connection with the town that was beyond just having lived their for two weeks.

Here was a place that I could breathe, find balance, and center myself without the constraints of academia and expectation. Ashland was the first place that I had ever felt that and also where I felt an internal, inexplicable pull between the town's energy as well as mine. Who would have thought that this little hidden theatre town on the border of Oregon and California would be my little escape? I definitely didn't think so.

I will be returning to Ashland this coming weekend, and although I have too much homework to even rationalize my traveling up there, I know that once I'm up there, I'll be fine. And with all of the chaos in my life right now, what a wonderful break it would be. And then I can return, centered, balanced, and ready to plow through my finals. And with luck, I'll be able to share with you the beauty of Ashland after this coming weekend!

Where is your happy place?

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