My Hometown

Rocky Mountain House, View, river, North Saskatchewan River

The view from our backyard

I roll out of the bed I spent my teens sleeping in and stumble into the basement of the house where I was born.  It has changed since my early days.  It used to be unfinished, a mere cement cave, the envy of all my friends.  We’d spend hours down here playing hockey without ever worrying about breaking anything.  We didn’t need nor want fancy appliances back then, our luxury was anywhere we could play hockey.

I twist the lock on the door and step outside.  I make sure the key is still hidden in the same spot is always has been.  It is, and it’s not a secret.  I think that everyone in town knows where the key to our house is hidden.  It doesn’t matter, the door could be unlocked and nothing would happen.  The outside of the house hasn’t changed much, aside from a terrible new coat of paint that I’m sure my parents must regret.  I check the front lawn to see if the spot on the grass my brother and I wore out playing baseball on has grown back in; it hasn’t.  The trampoline beside the house is still being used by the neighbour kids, although they are new ones now.

I back out carefully of our twisting driveway.  I’ve done it so many times, that even now after all these years I’m sure I could do it blindfolded.  I steer the car across town trying to sort out what is new and what has remained the same.  I softly steer the car through a new light in town and down main street; it hasn’t changed at all.  It is still wide enough to drive a tank battalion down, and pedestrians still always have the right away.  No matter how much we obey the law in Rocky, mainstreet is the one place that jaywalking is not only the exception, but the way things work.

Main street, mainstreet, rocky mountain house

Main street Rocky Mountain Hosue

As I continue, I spot my elementary school.  It hasn’t changed at all.  I can’t help but laugh when thinking about the days we used to spend in the fields throwing snowballs, playing football, or being chased by girls.  We played a sport religiously that we called “kick puck,” though in reality it was just soccer using a rubber puck.

I head into the place we have called “the new subdivision” for the past 25 years.  I roll my car past the place I kissed my high school sweetheart for the first time.  I can sense the moment as if it was yesterday.  But it also seems so far away; as if it never really happened, but was just a dream I had or a scene I had seen in a movie.  10 years later and countless other relationships and I’m still amazed by the fact that my first, and most naïve, was probably the most real I’ve had.

I stop my car at a park nearby and wander out into the small basketball court that forms the centerpiece.  I look up at the rims that are coated with a fading shade of red, they seem higher than they did when I was young.  I used to spend hours here, it was my escape.  When I had a basketball in my hands the world seemed clearer; simpler. I’ll never forget the time I left home, upset about something, and came to these courts.  I played for hours in the pouring summer rain, and eventually the sound of the basketball drumming through the neighbourhood at 3 in the morning caused the police to come and take me home.  I’ll never remember what I was upset about, but I’ll never forget how when I arrived home that night any “issue” I had was over and done with.

As I step back into the car, my nostalgic journey seems to be guiding me now.  I cross the “New Bridge” and drive some country roads.  We used to have not-so-secret bush parties here at places we called “the tresel”, “the beach” and a variety of other non-descript holes in the forest.  I’m sure the kids still come out here.  Driving through town I see some of the high school kids, they look and act almost identically to how we did back in the day.  Something never change.

Buffalo, historic center, rocky mountain house

A buffalo at the nearyb historic center

My car steers me back home, and I’m taken aback by the journey my life has taken me since I left this town for the first time at 18.  I was lost in life.  I knew I wanted something bigger, but didn’t have a clue what it was or how to get it.  Today, 10 years later things are a little bit more clear.  My mind is no longer muddled with pipe dreams, because I have learned over the years that there is no such thing.

Despite the fact that I don’t feel like I belong in this place any more – I am essentially a stranger in my own hometown – I can’t help but look around at its streets, parks, and people and realize that this is what shaped me.  It’s an emotional experience coming home after so many years away, perhaps as powerful as any far off world I’ve explored.  And at the end of the day, regardless of how far we travel in this world, we can never have another hometown.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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20 Comments

    • Yeah Rob – The view at my parent’s house is awesome. They always get wicked sunsets there.

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  1. Ahh Brendan, really enjoyed this post. You’re right about never being able to have another hometown. I sometimes feel like a stranger whenever I return to my hometown (Harrogate, UK) but it always makes me smile and there are so many memories there. It’s barely changed since I was at school, which I think helps my rose-tinted view of the place.

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    • Glad you liked the post Tom – I had this one written in pen a paper and almost completely forgot I wrote it. What struck me about returning to my hometown was that so little has changed, but so much has changed with how I look at it. It was a great experience just wandering around town.

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  2. Beautifully descriptive., emotionally warm and gooey., felt like I needed a mixtape-of-relevant tracks in the background…! :)) Honestly so heartfelt – reads like the beginning of a story…should you ever want to pursue creative/fiction/type writing…I’d definately read it…

    :)

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    • Thanks – I’ve started writing a creative-style writing novel. However, it’s completely stalled out as I realized I really need an ending haha.

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    • Thanks Tina – Was really good to get back and revisit good ole Rocky Mountain House!

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  3. Wow…. I felt like I was reliving the experience with you! lol I pictured everything you said! It is totally weird going back but you are right, it is the place that shaped us into who we are today. Thanks for highlighting Rocky aka Rock City / Rotten Monkey House :)

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    • Haha, Marsha. I was hoping no one from Rocky would read this haha. Regardless, glad to see I’m not completely alien and that you can relate too!

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  4. Oh man! I feel the same when coming back home after a long travel. It doesn’t happen very often (once a year) but I cherish every moment spent in my hometown. Enjoy!

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    • Agness – I’m glad I’m not the only one! It’s always good to visit home a bit now and then!

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  5. Too many travelers discredit the beauty and originality of their own home towns. I recently had to show some visitors around my home town (through Arribaa) and I was delighted to see things through their fresh eyes – definitely gave me a new sense of appreciation for the things I don’t even notice on a daily basis anymore!

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    • Colette – I love looking at photography of my hometown. Different eyes seem places that are familiar to us so differently!

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  6. Those are amazing shots! Sometimes, nowhere is as perfect as home.

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    • Or as imperfect as home… but we love it anyways haha.

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  7. Wow…. wonderful 1st photo

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    • Thanks Jessi.

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  8. Your article is well written, honest and certainly rings true for me as I find myself in the same situation as you are.
    Having left my small community home town in the West of England 30 years ago, I find that when I do return to visit family & friends, I am looking at the place with fond memories of days gone by, but find that not much has changed with people.
    I myself have changed immensely,.
    Most everyone I know there has stayed close by and made good lives for themselves, however, our lives are so different I have lost touch with the familiarity of the town as well as these people.
    They now view me as an outsider that does not fit into the community anymore as I once did.
    It is hard to know where you fit into the world when you have spent so long traveling and living away from people you grew up with. Your priorities change.
    I have been traveling since I was 17 years old.
    I emigrated to Canada when I was 27 and 5 months pregnant with my Daughter.
    I lived in Canada for over 16 years before moving to the Pacific coast of Mexico where I now live.
    I still call myself English, sometimes Canadian, but I feel more and more Mexican now I am immersed in this lifestyle.
    The one thing I have learned is you can never go back to how it was.

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