I'm a city girl. I've spent most of the last 17 years in Portland Oregon, with a year in Louisville Kentucky. So why am I currently residing in eastern Kentucky in a small town called Morehead? I fell in love.
You may be fortunate enough to distinguish whether you choose where to live by a certain appealing location or the person you want to be with. If you're lucky, you get both criteria. I picked the person, and that's how I ended up in Morehead. I'm 100% sure it was the right decision for me. I'm not saying I only have one of those criteria. I'm learning to love my new town in the foothills of Appalachia within the Daniel Boone National Forest. Access to hiking, backpacking and mountain biking. Affordable living and an overall slower, manageable pace of life. I feel relaxed and caught up. I sit, listening and watching the birds out my office window most days, excited to open our pool... very soon!
Has the move felt like culture shock? Yes. Possibly more so than living abroad in both Chile and New Zealand as I've done at different times in my life. No curbside recycling, apparently a privilege I've had since middle school. Very few locally owned restaurants. An hour from the nearest airport. Bicycling isn't the norm and that may be the number one hardest part of my transition. Morehead isn't set up with paths or even consistently wide shoulders to cycle. As someone who cycled 4,197 miles across the US solo (mostly through incredibly rural areas), I don't feel safe enough to bicycle the 3 miles from my home to the grocery store or the 7 miles to the local coffee shop on Main Street. I sometimes think I should start doing it to begin to change the norm. But is putting my life at risk worth it? Probably not.
We have an obesity problem in the south. People are bigger. It's evident. When we don't build our communities with sidewalks, we create a car dependent culture. Not only is that detrimental for our waistlines, it's more money coming out of our wallets and worse on the environment, including our roads and air quality. Asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism related to chronic disease for our K-12 students. Air quality is a trigger for asthma attacks.
On my run yesterday, I thought about how people here see food as comfort. Food is very cultural. We have rituals and celebrations that focus on food. Everyone does. However, in other places I've lived, more health conscious places, people eat to thrive and nourish their bodies, being aware of eating nutrient-rich foods rather than foods that fill us up. How do we shift that mentality? How can I support that locally?
I travel nationally about 40% of the time. And when I'm traveling, I'm in fabulous cities- New York City, Chicago, Albuquerque and Portland Oregon. Anchorage, Nashville and even Honolulu. So, arriving home to local art events, hiking on the trails behind MSU, listening to the birds and starting my garden is a nice change to the last twenty fast-paced years of my life. I hope to be a part of a culture shift in which new businesses want to relocate to Morehead. But, in order to do that, we need a viable, thriving workforce. And one indicator of that? 6th grade BMI. With current obesity rates, new businesses might not select to locate their businesses here. So, let's together, create healthier environments by offering healthier eating opportunities and physical activity options. We can all support this by modeling the behaviors. Get out and walk. Support the healthier items on menus. Support local farmers. We already have access to amazing outdoor activities, community gardens, farmers market, affordability and beauty. Morehead really does have a lot to offer.
It will continue to take some time to settle in and make Morehead truly my town... but it's getting there. I'm proud to call it my home.