I’m one of those lucky people who spends half their time in the amazing city of Milwaukee, while still spending countless weekends in the middle of the woods in Central Wisconsin. I grew up in a small town of 1,200 people, but I also go to school and live in Milwaukee. It’s a beautiful, complicated relationship of where I truly belong, but in the end, it’s pretty amazing.
While I love both places, they are polar opposites. At home, I’m outside in the woods, having camp fires night after night; but when I’m in Milwaukee, I’m probably down in Bay View with friends or by the beach. There are pros and cons to both, so here’s what it’s like to live a split life.
Milwaukee: Every night of the week there’s a different event happening in Milwaukee. It can be anything from one of Milwaukee’s iconic festivals to Jazz in the Park. There’s something going on somewhere in the city. And if for some reason, I don’t want to go to the event, I can go to dinner, a movie, a show or literally just hang out with friends without driving over a half hour.
Small Town: There’s nothing going on. Like seriously. The biggest event in my town is called Dairyluscious days. It’s an event all about cows… The second biggest event is Chicken Chew… Want to guess what that one’s about? This is what happens in small towns. There are a few events a year, but for the most part, every day is just a normal day. Football season is a great time because you know you always have something to do on a Friday night. Otherwise, you spend half of your night trying to find someone to do something with (even if that means driving over a half hour to see a movie).
Milwaukee: While Milwaukee has a ton of parks and Lake Michigan right there, it’s still the city. I love city life, but I still love to get down to my roots and spend time away from my phone out in nature. Milwaukee parks are beautiful, with Lake Park being my favorite. While it’s a piece of nature (and a really amazing park), you can’t escape the city life. Half the people are only there to play Pokémon Go and you can still hear the sound of cars whizzing by on the roads surrounding the park.
Small Town: If you want to go out into nature, you just have to step outside your door. While I’m living in my small town, I’m surrounded by the trees of my property, and the loudest sound is the wind rustling the leaves. When spending time in a small town, you really find yourself falling in love with nature. Hiking and outdoor activities are the most fun you can have in a small town. Kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, ATV riding and other outdoor sports fill my days off. Nature becomes your fun when you live in a small town. One of the best parts is at night. There aren’t any lights and every star dots the night sky. It’s something you could never see in the city.
Milwaukee: Traffic and construction everywhere. Driving in Milwaukee isn’t a simple task. While I do love driving in the city, it’s a time where I can’t be distracted. People running across the street when they shouldn’t, cars turning from the wrong lane and of course the wonderful never-ending construction. You cheer when you have to make a left turn and you get a left turn signal, otherwise, you’d never make it across the intersection. You feel embarrassed and scared when you try to turn down a one-way (we’ve all done it…). Driving in the city is stressful as can be sometimes…
Small Town: Traffic in high school was being stuck behind a tractor or an Amish buggy on the way to school. This isn’t an exaggeration. The most dangerous times to drive were during the Rut (when all the deer are mating before Deer Hunting Season). Deer would be every few feet, sometimes dashing across the road in front of you. Your best skills living in a small town is looking for glowing eyes in a field before the deer would come running out at you. (Side note: my county has only one set of stop lights in the whole county…)
Milwaukee: Everything is so close. The grocery store is a five-minute drive. The movie theater is 10. Everything is in such a close proximity. There’s stuff everywhere. Starbucks and other coffee shops are all over. You don’t even have to worry if you’ll get your morning caffeine fix. The hardest part is choosing what one to go to.
Small Town: The closest Wal-Mart is a half hour away on the interstate. Same with the movie theater. The closest mall is an hour away in Madison. Starbucks? Nope. Not in my town. We have McDonalds coffee. Everything is so far away. We’re lucky that we’re on I-39, otherwise, we wouldn’t have the McDonalds or the Subway. There’s really nothing close by at all. I could probably make a list of how far I have to drive just to pick something up.
While I love living in both places, my heart is always longing for the other. When I’m home, I miss Milwaukee and when I’m in Milwaukee I miss my home. It’s a great mixture, but I think I’m always going to be stuck in both places, and I’m okay with that.