Over the last two years, I have truly fallen in love with the Ozarks. Over the last (almost) two years we’ve really started to embrace this area that covers Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas. It’s come to be a legitimate favorite area of the U.S. of mine. For our anniversary, Matt and I spent a weekend in Arkansas, and we had a realization that that was our last Ozarks adventure, just the two of us, that we’ll probably take for a few years. It actually made us a bit sad. That feeling has inspired this letter from me to The Ozarks.
It was with a slightly heavy heart that Matt and I moved here. We loved our life in Asheville and while we always thought of our move back “home” (well, my hometown) as temporary, it was hard to leave a place we loved so much. I wanted to be close to my family, be here to prepare for our upcoming wedding and also live somewhere with a lower cost-of-living so we could save for our big trip. You let us do all of those things, but what I didn’t expect was that you would give me so much more.
You gave me memories from trips to last a lifetime. Thank you for your often overlooked but outstanding beauty. I will never forget these last two years of explorations. Although I took you for granted for over 25 years of my life, you sat patiently waiting for me to explore your rivers, mountains and hollers. You became my respite from fernweh and a place where my relationship with Matt grew and was nurtured. You let me know that there was a place I could feel at home in the Ozarks if I took the time to find it.
You’ve been the destination of many trips, long and short. I’ve hiked hundreds of miles of your trails with my closest friends, new friends, my family and my husband. Waterfalls, lakes, mountains, rivers – you shared them all. You helped me achieve goals on these trails. You showed me that beauty is found in unexpected and underrated places. Along with all kinds of natural beauty, I got to explore the beauty of old towns as well. I visited museums, learned about history of the people who came here before me and had more than a few locally brewed pints with good people from all over the region.
Thank you for making me feel small looking up bluff faces or over cliff edges. Thank you for making me feel strong after finishing a challenging hike. And thank you for reminding me just what my priorities are in life: family + friends, adventures, the environment and feeling secure in myself + my choices.
The last thing I want to thank you for the is keeping me inspired. You taught me to master the art of weekend wanderings. You showed me wonder in big ways, you kept me writing frequently + practicing new photography skills. Even when I was mentally exhausted or going through tough times, all it took was a walk outside or catching a sunrise or sunset from a scenic spot and all was well in my mind again. You gave me focus during one of the most life-changing periods of my 27 years of existence.
With Love, Always, Paige
Thanks for reading this love letter to The Ozarks. Since Matt + I moved here in Sept. of 2015 we’ve gone from being engaged, to being married. We’ve hiked hundreds of miles together, mostly in the Ozarks, but also beyond. We settled into a routine that allowed us to save enough money to escape for a year abroad. I’m beyond grateful to the people + places we encountered in The Ozarks over the last two years. We love you all.
All of the photos from my love letter to The Ozarks were taken by my amazingly talented husband. You can find more of his work on his website.
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