By Kelly Hines

My oldest child has been ready to move out of the house since she was about two. She’s a rising sophomore in high school and now that the transition is imminent, she’s even more excited. My middle child, on the other hand, will likely live her entire live within spitting distance of her childhood home. She plans to go to college at Wake Forest (and live at home), then she and her husband and two dogs will live in their RV in our driveway. My youngest – well, I can’t get that kid out of our bed, let alone out of the house.

And despite their different personalities, and my unwavering desire to keep them all in a safety bubble under my 24 hour watch, I have two words for all of them – GET OUT.

I just read an interesting article about the effects on emotional and mental health for people who never leave their hometown. One of the most shocking statistics is that 4 in 10 people never leave their hometown. 40% of the population never experiences a community setting other than the one they were born into. This may be due to choice or economics, circumstance or family, or just things working out that way (as they are wont to do).

I have friends within my community who have lived here all their lives, and find little reason to venture out. One of them recently commented on a shirt I was wearing and I told her I got it at Mast General Store. “Where is that?”, she asked and when I told her downtown Winston-Salem, she cocked an eyebrow and laughed. “Well, I don’t know about that. I don’t like to go that far.”

“It’s twenty minutes away,” I said.

“Still,” she said.

I had lived in 5 states (one of them twice) and 2 foreign countries by the time I was 20. In between my sophomore and junior year of high school, my family moved from North Carolina to California in what could only be described as THE MOST DEVASTATING EVENT OF MY YOUNG LIFE (caps totally necessary). Within three months of the move, it turned into the most awesome event of my young life. Moving cross country opened my eyes and mind to experiences and cultures and ideas that I was unaware even existed. When I made the move back to North Carolina five years later, I brought those experiences with me. The oilfields of Texas and the dustbowl of Oklahoma and the lushness of Guatemala, the isolation of Malta and the frigidity of Wisconsin, the intensity of California and the serenity of North Carolina: All these things are part of me.

A friend posted a photo of her daughter on Facebook this week, the girl smiling beside a suitcase, ready to board a plane to Spain. Without even thinking, I picked up the phone and called the company hosting the tour. I spent the next thirty minutes talking to a delightful young woman about sending my children abroad – someday. She was infinitely patient, even when I answered her questions with an enthusiastic, “I don’t know!” I don’t even know if a trip overseas is financially feasible for our family, I just want to talk to someone about the possibility of someday.

This weekend, I loaded my 15 year old into a van with 20 other teens, bound for Pittsburgh, where they’ll volunteer in food pantries and nursing homes and inner city youth camps. She will be in an unfamiliar city, doing unfamiliar things, with people who thinks she has a funny accent. It’s not Spain, but it’s a start.

On the days when I am afraid to let my kids go – or I get afraid of going myself – I remember the best part of travel: Coming home. The places you go, the people you meet, are rich and beautiful and add immeasurably to life. Some people cast seeds and put down roots in a place far from the familiar. Others bring those experiences home, which is made even sweeter by having been gone. So I’ll kiss my kids and send them off with simple words – “Go, have fun. I’ll see you when you get home.”