Traveling the World to Visit My Backyard


Matt Long
Sponsored by Zappos

  • 130 days traveling
  • 55 flights
  • 50 cities
  • 20 countries

That’s my year reduced to the most bare of numbers and while I know there are many who spend much more time on the road than I do, I think it’s a lot. It may even be too much time away from home, but oddly enough spending about 1/3 of the year en route to somewhere else has had a remarkable side-effect. All of that time being hurtled in a metal tube around the world has made me fall back in love with my city.

Although, to be honest, I’m not sure that Washington, DC is even my city any more. I moved to the Washington, DC metro region in 2000, right out of graduate school. I moved here not from a fierce love of the city but because it just seemed like the right thing to do. Most of my friends from both undergrad and grad schools moved there and since I had two degrees in international relations, it also seemed like the only place in the country where I could find a job. I had spent some time in the city beforehand of course and in general I liked it. But I honestly didn’t know a lot about it before loading up my car and heading east. That turned out to be a good thing actually, because almost immediately I started to fall in love with the nation’s capital. Living downtown, I was a young professional and enjoyed an easy commute and a fun nightlife. Plus there was the physical beauty of the city, it’s hard not to feel a certain level of awe walking past the monuments at night, lit up and radiant. But over the years something happened, things changed and I fell out of love with my adopted hometown.

That’s because I haven’t lived within the District city limits in a very, very long time. No, I retreated to the suburbs a long time ago and while I can be in the City within a matter of minutes, I usually just ignore it. Like most people I get locked into a rhythm here at home: chores, work, errands and experiencing the best of Washington, DC is not on that list. I’ve attempted a few times over the last couple of years to reconnect, but it’s a slow process. Like a jilted lover, I have to get to know Washington again and it takes time. That’s especially true since over the last decade or so DC has suddenly, and somewhat unexpectedly, become one of the country’s hottest cities.

New restaurants, new neighborhoods, new people, the city I moved to definitely isn’t the same, but that’s a good thing. I was reminded of that recently while re-exploring one of my favorite neighborhoods, Dupont Circle. This trendy address actually represents DC I think perfectly. Washington is so much more than monuments and government buildings. In fact, it’s anything but all that. Walking around Dupont Circle I was literally in the middle of the city and yet it felt like any charming town in the country. People were out walking their dogs, the townhouses were covered in pumpkins and autumnal flair and the slight nip in the air hinted towards a change in the seasons. Nowhere was there a skyscraper or other hint of one of the country’s most important cities. Ultimately, that’s why I moved here. Growing up in small towns I didn’t want to live in a concrete jungle, to be removed from my neighbors by steel and asphalt. DC has all of the amenities any large city offers but it almost never feels that way. It very much feels more personal, more intimate and that is something I hope never changes.

Matt Long

I was wandering through these gorgeous neighborhoods thanks to a sponsorship with Zappos and North Face. They asked me to find a way to show off their Campshire Fleece as well as the North Face Glacier 1/4 Zip Fleece Top and I couldn’t imagine a better way to showcase the product’s versatility than by re-exploring my forgotten city. Sure, the fleece is obviously great for anyone that enjoys the great outdoors, which I do from time to time, but it’s also ideal for urban trekkers like myself. Washington is very much a four seasons city, and bundled up against the nippy air while still looking good was the perfect combination. I’m no fashion maven, but enjoying the ability to layer as a precaution against DC’s notoriously fickle weather AND blend into an urban setting is ideal and I can’t wait to don the Campshire again soon as I set out to re-introduce myself to some of the city’s other amazing neighborhoods. But it’s not just the urban core that interests me, I live in the suburbs for a reason and the pastoral beauty found within just a few miles of the city’s border is one of the best benefits to living in the region.

It’s amazing to me, but a short 15-minute ride out of Washington and suddenly one is surrounded by horse farms, bales of hay and in this season, pumpkin patches galore. That’s one of my favorite things about autumn, getting outside and enjoying both the weather and the landscapes that surround us. So this past weekend that’s exactly what I did. I brought one of my dogs along with me as we went out in search of not only the perfect pumpkin, but also some quiet time alone out in the woods and around the many farms of the area. The sun was shining brightly and while it was a little warmer than I’d like, the feeling of fall was definitely in the air. The stars aligned and it was the perfect afternoon, the likes of which can’t be found anywhere but close to home.

Traveling and exploring the world is important to me and always has been. As a kid instead of Michael Jackson or Madonna posters, my childhood bedroom was instead festooned with maps and flags of the world. Travel is part of my DNA and that won’t ever change, but it doesn’t mean I can’t slow down and appreciate those places closest to me. I’m fortunate in many ways and one of them is where I decided to move almost 18 years ago. I’ve never lived in one place for so long and while my itchy feet sometimes make me want to leave, I know that whatever happens I will always be a proud Washingtonian.

Where is your hometown and do you take some time out to explore it as a visitor and not just a local?

 

This post is a collaboration between LandLopers and Zappos and North Face but, as always, all opinions are entirely my own. Please be sure to check out the Campshire Fleece and Glacier Zip up at Zappos.com.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

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