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Following my heart home

Not knowing where you fit in and belong in life can be a tricky and somewhat trying time for anyone.

Being somewhat confused and dissatisfied with where I currently had progressed in life, both career-wise and geographically, I decided to make a move in May to somewhere that put me totally out of my comfort zone, Chesapeake, Va.

I spent my time struggling to find full-time work as the job market there was just as it was everywhere ... bleak, while also trying to find myself and where I was truly meant to fit in.

One thing I had always been good at throughout the years was making close and personable relationships with almost anyone, but honestly, after college, making new, serious and meaningful relationships with another person is much more difficult than when growing up.

After six months of struggling and not really finding myself, steady full-time work or any close friends (besides the two that I had already known in the area), I found myself even more lost and confused than when I had left.

Maybe I didn’t belong in Virginia; I was almost certain I didn’t belong in the Midwest, but where did I really fit in? Where would I really be able to call home?

Not knowing the answer to either of these questions on Nov. 1, 2013, I decided I would just pack my life into my 2002 Buick Regal, and I would take off for destinations unknown. I would be car camping on this journey.

Car camping may be a foreign idea to many people, as most have not done it. It involves taking off and just sleeping in your car wherever you end up, and it could have been one of the best things I have ever done. It allowed me time to do what I wanted, see what I wanted to see and reflect on my future.

In the early morning hours of that Friday morning I took off north across the Lucius J. Kellum Jr. Bridge-Tunnel, known simply as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

Having a minor in American history, and living in an area known as, “The Birthplace of America,” I knew the area was rich in history, so I Googled Revolutionary and Civil war battlefields that I could travel to. I had already hit many of the major and many minor Revolutionary and Civil War sites that were in the immediate area of where I was living at the time.

I stopped anywhere that was full of history. My first stop was Yorktown, Va., the final battle of the American Revolutionary War, followed by numerous other skirmish and battlefield sites of the American Revolution.

After this I started almost exclusively traveling to Civil War battlefields as I headed toward Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg. Along the way I visited numerous sites, which included The First and Second Battle of Bull Run/Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

I spent one day at each location, except Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg, where I stayed for two days at each location.

I spent my time taking photos of monuments at each battlefield and memorial monuments in Washington, D.C., speaking with park rangers, other history buffs and one really informative local Pennsylvanian on the top of Little Round Top (Battle of Gettysburg), only known to me as John.

In the moment while standing on Big Round Top with John I realized that I had been doing what I loved this entire trip, taking photos and learning the stories of other people. I had been actively treating my trip from the perspective of a journalist.

I had been away from journalism for nearly three years.

On my second day at Gettysburg, I got a phone call from two friends from the Midwest who were only an hour and a half away, so I decided it would be good for me to visit these two friends.

After spending three days with these friends from the Midwest I realized that what I had been missing in my life was journalism and the amazing people I had left behind in Illinois.

The next morning I woke up and drove the 14 hours back to Illinois, I was now back closer to the people I love, and two days after my return to the Midwest, I walked into the Bureau County Republican with a mission to gain entry back into the field journalism.

Now I sit here, writing to you with more love and appreciation for my roots than I have ever had with a feeling of content that I belong where I had always been.

I left the Midwest, but my heart never truly did. With that being said, I couldn’t be happier to be back where I am, starting on a career path that will be just as fulfilling and adventuresome as my two and a half week adventure of reflection and truly finding who and where I’m supposed to be.

Dan Dwyer resides in Princeton. He can be reached at

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