Calling Asheville Home: What It’s Like To Live In A Town Of Visitors

Periodically, I see friends proudly posting things on social media about how Asheville, North Carolina, made another “top” list. It is frequently named one of (and often tops the lists of) the best places to live and to visit in the United States. Even Buzzfeed is on that train with a recently posted video titled “9 Reasons You Belong In Asheville, NC.”

The blunt truth is that when I see these things I don’t smile and repost with pride. Instead, I usually roll my eyes and think, “Great. I’m never going to find a parking spot downtown ever again. “ I have lived in and loved this city for all but three years of my life, which means I have also witnessed its changes. Asheville offers so much, which is one of the biggest reasons I have stayed. However, it’s also the reason that I feel like I now live in a tourist town where ten years ago I wouldn’t have called it that. Industry came in (mainly the craft beer one), the cool factor went up, and so did the cost of living.

I was waiting at a crosswalk the other day, lost in thought and spacing out, when I heard a voice say, “You wanna jaywalk with me?” “I do, actually,” I laughed, stepping out into the street. “I almost never wait at crosswalks,” I admitted. This brought us to the subject of herd mentality, and that transitioned into the usual polite conversation of whether you’re visiting or live in town and how long you’ve been here.

Calling Asheville Home- What It’s Like To Live In A Town Of Visitors

Sometimes when I say I grew up here I feel like I might as well have said, “I am, veritably, a magical unicorn.”

I gleaned from a few minutes of conversation that the man who had asked me to jaywalk has lived here for ten years and owns a home on the west side that he bought “back when housing was affordable”. We talked a bit about what we did for work and both agreed that you kind of have to have your hands in a few things to stay afloat, which was not such a common reality several years back. “When stuff changes like that you either get screwed over or learn to ride the wave,” he said shortly before we parted ways. He wasn’t wrong.

Calling Asheville Home: What It’s Like To Live In A Town Of Visitors - Clapway

Here are my confessions: I get tired of living in a town where everyone just seems to be visiting. I find it hard sometimes to enjoy the wonderful things my city does offer because all of it seems overly crowded with people who are only passing through. It’s not easy on my twenty-something wallet that a lot of businesses cater to an older, wealthier, more retired crowd. I get impatient walking behind groups of people who spread across the sidewalk as they gaze into shop windows and all but stop to look at their maps, walking at a painfully slow pace as they admit, “I don’t know where we’re going.” And, worst of all, I have begun to secretly harbor rude thoughts when bachelorette parties from nearby bigger cities only go to the one place in town with a dress code because I feel like they wasted their gas.

But here is what I have realized in the midst of my angst-filled frustrations with not being able to find parking amidst the out-of-town plates: When you live in a tourist town you tend to forget what it’s like to actually be the tourist. You hardly remember the wonderful rush that it is to travel to a new town and find yourself lost in the wonder of it. To be excited to seek out good coffee, food, art, etc. To ask around about views and scenic drives and navigate a new scene at night. It’s such an adventure to be in an unfamiliar place wandering around and admiring all that a city offers.

Calling Asheville Home

Asheville, North Carolina, is a wonderful place surrounded by the beauty of the mountains, and reflecting on why so many people are flocking to it renews my appreciation for it. The lists were right. You should travel to Asheville. Just be sure you look at the map before you start walking. And please don’t go to a brewery and order Bud Light. It’s for your own good, I promise.