My Cities of the Soul

Although you hear the phrases “Bloom Where You’re Planted” and “Happiness is a Choice” in my experience, there are some cities where I’m actually happier than others. Where I wake up every morning truly feeling ALIVE. When every day, I’m just grateful to go outside. Where something about the place rings true to you: its values, its way of life, its people. It’s not just enjoyable to visit. It’s a place that’s become sacred. When you think of it, your heart aches a little bit because you’re not there, because a part of your heart was left there. I think of these as cities of the soul.

In our travels, I’ve discovered a few of these only. These are places I think if I had to stop traveling now, I would be happy to live at least part of the year.

Here they are…

From February to April, I would spend at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

I wrote a post about our experience here.

sitting lake atitlan

To live in that kind of peaceful, organic, laid-back, and beautiful environment really rejuvenates your spirit. It’s a healing sort of place. I’m normally more of a big city girl, but I never felt bored. It is a simple existence here, but a lovely one.

From May to July, I would spend in Vienna, Austria.

DSC05520Pictured left: On a tour of the Rathaus. Vienna is where we are currently. Vienna is my Lady Luck city. It was my first time living in Europe. I had escaped an unhappy stint in college there and it was where I first really fell in love with international travel so it will always have my heart. Those of you who have done a study abroad know what I mean. I moved to the German House afterwards and then met Jacob and the rest is history. Vienna values peace, music, and above all—gemutlichkeit, or the comfortable life. It’s built for women and children specifically. The parks, the transportation, the festivals all make this place feel like home. It isn’t flashy like many places we’ve been—but it’s a great place to hang your hat at the end of the day. This second go-round I’ve fallen in love with it all over again, but this time because it is so family-friendly and there is still so much to discover.


From August to October I would visit Calcutta, India.

calcutta street

Diametrically opposed to the first two destinations, I feel the most soul growth in Calcutta. It stretches me, changes the way I see the world, forces me to be better. It brings me to tears and it’s where people I love live. It’s polluted and crowded and ugly. There is poverty. There is wealth. There is everything in between. I believe everyone must go there.We haven’t been in October but we’re told it’s the best time of the year for Calcutta—the best pujas are then. Although Indian culture is different from everything I’ve ever known, I make it an effort to find Indian culture now wherever I go because it feels like home. The incense, the loud sacred music with the high pitched female vocalists, the spicy vegetarian curries and paneer, the big temples and the yoga and meditation—it all makes me feel like I’m back.

From November to January I would live in Utah.

ryder byu campus(Pictured left: The music building at BYU campus) My ancestors hail from this place. I accept and value and have interest in all religions and belief systems, but I respect, honor and cherish the LDS history and culture and its people as my history, my culture, and my people. There’s something powerful about returning to the place where your ancestors were born, married, had children, died. It’s where family and friends are. It’s where my favorite restaurants are. It’s where Jacob and I met and the whole experience started. Nostalgia is strong. It’s not where I grew up, but it’s more home to me than Texas now. And the holidays are always the best time to be home. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years—and maybe even catch Halloween. True, it’s snowy and cold in Utah at this time of the year, but there’s always skiing.

Runners up:

bike tuscanyTuscany, Italy: (pictured left) Unlike the other places listed, we never lived here, but I do reminisce often on San Gimignano and the gelato there. Bike riding through these hills was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. I do dream of returning.

Raleigh, North Carolina. My whole family craved this place after we moved to Texas. It’s very diverse, green, beautiful but that’s not why it’s special. I can’t put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s just the people. It will always have a special place in my heart. I need to take Jacob there.

San Antonio, Texas: I didn’t grow up here—and by the way, my hometown is conspicuously absent from this list. I just don’t feel nostalgic for my wealthy, bland, suburban town—but I went here on school trips and the Riverwalk and Alamo just made the place feel so magical. The fact it’s the most Mexican feeling of any city I’ve been to in Texas just adds to the flavor. Great weather too. I’ve woken up remembering I was dreaming I lived in San Antonio. They were always happy dreams.

Where are your soul cities—where you wake up and feel more alive, where the vibrations of a place sync with your soul? Where you cry when you leave it and dream about it when you’re gone?

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 372 awesome articles for us.

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