Thoughts Travel

Growing Up in a Small Town

Ever since I was in middle school, I had this crazy dream of moving to Southern California to pursue all of my dreams, whether it was for competitive figure skating, tennis, or simply to be around warm weather all year round and be near all the “exciting” events.

I think what fueled the fire in me in pursuing this dream was due to the lack of energy, purpose, passion I had for the area I was in. I grew up in a small town called Denver, right on the outskirts of an Amish county in Pennsylvania. To give you a perspective of what there was to do in my town, the nearest McDonald’s was about a 10-15 drive, the nearest Panera and Chipotle (best food options for quick dining) was about a 20 minute drive via highway. The two best closest shopping centers were about a 20-25 minute drive and if I wanted to shop at any high-end department store, it was another 45 minutes with the toll road.  And the “best” events that occurred in my town were the two local fairs during Memorial Day Weekend and mid-September.

Growing up as an elite athlete who trained day and night for two different competitive sports, I believe that pushed me to be driven beyond my years. Every day I woke up with the desire to be better and unfortunately, this mindset was quite uncommon in my particular town. As years went by, I noticed how I fit in less with this town more and more and knew that I needed to make a change in my life once high school came to an end.

After a few summer visits to Southern California, I fell in love with the environment and knew that this was where I belong. I fell in love with the ability to have so many options to choose from, whether it was food, which beach to go to (Newport, Laguna, Malibu, Huntington, etc.), if I wanted to take a weekend trip to San Diego, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, etc. and the list goes on.

While I love the Southern California environment and do see myself living here in the future, I do not regret growing up on the East Coast. In fact, I am grateful that I have been able to experience two completely different environments, as my perspective and outlook on many things have shifted and it has allowed me to be more open minded. I do miss home occasionally, mainly because of some of the people there that continue to remain close to me, or simply the amazing memories that I have there.

I will never forget where I came from, even if it was from just a tiny small (minded) town. Regardless, it has shaped who I am today and I am excited to see how I will grow over the years and the opportunities Southern California has to offer.


Emily Duong

Born and raised in a small town in Pennsylvania, but currently residing in Orange County, California. Emily Elizabeth is an entrepreneur, athlete, and lifestyle blogger sharing her everyday lifestyle and healthy mindset.




  • KC Cooper

    I love your blog. I always wanted to start a blog. I used to read this book called Girl Online. That’s when I started to wind I had a blog. Can you tell me what you think about a Australia if you have been there? I am about to go to Australia in 5 months but I don’t really know what it’s like there since I have never been there.

    • Emily Elizabeth

      Aw, thank you so much! Yes, I’ve been to Australia actually since some of my relatives live there! It’s beautiful, especially Gold Coast, which will be nice and hot for you in a few months if you’re going around November and December, since that’s like Summer for them 🙂 If you’re going to Brisbane or Sydney, those areas are just more city-like, and you’ll find a lot to do when you explore the city and check out shops and all that fun stuff!

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