“Did I just end up in an area where I’ve always dreamed of living in?” That’s the question I asked myself on August 31st, 2023 when I was exploring Durham. Coming from a city of more than 32 million, I found comfort in places with less people and more nature. This feeling became evident on my solo trips to the Himalayas, which I have taken every year for the past couple of years.

I arrived in Durham for the MQM program in July. By the time we reached our first break, I realized I spent 6 weeks here and had not gotten a chance to process the city I was going to live in for the next 12 months of my life. With some time off from classes, I went to Durham Station and hopped on the first bus I found. I then got off at a random stop and started exploring.

My Day Exploring Durham

What is the difference between exploration and tourism? Tourism is searching “places to see in Durham” or “top 5 dining spots in Durham” and just going to those. Exploring is traveling somewhere for the purpose of adventure—and that’s exactly what I did. When I got off the bus, I walked without a direction or place in mind. It was the ideal place to be, filled with peace and nature.

Street art portraying two women of different races and the words, "Let's be connected"

The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful artwork down the side of a large building. What is called graffiti in the eyes of some, paints a picture in the head of others. It showed diversity, it showed love, and most importantly, it showed belief. This was the true personality of Durham.

Finding Serenity

From there, I kept walking till I reached a cemetery. I’ve seen cemeteries before in India, but this one was different. It was behind a community of houses, with just greenery and trees surrounding the vast area with the tombstones spread out.

A still cemetery on a clear, sunny day

One word came to mind at that time: serene. This is one word that is not normally used to describe cemeteries. The ones I’ve seen before were not like this, they reminded me of the dark and scary cemeteries described in books and horror films. Instead, I saw green surroundings, open area with wind passing by, clean tombstones with a fresh set of flowers lying on each of them. A place where I felt these people were loved, cherished, and lived their lives to the fullest.

Promoting Togetherness

As I continued walking, I passed houses and noticed the little things on them that I don’t see back home in India. In India, we have rooftops, and I haven’t seen a single one since I landed here. What I also noticed to be a common theme was people have either the United States flag or the flag of the country they are from outside of their home. One house I saw had the flags of both Canada and South Africa. It was unique, it represented the diversity of the people in this country.

The front porch of a home displays the flags of Canada and South Africa

While this was just one day, it inspired me to take every opportunity I get to explore this place. I encourage everyone to do the same because it just might surprise you. Whether it be during the burning heat or the freezing cold, you will always find something new and interesting in Durham.