Home Away from Home

October 25, 2018 by Zach Wilson

If you weren’t born in Las Vegas and have never visited, moving here can feel like a culture shock. When I moved here a little over two years ago, I felt Vegas was a place unlike anywhere I’d ever been, full of lights, twenty-four hour businesses, and gas station slot machines. I grew up in rural Arkansas, where the community more or less knew one another, and got my undergraduate degree in Fayetteville, Arkansas. a college town. Once I made friends there, I often saw these same people in my day-to-day life. We hung out together, took each other places, and within a few months I’d mostly met everyone who was in any way connected to the arts and writing communities in the area.

As the tourism capital of the United States, Las Vegas feels transient by nature. Many people I’ve met in my time here have already moved away due to work, school, or family changes, and this also seems to be true for the friends I’ve made who still live here. At times, it feels hard to find community in a city dominated by temporary visitors and commercial entertainment that’s almost never geared towards locals. It can be isolating to live somewhere as large and populous as Vegas and yet still feel disconnected from any core culture (I’m not a big sports fan, so the luster of the Golden Knights is often lost on me).

Still, I’ve come to love my time in Vegas, primarily because I found others who feel the same sort of displacement I do. I’ve been able to bond with folks from Georgia, Washington, and Nebraska over how bizarre it is to move from the (mostly) quiet calm in which we grew up to a city that truly doesn’t sleep. There’s a special brand of camaraderie that forms between people who only really have each other in a completely new and different place, without family or friends to fall back on. Sharing in the exploration of Vegas with my peers and classmates has made me grow closer to them more quickly than those I met in the comfort of my home state; in just a few short years, the experiences we’ve had together have created a small family, cobbled together from not only around the United States, but from around the world.

Since moving here, I’ve also bonded with friends from Nigeria, Hungary, and China over our mutual struggles of adjusting to life in a city unlike any other. Though our life experiences to this point have been more dissimilar than alike, we’ve been immersed into the daily life of the same place at the same time. Our amusements and frustrations with the city provide an easy foundation for conversation and connection, a foundation that would be far less likely to form if each of us were meeting each other on home turf.

For me, the impermanence of life in Vegas is often both exciting and isolating. While I’ve never fully felt like I belong in the city, I know that many non-local friends feel the same way, and in this mutual feeling of displacement we slowly but deeply begin to belong with each other. In some ways, the culture of Las Vegas has become its lack of one. If you’re reading this as a transplant, whether you’ve lived here a few months or ten years, reach out to the transplants around you, even if you aren’t sure they feel the same ways you do. You may be surprised at how many new family members you find along the way.