When I first moved to Missoula for college, I was scared to leave the dorm parking lot.

I came from a small town with one stoplight. So to me, this city seemed huge, and I was terrified of getting lost.

As the weeks went by, I got braver. I ventured to the mall, and then to the movie theater, and even into some of the neighborhoods where my off-campus friends lived. Pretty soon, I knew all the main roads by heart. I knew back roads and short cuts. I knew where I could get away with gunning the speed limit and where I needed to hit the breaks.

I knew where to find all of the good running and hiking trails. I knew all the good bars and restaurants. When people came to visit and asked for food recommendations, I could rattle off specific menu items and describe them in detail. I knew where to go when my car broke down, and where to fill up my bike tires with air. I knew where to get a haircut and where to buy Christmas presents and where to do my laundry.

And now that I know all of these things, it’s time to go. Even though I don’t want to believe it, I know it’s true. It’s not that I’m bored — because I’m not — and it’s not that I don’t love this town, because I do.

But I think there is some truth in that old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” To truly appreciate Missoula, I have to spend some time away. I have to realize what I’m missing.

I have to memorize another city’s main roads and eat at another city’s restaurants. I have to run on another city’s trails and hang out in another city’s bars.

And then I’ll be back.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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