We are beyond thrilled to crown Andrew T. of Ligonier, Pennsylvania, the first winner of Discover Westmoreland's #loveLOCAL contests!

Here is Andrew's winning submission, judged as an anonymous piece by an independent panel. Andrew's story rose to the top of over 150 entries!

Andrew T Submission Picture

We were living in New York City. I like to pretend that we were fine there. Maybe we were fine? But "fine" was grinding us down. I felt threadbare and sometimes it felt hard to breathe. Literally and figuratively.

Then we went on a vacation. I was nervous. I was going to meet my partner's family for the first time. We arrived at night. It was dark and we were focused on not getting lost. In some ways, I think instead of getting lost... we were finding ourselves.

I woke up the next morning to catch the sunrise, creeping up over the ridge and illuminating the valley. It was like a painting. My eyes drank in all the shades of green. A thousand shades of green. Green grass. Green leaves. Green. Green. Green. And I could feel something come alive in me. A seed was planted.

I met William's family and they welcomed me with open arms. They took me all over Westmoreland County. We strolled the sidewalks of Ligonier, enjoying all the shops and restaurants, and again I felt a spark of recognition for a place I had never been.

At the end of our visit, I asked William if he wanted to stay. I could tell he wanted to be closer to his family. I could tell that the magic and allure of the City had worn off on him and he missed his roots. I think I missed having roots too.

My favorite Westmoreland story, of which there are many, is the one where I finally came home. We made a choice to live here, work here, and build lives here. Some people thought we were crazy. How can you go? How can you leave it all behind? You worked so hard to get to New York and now you're saying goodbye?

Sometimes life has a very different outcome than you originally imagined. I like to think that our lives here have revealed something more than we could have imagined. We have set down roots here that have allowed us to flourish in unexpected ways. In short, sometimes the pastures ARE greener on the other side of the fence.