Traveling my roadmap to happiness, which leads back home to Ohio!

Editor’s Note: Live, Laugh, Learn TV showcases content about inspirational stories, positive thinking, healthy relationships, effective communication and positive thinking. The site and the show includes stories on people, places, events and regular personal essays from Dr. Carol Morgan (“Doc”) and me. This is a kickoff column here!

By Jeff Louderback

A chilling rain poured as the once vibrantly green scene outside my second story window of the townhouse built into the side of a barn transformed into cold winter. The trees were barren, the skies grey and the temperatures hovered below freezing – a dramatic difference from the constant 80 degree days splashed with sunshine that I left behind in Florida.

In any season, the view from the writing room window is one of country serenity that symbolizes the positive change I implemented – an inspirational choice that was long overdue. After 13 years of seeking adventures and new experiences in a place that offered warmth by the sun but not true internal warmth, I returned home.

I am a professional writer, author, publicist and new media professional, and the co-editor and co-host of Live, Laugh, Learn TV’s show and online publication. When I decided to return to my native Greene County in April 2015, I searched for a unique and compelling place to live that I could write about and experience while maintaining my work. I found it on a horse farm a mile outside of downtown Bellbrook, where I moved into a two-story townhouse built in a corner of a modern metal-framed barn where a stable occupied by 15 horses is attached to my side door.

Covering 100 acres – some wooded with trails, the rest level ground where the family who owns the farm grows hay as their chief crop – the property was paradise for my home office and a haven for Boston, my beloved dog who knows no strangers. He no longer required a leash, at least not on the farm. We relished long walks and hikes around the property and the nearby Sugarcreek Reserve. I replaced my flip flops with hiking boots. And when I returned home, Boston greeted me at the door, steps away from the horses that already consider me a friend because of our lively conversations.

Before telling you more about this new chapter – and the debut of Live, Laugh, Learn TV – let me rewind to the past, which is relevant to the present and the future.

As an independent writer, author and publicist who works with entrepreneurs and businesses nationwide, I can feasibly live anywhere that has a fast Internet connection and proximity to a major metro area. I was born and raised in Xenia, earned my communication degree from Wright State and worked in journalism and public relations in southwest Ohio until moving to the Orlando/Daytona Beach area in 2002.

Ever the adventurous sort, I was open to a new experience because I had never lived outside of southwest Ohio, though I had traveled all around the U.S. and the Caribbean and burned with a sense of adventure.

I relocated to the Tampa Bay area in November 2010, where I continued my communication career and set upon a new array of adventures around the gulf coast. Eventually, though, I felt a pull back to southwest Ohio, and home. I missed my family. I was longing for my roots.

I am a talkative and social person who, like my dog Boston, knows no strangers. Yet if I don’t feel a connection with people, I prefer to remain in solitude. Ideally, I like a mix of both and not more of one or the other. For several months, I felt increasingly more alone in Florida. There are not many things worse than loneliness and feeling withdrawn, I believe. God did not give us breathe to live like that, especially for someone who loves conversation and embraces true friendship.

My longing to re-establish roots in the place where those roots were first planted coincided with my Grandpa Stillwell’s passing in March 2014. He was 90, and my last remaining grandparent, as my Grandma Stillwell died two years earlier. They were married for more than 65 years. I am blessed with a close family and exceptional role models. The core includes my parents and my grandparents. At my grandfather’s funeral, my cousin Jonathan (who is the pastor of the church most of our extended family attended when I grew up) delivered a message that had a significant impact.

My grandfather was a man who served in the Navy in World War II (earning a Purple Heart); returned home, married my grandma and had five daughters (my mom, Rebecca, is the oldest), built a house with his own hands in Xenia (where my grandparents lived until their respective deaths) and worked for more than 50 years at NCR in Dayton. My dad and my grandpa are the two greatest men that have shaped who I am. In all the years I knew him, I never heard my grandpa raise his voice or say an unkind word. He was a man who demonstrated the Golden Rule by the way he lived. That message that Jonathan delivered at the funeral? It mentioned how my grandpa left a legacy by who he was, and that it is not too late for all of us to establish our own legacies by how we live.

I returned to Florida with an emptiness in my heart from my grandfather’s death, and a myriad of questions about the life I was living, and what direction I was headed. We all have gifts – something that we do extremely well, something that gives us satisfaction. I am passionate about writing, editing and PR. Those are my gifts. I’ve experienced an array of accomplishments over my career, yet I have also squandered opportunities and not fully reached the level of which I am capable – with my writing, as a son, as a significant other and, most importantly, as a Christian who has always believed but many times has fallen so dramatically short of living the way God intended.

After returning from my grandfather’s funeral in March 2014, I decided that I drastically needed to make necessary positive changes that were long overdue. That is when I ended my engagement so I could return to serenity and positivity, away from negative influences, and that is when I decided to pursue my longtime desire to start writing non-fiction books to accompany my magazine writing and my PR work.

Fast forward to Christmas, in the final days of 2014. Accompanied by Boston, who has joined me on numerous road trip adventures, I drove up to Ohio and spent nine days. For the first time since I originally moved to Florida in 2002, I didn’t want to go back. It was in the 20s and blustery in Ohio. In Clearwater, it was sunny and in the 70s. Yet Ohio felt like home while Florida didn’t.

In Florida, though I lived in a beautiful condo in the Countryside area just 15 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, I was existing and not living. Over the last year, because I was not happy with my environment, I mostly remained within the four walls of the condo, aside from the three daily walks with Boston. That is not who I have been in previous years, and that is not who I want to be long term. Life is short. Days are precious. I hope I am granted the same 90-year life span as my grandpa. If so, I still have almost half of my life ahead. Knowing that I needed to implement a positive change, I started developing relationships with potential clients in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus.

Thankfully, opportunities for the short term and long term started to arise in Ohio.

The move finally happened in early April 2015. A creature of simplicity, I sold my furniture one piece by another piece until all that was left was an IKEA desk, two antique nightstands, a beautiful end table that sat in my grandparents’ home for years, my grandpa’s American flag, two computers, a flat screen TV, an assortment of Red Sox baseball memorabilia and my clothes. I packed everything in my SUV, fixed Boston a comfortable spot on the passenger seat and made the drive from Clearwater to Bellbrook. I departed on a Wednesday afternoon, stopped for four hours of sleep at a truck stop parking lot in Cleveland, Tenn., changed clothes for a meeting in Cincinnati that Thursday morning and then rolled down the dirt driveway at the horse farm Thursday around 2 p.m.

I have been fortunate to experience a lot. In the last few years alone, I lived at and wrote about a restored cottage a block away from the gulf in Indian Rocks Beach, a town reminiscent of Florida the way it was in the 1950s. I spent time in a remote cabin in the north Georgia mountains near the Georgia-North Carolina line where the only voice I heard was my own echo and the echo of Boston’s barks. I have traveled all around the United States and the world, for PR projects and for travel and lifestyle feature writing. I embrace traveling, meeting interesting people and seeing fascinating places.

Ultimately, happiness exists in a place of familiarity – where I was born and raised, where people are friendly, and where family and friends reside. Paradise is not paradise when you feel all alone and you feel like life is passing you by without fully embracing all the hours of the day. I moved out of the horse farm abode and into a comfortable, renovated townhouse in July 2016, and that is where my home office resides, when I am not exploring the region, covering events and conducting interviews.

Live, Laugh, Learn TV is not just a show and an online magazine. It represents a passion for telling people’s stories, and illustrating all that is good about life, and how to overcome challenges and maximize opportunities. Being home – where I feel at peace – my creativity, concentration, focus and overall vitality flourish. That is what happens when you share life with your family instead of only hearing their voices on the phone.

With my thirst for adventure – whether it be for my writing and PR, or just for the experience of a vacation – I will never lose my love for traveling around the country and the world. Yet now, when the time arrives for me to come home from a journey, that return trip will lead to my true home, where I can live and not just exist, and create a legacy that will remain long after I am gone.

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