At first glance, it doesn’t look like much. Gentle, sloping hills of pine and oak fill the landscape that stays vividly green despite the changing of seasons. The ground remains hard, brown, and littered with pine as the Earth travels around the sun. It is only fitting, after all, for Peachtree City, Georgia is a place where evergreens reign true.
My parents first entered the city of their new home around twenty years ago, thundering in on a small moving truck. Laughing, they often tell me how the trees, the birds, and the deer had fooled them into thinking that their GPS had mistakenly taken them to an American national park. Both foreign city dwellers, one hailing Bangkok and the other Taipei, it’s not surprising that they would make such a mistake. Prior to meeting Peachtree City, neither of them had ever seen so many trees in one place.
However, that was twenty years ago. Development of this city has exploded since then, and only an idiot would be able to confuse a suburban city of approximately thirty-five thousand with a national park.
Drive a little further, and the fact that Peachtree City is so much more than a southern suburb will be made apparent. Between the blue skies, the omnipresent humidity, and the berating heat of the sun, a glance might be caught of a golf cart or two on a narrow, paved road. They weave in, out, and around those woods that exist between and around our abodes and our destinations.
Some of them chug along, with a trail of the noxious fumes of gas exhaust lingering behind, prompting hacking coughs in those nearby. Some of them run quietly, with only the sound of rolling rubber against pavement to alert you to their presence.
Every sighting is bound to pique your curiosity.
You stare at me as I cross the street in front of you at one of the numerous golf-cart crossings dotted around the city.
I squint at your car plate, my interest heightened.
You’re not from this county. Your plate isn’t even decorated with the iconic Georgia peach, and I can’t help but wonder why you are here.
My curiosity plagues me for the rest of my journey as I speed along with the wind in my hair, heading back into a familiar canopy of trees. The lingering remnants of the swamp that existed prior to the development of Peachtree City is most apparent here, in the omnipresent scent of mildew that refuses to budge no matter how high Georgia decides to crank up the heat.
Squirrels scamper across the path, and deer dash deeper into the woods at the approach of the cart. I come across a turtle sitting contentedly on the pavement in a patch of sunlight, and I screech to a halt. Grumbling under my breath, I pick it up and place it on the side of the path in another patch of sunlight.
Just add a couple of teens in a passing cart, singing horribly off-key to something blaring out of their speakers, and there it is: the epitome of Peachtree City life.
I pass the hotspots of my hometown: the Peachtree City Public Library, the Avenue, the local Walmart, Lake McIntosh. Each one stands in a small clearing, all of them glittering brightly under the sun. All of them much too crowded. All of them either newly built or renovated.
My parents tell me of the Peachtree City of twenty years ago, about how empty it was. The Avenue, our outdoor mall, had yet to be built. Then, we didn’t have a shopping center, only a hardware store. Half the neighborhoods had yet to be built. The Public Library was only half its current size, and there was no dog park.
Unlike its neighbor, Fayetteville, Peachtree City is extremely young. It was founded circa 1959 by a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and a banker.
Some residents have been here since the initial settlement of the area circa 1959. They tell of a time before stoplights and highways, back when there was a single school encompassing grades K through twelve. Some of them planted a seed for what will be a local family in the form of children and grandchildren.
The founding idea behind the city was to have a self-contained settlement, so that its residents would not be forced to scour the surrounding area for necessary goods. In all technical areas, it has succeeded.
The schools are close. The streets are safe. The parents are successful, and most everyone lives in a decently-sized house with a spacious lawn. Shopping centers, the library, the outdoor mall, and our homes are all accessible by golf-cart paths, which thread through the woods in between.
But now, I can’t help but itch for more. This town is too safe, too boring. After years of frequenting the only shopping mall, the only library, the only superstore, and all the paths in between, my generation and I are undeniably antsy.
We want to live somewhere that isn’t surrounded by trees. Somewhere that has ready access to an interstate. Somewhere with museums, somewhere with an extensive history, somewhere with homeless people and diversity. Somewhere with dive bars and live music. Somewhere that isn’t lovingly nicknamed ‘the bubble’ by middle-aged, affluent, and conservative parents.
Somewhere other than here.
Peachtree City is an undeniable refuge from the world around it.
But in the era of the internet, the era of politically active and knowledgeable young people who itch to change the world for the better, is a refuge actually necessary?