Military life can be a lot of fun. You get to travel, see new things, meet new people, and experience new ways of life! When you or your husband gets a new assignment, you immediately research the new base and the local area.
This is what I did when we found out that we would be going to Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas for my husband’s Undergraduate Pilot Training. I saw that Del Rio was a small town, that Laughlin was the busiest UPT base, and overall it seemed like most people had a fairly good experience there. I wasn’t worried because I grew up in a small town and I had been to worse bases in the past. I would be fine.
Or so I thought.
Some people have written blog posts about Laughlin or about a “small base that they loved”, which is fine and everything… but this is my side of the story.
Whether or not someone likes or dislikes a place is all about perspective and individual experiences. This is my experience.
I had a horrendous time.
Laughlin and Del Rio were in the stinky armpit of Texas. I couldn’t get a job to save my life and the small spin studio that I did get a “job” at ended up screwing me over.
The locals were rude. It was not uncommon for us to be practically ran over in the WalMart parking lot. Whenever we went out to eat somewhere, people would be super rude and customer service was always lacking. Why? Because it is a small town and they know that regardless of how they treat customers, they will always get business.
There was one main grocery store and a WalMart off base. There were two chain restaurants, Chili’s and Applebee’s, and mostly fast food places.
Still, there were some charming places in Del Rio. The winery was beautiful and has really good wine plus fun events. There was a steakhouse called Cripple Creek that was the best restaurant in town, in my opinion. Thankfully, Del Rio also had a Chik-Fil-A.
Laughlin is a very small base. The structures are incredibly old, with the exception of the gym. Base housing made me cry. Everyone knows how much I like to clean and how I LOVE things to basically be spotless… base housing is impossible to keep clean because of how ancient the units are. They also charge an arm and a leg for a duplex that will likely be the reason I get mesothelioma.
Hopefully you get the picture. It was a small and lonely place.
The bright side of a town and base like this are that you become close with the other people who live there, right?
I did make some friends there, but even this was difficult for me. I was having issues with my mental health and my anxiety would often get the best of me. Also, I won’t lie, some military spouses are absolutely ridiculous (which I will discuss in an upcoming post).
I had only a few close friends which, after I stopped caring about what others thought about me, was good enough for me!
Unfortunately I did not have as great of a time socially as others. There were a few people there that I thought I was friends with and then they suddenly stopped talking to me. There was one spouse who (drunkenly) told me she was “pissed off” that Zeke (my dog) didn’t die when he got an intestinal blockage from eating a rug. There was another spouse who asked me if she “really needed to be nice to enlisted people”. Ya know, just regular rude people that we all encounter in life, no matter where we live. Still, they are the ones who we remember and who shape our experiences.
Thankfully my neighbor across the street ended up being one of my closest friends. We would take care of each other’s dogs, have dog play dates, go to the gym together, and all that jazz. She was a lot like me and I enjoyed that. I didn’t feel like I needed to go all out to get her to like me. It was truly a natural friendship and I still talk to her.
Anyways, I learned quite a bit from living somewhere I hate and I know that I am not the only military spouse or human to hate where they live. I have come up with some little tidbits for what you can do to help ease the loneliness and negative feelings that come with small bases and places. Enjoy!
- Get busy! Don’t hang out on your couch all day. In fact, that is probably the worst thing you can do. I did that for the first couple of months at Laughlin and it was not good. I would just surf social media, jealous of everyone having fun. We all “get busy” in different ways, but we ended up adopting Zeke, I enrolled in classes, and I began to learn how to handletter.
- Don’t force friendships. You’ll be miserable for trying so hard to get people to like you when the truth is, not everyone is going to like you and that is okay. You will find a friend or even a few that things are natural with. Be patient!
- Go to social events. If they have spouse socials or anything like that, then go to them! You are not obligated to stay if you don’t like it, but this is a great way to meet new people.
- Know what resources are available to you. If you are truly having a difficult time, there is no shame in reaching out and asking for help. I was in therapy for almost the entire time we were at Laughlin because I couldn’t adjust and my depression was getting really bad. It honestly helped to just have someone to talk to.
- Travel to surrounding towns and cities. Del Rio was surrounded by smaller towns and then Mexico. I personally couldn’t go to Mexico because of being military but a lot of other spouses went. I did go to Eagle Pass, San Angelo, Uvalde, and San Antonio. We even drove to Galveston for New Years. Do some research about towns and attractions nearby and plan some weekend trips.
- Discover a new hobby. I discovered handlettering and calligraphy while I was in Del Rio and I would do it every single day.
- Don’t sit in front of the TV. Don’t just waste your days in front of the TV if you do decide to hang out at home. Read, workout, call a friend, do some DIY projects… It is okay to watch TV sometimes but don’t waste your days watching TV!
- Find a charity or organization to get involved with!
- Get into a routine. If you’re like me and thrive on organization and routine, this will help out tremendously. I always had my days planned out and I always had a to-do list to accomplish for the day! I did everything at the same time every day. It helped me feel like my life was my own and I was in control, despite not liking where I lived.
Always remember that, in the military life, this is temporary. You’ll be stationed at some really great places and also some not-so-great places. Embrace it no matter where you are at because it is an experience and it will one day be a great story!