Here's how I know.
Flying on an airplane from Atlanta to Greenville, SC, I struck up an convo with the man in the seat behind me. He was from Indiana and was flying in on business.
Where are you from? he asked.
A small town in North Carolina, right outside of Asheville.
Oh? I've been to Asheville several times. Been to a nice golf course not too far from there. Have you heard of Waynesville Country Club?
Ummmm... I grew up a few miles from there.
**Whoever is the marketing director there deserves a raise because I've met several people since then that have heard of Waynesville only because of the Country Club-- they had a coupon for a good deal there and wondered if they should go. These are random people in random states.**
My grandmother lives in Florida and for years she worked at Dillard's department store. She had many customers come in and talk about going north for the summer. She'd ask 'where'... they'd say a small town in North Carolina. She'd ask 'where' again... they'd say right outside of Asheville. She'd say 'what town?' You guessed it... "Waynesville." That was, of course, followed with, "That's where my daughter lives! Such a small world!"
In fact, it is.
Josh has joined the YMCA here in Virginia so he can play racquetball, his all-time favorite sport. He's made some friends, once of which is from Bryson City, NC -- not too far from Waynesville.
cue music, "It's a small world after all..."
Then we have the real kicker. I posted about a gift my mom bought my dad for Christmas. She bought it at this awesome store in Maggie Valley, NC, called 'Seven Silver Seas.' After posting it, one of my new friends here in Virginia tells me that her father-in-law was in a movie filmed in Maggie Valley.
To be clear, my hometown is relatively small. At least in my mind. In most other's minds, it's teeny tiny. In the entire county (which has 5-ish towns), there are two main high schools (+1 alternative high school).
But people everywhere know it. Admittedly, it's a somewhat popular destination spot, but it's not like Myrtle Beach or Disney World. But there's something about it.
There's a saying in my hometown... people may leave, but they always come back.
It's true. It's a cliche, but it's true.