One evening last week I hopped on my bike and rode around my neighborhood. I’ve lived in the West End of town for three years now, and for the first time I made the decision to explore; to ride by and see the houses, the streets and the people. I saw architecture I didn’t even know existed. I rode past an orchid greenhouse that will gladly board my future plants.
I made circles in the parking lot like a young child, letting the wind blow my hair.
As I rode around Lancaster, I thought about the ways I had explored other places; whether I lived there a long time or just visited for a short while. I started to think about what I would look for or do when I landed in San Francisco in a few weeks.
I was captivated by the feeling that at one time, everything was new and exciting and all I had to do was take it in.
I love traveling. I love it so much I feel itchy whenever I’m in one place for too long and often times I feel stifled, like I got stuck while pulling on a turtle neck. (I hate turtlenecks.) I start to feel like pretty soon I’m just going to wither up and DIE. But the benefit of being a Transplant, or even just assuming that mindframe, is that everything looks new. Everything is unknown. Everything can be experienced or ignored.
The need to learn our surroundings, including the possibilities and limitations, is what gives us our sense of place. When I first landed in Lancaster, my guide to my new home pointed out all the places that I should not dare go. He pointed out the bad blocks, the good blocks, the street names and places. He took me to the city he had built in his mind, the one he had learned through his perspective.
But as soon as my guide had left me, I found his perspective limiting. I found his city different from the one that I saw. I became curious as to why, if it was so horrible, people live in the South End of the city people actually lived there. I became perplexed by the invisible barrier that kept certain places contained. I was surprised by the reactions of residents as I crossed those barriers. I was blissfully unaware and without preconceived notions as I started mapping out my new home.
You need to explore to feel where you belong.
There are places that are unsafe, undesirable, highly desirable or just are. I feel I should write some sort of disclaimer about safety, but truly, you live in a city. You need to be smart, aware and conscious, but there is also a desperate need to connect to the place that you live. If you remain within the borders someone else has built for you, you will never truly experience the place you live and the people around you. You will never discover all the beautiful green alley ways, the smell of spices, the lull of different languages, the conditions other people live in; the blight and the beauty.
You will never fully connect with the people, the places or the things around you, therefore you will never be truly part of your community.
You will never fully experience your sense of place.
You will forever be a nomad in your tribe of one.
So the next time you step out your door, take a different way to your favorite spot, say hello to someone you’ve never met and take in your surroundings with a Transplant’s perspective.