There’s a tendency in people to think that if they only lived in a super cool place, their lives would be infinitely better. While it’s true that geography can influence our well-being, we often vastly overestimate how much moving will actually improve our lives. If you’re miserable in one city, you’re probably going to be miserable somewhere else. There’s truth to the adage “Wherever you go, there you are.”
And let’s face it. We often don’t have complete control over where we live due to jobs, family obligations, and other factors.
So how can you learn to love the place you live, even if you don’t feel it’s the place of your dreams, or the most ideal location?
My guest today spent a year researching the burgeoning science of what’s called “place attachment” in order to answer that question. Her name is Melody Warnick and she’s the author of This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live. On the show Melody and I discuss what “place attachment” is and what you can do to have more of it for the place you live. This is a great podcast filled with some extremely actionable advice.
- How the “geographic cure” sets up false hopes about improving your life
- How your geography can influence your well-being
- How Millennials are deciding where they live
- The difference between “movers” and “stayers”
- What “place attachment” is
- How moving a lot can be bad for children and adults
- The benefits of establishing roots in a place
- Can you develop place attachment in “non-cool” cities?
- How long does it take to get “place attached” to a city?
- How walking more develops place attachment
- How to walk more if your city is un-walkable
- How to easily increase the amount you spend at locally owned businesses
- What “neighborliness” means in the 21st century
- What neighborliness can do for an individual and a community
- How to find fun things to do in your city if your city isn’t much fun
- How getting out in nature turbo-charges place attachment
- Why you’re an “ocean person” or “mountain person”
- How to get out in nature if there’s not a lot of nature nearby
- The results of Melody’s “Love Where You Live” experiment
- The one thing you can do today to start loving where you live right away
Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast
- Soul of the Community Study
- Solvitur Ambulando
- Windshield Perspective
- Walk Your City
- The local multiplier effect
- 3/50 Project
- My podcast with Marc Dunkelman on The Vanishing Neighbor
- University of Michigan study on the benefit of neighbors
- Neighborhood Social Cohesion
- Place Making
- The Hammock Initiative in Fargo, ND
- Vitamin G
Fostering a deeper love for my community has been a goal of mine these past few years. This Is Where You Belong has provided me with lots of actionable steps on how I can do that. If you’re looking to feel more attached to the place you are, pick up a copy of the book. Also visit Melody’s website for more information about the book.
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Read the Transcript
Brett: Melody Warnick, welcome to the show.
Melody: Thank you so much for having me.
Brett: Your new book is called This is Where you Belong, The Art and Science of Loving The Place You Live. I’m curious, what got you started down this path of exploring the science of loving the place you are?
Melody: For me it was what happens to a lot of Americans. I was moving a lot. I moved six times among five different states in 12 years, which I know for some people is just a drop in the bucket. It was my latest move to Blacksburg, Virginia that really made me want to delve into this. My family had lived in Austin, Texas for a couple of years and really thought, “Ah, this is gonna be the place. We’re gonna stay here forever.” Then, after a couple of years it just didn’t quite feel right and my husband got a new job offer at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and we moved again.
Every time we moved we would have these high hopes that this new town would somehow magically solve all our problems and make us better people and make us happier, and when we moved to Blacksburg it was kind of this realization, again, that that doesn’t always happen, that doesn’t usually happen. I needed to figure out a way to be happy where I was right now instead of waiting for the next town or the best town.
Brett: Right. Yeah, there’s this tendency in all of us to think that, “Oh, if we only lived someplace we loved, sounds like the coolest place ever, someplace different, our lives would just magically be better. I like how in your book your friend calls this the geographic cure. Is there any truth to the idea that our geography can affect our well-being, or is it really true that wherever you go there you are?
Melody: They’re kind of both true. I mean, you would have to be really ridiculously blind to insist that every place in the world is the same. A lot of us have these fantasies of how different our lives would be if I moved to New York City, or if I lived in Toronto, or a beach town in the south or something. It is genuinely true, your life would be really different in a lot of ways. There are studies that show really huge geographic disparities in things like income levels, or marriage rates, or levels of well being. If you live in Hawaii you’re more likely to be happy than if you live in Kentucky or West Virginia. There’s definitely truth to this idea that our geography affects our lives and how happy we are.
On the other hand, we don’t always have ultimate control over where we live. Even when we do there will for certain be disappointing things about our town, or things that make our place hard to live in. There’s a point at which you need to learn to simply make the best of where you are. There’s also this idea that no matter where you live you’re taking yourself with you. I always have this idea that every time I moved I was kind of shedding this baggage, and all the friendships that hadn’t quite developed right, or the home improvement projects you didn’t finish. You were leaving those behind and you were starting fresh. That’s an incredibly addictive idea, this idea of starting over. At a certain point you have to realize those things come with you. They start over in your new place.
The best thing that most of us can do is simply become settled. Millennials are more likely than any other generation in the past to pick the city where they want to live and then find the job to get them there, which is totally different from how we think of people finding jobs, you graduate from college and you just throw out an enormously wide net and you go wherever anyone will have you. Now people are being a little more choosy about it. They want to end up in San Francisco, or Austin, or they want to live in Raleigh, and they will just target their search to those places, or they’ll move there and then get the job.
Brett: Is this like just a manifestation of the geographic cure? They think that if I live in this cool place my life will be fundamentally different?
Melody: Yeah, I think so to a certain extent. We have this idea that we want to experience a certain kind of lifestyle and we see that that might be possible in this place that we haven’t lived before, and sometimes a place that we have lived before. I certainly meet a lot of people in my town, which is a college town, who moved here to go to college and just never left. They loved it that much. On the other hand, there’s something valuable about this sense of paying attention to place, acknowledging that it is important in our lives and being thoughtful about where we live rather than just kind of randomly moving places.
Brett: Okay. Well, you talk about it in the book, and there’s research about it … I’m surprised there was research about how we feel about where we live. Some people are movers and some people are stayers. What causes a person to establish roots in a community. What does the research say about the differences between movers and stayers?
Melody: The thing that really interested me about moving and staying as I looked into the research I discovered this idea of place attachment, which is this concept of feeling really connected to a town, or a city, the place that you live. Most of us have experienced that in some way, maybe it’s your hometown, or it could be the place that you live right now, but a lot of us identify with some place that feels really close to our heart. I’ve seen it identified in the scientific literature as your heart home, which is kind of a woo-woo sort of way to describe it, but it really is an emotional feeling. It’s an emotion tied with action.
When we feel place attached not only are we more likely to stay living in a place longer but we feel more satisfied while we’re there. We want to be involved in the community. We want to know what’s going on. We feel like the people who live in this place are our kind of people. They’re like us. We feel socially connected and supported. When you have all these factors in place … You don’t have to have all of them but some of these factors they make you feel place attached and that makes you less likely to move over all.
There are studies that show some people are just stayers. According to the Pure Research Center 37% of Americans still live in their hometown. When I read that statistic I was shocked by it, because I feel like in America now there’s a stigma to staying put, that people think if you are upwardly mobile you’re also geographically mobile, you’re moving around to college or to a new job. There are advantages to being stable in one place. There are studies that show that especially adolescents who move a lot tend to have worse grades. They’re more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol. They have fewer friends than teenagers who stay put. The ramifications can be kind of long lasting. For children and teenagers who are introverts who move a lot even 30 years later they show lower levels of well being and higher levels of depression.
Melody: Simply liking where you live can have some really important health benefits. There’s a study of Japanese senior citizens that found that people who felt connected to their community and their neighborhood, who liked where they lived and knew people, tended to live 6% longer than people who didn’t. It can even increase your lifespan.
Brett: Wow. Does place attachment require that your city or town be amazingly awesome and hip like, say Austin, or San Francisco, or could you live in Claremore, Oklahoma and still have place attachment?
Melody: You can definitely live in Claremore, Oklahoma and be place attached. That’s kind of the funny thing about it. You probably know people who are really attached to their hometown, or the place they live now, and you as an outsider are like, “What. I do not understand what’s going on.” One of the experiences that first made me think about this was meeting a woman named Gertie Moore who lived in this tiny little holler in West Virginia, and she had lived there her whole life, lived on the same street her whole life.
Meeting her as part of research for a magazine story I was writing, I was kind of dumbfounded because her town was not a place I would ever live. In a million years I would never choose to live there, but for her this was home and home meant not only the geography of this place, but she was incredibly socially connected. She belonged to every club in town. She helped her neighbors. Even in a state that struggles with well-being levels I think that sense of place attachment made her happy. She was kind of at the center of the community and there’s value in that.
A lot of how we develop place attachment is simply perception. There’s a great study that was really integral to my research called, The Soul of the Community. The study was a collaboration between the Knight Foundation and Gallop. They surveyed 26 communities across the United States, communities of all different sizes. They talked to 26,000 people and asked them questions about how much they liked where they lived, and what mattered to them, and things like that. Some of the cities that did really well in this study, where people were really place attached, were really surprising. In the second year of the study Grand Forks, North Dakota was tied for number one out of these cities. A lot of us do not have North Dakota on our radar as some place we’re desperate to move. It doesn’t really matter that objectively Grand Forks has fewer museums, or fewer big sports arenas, or whatever, the people who live there are happy with what they have, and they feel good about it, and that increases their well being.
Brett: Does place attachment happen right when you move to a place or does it take time to feel attached to a location?
Melody: It usually takes time. Studies show that attachment peaks between about 3 and 5 years. My goal, working on this book, is I wanted to speed that up. I was new in Blacksburg, kind of didn’t like it, didn’t really feel comfortable, and I wanted to head off that feeling of wanting to just call it quits and move on somewhere else. I wanted to accelerate the process of developing place attachment by doing these place attachment experiments, love where you live experiments, doing things that have been shown in the literature to boost place attachment and kind of like doing them all at once in the course of a year so I would feel better about where I live.
There are behaviors, there are things that you can do to feel better faster, but I think if you’re new in a town you have to assume that the first 3-6 months are just going to be chaos, that’s like survival skill sort of level where you’re finding your way around, you’re trying to figure out where the tortillas are in the grocery store. It’s really hard to even lift your head. Once you’ve been there for a while you can work on loving the place you are.
Brett: Let’s talk about some of those things that you did in your experiment. You start off talking about walking more in your community. How does walking more and driving less foster place attachment?
Melody: At a certain level it’s just the really basic sense that walking tends to make us happier, especially when you compare it to commuting by car. There are studies that show that commuting, whether by car or by subway, can be more stressful than being in like a military operation. It’s incredibly stressful. Part of being happy in your town is simply being happy and walking or biking is something that does that for you. There’s also a process, especially when you’re new, of developing a mental map, sort of a sense of where things are in your town and how to get from point A to point B.
There’s a study that studied children and children who never got out of the car, who had what’s called windshield perspective, when they were asked to draw maps of their neighborhoods they drew less detailed maps and less accurate maps than kids who spent a lot of time on bike or on foot. When we’re biking or walking we’re going at a slow enough pace, a human pace, that not only do we have a better ability to develop these mental maps to kind of assess out how your neighborhood streets all connect to each other, but you’re more likely to have interactions, or experiences, that help you, I call it putting pins in your map of your place, like little happy experiences that make you feel more comfortable there. It can be anything from like saying, “Hi,” to a neighbor who’s out on his porch, to learning the name of the dog up the block, or smelling your neighbor’s roses. It can be a sensory experience that helps you feel immersed in your town, or your city, and that can be really helpful to helping us feel more at home.
Brett: What can people do? I’m sure people listening are like “That’s sounds great but my city is completely unwalkable. It’s made for cars.” What can these people do to kind of take advantage of the walking benefit of place attachment?
Melody: There’s a guy I talked to for the book named Matt Tomasulo. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. When he moved there he was just coming home from a study abroad in Europe where everyone walked all the time, or they biked. I think he was in Copenhagen. He moved to Raleigh and was really irritated by this fact that like no one was on the streets. He lived downtown and no one walked at all. People had this perception that it was just too far to go anywhere, so he developed this project. He called it Walk Raleigh where he made these signs that just pointed out that it was only like a 10 minute walk to the grocery store, or a 5 minute walk to get to this statue, or the Bell Tower at NC State, or something like that.
He went out, no permission for this, nothing was permitted, but he went out in the middle of the night with some friends and zip tied them to street signs in an effort to make people start walking more. It totally worked. People would see the signs and something kind of clicks like, “Oh, that’s not that far. I can walk.” It became really popular in Raleigh. It spread to other parts of the city. He eventually developed it into a website called Walk Your City where anyone can go and put up signs encouraging others to walk.
I asked him this question. “What if you live in a town where there’s not a walking infrastructure, or where no one walks, or it doesn’t feel safe?” You can’t go crazy with it, especially if you’re worried it’s not safe. He was kind of like, “Walk anyway.” The thing that makes a place walkable is when people just start walking. You can sort of be a trailblazer in your neighborhood and just get out there, even in little doses. Maybe it’s not your neighborhood, but maybe it’s the local park, or maybe it’s downtown, some place in your town where you can get outside and experience life on foot.
Brett: I love that idea. I was tempted to make some signs. The library from my house isn’t that far. It’s probably a 20 minute walk, but I always drive it out of just laziness.
Melody: Right. It’s totally habit that we just get in the car, because it’s hot, or it might rain, or whatever. It’s kind of like you have to get over that initial inertia against doing it. Honestly, you’re probably not going to do it all the time. I recommend in the book just making a swap, like one trip that you would normally make by car try making it by foot, or go on a walk in your neighborhood for exercise, or something. When you start like having the good experiences you’ll enjoy it more.
I’ve lived in my neighborhood now for four years and it was seriously like a month ago that someone pointed out that half a mile from my house is this beautiful path through the woods, like this hiking trail that I never knew was there. Those are the kinds of things that make people love their neighborhood, those hidden paths that you explore. That is a cool process.
Brett: Right. Another activity you encourage, or you experimented with in Loving The Place You Are is buying local. How can buying local create place attachment?
Melody: What I love about buying local is it helps you and it helps your town. There’s a lot of studies that when we buy local more money stays locally, feeds local taxes, stays among local people than would when we shop at big box stores. About three times as much money stays local. It’s called the local multiplier effect. Part of loving your town is doing what’s good for your town and shopping local definitely is. There’s a total social and psychological benefit to buying local, as well. I have always been an Amazon and Target devotee. That is just where I bought my stuff, but the thing that makes Target and Amazon so efficient, that it’s the same everywhere, and it’s so easily accessible, especially Amazon you just do it from your couch, you don’t have to leave the house, is exactly the thing that makes it bad for towns. It takes away money from your town. It’s completely non-social.
I made an effort to try and buy local, which was hard for me. In most towns it can be hard to find necessities and things like that. One thing I did recently was transfer all my prescriptions to a locally-owned pharmacy that’s on the main street in my town. They were like at Target and the grocery store. This new pharmacy opened up and I’m like, “Okay, this is my thing. I have to transfer my prescriptions,” and I did. This pharmacist is so awesome. He reminds me of Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec, just like so happy for your business, so happy to talk to you, willing to bend over backwards to get you what you need. They do delivery, which is awesome for me. There’s also just kind of a relationship there. I know Jeremy by name. He knows me by name. He knows the kind of stuff I need and we’ve talked. Those are the kinds of relationships that a lot of us don’t have anymore. When you have some of those loose-tie kind of relationships they make you feel more at home where you live. That’s a great thing.
Brett: I love the idea, too, you suggest in your book. You say if you continue to buy your staples at Target you suggest at least spend 50 bucks a month at locally-owned stores or shops.
Melody: Right. There’s this idea, it’s called the 350 project. You’re not going to spend everything at a locally-owned store. You’re definitely going to keep shopping at Target and Amazon, I know I do, but if you can just transfer some of that money. Aim to spend $50 at three local stores every month. Even just that small amount can make a difference. I recommend that people think of one thing that they will always buy local. Maybe that’s eating at a restaurant, or, “I will always buy toys from this locally-owned toy store or books from the independent bookstore in my town,” and just commit to that. That’s your thing and you always shop local for that.
Brett: Yeah. I love that idea. It’s something we do. For Christmas presents we buy our toys at this locally-owned store, which is nice. It’s a pleasant experience.
Melody: Right, and the people who work in those stores they value it. They know you. It’s just a different experience than shopping at Target.
Brett: Right. You talk about neighborliness … I think everyone kind of bemoans the fact that being neighborly has declined. We’re not as neighborly. You say we’re actually still neighborly but the definition of neighborly has changed. How has that definition changed?
Melody: Yeah, it’s interesting because 40 or 50 years ago neighbors were fairly likely to socialize with each other. Once a week or once a month you’d have the Bunco group, or the poker night, or the neighborhood potluck, or something like that. Now, being neighborly mostly involves leaving other people alone. You’re a great neighbor if your dog doesn’t poop in my yard, or you’re a great neighbor if you deliver the mail that got misdelivered to your house, and you don’t throw parties late at night. We tend to think of being neighborly as simply keeping yourself to yourself, minding your own business. There’s something to be said for that but, on the other Have a nice day., I love the old-fashioned idea of neighborliness, which is that you get to know your neighbors by name, you trust them, you maybe ask them to house sit your cats while you’re gone. You socialize with them on a small level, and you actually know them.
Brett: With this neighborliness thing, what’s the research say about communities that have a strong sense of neighborliness? What are the benefits that come with that for the community as a whole?
Melody: Well, on an individual level neighborliness has been shown to really have an important health benefit. There’s a study from the University of Michigan that showed that people who know their neighbors, who know their first names, who trust them, who have a relationship with them are 67% less likely to have heart attacks and 48% less likely to have a stroke, which is an enormous kind of stunning study there. For communities as a whole crime tends to go down when neighbors know each other. There’s a great quote from someone at Harvard who said, “If you have to choose between 10% more cops on the beat or 10% more citizens knowing their neighbor’s first names, the latter is the better crime prevention strategy.”
This is something that communities themselves are investing in, developing neighborhood councils. One program I talked about was from Surprise, Arizona they have a block party trailer. They have this trailer just stocked with everything that you need to throw a good block party and they’ll throw in $100 gift certificate to the grocery store so you can get food and party supplies, and they want people to get out in the street and talk to each other. When you have those relationships it tends to ward off ill feeling. It makes people happier. It helps neighbors solve problems before they escalate. It makes a community feel better.
There’s also something called neighborhood social cohesion and the idea is that a cohesive neighborhood where people know each other and trust each other can also work together to solve it’s own problems, and this is really effective, especially in communities that are struggling, but even in your average middle-class community sometimes neighbors have issues. One person that I talked to for the book, and I think you’ve had them on your podcast, Mark Dunkekman, told me this story. He moved to Providence, Rhode Island and their street got ripped up for some work and it didn’t get repaved or didn’t get repaved properly, and he took the initiative to go around to all the neighbors. They all called the City Council people, signed petitions, and got the repaving done. That’s something that ordinary citizens can do, but they have more power when they band together and make it happen. The thing that Mark said about it is having done that he was like the mayor of the street. People loved him. There’s a happiness benefit, too.
Brett: Right. Right. That’s great.
The other experiment you did was do something fun in your community, which sounds great but what if your community doesn’t have anything fun to do, what if it’s just strip malls and nothing else?
Melody: That was my town, or at least that’s what I thought my town was. I moved here from Austin which is a big city, totally happening, people love living there, and I moved to Blacksburg, Virginia which is a town of about 43,000. We have a University here, but it was a lot slower and that was one of the things that bugged me when I moved here. “What do people do for fun?” The thing that I realized researching the book is that basically every community has fun stuff to do, but we don’t always pay attention to the fun stuff our town has to offer because it’s not our fun stuff. It’s not the stuff that we wanted. Maybe we want a big art museum and what our town has is some bars, or we wanted Disneyland and our town has a historic plantation.
We tend to sort of ignore the things that our town is good at. A lot of how we feel about our town is perception. We create our cities with how we think about them. One of the places I went to as I researched the book was Sierra Vista, Arizona who was doing a rebranding project. It opened my eyes because I talked to one person who was like, “Oh, Sierra Vista is the best place. There’s so much to do. I love it here,” and then 20 minutes later I would talk to someone who would be like, “Sierra Vista is a hole. I can’t wait to leave.” It made me realize that towns are not the same for everyone. We all sort of live in a different city based on how we think about it.
I have two ideas about this fun stuff. First, if you want to stop seeing your town as this drag, a boring place to live where there’s nothing going on, you have to figure out what your town is good at and accept those things, even if they’re not the things that you would prefer. You do that by asking around, you read the local newspaper, you find the online event listings, and you start showing up for stuff that’s going on. I write in the book about trying to pay more attention to what my town was good at by starting to attend hokey football games, and I probably should not admit this on The Art of Manliness Podcast, but I’m not that into football, but it was something that I did just to be part of the town, to experience what people in the town got excited about.
My second thought is that if your town isn’t amazingly entertaining and interesting there’s nothing that says that you can’t make it amazing. A lot of us in our cities sit back and we wait for stuff to come to us. We wait for entertainment to descend from on high, but one of the things I love right now is this idea of place making, which is a concept that the average citizen can shape their place for the better by opening a pop-up store or starting a festival in a town. I read about people in Fargo, North Dakota, who started something called The Hammock Initiative. What it was literally was people gathering at a park and lying in their hammocks. They built a website for it. They invited the press and it became a thing, like an event that was going on.
In the same way that cities can develop entrepreneurial ecosystems where they nurture and invite entrepreneurs to start new things, this can also become place making ecosystems where they encourage community initiatives, parklets, or benches, or murals, or anything that makes the town a cooler, better place to live, and more fun.
Brett: Yeah. One of the ideas that you suggested and I started doing is … Pretty much every city probably has Instagram accounts around that city where they’re talking about events that are going on or just things about your city. I’ve been following a lot of Tulsa Instagram accounts. It’s been fun. I’ve actually discovered some cool events I had no idea that’s going on, that I wouldn’t know that was going off of work following these accounts.
Melody: Right. I love that. There are, exactly, Social Media accounts, Twitter, there are blogs, almost every city in the world has online event listings. One of the benefits of that, too, is you connect with other people who are really in love with where they live. When you’re hanging out with people who are boosters for your town, who are really enthusiastic about it that attitude tends to rub off on you.
Brett: Yeah, I love that.
Another part of your experiment was you got out into nature more. How does getting out into nature … I guess it kind of ties in with walking, too, but how does that develop place attachment in us?
Melody: I love encouraging people to get out in nature because it’s sort of the purest manifestation of place. It is literally your place without all the houses and the buildings, it’s just this sensory experience. It’s full of sounds, and smells, and sights. Experiencing nature can be a really powerful positive way to feel connected to where you live. Studies have shown that nature is almost primal in the way it affects our bodies. Scientists call time spent in green spaces Vitamin G, because it’s so effective at things like reducing your rates of cardiovascular disease, or pain, or migraines, or lowering your blood pressure. It definitely lowers stress levels. It also helps neighbors form closer community ties.
I found one study that showed that neighbors who live near parks are more willing to help each other out and trust each other than people who live farther away from parks. When we talk about nature it doesn’t have to be like the Prime Evil Forest or something. It can just be your local green belt, or a park, or the High Line in New York City, some place that helps you experience something a little green, something outside the normal town setting.
The interesting part is that the kind of nature we gravitate toward can feel really personal. Everyone has their thing. This is kind of the thing that you sit around and talk about with your friends when you’re kids. If you could life anywhere would you live in the mountains, or on the beach? Some of that is evolutionary biology. We tend to prefer places where we have a vantage point and a view that includes water. You imagine a hunter on the Savannah trying to get a beat on a Lion without being killed himself, and somehow that has transferred to our preference for flat, park-like places with some trees and some water but where we can still see where we’re going.
Our preferences in nature also have a lot to do with where we’re from, where we grew up. There’s a study by some Swedish environmental psychologists that found that 73% of study participants who grew up near the coast settled near the coast as adults, and 63% of people who grew up near a forest settled near a forest as adults. We tend to gravitate towards things we’ve experienced in one way or another. Even so, all levels of nature can be positive. We find the aspect of nature that speaks to us. It can be really important in our sense of place. One aspect of place attachment is called place dependence. It’s this idea that when we depend on certain places to do the things we love we love that place. If you’re a skier you might develop a sense of place dependence for the mountains, or if you kayak, you develop a sense of place dependence for the river near your house, and those can be activities that make you fall in love with where you live.
Brett: Well, Melody, we’ve talked a lot about a lot of great ideas. There’s more we could talk about. I’d be curious, what were the results of your place attachment experiment. Did you learn to love Blacksburg?
Melody: I did and I was a little skeptical of the results at first. I started noticing it because I was traveling to research the book and I’d come back to Blacksburg and I would just have this feeling of, “Oh, I’m home. I missed that, I missed those mountains, or I missed these trees.” I would ride my bike around town and I’d be like, “That’s beautiful. Look at the sky today.” I started having these experiences where I just sort of noticed where I was and I loved it. I kind of worried that I was tampering with the evidence, I was researching this and writing a book about it, of course it is in my best interest if I fall deeply in love with Blacksburg. The thing is my whole study, trying to do things that built place attachment was really like this long, extended exercise in positive thinking. When you are determined to see good in your town and feel part of the community you do, you do after a while.
I really do feel like Blacksburg is home and we’ve, my family, has rented a house here ever since we moved here and we finally got a realtor and started house hunting, because we’re like, “Okay, this is it, we are committed.” I really can’t imagine living anywhere else right now, which is not to say that I will never move. Jobs happen elsewhere, families sometimes draw you away, so being place attached or loving where you live doesn’t mean that you have to stay there forever it just means that while you’re there you just love it really hard and you make it your own. You just live it up for the time that you’re there. If you leave you can do it in the next town, too.
Brett: I love that. I’m not sure if you like these questions because I’m sure you’d say, “Do all the things,” but if there’s one thing that you’d recommend that our listeners start doing today, they want to start this experiment, what’s the one thing that would probably provide the most immediate results in learning to love the place you are?
Melody: I’m going to say the really basic one and say go meet your neighbors. A lot of us don’t know our neighbors, 28% of us don’t even know their names. In all the research that I looked at knowing your neighbors can be one of the most powerful things for helping you be healthy, helping you feel connected, helping you feel happy in your community. Seriously, just like take banana bread to your neighbors, or invite them over for ice cream, or just say, “Hi.” It will make you feel better about your town.
Brett: I love that. Well, Melody, where can people learn more about your book?
Melody: I have a website, which is my name Melodywarnick.com where you can find tons more info about the book. Their are links to buy it and there’s a book club guide, and a blog, and all kinds of good stuff. That’s a great place to start.
Brett: Awesome. Well, Melody Warnick, thanks so much for your time.
Melody: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much, Brett, I appreciated it.