July 16, 2011: Happy one month anniversary to Neighborhood Nomad: One Year of Travel Through My Many Hometowns. Thanks to those who have been visiting the site and offering kinds words of encouragement. For those of you just joining us, you can learn more about the project here. One month in means it’s time to identify some of the factors I’m considering while sizing up what makes places livable. What’s on my short list of ‘What makes a neighborhood great?’ Why do I feel right at home in some places while concluding that others lack a certain something?
It’s criteria that’s bound to evolve throughout this year as I return to and study each of my hometowns, but here goes:
- Ease of Transport: The places I’ve most liked living are easy to get around. Cars aren’t the only option, whether heading out for work or for a carton of milk. These places offer several transportation alternatives. On the larger geographic scale, highways are not the only way in and out of town. In the immediate vicinity of home, these places are walkable.
- Green Space & Blue Space: My favorite hometowns include trees and water. Whether for access to outstanding outdoor recreation options or to small city parks in which to read a book, outdoor space has been key.
- Good People: A geographic utopia without friends or family isn’t that great. To make a place feel like home, social connections are critical, even for those of us who’ve bounced around. We may not spend our Friday nights with those we’ve known since birth, but we still need to develop these ties.
- Diversity In the Broadest Sense: I most enjoy living in areas where many positive side effects stem from a wide variety of people living in and influencing one shared place. A diversity of food. A diversity of job opportunities. A diversity of ideas. A diversity of ages. A diversity of architecture. There’s an underlying assumption here that a great place is accepting of differences.
- Energy, Buzz, Bustle & Spirit: The best places I’ve lived are alive. They have not passed their prime. They are not historic relics. They have an energy about them that encourages movement and growth.
- Simplicity: These places are also uncomplicated. While energizing, they also offer relief and simplicity. They are places where you don’t need to live large or accumulate a lot of stuff. They are places where we can relax.
- Nostalgia, History & Tradition: Places I like to live are home to layers and layers of stories. They are not neighborhoods that popped up yesterday. They bring back memories. They have a past as well as a present.
- Safety: The neighborhoods I’ve most like calling home feel safe.
What factors matter most to you in choosing a place to live?