Meet 20 Neighborhood Nomads
"We need to be reminded of what it means to have a relationship with a place. To help us fall in love with our cities again, we need to see others who are in love with their communities. These people are a rare breed, and, I believe, critical to the overall love of their places." -Peter Kageyama, For The Love of Cities
Why do you live where you do? Have your travels influenced the way you see your hometown? Share your story with Neighborhood Nomads just like these nomads did.
Shortly after National Geographic Traveler dubbed this 10th grader a "Traveler of the Year," Booker talked to Neighborhood Nomads about the many reasons he values his hometown of New York City.
"I think one of the best things about traveling is coming back home."
This year, Sarah moved into a 350 square foot apartment in New York City and she couldn't be happier about it.
"This is the eighth time I've moved in four years. And that included three cities. I think I was really, really needing a place to call my own."
The food blogger may be a Florida girl at heart, but she knows her way around her DC like a true local -- block by block and menu by menu.
"People are being really creative here and looking for different interesting ways to build neighborhoods and community. I think there’s an awareness of building neighborhoods and building community that maybe didn’t exist for awhile."
His is a story of history and heritage. This American University professor took me on a walking tour of Chinatown, mapping its change and paying tribute to family.
“I’ve felt a strong desire to share about this neighborhood as a way of processing, and as a way of paying tribute to my grandparents because, especially my gramma, was a very very important part of my life. For me, her memory is tied to this space. As the space continues to change and lose elements of what it was, I want to find mediums for it to be captured.”
In 2012, she left New York City to spend time in her dad's old hunting cabin, where she retreated to writing, cooking, nature and self-reflection. It's been a formative year for Ally Kirkpatrick.
“It’s so new to me still – trying to find my place in my place. What can I offer? What can I do?”
Reshena's poignant memories of the old neighborhood remind us that redevelopment can have a deep emotional impact on the people who grew up there.
"Where the stadium is, that’s the part of Southeast where I grew up. I don’t even recognize it anymore. It took me a long time to be able to ride through that area without crying because it was like my whole childhood was obliterated."
On our walking tour of Shaw, Rick Skinner spoke frankly about race, gentrification and rapid change in an historic urban neighborhood.
"When the bad times and the drugs were here, those elderly African American women held this community together in many, many ways. If they go, I may be able to understand it, but then what’s the glue that holds the community together? It’s hard to get somebody to tell you what it was like here 40 years ago, and if we lose those people, we lose the institutional memory."
David Garber is plugging away on a long To-Do list as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the neighborhood of Navy Yard. High among several priorities is advocating for a neighborhood elementary school that will bring more families to the southeast waterfront.
"I started running for office almost immediately after moving in — which might seem like a different way to do it — but as soon as I moved in, I started seeing things I wanted to change or improve — things like better bike infrastructure, more community involvement with development projects, and pro-pedestrian planning."
Joana Stilwell not only graduated from college this year, she was also selected to participate in a global project of the Young Photographer's Alliance through which photographers examined a shared topic: Hometown.
"I've been thinking about how I’ve been processing hometown. It’s not that I have one hometown; it’s that I have a lot... That has really influenced things, created this openness, this richness."
The mid-century modern architecture of the Southwest Waterfront has a pull on Cecille Chen, and she's now more involved in her community than ever before.
“I believe it is critical to let people know the significance of what we have here – unique, modernist architecture that maximizes open space... We have something special here and we need to preserve it.”
The H Street Playhouse may be relocating to Anacostia in 2013, but its managing director Julia Christian will always feel at home on Capitol Hill.
"I felt like when I graduated from school, I needed to go work and give back to the neighborhood and the community that raised me, whereas most people say, I gotta get out."
Some considered it unconventional for Bekah McNeel to move to the inner city neighborhood of Dignowity Hill. But to Bekah, becoming part of the community made perfect sense.
"We have been invited to speak at churches, to come talk about loving the city because what we’re doing is “so radical.” We’re just living. We’re just making a home. We want to love our neighbors, but it’s not a soup kitchen and it doesn’t need to be."
Many see the city through the eyes of its visitors. Tom sees DC through the eyes of its ghosts.
“DC is a city where millions of people have lived for over 200 years. A lot of people focus on the White House, the Capitol, the monuments, and don’t really pay attention to the fact that this is where people live — that there are large communities of people from here.”
Known broadly around town as the Prince of Petworth, Dan Silverman is constantly walking and blogging about the latest goings on in DC. Neighborhood Nomads stole a moment of his time to get the scoop.
"The whole beauty of living where we live is that we can take advantage very easily of all of our neighborhoods which are fairly well connected."
Nikki and Beth are two people working hard to shift the perception of Anacostia. They're helping redefine the neighborhood as a hub for artists and an incubator for small businesses.
“It’s storefront by storefront, project by project, exhibit by exhibit — it builds this buzz. Things look different, but they also feel different. People are feeling engaged. They are encouraged to get involved. They’re running for ANC positions, they’re starting groups, they’re starting companies."
Expect to hear more from the city's best advocate for DC's liveaboard community in 2013. As this floating neighborhood on the Southwest Waterfront faces dramatic change, Jason and his neighbors remain a tight-knit community.
"We have these shared docks that we walk up and down to get to our slips. I can’t think of anything that would have a more positive effect on a community than to force people to walk by each other every single day and to have these moments to interact with each other."
There are many reasons she opted to return to Canada and leave Australia behind.
"Ottawa is a fabulous little city. I say little as it is not on the scale of Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, and that is one of the many aspects I love about living here. It is still easy to get anywhere in the city and we don’t have the crazy traffic issues of other major centers."
Lesley's greatest adventure of 2012 has been the arrival of her baby girl. It's safe to assume this new mom will introduce her daughter to many adventures that await around the world.
"The history of Italy and Greece bring out the life-long student in me. The endless possibilities in New York and California make me a dreamer. The friendly, easy-going people of Ireland and eastern Canada remind me of my roots."
She's a native Washingtonian who can't get enough of the neighborhoods she's come to know and love.
"We would have no right to say that this city isn’t interesting enough."
Originally published in December 2012.
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