Before I Go on Staycation…

June 21, 2012, Washington, DC: I’m planning to take a little staycation. I’m not going anywhere and I’ll most certainly be back — just taking a brief hiatus from regular blog posts to reflect on this year’s project and collect my thoughts concerning what happens next. New ideas are keeping me up at night and I couldn’t be more excited. I look forward to sharing them with you soon.

Before I go, I invite you to participate here on Neighborhood Nomad. Your stories about why you love where you live are intriguing and inspiring. They reinforce the power of place and they remind us of the extent to which our geography shapes us. Collecting and producing reader interviews has been one of the best parts of this effort so far, and every single one of you has distinctive stories to tell about the rhythms of your home, your neighborhood, your town or your city. Shoot me a note. Tell me more about your hometown.

More to come! As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Miles From One Year Ago…

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had the familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

June 19, 2012, Washington, DC: In June 2011, I embarked on a year-long project that would bring me back to each of my hometowns to learn more about the places I’d lived. There were many that had shaped me — from Montreal and Toronto to San Francisco and New York — and I wanted to get a good feel for their geography, their people, their neighborhoods and their pulses. I also wanted to examine, broadly speaking, why people live where they do and what makes a place feel like home. With ample vacation days, multiple frequent flyer tickets, many tanks of gas, several bicycles, and a few good pairs of walking shoes, I covered extensive ground in twelve months. The project, Neighborhood Nomad, is documented on this blog, derived from a love of travel and a longstanding obsession with the power of place.

The study came full circle this weekend, ending up where it started on a Virginia vineyard. And so with the advent of summer comes an opportunity to revisit the year I spent traveling back to my former neighborhoods. I’ve come miles from one year ago, and I’ve logged all of them in hopes of better understanding the places we called home.

Read on for a chronological overview of this year’s travels back home…

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One Year, Ten Photos

“It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. ‘I am watching you — are you watching yourself in me?'”
-Lawrence Durrell

June 15, 2012, Washington, DC: The first entry on this blog is dated June 16, 2011. 365 days ago. In reality, the launch of this year-long project is a little softer than that — the idea had been stewing for months, but was birthed in its current structure just as we kicked off our wedding weekend. The first several entries were scribbled down in a blue plastic notebook bought in a Santorini drugstore on our honeymoon before they went live in the blogosphere.

This weekend, in other words, is a first anniversary celebration in more ways than one.

To mark the milestone, the next few posts will reflect on what’s happened here during the course of the year – beginning with a roundup of ten of my favorite photos that emerged from Neighborhood Nomad: One Year of Travel Through My Many Hometowns. I’ve loved having an excuse this year to lug around my fancy camera, test out new photography apps on the iPhone, and document my surroundings through various lenses. Read more to see a handful of the photos that have made an impression…

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Saturday in Eastport

April 21, 2012, Annapolis, MD: We’re not in Eastport much anymore, not since we moved from Annapolis back to DC. Just across Spa Creek from historic downtown Annapolis, the Maritime Republic of Eastport as it’s called these days is a place with a rebellious spirit much like my birthplace of Westmount on the edge of Montreal. Legend has it that Eastport residents here on the peninsula called Horn Point declared their independence from Annapolis over beers at a neighborhood pub in 1998. That fall, Eastport residents challenged Annapolis residents to a rowdy tug-of-war stretching across the water in a show of strength that has since become a local tradition. It was the first tradition we witnessed here the weekend we moved to Annapolis back in 2009.

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Map of Mornings: Historic Annapolis

This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.

April 20, 2012, Annapolis, MD: I arrived early this morning in Annapolis, my former hometown and current work place. I drove down our old street and paid a visit to the waterfront park two blocks away, where water taxi service used to deposit us home. It was quiet out there this morning as usual. A few dogs and their owners were beginning their day.

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Remember That Winter?

Annapolis, Winter 2010

January 27, 2012, Washington, DC: It’ll turn on you without warning, the weather down here in the Mid-Atlantic. A morning like today’s — windows down… the temperature a balmy 61 degrees and rising… dark, severe, layer cake clouds luring you out for a long, warm morning run — and it’s impossible to remember what January is supposed to feel like. Today’s scene is offbeat. Distracting. It’s nothing like that season a few years ago that you swore you’d never forget and yet can’t quite recall in the warmth of this morning.

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Writing About Place: A Reading List

January 24, 2012, Washington, DC: And then it was everywhere. In every book I opened, every conversation I overheard, every article I read. People were curious about why those around them gravitate to the places they do. Suddenly it was clear I’d been pursuing this independent study for years. While packing and unpacking boxes. While working as a trip leader for a travel company. While studying the sociology and history of cities like New York. While writing essays about my neighborhood from Royal Ground Coffee on Polk Street. Over time, the books piled up, reflective of this narrative I was stringing together. They were reflective of my story.

Lens tightly focused on one subject, the proof bubbles up everywhere. To remind you that it’s a worthy exploration. That it’s a good use of time. That these are good questions.

Read on for my suggested reading list on the power of place and add your suggestions in the comments after the jump.

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