Happiness is having a strong sense of place. Where am I? Who is also here? How did this place come to be? What is the history of the natural world in which I inhabit? What have the people done before me to co-create this place?
Something changes when we claim a place as our home. We build emotional roots and want to care for the place. It can be a place of any scale such as a home, a forest, a region, a state, the globe, and even our place in the Universe. This connection seems integral to my happiness. The more attention I give to a sense of place, the happier I feel.
When I was growing up, we moved several times as my Dad advanced in his career. I attended three different elementary schools in the first grade and again in the fourth grade. This regular uprooting left me with a sense of temporary residency throughout my life. There is still this constant urge to pull up stakes move into a new environment. As I approach 60, I notice that anytime I contradict this impulse and do something that deepens my sense of place, where I am, I feel happier.
We moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico eight and half years ago. I knew that it was time to settle down somewhere where we would want to live the remaining years of our lives. The southwest climate and landscape always appealed to me, and Jan’s two sisters lived out here providing us with family ties.
Our first home was nice enough but we did not feel at home in it. It was more expensive than we wanted, more space than we needed, and the “feng shui” was off. No matter what we did we could not reconcile our uneasy feelings. We did like the North Valley of Albuquerque and decided to move downsize into a home just one mile away. Our current home feels great. We love being in it. I especially appreciate the ability to overall manageability of a smaller, lest costly home.
In June of this year, 2016, I had the idea to find a condo in Santa Fe in order to expand my sense of place to include this amazing city. I wanted to be able to get of the train and walk no more than 5 minutes to a spot that I could use as a central location for exploring on foot. Santa Fe is one of the most pedestrian friendly destinations on earth. The art, music, and history provide an unlimited source of inspiration to me.
It worked out just as I had hoped for. I am sitting here this morning writing by the window of my condo, five minutes from the train depot. In a few minutes I am walking out the door to have breakfast at a new place I found around the corner, and then walk to the museums to learn more about New Mexico’s history.
By leasing the condo for a year, I built in a strong incentive to follow my plan long enough to create a strong sense of place. If I had chosen to pay for hotel nights over a period of year, it would have been much easier to say “no.” And, I would not have the feeling of a home away from home that a personal condo provides me.