Miles From Monday: Moreton Island

Moreton Island, Queensland, Australia

“Oh, it was very seductive, this tropical thing. Papaya juice in the morning, a chatter of birds, a warm breeze, the changeless rhythm of blue skies and surf pounding, sunsets, nights sprinkled with moonlight. A man could get lost in all this, he thought. A man would need a strong will to keep from melting away under the sheer pleasant strangeness of it all.”

-Mark Childress, Gone for Good

Miles from Monday is a weekly travel series focused on venturing out of the spaces we inhabit during our work week and retreating to landscapes that feel far from routine.

September 24, 2012, Washington, DC: I read Gone for Good sitting in the sand on Moreton Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia in February 2000. At the time, turning those pages in that place and time felt serendipitous, like the words were written just for me. When the words are right, they inspire our own, and so lost in the sheer pleasant strangeness of Moreton Island, I shook the sand off my notebook and began to write:

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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

Fanari Villas, Oia, Santorini, Greece, June 2011, Photo Credit: Kate Gallery

“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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A Neighborhood Valentine

“Neighborhood is a word that has come to sound like Valentine. As a sentimental concept, “neighborhood” is harmful to city planning. It leads to attempts at warping city life into imitations of town or suburban life. Sentimentality plays with sweet intentions in place of good sense.”

-Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

February 14, 2012: It’s not often I disagree with Jane Jacobs, the godmother of urban planning. But I take issue with the notion that getting sentimental about our city neighborhoods is a bad thing. An emotional connection to these places does not oversimplify them or make them more provincial. We wouldn’t live here if that’s what we were after. The qualities we love (yes, love) most about these city neighborhoods are the very qualities that make them urban.

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On This Day: Queensland 2000

February 4, 2012, Washington, DC: Where were you when? Sometimes it’s impossible to remember and other days it’s quite clear. On this day in 2000, I was standing right there in the back of that pickup truck on a Queensland farm, our host tearing through his fields on the hunt for a rogue pig causing a nuisance. The group of us went kangaroo spotting that night, driving back out through the dark, turning off the engine, and waiting quietly for those crazy creatures to bounce over the landscape in a massive pack. We shined spotlights on them as they sprung through the fields, getting our first glimpses of many oddities we’d see in this foreign land.

Where were you when? It’s a common question that speaks volumes about the power of place. Twelve years ago today, I was three days in to the trip of a lifetime.

Sydney, My Love

                                                                                                   Sydney, February 2000

February 4, 2012, Washington, DC:
I have a hunch Sydney would appeal to my grown up self even more than it did to my college self. I’m certain one weekend spent in Sydney more than a decade ago was insufficient. I’m convinced it’s a place near perfect for the person I am today.

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