Miles from Monday: Expat Living in Phnom Penh

Phnom Pehn

Photo Credit: Bill Gallery

This is one in a series of interviews about the world’s neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

March 11, 2013, Washington, DC: As someone constantly on the move, it’s strange to suddenly be the member of the family staying put. In the last year or so, several of my relatives have packed up their belongings and made a new place home, including my brother-in-law Bill. Bill and his fiancé, Laura are nomads who met in Kabul, Afghanistan working in the field of international development, and they’ve been eager to live abroad together — albeit somewhere a bit safer — ever since. In Bill’s words, their reasons for doing so were “partly for the professional experience and partly to get away from the bureaucratic malaise that comes from working in a home office for too long — and maybe partly to prove that we could.”

Southeast Asia appealed immediately, and Laura was recently transferred for work to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They moved overseas just after Christmas and promised a Neighborhoods Nomads update in expat living once they settled in.

Read on for Bill’s reflections on life in Phnom Penh.

Continue reading

Lessons in Living, From the Backcountry

This is  one in a series of interviews featuring people invested in our homes, our neighborhoods and the power of place. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

February 27, 2013, Washington, DC: Making a deliberate decision to change where and how you live can make a world of difference. Campbell Gerrish knows this firsthand, both personally and professionally. We worked together more than decade ago as co-leaders guiding a summer backcountry trip for teenagers throughout British Columbia, hiking long days, pitching  tents, cooking dinner and sleeping soundly in our down sleeping bags. In the mornings, we’d pack up all of our belongings, heave our tents, utensils, clothes, food, pots and pans onto our backs, and move on. All that we needed we carried with us. What we packed in, we packed out.

It was serendipitous that Campbell called a few weeks ago from his home in Bozeman, Montana, the very day after the Traveler of the Year event that had prompted me to so vividly recall that afternoon pictured above in BC’s Stein Valley. Campbell and I hadn’t talked in four years, but as we caught up, it was clear we shared a continuing interest in examining where and how we live, shaped largely by our experiences in wilderness living. Living in a tent in the backcountry with just the bare necessities will change you. It will change the way you think about home and it will remind you that your exterior living space is intricately tied to your inner well being.

“It’s interesting to articulate because it’s such an intuitive thing to me,” Campbell said. “The way we live in our environment reflects our state of mind. So if I live in a room that is covered in tons of crap and I let all my papers pile up, if I live in a space that is cluttered and messy and disorganized, that reflects what I’m like inside. For me, if I let my living space get out of hand, I feel I’m not being disciplined in my thinking, I’ve got some loose ends going on.”

Continue reading

Designing The Third Place: A Conversation With Two Architects

555301_395322873888241_1611632670_n

Photo Credit: Robert Stansell, Emporium Design

This is one in a series of interviews about our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

February 24, 2013, New York: My friends Robert Stansell and Tim Welsh are two talented architects who spend a lot of time thinking deeply about the power of place. After ten years working in corporate architecture jobs and designing local watering holes together on the side, they recently struck out on their own to open Emporium Design, a design-build firm with projects under its belt including New York City establishments Ella Lounge, The Blind Barber and Gallery Bar. Over the Christmas holiday in New York, I caught up with them for the opening night of their latest creation, Boulton & Watt, a gastropub on the corner of 1st St. and Ave. A on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Robert and Tim are part-owners of the pub alongside partners Darin Rubell, Jaime Felber and chef Dave Rotter. “We love this neighborhood, and we wanted to create a bar we were proud of,” the group declares on its new website. Needless to say, I was intrigued. My fascination with the sociology of the “third place” — those spots in which we congregate beyond home and work — made me want to learn more about the process behind creating one. I believe third places that exude camaraderie and comfort are imperative in strengthening our communities, so I was eager for Robert and Tim to tell me more about what goes into designing and building an aesthetically pleasing gathering spot where the neighbors want to linger as long as possible.

Continue reading

Filmmaker Focuses on DC’s Chinatown

director-Yi Chen

Credit: James Burch

This is one in a series of interviews about our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

February 3, 2013, Washington, DC: “Do you know who else you should meet?” I hear that a lot conducting interviews for Neighborhood Nomads, and I love it when people suggest others who have a story perfect for the blog. It’s in that manner that one interview tends to lead to the next. It seems people who care deeply about their neighborhoods and have a positive outlook on their communities typically know other people who do too, whether they live next door or across the country.

That’s precisely how I recently met Yi Chen, a filmmaker finishing her MFA at American University. Chen is completing a documentary focused on DC’s Chinatown in time for next month’s One City Film Festival, and she’s spending the next few weeks raising money on Kickstarter to fund the remainder of the project. At Chinatown Coffee Co. on 5th and H St. NW, Chen told me more about how the film has bolstered her own sense of community and belonging as she pursues her passion thousands of miles away from her native Shanghai.

Read on for more about Yi Chen’s efforts to document life in Chinatown…

Continue reading

The 20 Nomads of 2012

“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

December 18, 2012, Washington, DC: ‘Tis the season for year-end, wrap up stories. It’s time to reflect on what happened in 2012 and tie a bow around the year’s most notable markers.

To mark the occasion last year, I featured my top ten places of 2011 and reflected back on a year that revealed the power of place. This year I’ve chosen to focus on the people I interviewed throughout 2012 who have made these 365 days on Neighborhood Nomads a true joy. It’s the people, after all, who make these places all that they are.

Meet the 20 Nomads of 2012 and click on their names to read their stories…

Continue reading

Meet Booker, A Unique Teen Traveler

Booker_UnionSquare_TaniaCypriano

Photo Credit: Tania Cypriano

This is one in a series of interviews about our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

December 15, 2012, Washington, DC: Booker Mitchell calls me shortly after he hops out of a cab on a busy Friday afternoon in New York City. He doesn’t always take a cab, but he had a lot to carry this afternoon leaving school. You see, Booker is not only a true city nomad and National Geographic Traveler‘s newly minted Traveler of the Year, he’s also a student in the 10th grade.

Incidentally, Booker is also a friend of my brother’s despite their age difference of more than 20 years, and that’s how I came to admire Booker’s work as both a traveler and a young journalist. I love watching his webisodes on Booker Travels as he skateboards and surfs throughout the world, and I relate completely to his mantra, “Live Life Outside.” In short, this insightful and worldy teenager exemplifies what it means to be a neighborhood nomad, and by the time he leaves school and begins the weekend, we have a lot to discuss.

Read on for an interview with Booker Mitchell.

Continue reading

Living in Brooklyn Heights: Sarah’s Room of Her Own

brooklyn heights studio

Photo Credit: Sarah Baker

This is one in a series of interviews about our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

December 11, 2012, Washington, DC: I don’t remember the exact moment we met, but I’m fairly certain it took Sarah Baker and I less than 10 seconds to become friends when she arrived in San Francisco. Despite our nearly one foot difference in height, we had a lot in common: a common dear friend; failed dreams of becoming a gymnast; a love for eating bagels while sitting on the sidewalk and watching the neighbors stroll by; and a tendency for everyone we know to call us by both our first and last names. Sarah Baker had moved to San Francisco after spending several months in Australia; I’d lived in Australia just a few years prior. She had a great enthusiasm for traveling and exploring the City By the Bay. She had a sister named Kate.

We soon shared an apartment too, which brought about a shared experience in cluttered living. The three of us who lived there had a lot of stuff, and many of Sarah Baker’s belongings happened to be purple and glittered. We decorated the refrigerator with alphabet magnets and hung an inflatable green alien in front of the window overlooking Polk Street above the washing machine.

Safe to say we’ve come a long way since. Today, Sarah Baker — dear friend, former roommate and loyal blog commenter — is featured here as an example in streamlined living.

Continue reading