Vallejo’s Story: A New Breath for Roshanda’s Hometown


Photo Credit: Roshanda Cummings

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

January 23, 2013, Washington, DC: “The stigma hangs.”

That’s how Roshanda Cummings described her hometown of Vallejo, California when she first wrote me about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads. She described a city that struggles to project a positive image despite having a lot going for it, despite triumphantly exiting bankruptcy in 2011. She shared links to a project she’s been working on called It was beautiful — the landscape, her photos, her words, all of it.


Photo Credit: Roshanda Cummings

When Roshanda and I talked a few days later, the story of the hometown that she grew up in and later returned to quite by accident took on a more meaningful shape. Roshanda never intended to go back, but since her return, she envisions greatness for Vallejo’s future.

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Miles from Monday: November Moments, Near and Far


December 2, 2013, Washington, DC: November was my slowest month yet on Neighborhood Nomads, but November out here in the non-virtual world was anything but. November was busy. I know everyone is busy and it’s nothing to write home about, but in this case, life out here was an all-consuming frenzy that kept me away from life on the blog. Exciting projects are brewing in our home, neighborhood and city, and I can’t wait to share the details soon. For now, I’ll just say these days are full in the best of ways and I am optimistic about December.

Before we forge ahead, please enjoy these lovely moments collected during a month that went largely unrecorded. November moments were gathered in my favorite old hometown and a shiny new city, in the businesses along Barracks Row and the parks of Capitol Hill. Below is a collection of November snapshots, near and far.

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In My Element


November 1, San Francisco: I wake early, just as daylight is beginning to spread east to west over Angel Island, Fort Point and out through the Golden Gate. The Presidio is growing louder by the minute, coming alive with the beeps and squeaks of delivery and construction trucks beginning Friday morning’s work. I’m still on East Coast time, but I’m 100 percent in my element.

And so my love affair continues with San Francisco. It’s a natural fit, from the moment I land at the airport, collect my bags, and merge onto the freeway leaving SFO. In her book, Under the Tuscan Sun, author Frances Mayes writes about this ride in:

“The houses on the hills are necklaces of light, then along the right, the bay almost laps the freeway. I watch for a certain curve coming up. After rounding it, suddenly the whole city rises, the stark white skyline. As we drive in, I anticipate the breath-stopping plunges over hills and glimpses between buildings where I know there’s a wedge or slice or expanse of rough blue water.”

Arriving yesterday was just as Mayes described it; it always is. The beauty of San Francisco socks me in the gut every time, and no matter where I’m coming from, I get the feeling I’m arriving home. But as visually arresting and intoxicating as the landscape is, it’s the smell of the pristine Presidio rather than the sight out the windows that pulls me in.

Mayes writes about this too, about the scents of a scene that cannot be bottled or captured in the best of photos:

“Whatever a guidebook says, whether or not you leave somewhere with a sense of place is entirely a matter of smell and instinct.”

Mayes is clearly a writer who’s been here, inhaling eucalyptus on the peaceful morning air. Perhaps she understands why the scents and sights of this city make it difficult to sleep at the thought of beginning another San Francisco day.

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Miles from Monday: Top 10 Travels of 2012


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

December 31, 2012, Washington, DC: A cabin in the woods. A seat in the upper deck. A familiar chair in the window at Royal Ground Coffee. Neighborhood Nomads covered extensive ground in 2012 and from each vantage point, we saw the world from a new perspective. Read on for a list of my top ten travels of 2012, then go out and enjoy a happy and healthy 2013! May your New Year be full of the adventure of travel, the comforts of home, the power of place, and the joyful and curious spirit of nomads everywhere.

Best wishes,

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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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