Love Where You Live by Eating Local

Today’s post is the seventh in a series of ten posts over the next few weeks, taking a “deeper dive” into the concepts at the heart of Melody Warnick’s book, This is Where You Belong.

Here is Warnick’s list of ten placement behaviors that she developed on the journey to “Love where you live.”

  1. Walk more
  2. Buy local
  3. Get to know your neighbors
  4. Do fun stuff
  5. Explore nature
  6. Volunteer
  7. Eat local
  8. Become more political
  9. Create something new
  10. Stay loyal through hard times

Good food makes cities wealthier and more compelling, but there’s another reason why what we eat makes us love where we live. Food has an inimitable sensory power to connect us to a place.

Melody Warnick

And a starting point for eating local, according to author Warnick, is you local farmers’ market:

  1. The kinds of small, slow transactions that farmers’ markets represent the slow, “French-village” way to shop, filling your arms with the food you will eat for dinner tonight.
  2. Buying your groceries at the farmers’ market returns more money to the town you live in.
  3. The farmers’ market is decidedly social. Some studies show that at community farmers’ markets, people had ten times as many conversations than they did in supermarkets.

If not buying local, what about growing your own food? Studies that people who garden or farm have higher levels of neighborhood attachment; the act of literally putting down plant roots extends metaphorical ones as well.

Then there’s the path of becoming a “regular” at a local restaurant. My regular Tuesday or Wednesday lunch takes place at Big Bite’Z Grill in Cornelius, NC – here’s the story.

In Warnick’s story of choosing a restaurant to eat local, the most telling comment is this:

Perhaps, I thought, being recognized didn’t matter as much as doing the recognizing. So what if I ordered the same chicken cashew sandwich five times in a row and an employee didn’t congratulate me on my steadfastness? I could still enjoy feeling like it was my sandwich, the same way I could still feel this was my restaurant, even if no one who worked there cared.

Here are a few of the author’s ideas for Eating Local:

  • Find a place in your hometown to become a regular.
  • Shop regularly at your farmers’ market.
  • Plant a garden, big or small.
  • Follow local restaurants on social media, and support them there.

All over this country are would-be “third places” – not just coffee shops and diners but potlucks, church dinners, and chili cookoffs – that can make us feel like we belong where we live.

Make them your own.


I can’t emphasize this enough: If you like the idea of loving where you live, of being a better neighbor, or anything remotely connected, you MUST check out the work of Melody Warnick. Follow her on social media. Buy the book. Sign up for the newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. It’s all PURE GOLD.

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Don’t You Want to Be Where Everybody Knows Your Name?

It was a scene straight out of the sitcom Cheers, repeated weekly from September 1982 to May 1993.

Many of you will be able to add the soundtrack to the image above. In case you haven’t yet discovered this classic series of 80’s comedy, it’s “Norm” – the one-word greeting given to the supporting character of Norm Peterson, played brilliantly by George Wendt. Norm is a Cheers bar regular and occasionally-employed accountant. A recurrent joke on the show, especially in the earlier seasons, was that the character was such a popular and constant fixture at the bar that anytime he entered through the front door everyone present would yell out his name (“NORM!”) in greeting.

Except this time, and in a different place, it was me.

For years I have been a regular, weekly customer of Big Bite’z Grill in Cornelius, NC. I call it my “Lunch and Learn” and it usually occurs on Tuesdays (sometimes Wednesdays). The first stop is at my library to drop off and pick up books. Then, it’s a short drive to the restaurant. I try to arrive early, both to avoid the lunch rush and to claim my table – it’s the two-top all the way in the back, next to the kitchen door. While there, I not only have a great lunch, but make connections with the staff and a chance to skim a new book just picked up.

My food order on these visits is always the same: buffalo chicken pita, onion rings, and until recently, a Mountain Dew. Everyone, from the owner John, counter servers Carolyn or Demetri, to the cooks in the kitchen know my order. Most days, the cooks have already started the order when they see me walking across the parking lot. When I walk in the front door, it’s already being rung up. If John is busy, he will bring me the food when it’s ready and I’ll pay before leaving.

I’m one of the hundreds of “regulars” that frequent Big Bite’Z throughout the week. On my regular day, I can pretty much count that “Coach” will be coming in as I am leaving. One or two of the regular vendors are finishing up John’s orders for the week. There’s the construction crews that rotate in and out to the patio seating. Over there are Cornelius policemen, regular customers like me. Nowadays, there is a constant stream of nearby workers who come in to pick up a carryout, along with various food delivery orders.

If it’s not too busy, I will always have an ongoing conversation with John about the current state of the world. Carolyn keeps me up to date on her family, as well as keeping my drink filled. Even when it is busy, one or both of them makes it a point to stop by my table, just to chat even if just for a short while.

I’ve been writing about this phenomena for some time. It’s a little different application, but it’s also true at Big Bite’z. In the words of author Melody Warnick:

It’s a symbiotic relationship. Restaurant staff make customers feel like they’ve wandered into the proverbial Cheersian establishment where everybody (or at least somebody) knows their name. Customers, in turn, treat their favorite restaurants as hangout spots that are neither home nor work but something in between – what sociologist Ray Oldenburg, terms a “third place.” “At the risk of sounding mystical,” says Oldenburg, “I will contend that nothing contributes as much to one’s sense of belong to a community as much as ‘membership’ in a third place.”

Melody Warnick, This is Where You Belong

During the early weeks of our local distancing restrictions in the spring of 2020, I made it a Saturday lunch practice to take orders from four-five of our neighbors, call in the order, and drive over to pick the orders up and drop them off on our neighbor’s front porch. I also continued my weekly Lunch and Learn visits, but with take out. Later in the summer, when the restrictions were eased to allow 50% seating, I returned to my weekly visit to the restaurant.

All that changed the last week of October 2020 upon learning that I had been unknowingly exposed to COVID-19 the weekend before. I immediately quarantined in our house. The next day I tested negative, and after experiencing symptoms, I tested negative again twice more over the few days later (eventually I tested positive). For the next five weeks, my world was our house. Without going into details, I exhibited literally all the CDC list of symptoms during the first two weeks, and following that, had two virtual visits with my PCP, which culminated in a day spent in the ER. While I recovered from the initial symptoms, earlier this year after another hospital stay, I became an official “long-hauler,” and am participating in our local hospital’s Long Term COVID Clinic studies. I have returned to an outside, though restricted, life. Fatigue and other symptoms are a regular part of my life.

Back to mid-December of 2020: It was with much anticipation, and maybe a little trepidation, that I pulled into the parking lot at Big Bite’z for my first visit in over five weeks.

When I walked in the door, I saw two big smiles, heard “Bob,” and immediately my order was called out to the kitchen, the cooks acknowledging me with big smiles.

Everybody wanted to know why I had been absent, and what happened, and was everything ok. It was a genuine, heartfelt connection, not just as a customer, but more – a friend.

After the initial conversations, it was as if the five weeks had not occurred. John stopped by my table two or three times with his latest opinion on what was going on. Carolyn was so kind as usual, and the kitchen conversations in Greek and Spanish just behind me were as reassuring as they were humorous.

I was back, and to my friends at Big Bite’z, I was missed, and welcomed back as if I had never been gone.

This has been a long and personal story, with only one question for you to consider:

How are you going to welcome back regulars when they return?

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

H.D. Adams

August 9 is birthdate of my father, who was born in 1927.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lined the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful my father instilled in me.

Tuesday August 9 will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter and happier people.

Book Lover’s Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lover’s Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I love (and practice) the 4 different levels of reading as espoused by Mortimer Adler in his great book, How to Read a Book, but I really like to latch onto a topic and practice synoptical reading. Also known as comparative reading, it is where many books are read, and placed in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve.

For many years, an ongoing topic of synoptical reading has been about Walt Disney and the “kingdom” he founded. My current Disney library is over 450 books – and I’m still actively researching the subject, and discovering new authors and books regularly. Here’s a few of my latest acquisitions:

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In addition to the pure enjoyment of reading on the subject, these books provide a constant reference for illustrations when I’m writing about Guest Experiences.

In addition to Disney synoptical reading, I’ve always got small threads of other, diverse, synoptical reading going on, often spurred by long-running interests and subsequent book searches. For example, have you ever heard of Fred Harvey? Many people haven’t – yet this English-born immigrant moved to America at a young age in the mid-1800s, and subsequently developed a hospitality empire that stretched across much of the U.S. from Chicago west to the Pacific Coast. And he built it in lock-step with the growing railroad industry. Fred Harvey was Ray Kroc before McDonalds, J. Willard Marriott before Marriott Hotels, Howard Schultz before Starbucks, and Walt Disney before Disneyland. The common theme? Harvey created a hospitality industry along the rails of the Western U.S. that influenced the development of organizations over the next 100+ years that themselves are now renowned for hospitality. Here are a few books with Harvey’s story:

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One of the greatest contributors to my synoptical reading was an Auxano project, 8+ years in the running, that ended in 2021. You can read about it here.

Even with that big change in my reading habit, there’s always a book at hand!

There’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook posts), other internal Auxano writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading – a nightly occurrence. Currently a few topics I’m reading for pleasure include: ongoing research into the concepts of hospitality in the home (what I’ve termed,”First Place Hospitality”); tracking the development of hospitality concepts in the U.S;  the collected works of Wendell Berry; select works about the future and all that entails; and of course, there’s always some Disney history in the mix!

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station, I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest experiences. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

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Love Where You Live by Volunteering

Today’s post is the sixth in a series of ten posts over the next few weeks, taking a “deeper dive” into the concepts at the heart of Melody Warnick’s book, This is Where You Belong.

Here is Warnick’s list of ten placement behaviors that she developed on the journey to “Love where you live.”

  1. Walk more
  2. Buy local
  3. Get to know your neighbors
  4. Do fun stuff
  5. Explore nature
  6. Volunteer
  7. Eat local
  8. Become more political
  9. Create something new
  10. Stay loyal through hard times

There are a million good reasons to volunteer, one of them being that “you don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one,” as urban activist Majora Carter has said. Falling in love with where you live is simply a side benefit.

Melody Warnick

According to author Melody Warnick, volunteering in your hometown gives you a double-whammy benefit: Helping out makes you feel better while simultaneously making your city a better place to live. What’s good for your community is good for you.

One of the by-products of volunteering in and for your city can be a sense of “place identity.” The idea is that, in the same way you might self-identify as a parent or a lawyer or a dog lover, volunteering helps you see yourself as a valuable part of your town. You join the collective “we” of your place, a sentiment that’s summed up tidily in this statement from the place attachment scale: “Where I live tells you a lot about who I am as a person.”

Here are a few of the many ideas in her book:

  • Consider the things about your area that break your heart, like the homeless guy on the ben or the packs of teenagers you see shuffling around at loose ends.
  • Find a place to volunteer. Big cities have lots of opportunities. Small towns often have their own volunteer centers. Check out the local branch of the United Way.
  • Perform random acts of kindness, either on a special day like your birthday or a day you’re bored.
  • Donate to a cause, and make it a family project by saving change in a jar. Let the family decide where the donation will go.

I can’t emphasize this enough: If you like the idea of loving where you live, of being a better neighbor, or anything remotely connected, you MUST check out the work of Melody Warnick. Follow her on social media. Buy the book. Sign up for the newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. It’s all PURE GOLD.

Love Where You Live by Exploring Nature

Today’s post is the fifth in a series of ten posts over the next few months, taking a “deeper dive” into the concepts at the heart of Melody Warnick’s book, This is Where You Belong. The idea of a deeper dive is the second week in this website’s monthly rotation. The first and third weeks are BookNotes: short excerpts and teasers from great books about hospitality and your neighborhood. The fourth week will develop a tool you can use to become a better neighbor.

Here is Warnick’s list of ten placement behaviors that she developed on the journey to “Love where you live.”

  1. Walk more
  2. Buy local
  3. Get to know your neighbors
  4. Do fun stuff
  5. Explore nature
  6. Volunteer
  7. Eat local
  8. Become more political
  9. Create something new
  10. Stay loyal through hard times

Studies have shown that spending time in green space improves immune system function, lowers blood glucose levels in diabetics, boosts cognitive function and concentration, lengthens attention span, and strengthens impulse control.

Melody Warnick

According to author Melody Warnick, humans are born with an inborn craving for wildness and green, what Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson call “biophilia.” We are, he says, built for nature.

Here’s the rub: Towns and cities usually aren’t.

In addition to the benefits of nature listed above, Warnick also found that green space builds social cohesion, the companion to place attachment that develops in tight-knit neighborhoods. One study showed that when homes are set among trees and plants, neighbors form stronger social ties and a better sense of community. People who live near parks trust each other more and are quicker to aid their neighbors than people who live farther away.

Outcomes like these made Warnick come up with her own hypothesis: that people who lived where they could spend more time in the natural world would feel more enthusiastic about their communities.

Here are a few of the many ideas found in her book:

  • Make a list of your town’s natural assets. If you live in a city, are there parks nearby? Secret gardens? What makes you feel close to nature where you live?
  • Learn the names of the flora and fauna in your area. Check out a book on the subject, or connect with the Master Naturalists or Master Gardeners in your town.
  • Find ways to do the outdoorsy things you love where you live. Even in cities, you can walk through parks, bike greenbelts, or dangle your feet in ponds.
  • Invite friends for a hike, since doing something in nature with people you love creates a happy place anchor.
  • So you’re not outdoorsy.That’s fine. Figure out one beautiful place in your town – a creek, a park a river – and spend some time there. Go for a drive and enjoy the view.

I can’t emphasize this enough: If you like the idea of loving where you live, of being a better neighbor, or anything remotely connected, you MUST check out the work of Melody Warnick. Follow her on social media. Buy the book. Sign up for the newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. It’s all PURE GOLD.

I’m delighted to report that Melody’s latest book, If You Could Live Anywhere, was just released! I’ve just started reading it, but it is written in the same engaging style, and addresses the question on many people’s minds today:

The future of work is clear: It can happen wherever you are. So where do you really want to be?

How to Love Where You Live: Do Fun Things

Today’s post is the fourth in a series over the next few weeks, taking a “deeper dive” into the concepts at the heart of Melody Warnick’s book, This is Where You Belong.

Here is Warnick’s list of ten placement behaviors that she developed on the journey to “Love where you live.”

  1. Walk more
  2. Buy local
  3. Get to know your neighbors
  4. Do fun stuff
  5. Explore nature
  6. Volunteer
  7. Eat local
  8. Become more political
  9. Create something new
  10. Stay loyal through hard times

Learning my town’s history hadn’t made it to my “Love Where You Live” To-Do list.

Maybe it should have.

Melody Warnick

According to author Melody Warnick, it can take time and effort for your town’s things to become your things. Realistically, determining beforehand how well a city’s social offerings match your interests will increase your chance of loving it there. After all, these are social offerings, and social connectedness is at the heart of place attachment.

In some ways, developing place satisfaction is really a matter of creating a repository of happy memories where you live. Here’s where we toured the historic home. Here’s where we went on the bike ride. Here’s where we spent the day at the museum/football game/park/nature center.

Each shining moment gets pinned to your mental map of your city, and soon it’s entirely overlaid with pleasures big and small.

Here are a few of the many ideas found in her book:

  • Develop your out-of-towner list using the Power of 10+ framework developed by Project by Public Spaces. What ten local sites, historic landmarks, tourist attractions, parks, museums, statues, or events can you show off to visitors? Take people to the places that have meaning to you.
  • Find out what’s going on in your hometown. Most large cities and many smaller ones have websites, magazines, or newspapers with event calendars.
  • Do the stuff your town is good at. Learn to like them. You’ll feel happier faster.
  • Annual festivals are often a focal point of local pride, and they tell you a lot about what your place values and what residents consider themselves good at. Plus, research shows that such community rituals can increase place attachments.
  • Show up. Make a goal to show up to one community social offering a month, even if it’s not what you’d normally do for fun.
  • Create fun for yourself. A shortcut to place attachment is to do the things that make you happy where you live. Pinpoint the ways you like to spend your time, then search out the right kinds of activities in your town – or make them happen yourself.

I can’t emphasize this enough: If you like the idea of loving where you live, of being a better neighbor, or anything remotely connected, you MUST check out the work of Melody Warnick. Follow her on social media. Buy the book. Sign up for the newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. It’s all PURE GOLD.

Be a Good Neighbor and Get to Know Your Neighbors

Today’s post is the third in a series of posts over the next few weeks, taking a “deeper dive” into the concepts at the heart of Melody Warnick’s book, This is Where You Belong.

Here is Warnick’s list of ten placement behaviors that she developed on the journey to “Love where you live.”

  1. Walk more
  2. Buy local
  3. Get to know your neighbors
  4. Do fun stuff
  5. Explore nature
  6. Volunteer
  7. Eat local
  8. Become more political
  9. Create something new
  10. Stay loyal through hard times

Place attachment research shows that many of the good feelings we have about the cities where we live stem from the sense that we have relationships there. Here was my chance to craft a “Love Where You Live” experiment that could, potentially, make me happier in my town immediately.

I would make an effort to get to know the locals.

Melody Warnick

Warnick believes that falling in love with your town needs to involve knowing ( and at least sort of liking) your neighbors. And it’s because of a little thing called “neighborhood cohesion,” a term used by social scientists to describe the level of closeness and connection neighbors feel toward each other. In studies, it’s measured by asking people whether they can agree with statements like these:

  • This is a close-knit neighborhood.
  • People around here are willing to help their neighbors.
  • People in this neighborhood generally get along with each other.
  • People in this neighborhood share the same values.
  • My neighbors can be trusted.

When people answer yes, it portends positive outcomes for both physical and emotional health.

Warnick determined that if she was going to use a Love Where You Live experiment to challenge her default settings on behaviors that she knew were making it difficult to become attached to her town, she would have to be a better neighbor.

Her first simple goal: find out who her neighbors were.

Here are a few of the many ideas found in her book:

  • Celebrate Good Neighbor Day. It’s September 28th, but you can declare any holiday or even an ordinary day a special day when you feel like meeting your neighbors.
  • Make and update a spreadsheet of the people on your block or apartment hall/building.
  • Welcome anyone who moves into a house you can see from your front porch or in your apartment building. You don’t have to prepare an elaborate welcome gift – just start by saying “Hi” and see what happens from there.
  • Eat a meal with neighbors. Start out simple, and in today’s climate, “socially distanced,” by inviting neighbors to bring whatever they were going to eat and have a picnic outside.
  • Offer to house-sit or pet-sit for neighbors going out of town. This assumes a level of trust, but you would be surprised how quickly your offer may get accepted.
  • And the biggie: Throw a block party! Maybe the most daunting, but most awesome, of all. You will become a neighborhood legend.

I was beginning to understand the value of meeting our neighbors face-to-face, even when – especially when – they’re not like us.

Melody Warnick

The “place” in place attachment isn’t an abstract concept. Place is physical proximity. The process of putting down roots naturally begins close to home, with the people who live right around us.


I can’t emphasize this enough: If you like the idea of loving where you live, of being a better neighbor, or anything remotely connected, you MUST check out the work of Melody Warnick. Follow her on social media. Buy the book. Sign up for the newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. It’s all PURE GOLD.

How Buying Local Can Save Main Street America

Today’s post is the second in a series of ten posts over the next few weeks, taking a “deeper dive” into the concepts exploring the heart of Melody Warnick’s book, This is Where You Belong.

Here is Warnick’s list of ten placement behaviors that she developed on the journey to “Love where you live.”

  1. Walk more
  2. Buy local
  3. Get to know your neighbors
  4. Do fun stuff
  5. Explore nature
  6. Volunteer
  7. Eat local
  8. Become more political
  9. Create something new
  10. Stay loyal through hard times

As author Melody Warnick continued her journey of learning to love where she lived, she began to deeply believe that her habits of buying from Target or ordering online from Amazon were contributing to the downfall of Main Street America. Her shopping habits might be killing both her hometown and her prospects of connecting with it, and that had her worried.

Neighborly economics means you don’t go for what’s cheapest and easiest. You think about which relationships and stores you want to preserve in your town, and you shop there. It may be a financial sacrifice, but:

You need to sacrifice for where you live. Sacrifice is going to make your town stronger.

Jay Leeson

Here’s what she found as she began her research:

One hundred years ago, you bought most of what you needed from a store in your community that was owned and operated by someone who lived there. Prescriptions came from the corner drugstore, whose pharmacist knew your kids and your ailments by name. Books were purchased from a local bookseller, who recommended a few new novels you’d like.

With Main Street acting as both substitute town hall and open-air living room, you could chat with your neighbors, debate the problems of day, and still cross milk and socks off your shopping list.

But as the population grew both in number and across the country, spreading from cities to towns to suburbs, chain stores – one store with multiple locations – began to take over. A few decades later, as first malls and big box stores, then retail strips centers expanded, local stores suffered, and then began to vanish.

In spite of research showing that monies spent locally tend to stay in the community in greater amounts, the trend continues for the most part today.

Warnick believes that there are more than just economic costs, though: Shopping locally is a concrete way to help your town thrive economically and to improve your own quality of life. You start buying stuff in your town, particularly from small independent stores owned by people who live there, and all of a sudden more local people have more jobs. So the city collects more taxes. Then the schools have more money for improvements. The streets get repaved, the parks department builds new sports fields, and so on. With millions of dollars, you’d think we’d all jump on board.

Unfortunately, not.

National chains and big-box stores are cheap, quick, and comforting – the retail equivalent of a fast-food cheeseburger – and their spread has turned much of America into a string of bland Anyplaces.

Warnick believes that the first step in any long-term recovery is recognizing you have a problem. She now had another “Love Where You Live” experiment: weaning herself off Target and Amazon and start spreading more of her cash around her hometown.

She called it her “big-box detox.”

You’ll want to get her book to read more about her journey, including:

  • Cash mobs
  • 3/50 Project
  • Support local shops who support local causes
  • Don’t showroom

Warnick believes this is how it works:

You buy stuff. Pick your local thing – birthday presents, bicycles, running shoes, books, lamps, camera gear, art prints, oil changes, carpet cleaning, piano tuning, or whatever. Pick something to buy, pick a local person or store to buy it from, and then stick with it.

Melody Warnick

You can be a cash mob of one. When you go into a local store to spend $20, you know that buying stuff does more than just for you.


I can’t emphasize this enough: If you like the idea of loving where you live, of being a better neighbor, or anything remotely connected, you MUST check out the work of Melody Warnick. Follow her on social media. Buy the book. Sign up for the newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. It’s all PURE GOLD.

How to Measure the Power of Place Attachment

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul

Simone Weil

What if a place becomes the right place only by our choosing to love it?

Melody Warnick, author of the fabulous book This Is Where You Belong, sets the whole tone of her book in the first chapter talking about “Place Attachment.”

Humans are instinctively driven to form connection with places. 

The most common term for this is “place attachment,” because it suggests the affectionate, almost familial connection that can form between us and where we live. You mostly know it when you feel it, which you probably have. When you roll into your town after being away for awhile and say, “It’s good to be home,” that’s a product of place attachment. So is feeling drawn as if by magic to a particular city, never wanting to leave the place where you grew up, or never wanting to leave the place you live right now.

If all this sounds a bit touch-feely, it is. Like happiness, place attachment exists partly as emotion and partly as a pattern of thought, which makes it difficult to quantify.

Over the years researchers have developed a “place attachment scale” of statements they use to gauge the sensation. Study participants are usually asked to rank their agreement on a scale of 1 to 5, but for the sake of simplicity, you can assess your own place attachment by answering each of the questions below “true” or “false” about the town or city where you live. Click here or on the image below for a PDF.

The more times you answer “true,” the more likely you are to be attached to your town. Making nineteen or more “true” answers, which puts you in the top quartile, indicates that you probably feel strongly connected to where you live. Six or fewer, on the other hand, suggests that you live somewhere unfamiliar or in a town you’re not particularly over the moon about. And if you’re not very place attached you may be saying to yourself, “Clearly place attachment feels nice. But why should I care? Will it actually make my life feel better?”

According to place attachment research, the answer is a resounding yes. Studies show that when you pit “Stayers” – long-term residents of a place – against “Movers,” the Stayers are generally far more social.

Where we live matters, and staying where we live matters. When it comes to place attachment, our towns are what we think they are.

No matter what anyone else thinks, your town just has to make you happy.

And being a good neighbor starts with you.


I can’t emphasize this enough: If you like the idea of loving where you live, of being a better neighbor, or anything remotely connected, you MUST check out the work of Melody Warnick. Follow her on social media. Buy the book (below). Sign up for her newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. It’s all PURE GOLD.

Inspired and adapted from

This is Where You Belong, Melody Warnick

How Taking a Walk Will Make You a Better Neighbor

Today’s post will introduce a series of ten posts over the next few weeks, taking a “deeper dive” into the concepts exploring the heart of Melody Warnick’s book, This is Where You Belong.

Here is Warnick’s list of ten placement behaviors that she developed on the journey to “Love where you live.”

  1. Walk more
  2. Buy local
  3. Get to know your neighbors
  4. Do fun stuff
  5. Explore nature
  6. Volunteer
  7. Eat local
  8. Become more political
  9. Create something new
  10. Stay loyal through hard times

According to author Melody Warnick, scientists call the way we learn to navigate a place “mental mapping.” The concept, based on behavioral psychology studies done several times since the 40s, showed that rats and chimpanzees who had first aimlessly explored a maze developed a cognitive map that helped them quickly scamper through it later.

One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.

Henry Miller

Warnick, through conversations with Jeff Speck, a city planner and author of Walkable City, believes that walking is more than transportation; it’s experience

As you walk anywhere, your five senses are taking in hundreds of stimuli. All these things combine to create another “sense”: a sense of where we are.

Through her research, and in reference to #1 on the list above, Warnick discovered that people who walk a lot feel better about their lives, and one of the principles she was coming to understand about loving where you live is that feeling good in general often translates to feeling good about where you live.

When you’re happy, for whatever reason, you also happen to be happy in the place you live.

Walking helps people discover the character of where they live and why they like it. Otherwise it’s a faceless kind of experience. You don’t come into contact with anybody. Even having the comfort of being social and being around other people is so healthy. It’ fun to walk around and say hi to people.

Matt Tomasulo

Warnick found that there was something about being on foot or on a bike that makes us explorers of where we live. Walking and biking in her town helped her develop an intimacy with the town that made her find the hidden gems and appreciate where she was.

She also believes that anyone, in any town, could have the same experience.

What about you?

Can you make a change in your routines to walk more in your neighborhood, and maybe even in your town?

Go ahead and try it.

You will be surprised by what you learn.


I can’t emphasize this enough: If you like the idea of loving where you live, of being a better neighbor, or anything remotely connected, you MUST check out the work of Melody Warnick. Follow her on social media. Buy the book. Sign up for the newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. It’s all PURE GOLD.