How Environmental Immersion Leads to Creative Inspiration

One can be inspired by research as well as immersed in it for inspiration.  Rhonda Counts, Show Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering Florida

How you do research is dependent upon where you are in the process. Disney’s Imagineers value the story’s intent and the importance of being surrounded with or immersed in the story’s environment.

With a nod to today’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day” celebrated annually on September 19, here’s an example of creative immersion from one of my projects:

As you can see, there’s a definite pirate’s theme going on in part of my office. It’s both from previous work and work in process. I’ve used the theme of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” storyline – both the attraction and the movies – to develop training resources and presentations in the area of Guest Experiences.

Specifically, I created a tool – the Guest Experience Compass. And how better to demonstrate it, than using Jack Sparrow’s compass? I also created the Guest Experience Code – and based it on the storyline of the Pirates Code. Of course, both of these tools had to be introduced and used by a pirate – the Navigator – in a fully immersive learning environment. The result?

As a result of my pirate “adventure,” I created a series of Guest Experience learning activities lasting from a half day to two days.

And it doesn’t stop with pirates.

There’s the fact that my office is, in fact, a Disney museum (a title given by my granddaughter).

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It’s continually changing as I acquire new books and other “resources” that help my inspiration.

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It’s no secret that I am a Disney fanatic of the first degree! I had an early start in the 60s, both from watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” and benefiting from my father, who as a Gulf gasoline dealer received many promotional tie-ins from Disney movies.

Anchored by a Disney library of over 450 books (and growing!), I am literally immersed in all things Disney. As I research and work on various projects – especially Guest Experiences – I find great inspiration through the many resources at hand. My immersion is not limited to the visual and tactile – at any given time, the soundtrack of a Disney movie, or the background music from one of Disney’s theme parks is playing in the background.

Here’s how Disney Imagineers recommend immersion into an environment:

Select a project that you want to immerse yourself in. Make a list of all the elements of the project and find samples (the larger the better) that represent these elements. Find a place in your surroundings to display the samples so you can immerse yourself in them.

For example, if you wanted to fix up a vintage car, surround yourself with large detailed pictures of its original interior and exterior, very large color samples for its seat cushions, dashboard, etc., and exterior paint job, pictures of various locations you would drive to, and of course, spray the space with new car scent.

Research leads to inspiration.


part of a series of ideas to help shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

written by The Disney Imagineers

Learn to Love Where You Live by Staying Loyal

Today’s post is the tenth and final one in a series of posts over the past 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

The trouble with place attachment is that to fall in love with a place is to risk losing it and grieving for it.

Melody Warnick

Author Melody Warnick believes that home is nothing more or less than the place where you feel at home and choose to stake yourself – and maybe not in that order. When we decide to plant roots, often the feeling of at-homeness follows.

The problem is that your town, wherever it is, will in all likelihood fall apart some day.

Warnick believes that what locals do next, after the disaster, is a key measure of how place attached we really are. How loyal will we be when things go wrong?

Warnick’s “Love Where You Live” experiments were used to test her hypothesis that actively seeking the good things in her town, investing her time and energy, and immersing herself in her surroundings would make her feel more like she belonged. For the most part, they had.

What she had never tested, and could not, was whether she had the mettle to make it through a crisis.

In her research of other places’ disasters or crises, she discovered the paradox of resilience: while anticipating Bad Things can make you feel antisocial, the aftermath of the actual event tends to increase social capital. The newfound ties developed during the crisis have the added benefit of making residents feel more rooted just at the moment they’re waffling between fight and flight.

Here are a few ideas from Warnick on Staying Loyal:

  • Create an emergency contact list for your neighbors. You’ll be one another’s first line of defense in case of disaster, with the added benefit that now you have their numbers to invite them to your Sunday Night Dinner.
  • Read about your town’s history so you’ll have a better sense of what it’s been through. Even small towns tend to carry local history books in their library.
  • Make your own personal resilience plan. Identify the most common shocks in your region – earthquakes, floods, wildfires – and figure out what you need to deal with them. You’ll feel less stressed if you know what to do when a Bad Thing happens.

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.

Learn to Love Where You Live by Creating Something New

Today’s post is the ninth in a series of ten posts, 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

The world, I realized, is full of people who say, “That would be fun.” What it needs is more people who say, “Let’s give it a whirl.”

Melody Warnick

In her “Love Where You Live” project, author Melody Warnick found that making cities prettier, more vibrant, or even cooler, can instill hope. According to one survey she found, living in a beautiful city is a more important predictor of personal happiness than objectively more consequential attributes like clean drinking water or safe streets.

In her research, Warnick found that created placemakers aren’t superheros. They’re usually average citizens – teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, designers, activists, moms, dads, friends, neighbors – who decide to take matters into their own hands. They have a sense of what their city could be, and they love their place enough to try to change it, even a little bit.

Warnick found that when creative placemaking projects work well, they pull people together in interactions that build trust and a sense of community. Singing, chatting, drawing, painting, and howling together at a really bad joke are free, but they offer an astound return on investment in terms of their place attachment dividend.

Here are a few of the author’s ideas for Creating Something:

  • Find out what events are happening in your neighborhood – concerts, dance shows, festivals – and show up to as many as you can afford, even if it’s not your thing.
  • Throw a few bucks in the case whenever you see a busker in your town. There presence makes your hometown an interesting place to be.
  • Gather friends for an adventure and make something silly and creative happen in your neighborhood.
  • If you have it in you, be a creative initiator and organize a placemaking project in your town.

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 Getting More Political

Today’s post is the eighth 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

If some small part of me might have once been reluctant about the wonkiness of a nine-week civics class, it had been overshadowed by the recognition that the Citizens Institute was exactly what you would do if you cared about your city.

Melody Warnick

As author Melody Warnick went through a nine-week Citizens Institute in her hometown, she came to two realizations:

  1. Good towns just don’t happen. They are planned into existence.
  2. Making decisions that keep all kinds of residents satisfied is incredibly difficult.

In her research she found support for this line of thought from various sources. “I think town employees are the unsung heroes,” says Rick Morse, an associate professor of public administration and government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who studies citizens academies. “They’re always in the background working, and people don’t realize that all in their life is convenient and good because of what these other people do. For citizens, it’s kind of this aha moment: ‘Oh wow, these are good people, and they’re doing good things.'”

According to Warnick, the majority of Americans are crap at civic engagement, the process by which we citizen participate in the running of our town in an effort to make things better – happier – where we live. Very few of us get involved in local politics.

When you live in a town where people are not like you, politically or otherwise, you can feel isolated and alienated. The antidote, and the way to experience more place attachment where you live, is twofold.

First, learn to appreciate other residents for who they are and what they do for you – like Warnick did at the Citizens Institute.

Second, work with other to make good things happen in your town despite your differences.

Here are a few of the author’s ideas for Getting More Political:

  • Follow your mayor and city councilors on social media.
  • Join a local citizen’s academy (they go by many names).
  • Read a local news source online or in print to keep up with what’s happening in your town.
  • Download and use civic apps for your town.
  • Attend a city council meeting.

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 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.

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.