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.


The Irresistible Lure of the American Front Porch

If you want to build community and attachment to where you live, scientists and neighbors agree: a front porch is just the ticket. (Melody Warnick)

After more than a hundred years of inordinate fondness, Americans at the middle of the twentieth century discarded the porch as old-fashioned, obsolete, and valueless – until a blend of conservation and revival began to restore it to a place of honor and utility. The porch will never be what it once was, but neither will it vanish. Instead, after 150 years of yawing from ubiquity to rejection, the porch will hold its place as a standard element of domestic American architecture, and we will all be the better for that.

Michael Dolan

During the last decades of the Twentieth Century, outdoor life shifted away from the fronts of the houses. Before WW II, even fairly humble houses had front porches where people spent part of their free time. Upper-middle-class houses frequently had side porches. In the half-century after the war, family leisure gravitated to back yards,  which are now routinely equipped with decks or patios. In other words, private areas behind the houses have been upgraded, while public areas facing the streets and sidewalks have surrendered much of their social importance.

Philip Langdon

We thought that the point of requiring porches on the fronts of houses was for environmental reasons – to cool the air doing into the house. We realized after the houses were up that everybody saw the social component of the porch – it status as the important in-between space separating the pubic realm from the private realm.

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk

People like the image of a porch; it takes them back to simplicity, it conjures up the symbol of ‘I want to go there,’ and the porch takes them there.

Niedra North

For author Michael Dolan, if an American porch is really to be an American porch, it has to have some Americans on it. Latter-day porches often honor that principle in the breach. Instead of serving as community-oriented  centers of conviviality and welcome, these porches stand, with their perfectly-placed rockers and adroitly-arranged tchotchkes, as illustrations of the hospitality folks would extend if only they weren’t so busy being busy, and if only being sociable didn’t intrude so much on their private lives.

He believes that if more houses had porches more people will have the chance to sit on them.

It that were the case, he continued, in time, as it had been for him with his older neighbors when he moved to the neighborhood, the first names would come, and then the friendships – and if not friendship, then neighborhood cordiality, that pleasant state in which you and the guy next door know one another well enough to say hello from the porch or to invite one another up to sit in a rocker or the glider.

Bringing Hospitality Back to Your Porch

Simply put, the front porch is too good an idea to be allowed to slip away, even if the hospitality we display is more theoretical than real.

– Michael Dolan

The good ol’ American front porch seems to stand for positivity and openness; a platform from which to welcome or wave farewell; a place where things of significance could happen. 

– Dan Stevens

Make your front porch a part of your home, and it will make you a part of the world. 

– John Sarris

My porch represents what I want my house to be: sheltering and communal, private and welcoming, a quiet vantage point from which to greet the whole world.

– Melody Warnick

Inspired by these books:

The American Porch, by Michael Dolan

This Is Where You Belong, by Melody Warnick

A Better Place to Live, by Philip Langdon

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 (above). Sign up for her newsletter on her website. Peruse the website for other articles she has written. What Warnick writes about will inspire you to embrace your own community – and perhaps discover that the place where you live right now . . . is home.