Think about a place you consider home. Do you have deep connections with it?
Do you have friends there? Do you know it well? Do you have favorite locations there and memories associated with it?
Unlike my parents’ houses (which I do love and consider home too, Mom 🙂 ) or Concordia University (which I followed my brother to — love you Ian!), St Andrews was mine. It was my flat, my town, my friends — not my parents’ and not my brother’s. I was the first Foreman of my family to live there since medieval times! … Probably.
I knew every square foot of that town. I wandered it whenever I needed to think, and I found places and people that were really special to me.
Like this strip of houses along the pier: my favorite view of St Andrews. I have so many pictures of it.
And the corner of Costa Coffee with a latte. I loved hiding in there on a rainy day with a book, and taking my parents there when they visited. We sat in the corner and deciphered bus schedules.
Or the big boxy square chair on the second floor of the library overlooking West Sands. Every time I stopped to think, I could look out and see a different view — sometimes sun and clear blue skies, sometimes treacherous waves, a torrential downpour and high winds.
Friends. Of course. As a postgrad in St Andrews, it was easy to make friends because everyone wanted to connect quickly. And we all had something in common: learning.
Make Every Place Yours
Home is a place that is uniquely yours: you’re familiar with it and you have intimate connections with it. But you can make any place your home. It just takes a conscious effort.
Make friends. It’s important to make connections wherever you go, however long you plan to be there. True, it takes time to make life-long friends you can trust, but that doesn’t mean you can’t befriend the people you meet in passing — even if you only see them once. Human connection is important.
Get as familiar as you can with the city or town. My friend Jordan and I travelled to Bologna, Italy over Spring Break. We were only there for three days, but we spent a lot of time wandering the city. By our last day, we knew our way around. We could direct friends to our favorite sandwich shop (that is closed on Sundays, by the way) and tell them what street had the best (affordable) shopping. It’s amazing how much just knowing your way around can make a place feel like yours. If you can lead a newcomer, you’re golden.
Find a favorite restaurant, coffee shop, bar, park or building: some place you can go back to and feel connected to the city or town. In St Andrews it was Costa Coffee and the Cellar Bar at Aikmans. In Bologna, Italy, it was this random coffee shop across the street from our bus stop — I wouldn’t have called Bologna home, but I was comfortable there.
Explore and find some “secret” spots. In one of the neighborhoods in St Andrews, there was a steep set of stairs, and at the bottom was a little river with ducks. It was simple, but no one else was there. I felt like I found a secret. I can think of no comparison to finding a place you think no one else knows about. It doesn’t really matter if everyone knows about it! — it just matters that you found it.
Consciously develop sensory memories. I still remember the feeling of the cold wind and sea water stinging my skin, the smell of the rain, and the taste of the cold air on a blue sky day in St Andrews. And the smell of books and cigarette smoke (I know, I know, yuck) will always remind me of history and learning. Those memories make a place feel like a part of you. Every time you experience that sense, you’re taken back to that city, town or memory.
It’s all part of experiencing new places and enjoying the place you are. So wherever you are, connect on every level possible — with people, places and senses. Give it a place in your heart.
How do you make a place — city, town or countryside — your own?