Becoming Indigenous

“When do we all become native to this place? When do we all become indigenous people?” – William McDonough

Ever wonder why America has such trouble with suburban sprawl, highway congestion, and keeping its urban centers viable? It’s a result of how we see “place” relative to other factors in society. We don’t respect it much; it is subservient to education and corporate employment.

For the last 60 years, “success” has meant going to a “good” college or university, getting one or more degrees, and then securing a “good” job. And we have told our children that they need to get good grades and engage in an array extracurricular activities in order to get into those good schools. The logical conclusion is that our children should fear the inverse outcome: not getting the good grades, not going to a good school, and ultimately not securing the good job. So the message is one of struggle: the world requires you to conform to its standards — you, the aspiring student, are expected to make sacrifices in order to be rewarded. And those rewards are held up as the make-or-break difference between the “good life” and an average life as a postal clerk.

And so the deadening chain of sacrifice and compromise begins.


When a promising 16-year old student tells her guidance counselor that she wants to study marine biology, can she really mean it?

When she is answered that she should consider a list of 5 schools, 4 of which are scattered across the country, is this even helpful?

A young person is rarely able to comprehend the specific nature of their vocation, much less make a choice about where they want to live to pursue that alleged vocation. So, what this mechanism really represents is a great geographic randomizer that spews people around the country while racking up student loans, disconnecting people from their indigenous roots and fueling the education industry.

Once the degrees are completed, the job hunt begins. Graduates and corporations engage in bizarre mating rituals, each trying to convince the other that they are the ones who got the better end of their devil’s bargain. And so the newly-minted worker starts to do what the corporation asks. When an “opportunity” comes up in a new city, the worker is enticed to rip up their roots, divorcing them from whatever local connections they have — trading them in for a 10-year thank-you watch, a 4.5% raise and a moving allowance.

A transplanted worker can’t know a new place deeply. Their immediate needs are straightforward and purchased: a house to store their possessions, proximity to shopping, services, and restaurants. If they have or want children, they also want good schools. Of course, good schools are hard to come by, and that scarcity means that the houses with the best schools cost the most money, and so the compromise is made and the choice is made to settle in a place that they necessarily have no connection to. They like it. It’s nice. It solves their need. And they have no idea where they live.

And so they don’t (really, deeply) care about where they live. They don’t care when a new shopping center is built, destroying an ancient stand of trees and filling a stream with runoff. (Oh look, we’re getting an Anthropologie and a P.F. Chang’s — I hear the lettuce wraps are great.)

They don’t care when new roads are built to service the very subdivisions they inhabit, leading to more traffic.

They don’t care when public transportation projects continue to go unfunded, because public transportation would require a 30-year budget process (longer than the attention span than most itinerant residents) and significant urban density.

And they don’t care when the city-centers in their megalopolis rot due to white flight and a failure to invest in urban infrastructure.


  • People should aspire to grow where they are planted.
  • If they cannot grow where they are planted, they should at least plant themselves someplace they can grow.
  • What someone does for a living should not necessarily determine where they live.
  • Place is not fungible.

Why are so many successful people unhappy? And why are so many “less successful” people completely at peace?

People who have an opportunity to connect to place (to history, to extended family) are often the most at-peace and effective. Mike Rowe (of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs) gave a surprisingly good talk at the EG conference about the meaning of work and what it means to perform the tasks that others in our society will not. In many senses, these are the people who have chosen to commit themselves to a place.

If You Want to be Green, Choose a Place to Love

If you really want to do good for your environment, it is not enough to commit yourself to unbleached paper towels and driving a Prius. In fact, both of those things represent environmental harm and disconnectedness. Paper towels? Spill less stuff, and use washable towels. A Prius? The energy required to build and dispose of its batteries is immense. An inexpensive high-mileage gasoline vehicle that you keep for years and barely use does much less harm than a Prius you drive 75 miles every day for 7 years.

The things that lead to the most efficient behaviors (commuting less, sharing resources, maximizing time efficiency) all derive directly from maximizing the relationship to the place where you live.

And so the ways you can make the most difference — and be the most green — have nothing to do with what you consume — they are derived from the design of your life. Is your life designed in such a way that you can become indigenous?

When you become indigenous to a place, you enable it in all kinds of new ways. Engagement is contagious and leads people to recognize themselves in others — and in you. Where before, kids were encouraged to follow their hearts by going to MIT (and thus launching the great chain of place-divorce), they realize they can follow their hearts by being a part of the schools (and culture) in their own backyard — which offer a rich, world-class experience. And so they stay. And they care about their cities, parks, and forests. And they go on to enrich their cultural institutions, entrepreneurial climate, and their urban centers. If you don’t think you have the kind of world-class culture you want to see in your backyard, start building it now by reaching out to others who want to see the same thing.

All of this leads to the most efficient use of resources in the place where you live. Isn’t that green?

How Do You Become Indigenous to Your Place?

Commit yourself to it. Attend events and meetups that you find interesting. Start events and meetups that you would like to see. Reach out to the bright minds in your own backyard. They are there, but they don’t know you are yet. Say hello. Work on ideas and projects that matter and have consequences. Start a business. Help someone. Be a mentor. Read history, and understand why your place is the way it is.

Place is not just another consumer choice. Place provides context for human interaction; it is the basis of our humanity. Only through connectedness to place do we enable the fullest range of human expression and of human being.

As we enter into a new economic cycle (I’ll stop short of calling it a new era), it is clear that economic activity based on flows and cycles is going to receive more attention than old school approaches of resource-rape and infinite expansion through leverage and buried externalities. For businesses based on closed cycles to maximize profits, they need to limit transportation of inputs and wastes, and that points towards fundamentally local and regional businesses. Local production and consumption is an inescapable imperative of the emerging business cycle.

If you have children, teach them about the place where they live. Talk about the future in ways that help them understand how (and why) they might make a life where you live now, without locking them down or sounding creepy — just make it a viable option. Start thinking about your family home as a family seat, not just a house that you buy or sell as an investment. If you’re not living in a home you would want to pass on to your children (or which they would not want), consider making that final move to a place that you may keep for a long time.

For some, keeping the same residence (be it apartment or house) is not always an option, or sensible. So if you can’t connect to a particular piece of real-estate, what can you do to connect yourself to a city?

In either case, you can’t become indigenous to a place without a multi-generational mindset.

The Constraint of Place

Anyone who does anything creative will tell you that constraints actually improve your work. All of this talk about becoming indigenous and attaching multiple generations to a place can sound confining and perhaps even suffocating — or worse yet anti-American (think about why that is for a minute). But, as a constraint it may actually be freeing.

Isn’t it central to our capitalist-consumer culture that each generation should be free to make its own choices about where to live and why? Why should our children be burdened by our choice of house and where to live? Isn’t it only a burden if it isn’t a very good choice?

But what if a constraint to place was something that actually enabled creativity? What if the choice of one generation was a reasonable choice for the next? If you were going to keep a home in your family for 10 generations, what kind of home would that be? Why don’t you live in it now?

This is not to say that it’s not acceptable to move if you need to move, or to even enjoy multiple places. A 19th-century worldview, of wintering in one place and summering in another, can make a lot of sense, assuming you fully connect to both places. Become indigenous to two places rather than a consumer (and destroyer) of many.

Conferences represent some of the worst excess and abuse (and neglect) of place. Why travel to a multitude of destinations to stay in hotels, eat bad meals, and talk to people who are only marginally better than the people you would find in your own backyard (if you’d only take the time to locate and develop them). Yes, conferences represent the only forum to connect with certain people, and it will be a while before the activity in your backyard can be as rich, etc.  Blah. If you fully engage with the people in your own backyard, your appetite to travel to conferences will be substantially lessened.

The Future Is Local

I am not the first to suggest that the economy of the future will have a big local component. Certainly that is true. However, we’re not just talking about switching to buying local garlic, squash, and milk here. Just as you can’t take and pile “new media” ways of doing business onto the newspaper industry, we can’t expect to reorient our economy to local production cycles without also adopting very different sets of behaviors.

I believe that new communications and organizing tools will cause these fundamental transformations:

  • Restaurants will morph into dinner parties and gatherings
  • Reverence for MIT, Harvard and Wharton will morph into localized study groups and self-education
  • Desire for more possessions will morph into “conspicuous asceticism”
  • Cars will be stigmatized as a mode of transport and, among those who care, valued as design objects only
  • National/Global Conferences will be seen as carbon-tacky and time inefficient (a day lost traveling in each direction? why?)
  • 7-14 day Vacations will become less common than poly-local living (these are the 2-3 places I want to live in)
  • Hotels will fall out of favor relative to house-swapping and “couchsurfing”
  • Cities will receive continued (and renewed) attention as McMansion-laden suburbs deteriorate and are stigmatized
  • Homeschooling will emerge among progressive communities (not just the religious right) as a way of avoiding the dysfunctional public school system
  • Public Schools will see new levels of engagement from their communities, as people are better able to communicate and organize outside of traditional PTA-like structures
  • Food will be a focus of local living, with community supported agriculture and Internet enabled food-swaps
  • Coworking will continue to develop as a way for people to connect and collaborate locally
  • Local Conferences will flourish as people build critical mass around shared interests using network tools
  • Mass produced consumer goods will see a lessening of popularity relative to artisan-produced goods with local connections
  • Consumption will give way to communion, and participation in cycles of use
  • Tools like iTunes U and Google Books will enable a lifetime of personal learning and one-on-one sharing

I believe we are already seeing the effects of most of these forces — some more than others. But this is not hippie pie-in-the-sky, smoking-weed-in-the-commune stuff. Notice all of this is free of ideology and any trace of the culture wars. These are facts and a simple observation and meditation on what’s happening in society already today.

And notice that each and every one of these forces is rooted first in a connection to place. These things are only enabled when you combine current people-connecting technologies (networking tools) with a specific location. Once these new ways of being start to supplant the old structures (which is going to happen, no matter how you feel about it) they are going to be hard to reverse because they represent fundamentally more stable ways of being.

Once people do finally become indigenous to their place, why and when would that stop?

Thank you to my son Thomas for providing the illustration for the very reasonable price of $4.


#1 on 03.15.09 at 1:57 pm

Yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes! I liked this article so much I read the whole thing aloud to my wife, who also liked it. This is completely in line with the kind of deeply rooted, intentional, and robust lifestyle she and I are working to create. Thank you!

I’m glad that you’re local, because I’d love to chat more about this stuff in person sometime.

#2 on 03.15.09 at 5:21 pm

This is quite convicting, Dave, but good to hear. You ask a lot of the same questions my wife and I have been wrestling with for the last few years.

🙂 I started with a comment but find spinning off onto too many tangents. In short, I echo Avdi that I’d be interested exploring more of these ideas in person.

In the meantime, if you (or any readers) are interested in the food [growing|sharing|questioning|localizing] questions, my wife started a group for connecting Baltimore folks: . It’s only a few months old, but the community is growing and the mailing list is pretty active.

#3 davetroy on 03.15.09 at 5:29 pm

Thanks Avdi. Yes, let’s definitely chat about this in person.

I keep coming back to two things as I talk about these ideas with people.

1) Emerson – “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

2) Subelsky – “I didn’t know so many people in town were interested in so many of the same things I was.”

In #1, I see that people should dare to express their convictions; in #2, I see that Emerson was right.

In my work with Beehive, Baltimore Angels, SocialDevCamp, assisting with Ignite, etc, I keep seeing that so many of us want the same things for our region.

And I also see that the minds present here are every bit as engaging as the minds I find at conferences or online.

In fact, I find the possibilities in engaging with local minds so compelling, and filled with so much more potential than the simple acts of absorption and reflection that may take place at a conference that given the choice, I am increasingly choosing the local.

Anyway, I once again say #1 and reiterate #2. Let’s talk soon!

#4 davetroy on 03.15.09 at 5:36 pm

Adam – thanks for the comments. I admit that my thoughts are rather acerbic, and in some ways more convicting than convincing.

However, lots of thoughts here, and I have more evidence for most of the points I made; in the interest of getting this written I declined to back everything up that I might have. I have some post-stubs that expand on some of these thoughts in a way that might be bit more fair.

Anyway, I had looked at some of the food stuff you guys are doing and it seems totally spot on to me… would love to get involved and do more along those lines.

Would very much like to continue the conversation in person!

#5 davetroy on 03.15.09 at 6:02 pm

Avdi – the other complementary Emerson quote I like is this:

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men — that is genius.”

#6 on 03.15.09 at 7:12 pm

This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. It sums up so many of the thoughts and hopes that my wife and I have been discussing with each other and with others for the last several years. After reading it separately, we discussed it paragraph by paragraph over dinner.

I also want to thank you for being a catalyst in our local community. My wife and I had already decided to put down roots here in Baltimore, but part of me was resigned that I would never really have the same opportunities here as living in San Francisco or even Northern Virginia or DC. I’ve been incredibly excited by Ignite and Social Dev Camp, and simply acquiring the knowledge that the foundations and individuals for a top-notch tech community *do* exist here in Baltimore (and are active). And certainly, I credit you and Mike Subelsky for being the change you want to see, and inspiring others. Thanks.

Perhaps this would be a good presentation for the next Ignite Baltimore? 😉

#7 davetroy on 03.15.09 at 7:23 pm

Nick, glad you enjoyed it. My desire to stir up change here is at least partially self-serving; like you, I want access to opportunity and new ideas, and it has always seemed pathetic to me that we have exported our best and brightest elsewhere.

Vocation and a desire to learn and earn should be a function of intellectual inquiry, and not about where one chooses to live.

For a variety of reasons I am rooted here; I have always enjoyed the ideas and people I’ve encountered in San Francisco, but I’d never want to live there. Nearly everybody there is there because they are “supposed” to be, and that homogeneity of experience is suffocating.

I appreciate your connectedness to the community as well… Bmore on Rails has been a huge inspiration to me.

The thing I heard most recently that made me happiest was a young smart person: “Maybe I’ll stay here.”

#8 on 03.15.09 at 7:50 pm

! I hope I wasn’t misunderstood, I mean “convicting” in the noblest philosophical sense. As in, forcing me to internally lay out my motivations and reexamine them in light of a more complete explanation of what I see happening around me.

I don’t think more evidence is required. This is what is unfolding around us, we can either take part in it or try to fight it, but there’s no denying the shift. Clearly we are at the end of something (markets, politics, food, technology, communication) and at the cusp of something else. Fight it or be a part of it.

#9 torybug on 03.15.09 at 7:59 pm

nick’s wife here . . .

Thank you for articulating this so well. I’ve had many of the same ideas floating disconnected in my head for awhile, mostly centered around something that’s been bothering me since elementary school – “I want to stay here where my friends and family are, but what good does that do when they all move away?” I hadn’t realized how connected this idea of place is to green and otherwise wholistic living. It’s refreshing to know that there are people in America, but especially in Baltimore, who see value in establishing multi-generational roots in a community.

And Adam – thanks for the link to the foodmake group; I just read the whole website and hope that Nick & I will be able to get involved!

#10 davetroy on 03.15.09 at 8:20 pm

Tory – yeah, I went to Hopkins not so much because I wanted to go to Hopkins, but because I wanted to stay here. Not so much to be with my nuclear family (I did move out) but because I had a $1M business and had already started a life I didn’t want to leave.

The press (Pew Research Center – says that Maryland is “High Magnet – High Sticky” and I believe that’s true — for the center of the bell curve, some of the time (check the caveats).

But, you and I both know that we have exported some of our very best and brightest. My goal, in the long term, is to reverse that, and create a draw of the best and brightest *here*.

#11 on 03.15.09 at 8:33 pm

Dave, of course this is exactly how I feel and explains better than I could why I’ve chosen to stay here. The Navy brought me to Baltimore, but I liked the people and culture here, so I stayed, and I’m very happy to finally feel “planted” in a place.

One thing that bothers me: I’m in SXSW right now getting to mingle with people from different backgrounds and perspectives from all over the country (it’s not turned out to be a cult-like echo chamber though parts of it are; I’m talking about the real, normal people I’m having spontaneous random conversations with outside of any formal programming). Of course I could be having just as many good conversations with all the people commenting on this post while at SocialDevCamp, Refresh, etc., but there’s some real value in mixing with people who live differently than you do in a different place.

Taken to its full conclusion, do you think “the future is local” could define an era of tribalism and inter-regional strife? In a deteriorating environment if we start retreating into our own bubbles will that make it harder to find commons solutions, or make our citizenry more myopic or selfish in some way? Some pockets of locality are likely to be much worse off than others, and do we risk enforcing current patterns of segregation? How much inter-regional communication do we need to make this sustainable?

In short, while I crave this local future, I worry that we would lose some social mobility and the “churn” that arises from people traveling and working with people who are different from them.

-Mike Subelsky

#12 davetroy on 03.15.09 at 8:46 pm

Mike — thanks for the comments.

I took a few extreme positions, mostly to help illustrate my point.

Regarding conferences, I’ve been to a lot of conferences, both global and local. They are not an inherently bad thing. They help spread perspective and build connections. I am not going to stop going to conferences and don’t advocate that people do so. However, I do find them increasingly time-inefficient; it’s a lot of wear and tear for increasingly minimal return. There just gets to be a point of diminishing return. But, to be clear, a main reason I didn’t go to SXSW was because I just returned from another conference, not that I have any real problem with it.

I’m also thinking of doing a SXSW carbon footprint visualizer. It’d be shocking.

As for any kind of developing local tribalism, we sorta have some of that already. 🙂 But, I’m not saying we all shut down and look only in our back yard; we’re citizens of the 21st century — cars, mobility, air travel, etc, are not going to go away and I don’t suggest that they should.

But there is a difference between treating place as fungible and treating it as the basis for our life design. To the extent that the latter requires cutting down on unnecessary motion and travel, I see that as a positive thing. If we can build up our local existence, the need to travel will be diminished, and treated more as the kind of “spice” that it ought to be.

I’m going to Buenos Aires next month — for a week — so call me a hypocrite. But, it’s OK — because I’ll be spending the week sharing a house with a friend from Baltimore, talking about the past and future of Charm City. 🙂

#13 davetroy on 03.15.09 at 9:00 pm

Adam – ok, got it.

I do worry that my rhetorical style attempts to construe many things as a priori truth which are in fact constructs which I’ve just been living with for a while and am either too lazy or time constrained to document.

Things are definitely changing, and we’re writing the future, along with some very powerful market forces. I think the best we can all do is to try to understand it.

#14 myke on 03.16.09 at 11:08 am

A great piece about the benefits of giving back. While I certainly agree with the value of contributing to your community, I don’t quite agree that people should “aspire to grow where they are planted.”

If I did, I would be living on a 50-acre farm in Canada bailing hay – certainly not the ideal setting for a burgeoning Web entrepreneur.

I believe strongly that people should follow their instincts when it comes to finding a place to settle. Most specialized vocations rarely allow people to remain where they grew up, but that doesn’t mean where they move will be less fulfilling. Let’s use marine biology as you did. If I live in Iowa and have a strong desire to study sea life, the best place to start would probably be off the coast of Northern California. This addresses your second point, “at least plant [yourself] someplace [you] can grow.” _This_ should be the first priority for young folks.

I can imagine a “stay at home” attitude only working in highly populated, transient areas. Idea stagnation would surely be inevitable if everyone remained in their respective places. Heck, look at Texas. Austin, the most transient location in the state, also yields (arguably) the most innovation. Other Texan cities have similar people with similar backgrounds, usually coming up with similar ideas with similar results. Think what would have happened if Columbus (ignoring Leif Ericcson) said “Meh, Spain is fine.”

Well okay, that was an exaggeration, but I feel the underlying principle is the same. People need to explore different communities that aren’t in two-week vacation jaunts.

Young people should try to move to a place that a) is crawling with like-minded individuals with different backgrounds b) yields the best education in their prospective field. Then, only after years of a rewarding career, returning to give back makes sense. In my opinion, contributions to one’s community are more powerful if the area is experienced intimately _and_ observed from an outsider’s perspective.

So, to summarize my disjointed ramblings, contributing to one’s original community is most rewarding if its citizens get a chance to spread their wings a little bit.

#15 davetroy on 03.16.09 at 11:44 am

Myke, you make some very good points.

I think you definitely fall into the “plant yourself someplace you can grow” category, and I applaud you for choosing Baltimore as that place. I think it is an insightful and brave choice compared to San Francisco, which is the easy way out for so many people.

As for the benefits of exposure to multiple places, I agree that it’s beneficial, but is most rewarding when done in the context of “poly-local” living.

A lot of the ideas that I have adopted in Baltimore are a direct result of time I spent living in Berlin over the last few summers. It helped me to see things in a different way and to try things that I probably would not have otherwise. For example, my desire to bike in Baltimore came from my exposure to urban biking in Berlin. This is now something that has become a big part of my life and which is inspiring others to do the same in Baltimore.

My entreaty to “grow where you’re planted” is very much aimed at folks here in Baltimore. This area (this megalopolis from DC to NY) really has everything that someone might want; it’s sufficient, and even exceptional. There are not a lot of good reasons to leave.

As you point out, the underlying point is to connect with a place and to contribute. I hope this helps people see the value in and find ways to do that.

Austin is a funky example because it has benefited from Compaq and Dell so greatly. They have a silicon-valley effect going there that we are only starting to generate here.

I am starting to think of place a little bit like REST. Local is REST-like, while travel is more like SOAP. In the end REST is winning out because it’s simpler and easier. Likewise I think local wins out over travel in the end for the same reasons.

To the extent that people can move around less (whether that’s in the form of growing where planted or in polylocal living vs. vacations/conferences) I think that will win out in the end.

#16 myke on 03.16.09 at 1:39 pm

To address your question:
“When a promising 16-year old student tells her guidance counselor that she wants to study marine biology, can she really mean it?”

With _public_ lifestreaming services like Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. a student can tap into the life of, say, a bonafide Marine Biologist. Their exposure to the profession is no longer limited to outdated textbooks and arbitrary descriptions from guidance counselors.

It’s now possible to interact directly with an expert in a field you’re interested in. Now, more than ever, students can learn what they may or may not want to do before being forced to choose a major.

That alone is worth it.

#17 davetroy on 03.16.09 at 1:47 pm

Myke – Agree that it is now more doable than ever for a young person to choose a vocation; we have much better tools for that now.

However, the notion that education/vocation *requires* a divorce from place strikes me as disingenuous. It is increasingly possible for someone to get a decent education in any subject in their own backyard. This is especially true in our area.

There is almost no reason for us to be exporting people anymore, and the geographic randomization that comes from asking a high school student what they want to study, and proposing a list of schools based on that, strikes me as a silly, outmoded, and destructive practice.

#18 on 03.17.09 at 8:26 am

Gotcha. Travel is fine, but should not be the basis of one’s professional or personal life. Instead we should be focusing on making our own spheres as interesting and healthy as possible.

Maybe we need a local conference on this topic? 🙂

#19 Hipvet on 03.17.09 at 8:36 am

Interesting article Dave…there are those in the UK who have similar feelings.

#20 on 04.09.09 at 3:25 am

This post blew my mind. And yet I have to take issue with it’s focus on “city” and white-collar work. While I am a code monkey by trade, I live a few miles outside of Ocean City, MD just on the cusp of the countryside — farmland.

And yet I believe that most everything that you said, Dave, may still apply to to most any arbitrary locus of population, whether a small town or a city, given some finite radius. The difference being that a larger population of a city does statistically increase the likelihood of several individuals with closely aligned interests within a smaller radius.

While I have lived here for six months, in that time, I have slowly managed to find small pockets of my “nerd” community. It is possible beyond the boundaries of city-life.

I contend that the crucial element, that IIRC you cite, is a dedication to “home”, to a place of personal consequence, and the intent to become a part of it.

#21 on 04.28.09 at 6:32 pm

(Author’s note: The first part of this response was composed yesterday. Due to a technical glitch my attempt to post it to the comment thread failed. I’m trying again now, and adding a second part as a follow-up to my initial thoughts.)

———————– 1

I’m late to the conversation, but:

I have been reading this post over and over this morning.

Dave, thank you for writing this. I grew up in Kentucky, moved to Minnesota for college (where I met my wife), moved to New Mexico for a job, moved back to Kentucky for more education, moved to North Carolina for more education, and then four years ago we moved to Baltimore for, yes, more education.

When we arrived I got a job in Columbia, and spent my first 3 years almost completely unconnected to Baltimore. We found ourselves in love with the Waverly farmers market, but I was spending all my time driving to, working in, and driving back from Columbia, so my relationship to Baltimore went nowhere. I came in telling myself it was temporary, and let myself live that way even when the facts had long since failed to support that story.

In that time, as my wife continued her studies, I started a software company. One year ago I quit my day job and began working for myself full time. ( ) I was joyous. Finally given the opportunity to give full attention to the work I loved, I spent another year buried in building a company. The work paid off, and now I’m expecting to hire at least one more guy for the team. (Take that, recession.) But amidst all the undeniable excitement and satisfaction, I was still ignoring Baltimore.

And while my wife has been much more connected to the city, there’s been nothing for us to do as we’ve watched nearly every friend we’ve had in B-more move away for, you guessed it, school and jobs.

So here we are. My wife is about to graduate. For months we’ve struggled with the question of what we do now. The friends we’ve known from college have scattered widely across the country. Our families have done the same. We’ve plotted and triangulated endlessly, and come out the other end with almost nothing to hang a home on. Do we stay? What’s keeping us here? And yet where else do we go?

Reading your post, and reading the responses of other young couples here, has given me a cautious infusion of optimism today, if for no other reason than the realization that: holy crap! You people sound great! And you live in my city!

Moreover, it may give me a little courage to say, in my next conversation at the dinner table: “Let’s just do this. Let’s find a place in Charles Village, and let’s just go for it.”

Sorry for this overly-long comment, but this whole thread has struck me where it resonates. Thanks to all for your contributions.

———————– 2

Addendum: Well, we did have a conversation at the dinner table. I shared this blog entry with my wife, and we added it to the considerable pile of ruminations that preceded it in the last 12 months. Long story short, I contacted a buyer’s agent this morning and asked how we can start the process of finding a lender and a house in CV. Cheers.

P.S.: If any of you have leads on a nice place, let me know. 🙂

#22 on 06.25.09 at 6:52 pm

I wanted to record in this space that we closed on our first house this morning. Here’s to becoming indigenous.

#23 davetroy on 07.02.09 at 5:04 pm

Chris, this is fantastic. I keep hearing “I think I am going to stay” from more and more people. Great to hear it. Spread the word. Let’s claim our place!

#24 denmeade on 08.01.09 at 6:06 am

dave, we met over dinner at TED. thank you for pointing this post out. i really enjoyed it. it has given me lots to ponder.

#25 ukjobs on 12.08.09 at 2:18 pm

In my work with Beehive, Baltimore Angels, SocialDevCamp, assisting with Ignite, etc, I keep seeing that so many of us want the same things for our region.

Find more jobs:

#26 ukjobs on 12.08.09 at 7:18 pm

In my work with Beehive, Baltimore Angels, SocialDevCamp, assisting with Ignite, etc, I keep seeing that so many of us want the same things for our region.

Find more jobs:

#27 seattlebabe on 07.16.12 at 4:16 pm

I believe this conversation has to go on if only to reaffirm the fundamentals that you stated here. Actually, nothing new we just have to rediscover that lost perspective,that lost way of living. I am glad I found my way here.

The internet has been a tool dedicated to help us stay put, without losing a day in travelling,yet get in touch.

I like your discussion on rootedness, on being with the local community. That sense of place with all its significant attachments.  

But tell that to the expats who have “enjoyed” their whirlwind residences. They are there physically wherever that is but deep in their hearts they are not there in spirit.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t move or migrate as the world now is doing. But finding your roots all over again. Finding your community .