Not just where, but what

Having just moved to Richmond for a new job at Amazon, my days have been filled with urban exploration and getting to know the new city I call home.

And yellow totes. Lots of yellow totes.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED
Totes at an Amazon warehouse, photo from Wired

Through it all, I’ve been building a new mental map of an completely foreign area to me. And so far I’ve been doing pretty well. But I have a secret to it all.

Context

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It’s that thing that makes the difference between truly enjoying a city you live in and just having  a house there. Context is the history of the city: it’s ups, downs, successes, and failures.

Every neighborhood, every street and building has a history–although new developments in suburbia are actually, certifiably soul-crushing. Sorry.

All it takes to begin to appreciate it is a eye to the area. Take an interest in where you live; learn from the stories of locals and transplants who have been there longer than you have. Pop up those magical rectangles and run some quick searches about the city you live in on Google. In time, those little facts you learn about a city begin to add up culminating in a new-found appreciation of the city and area.

Rebirth

For Richmond, this means that it’s a city in the early stages of a renaissance. It’s a city that used to be the capital of the Confederate States of America. It’s the capital of Virginia. It is working on improving the quality of life for its residents–with some unique challenges.

Richmond is a river city on the James with a large amount of custom ironwork on its buildings, a high amount of former factories being converted into apartments. It’s a town with a nascent but growing international air, and an increasingly-hip place to live.

And Richmond is just the beginning. Each and every city around the world has its own, unique DNA; and all we have to do is discover it.

Do you like what I write? Follow my 140 character rants on Twitter.

Cover photo by Denys Nevozhai

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