Travel

Coolest bike trailer ever! (Or, how I spent my stimulus)

I’m so excited!! (And honestly kinda scared!)

I just placed my order for this amazing bike trailer, designed specifically for the Brompton by a company in the Netherlands (where they know a thing or two about cycling.) I saw the promotional video a few months ago, and couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Mind you, I’ve never biked with a trailer before. Not once.

I’m also not particularly mechanically inclined.

I know I will end up loving this, but I’m a little nervous about how I’ll feel when it actually arrives and I need to put it together, and then use it!

But.

This is such a tangible way for me to continue committing to this journey I’ve started. Part of me had thought, Why don’t I wait until later to get the trailer? What’s the rush? I don’t want to jump the gun.

It was fear.

“What if I later decide I needed that money?”

“What if something comes up to thwart the trip? I will have wasted the money!”

“Can I be the kind of person who has a bike trailer??”

And… as I’ve written before, these days I am choosing to allow my decisions to be guided by inspiration and trust, not fear.

The stimulus was the perfect nudge.

Meanwhile, I have been jumping into doing the interpersonal work that is every bit as much an essential part of this trip as bicycling equipment.

I’ve done 27 2021-intention-setting sessions since December 21st, which is more than one per day on average. I have loved every minute of it, and based on the feedback I’ve been receiving, so have the people I’ve been talking with. People are setting many different intentions for this year, but I’m loving some of the themes and overlaps I’m noticing, and I’ve also been enjoying connecting people with resources to support their dreams where I can. In some cases, this has included introducing some of these folks to each other, where their interests overlap.

This is what the trip is about. And the more sessions I do, the more powerful the network will become, to the benefit of everyone. I intend to continue doing this work from now through the end of the tour, and probably beyond. It’s not even just in the US, either: I’ve done one session with someone in Canada, and have scheduled another with someone in Australia.

I would love to do sessions with people in all US states (especially the ones I’ll be traveling through!) as well as countries around the world. How much of an impact can we all make, individually and collectively? There is so much important and beautiful work to be done to make this world a better place.

I continue to offer these sessions free of charge, with optional donations or trades welcomed but not at all expected. I believe this work needs to happen, and I love to do it, and I trust the money will work itself out.

Do you have dreams for the coming year? Would you like one of these sessions? Comment or email me (maren@dreamintochange.com) to schedule a one-hour phone call or video chat.

Would you like to support my efforts financially? I’m accepting one-time donations via PayPal (you can send it straight to the above email address) or monthly support at www.patreon.com/dreamintochange. My aim is to manifest $50,000, via various sources, for the year I’ll be on the road. (If you happen to know any fairy godfunders, please feel free to put them in touch!)

I’ll keep you updated on the bike trailer when it arrives. Meanwhile, I hope your dreams are unfolding joyfully in this tumultuous world. We need the forward momentum of our dreams more than ever at a time like this.

Three new salons: Portland, Boston, and Vancouver, BC!

I love my Dream Into Change salons, and I’m taking them international this summer!  I will be visiting the lovely Vancouver, BC, by train (of course!) at the end of June and beginning of July, and I will be and hosting a vegan-themed salon while I’m there.  I can’t wait to hear what all those cool Vancouverites are dreaming up!

A month before that, I will also be hosting a vegan-themed salon in Boston (Cambridge, to be more precise) over the Memorial Day weekend,when I visit that fair city to connect with a dear friend.  I’m finding that the vegan social and activist scenes in Boston are different from those in the Western cities I’m more familiar with, so I’m interested to see what sorts of things the movers and shakers (and aspiring movers & shakers!) in that region are dreaming up as well.  The number of all-vegan restaurants in the Boston area seems to have just about tripled since the last time I was there, in 2013, for my East Coast Empathy Tour… so I know there must be cool things percolating!

And finally, right here in my own Portland backyard, on May 9th I will be hosting my first ever sustainable-transportation themed salon. Portland is well known for being a great bike and transit city; I myself have lived here happily since 1990 without ever owning a car.  There is constant innovation in those arenas, and much of it comes from the grassroots.  I want to learn what people are working on and envisioning right here where I live.

More details about all the events can be found on my Events page, and as always, I would love your help in spreading the word about these events.  So, if you know people in these cities who might be interested, please share the event links with them!

Interview: Anne Berry and Angela Jacobus, Travel That Matters

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Travel That Matters (tagline: “Be more than a typical tourist”) is a mother-and-daughter-owned company that caters to adventurous women in the United States, aiming to connect them in a meaningful way with nature, local economies, and women in the countries they visit. Founded by duo Anne Berry and Angela Jacobus in 2013, the crew are poised to embark on their second trip to Nicaragua in early April. They have previously led excursions to Bangladesh, Guatemala, Japan, and Thailand.

When I met Anne and Angela recently, I found the idea of their business exciting, and I was also curious about how family dynamics might play out in such a business partnership. I wanted to interview them and share some of their story here because they are a wonderful example of people following their dreams, living beyond the mainstream, and helping to create meaningful experiences for both their clients and the women in the countries they visit.

Angela weaving in Nicaragua

 

When did you two birth this dream?  Which of you thought of it first, and did you have to convince the other of it?

It sort of happened organically about a year and a half ago. Angela had just returned from living abroad and was brainstorming ways to turn her passion for travel into a career as well as help women get out there in the world and travel … but she wasn’t sure what that would look like. Anne was getting bored in retirement and wanted to facilitate retreats in Nicaragua. The more we talked, the more we realized we could turn our shared interests and passion for travel into a business together.

 

What had been your work or career backgrounds prior to starting this venture?

Angela spent 12 years in the traditional business world as an editor (marketing, not publishing). She escaped her cubicle in 2005 and made her living as a snowboard instructor/freelance writer/boutique hotel office manager for a few years. Later, she moved overseas to teach English where she spent two years in South Korea and one year in Bangladesh. After Bangladesh, she spent a few more months traveling and then decided to settle back in the States and start Travel That Matters.

Anne’s work background includes a variety of careers, including ballet teacher, closet designer, Defense Department contract administrator, County Government contracts officer and independent corporate trainer. While working as a corporate trainer, she logged one million airline miles.

 

After you thought of the idea, what fears or other internal stumbling blocks came up for you?  How did you overcome them?

New ones come up every day! Haha! But they’re the typical ones for entrepreneurs, I think. Questions like … What if this doesn’t work? How will I pay the bills? I don’t know enough about running my own business to be successful. There’s so much I don’t know! I should have started this a long time ago. How will we find clients? I’m not a sales person. How will I sell my service? I don’t have enough experience with this or that, etc., etc., etc.

We have gotten support. We have supported each other. We have committed ourselves to this endeavor. We think about the alternative, which would be to NOT follow our dreams.

 

What about external obstacles?  What have been some of your biggest logistical or business challenges?

The lead time and connections and effort that are required to create our type of travel experiences is pretty intense. We have had to adjust our expectations and be patient and have faith and figure out how to keep surviving and thriving while the business slowly progresses.

 

What do you enjoy most about working together, as a mother-daughter team?

This experience is allowing us to learn how to communicate differently … as professional partners … which, in turn, reveals a lot about our deep-seated personality traits and patterns. It can be challenging, to say the least, but it’s quite enlightening and interesting. The best part, though, is having a business partner you can completely trust. How lucky are we?!

 

What has been the biggest challenge in working together as such a team?

The communication challenges (see above).

 

What has been a high point, thus far, in this venture? 

Whenever we meet women and tell them about what we’re doing and they light up. When we see that they “get” us and they’re genuinely excited about this type of travel. Those moments when you KNOW you’re on the right path.

 

What are some of your ongoing dreams or plans for the business?

We want to expand our connections and relationships and add a variety of locations, both around the globe and closer to home. We also want to keep finding inspiring organizations we can support with our trips. One day, we’ll have a whole big team and a full list of adventures and a long line of women who are ready to get out in the world and EXPERIENCE it in a meaningful way.

Anne jewelry making

 

I wish Angela and Anne the best of success! To learn more about their company, their story, or their upcoming journeys (or if you have any ideas or resources to help them!) please visit www.travelthatmatters.net

Successful campaign: Amtrak to offer vegan meals on the dining car!

Santa Barbara train station at dusk

Well, we did it!! Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with Tom Hall, Amtrak’s VP of Customer Service, and Gary Gunderson, head of their Food and Beverage Services department. Mr. Hall had received helpful letters from a number of you, and was willing to commit to adding vegan menu options to all dining cars in their next menu-change cycle. Their Culinary Advisory Team meets once a year, in October, and develops the two menus for the next year: one spring/summer menu and one fall/winter menu, and this coming October they will be sure to add vegan options for next year.

Here is an excerpt from the follow-up email I received from Mr. Hall after our phone call:

“As I outlined, our immediate plans to improve our vegan offerings are to introduce the Vegan Burger on our Long Distance Dining Menus in our next menu change. This has been a successful item in our lounge/café service and should transition well to the dining car. In addition our spring/summer dining car menu change will include an Entrée Salad that will allow the meat and cheese to be ordered separately which in turn will make the base salad vegan compliant and a much heartier portion than our current side salad. We will continue to search out new options for our dinner service offering. As I committed, we will be tasking several of our Amtrak Culinary Advisory Team (ACAT) members with developing vegan dinner options at our upcoming fall ideation session. Any new items designed in the course of that event will be introduced with our spring/summer 2016 dining car menu. As we discussed it would be extremely helpful if you were to forward me some of your suggested items which I will pass on to the culinary team. We will certainly be looking at how we can leverage the vegan offerings as “Healthy Options” as you suggested, the Healthy Option category that we currently offer has been favorably received and fairly successful.”

So, if any of you have further ideas for menu items that would be easy to prepare and store in their small kitchen spaces on board the trains, please feel free to contact me (maren@dreamintochange.com) and I will pass them along. A couple of logistical things to keep in mind, if you do want to make such suggestions:

*Items should not need to be fried, because each car has only one surface for frying, and they want to be respectful by not potentially “contaminating” vegan food items by cooking them on the same surface with meat.

*Anything that would appeal equally to non-vegans and vegans alike would be great; in the past, the vegan options they tried were not ordered enough to avoid spoilage. Potential for spoilage must be kept to a minimum in order for these new menu options to succeed.

Thanks again to all of you who followed this campaign, signed the petition, shared it via social media, and/or wrote personal letters to Amtrak staff offering encouragement and support. We approached this campaign in a persistent, positive, respectful, and collaborative way, and I am absolutely thrilled about this outcome. And, I’m already dreaming up some trips to take on the train next year!

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My interview on The Sprocket Podcast

The Sprocket PodcastThis past Tuesday, I was honored and delighted to be interviewed by Brock Dittus and Aaron Flores of The Sprocket Podcast.  This podcast has been running for the past four years, and the current hosts interview a variety of people who do various things that exemplify their tagline of “Simplifying the Good Life.”  In my case, we discussed my East Coast Empathy Tour, my perspective on being a “professional listener,” my recent (and ongoing) petition to Amtrak to offer vegan meal options onboard, and various local sustainable-transportation history and miscellany.  Take a listen here!

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Taking positive action for something I believe in

My lunch and dinner on board
My lunch and dinner on board

Yesterday I wrote about my trip to San Diego, and how much I love taking the train. I do indeed love it, and I loved the trip. (And I’m having a great time here in California so far!)

One thing that bothered me, though, was the lack of vegan options in the Amtrak Coast Starlight’s dining car. (You may recall that I have had this problem before.) Amtrak doesn’t offer vegan meals on the standard, fixed menu in their dining car. They do, theoretically, offer them by special order, as long as you place the order at least 72 hours in advance of your travel date. (This is because the meals are not prepared on the train; they are prepared and packaged elsewhere, and placed on the train at scheduled commissary stops in large cities.) This time, I planned ahead to do so, and the woman who took my reservation over the phone assured me that I would receive either pasta or chili for each of my three scheduled meals. (Including breakfast, though I thought those two were rather unconventional choices for a morning meal.)

When I arrived in the dining car for my first meal at dinner, though, the attendant once again told me they had no record of my request, and no vegan meals on board. I ended up eating side salads and baked potatoes for the remainder of the trip.

I was disappointed and frustrated, but I wanted to take that energy and turn it into something positive rather than simply stewing in it. So, I decided to start a petition on Change.org:

https://www.change.org/p/amtrak-offer-vegan-meals-on-the-standard-dining-car-menu

Here is the text of the petition:

More and more Americans are choosing a vegan lifestyle, for ethical, environmental, and/or health reasons.  Amtrak can better welcome this growing segment of society onboard, making vegan meals easy for passengers and staff alike, by changing their on-board menu.

As it stands now, long-distance train passengers must pre-order vegan meals 72 hours in advance, so that the train staff can pick up the pre-made meals at scheduled commissary stops in large cities.  On both of the two long train trips I have taken in the past two years, however, the meals I ordered never made it onto the trains, so I ended up eating side salads and baked potatoes for several days.

The dining car menus currently do include vegetarian options (such as scrambled eggs for breakfast, a veggie burger for lunch, and six-cheese lasagna for dinner). However, all these meatless options still contain animal ingredients, such as eggs or dairy.  I am requesting that Amtrak change its fixed menus on all trains that include dining cars, so that at least one all-vegan entree option is available onboard at each meal.

I would love for you to sign it, and/or share it with friends via Facebook or email, if this is something you support.

I’m also curious, though, to hear if any of you have found a way to turn a frustration or stumbling block into an empowering opportunity for activism. If so, please share your story in the comments!

Waking up to palm trees

Santa Barbara train station at dusk
Santa Barbara train station at dusk

This winter I’ve been battling a mild depression. (You, too? Seems like it’s been going around.) Somehow in the fall, my mojo started to falter. I think it all started in late September, when my partner experienced some serious setbacks in his efforts toward self-growth and serving his community. I did my best to support him through circumstances outside of his control, but I was disheartened to witness the way things unfolded and seemed to compound over time.

Meanwhile, I was struggling in my own practice. I hit a slump, where new clients were few and far between, and my energy dragged when I thought about taking the actions I would need to turn things around.

My social life slowed down, too. I had been so overwhelmed with social commitments in the summer and early fall that I told myself I needed to slow down, and take more alone time. But when I did that, it also contributed to a feeling of loneliness. I wanted more connection, more nurturing touch, more of the emotional and mental synergy that comes from connecting with others.

And, since I live in Portland, the weather got colder and rainier with each passing week. And darker. (And darker. And darker.)

A typical NW winter scene
A typical NW winter scene

I found myself struggling to enjoy the life I’ve worked so hard to craft. Each day I would hope things would get easier, or that my spark would return. Each day, those things did not happen. (Instead, I fell into a rut of junk food and zoning out on computer time.)

I know that I am not alone in this. I know that our culture (and climate, for many of us) tends to isolate and depress us. Even (perhaps especially) those of us who are idealists, who want to make each day of our lives meaningful, for ourselves, for our communities, and for the world at large. When we have lofty goals and high ideals, it can be all the more depressing when a day goes by without any “breakthroughs” or exciting progress toward the world we are all working to create. And when a week, or a month, goes by and those things remain scarce, it can become very disheartening.

I thought of writing a blog post, here, to share my struggle and to let anyone reading know that if you’re going through this, you are not alone. And that we all struggle, and we can all get through it. (And, that if you’re going through this and want to talk to a practitioner who can listen and “get it,” without trying to fix the problem or put a Pollyanna-ish life-coach spin on the situation, that I am, as always, Happy to Listen. 🙂 )

But even that seemed a bit too much of a downer for a blog post on a site called Dream Into Change. I wanted to offer some glimmer of hope. But I needed to find it for myself, first.

I had hoped, this winter, to spend a few days in San Diego, which I have done each winter for the past three years. I had intended for it to become an annual tradition, and even to increase to twice per winter or more at some point. I love that hit of sunshine and warmth—and the magic that is Balboa Park—in the middle of the darkness that blankets my otherwise beloved Portland during the cold months.

Fountain in Balboa Park
Fountain in Balboa Park

But this year I was feeling short on money, which only added to my depression. I didn’t think I could justify the trip. And, for that matter, my energy was so low it was even hard to get excited about the prospect of it.

One day, about a week ago, though, I read something online about San Diego, and I felt a pang of wistfulness. I missed that place! Maybe I could just do a web search for flights, and see what it might cost. Couldn’t hurt to look, right?

One thing I am discovering about myself is that once I get the idea of a trip into my head, it is very hard to walk away from it. When I search online and find options that are too expensive and/or inconvenient for me, rather than giving up, I am spurred to think more creatively, to see if there might be a way I could make it work.

In this situation, I discovered that the inexpensive direct flight I had become accustomed to taking had been discontinued. I thought about taking the train, since I vastly prefer it to flying anyway, but dismissed the idea because I didn’t have much time to take for the trip, and the round-trip cost would be prohibitive.

But San Diego had gotten under my skin. I was not willing to give up, once I had decided I wanted to go. I kept looking. I finally realized that I could use some of my carefully saved Amtrak mileage points to take a first-class ride—sleeper compartment and all—down south, and then catch a one-way flight back for only $100. Yes. This would work!! I searched Airbnb, and found an affordable house in the exact area I like to stay, just north of my cherished park. Everything was coming together! Within a couple of days, I had booked the whole trip.

And as I type, I’m sitting in the Amtrak Coast Starlight Sightseer Lounge car, just south of San Jose, looking out the spacious windows at sunshine and Spanish-style architecture. When I awoke this morning, I peered out the window of my berth and saw palm trees.

And I am thrilled to report that my mood has improved about 100%. I look forward to enjoying three days in San Diego, catching up with friends, hitting my favorite vegan restaurants, enjoying some contemplation in the beautiful cactus garden, and taking a break from the bleak. Getting my mojo back!

Me on the train
Me on the train

I would love to hear from any of you, if you have favorite spots to visit, or a spur-of-the-moment trip that lifted your mood, or another “trick” besides travel that snapped you out of a funk… or even just a shared lament if you’re finding yourself in a dark place at the moment.

An empathy tour?

 

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I am lit up about a new idea, and I want to share it with you!

I am dreaming up an “empathy tour.”

Empathy has been on my mind a lot lately.  As I have been stepping back a bit and re-envisioning what my Dream Into Change practice might look like from a client’s perspective, I have been focusing more on my Happy to Listen practice.  I really love that work, holding sacred space for people who choose to live consciously to express whatever challenges, triumphs, or explorations are alive for them at any given time.

At the same time that I have been focusing on empathy professionally, I have also been pondering how incredibly important it is for all people, and indeed for healthy communities and our human family on a large scale.  People today are so busy and overwhelmed with life that they have very little time and attention to offer one another.  Of course, this means that they/we are also very limited in the time and attention we are able to receive from one another. People don’t get a chance to express their thoughts and feelings and be truly heard. And this only serves to compound our stress and overwhelm.  On a larger, community scale, it degrades our human bonds.

So I feel inspired to do what I can to address this, on a personal scale.  Several times over the last few weeks, I have taken to the streets of Portland with a sign – modeled after the “free hugs” signs that started popping up a few years ago – that reads, “Need to talk? Free empathy :-)”  I station myself in a pedestrian-heavy spot, and simply sit, for about an hour and a half, offering my ear to those who would like to talk.

It has been deeply rewarding.

People from all walks of life have taken me up on it.  They have talked about all kinds of things, from the concept of empathy itself to actual, often painful, issues in their own lives.  People have cried. People have thanked me for listening.  Many people who have not stopped to talk have given me thumbs-up, shared smiles and words of support and encouragement, and/or photographed me.  Many people have walked by, looked at the sign, and smiled to themselves as they walked on. One person stopped to talk for awhile, then sketched me.  One person, clearly affected by simply seeing me with my sign, said, “Thank you for being here – on behalf of all humanity!”

I think I’ve struck a chord.

So now, I want to take it to the next level.  I want to travel to more cities, listen to more people, and spread the word about empathy.  Perhaps network with local groups – such as NVC practice groups – to set up local empathy circles.  Perhaps offer empathy flash-mobs.  Perhaps hand out fliers with simple instructions on how to listen more deeply and effectively to nourish friends, family, and strangers alike.

You know… start an empathy movement!

And, since I’m dreaming into my own change here – wanting to follow my own bliss while contributing to the greater good – I want to do it in a way that is extra fun and nourishing to me.  This means two things: 1) incorporating train travel, and 2) traveling to places where I can not only connect with strangers, but also spend time strengthening my connections with my own family.  Many of them live on the East Coast.  So, I’m thinking I could fly to Raleigh/Durham, spend a few days there, then take the train to the DC area (how awesome would it be to offer empathy to folks on the steps of the US Capitol?), then get back on the train to New York (which I have always wanted to visit and never have), and finally head up to Boston.  Then fly back to Portland. Empathy everywhere I go.  Enjoying train travel. Connecting with parents, aunt & uncle, cousin, and various friends. Doing some vegan culinary tourism. Blogging about it all… and, if all goes well, beginning to build an empathy movement.

I’m imagining a crowdfunding campaign to cover travel expenses and other costs.

So… what do you think? Do you think this is something the world needs?  Do you have ideas, or contacts in any of those cities?  Would you contribute to a crowdfunding campaign for this tour?  Would you spread the word to your friends and social networks?

I’m a little scared… and very excited!

Wrapping up my trip … and the letter to Amtrak

amtrak-califHey, all! My travels in California are, sadly, drawing to a close. I have had a wonderful trip so far, and I still have two more days to look forward to: tomorrow here in the Bay area, and Saturday on the train back to Portland. I have met some wonderful people through Airbnb, the San Diego Vegans Meetup group, the Dance Jam folks in San Diego and Encinitas, and on the train itself. I look forward to many more such trips in the future, traveling all over the country, and probably into Canada as well.

One mild downside to the trip has been the lack of readily available vegan options on the train. I posted here a few days ago that I would be writing a letter to Amtrak to request more options, and I have just emailed them that letter (at www.amtrak.com/contact-us) so I thought I would post it here in case it inspires any of you to write as well. I know I’m not the only one who cares about this!

Dear Amtrak,

I am just finishing up my first-ever 15-day-pass vacation, from my native Portland through California, on the Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner. It has been wonderful so far! I have always loved rail travel, and I’m choosing to make it a bigger part of my life. (I’m even blogging about it, at www.dreamintochange.com, if you’d like to take a look.)

I’ve been happy with the experience overall, but I do have a request. I would love to see some vegan entrée option on the regular dining car menu. I very much appreciate that you offer a vegan burger in the café, and I enjoyed one last night. I’m also aware that you offer vegan options in the dining car by pre-order. However, I didn’t realize the 72-hour cutoff for ordering them until about 68 hours before my trip began, so it was tricky for me to find adequately filling meals when I got on board. I know I am not the only traveler who would value having vegan items to choose from on the main menu for each meal.

I see that you do offer at least one vegetarian option at each meal. If these options were vegan (no animal products at all, including dairy, eggs, or honey) vegetarians and vegans alike could enjoy it, and there would be no administrative and logistical hurdles for Amtrak nor passengers, such as there are now with the pre-ordering procedure. You might even consider making the vegan options gluten free, as well, to appeal to another growing segment of the population and address two issues simultaneously. (I’m guessing that your vegan chili and dolmas are gluten free, and that the vegan pasta is not.) Options for breakfast might include a tofu scramble with vegetables, or a vegetable hash with home fries. Lunch and dinner could be chili or dolmas, or perhaps a vegetable stir-fry (with or without tofu and/or rice) or a hearty Southwestern salad with tomatoes, corn, beans, and other vegetables. Or any number of other options, of course – these are just a few suggestions.

I plan to do more train travel, and more blogging about it, in the coming years and decades. I would love to let my friends and readers know that their dietary choices will be easily accommodated if they should choose to join me in “riding the rails.”

Thank you for your consideration. I appreciate all that you do.

Sincerely,

Maren Souders

OK! Now to head out with some friends to an all-vegan Japanese restaurant (http://cha-ya.blogspot.com), which will be a first for me. I love traveling!

The power of place

In my junior year of high school, when I was living in my home state of Virginia and looking at colleges, my aunt Susy (who is also my webmaster – hi, Susy!) gave me a very good piece of advice. She said something to the effect of, “As you look at schools, think about where you’d like to end up as an adult. Most people end up settling wherever they go to college. So ask yourself, ‘Do I really want to live in [X city/state/region] for the foreseeable future?’” What she said made sense to me, and I started thinking about where I would most like to live.

It should be urban. The weather should be mild. The attitude should be progressive. I didn’t want to live right near family, but I liked the idea of having them nearby.

portlandThese criteria pointed me in the direction of Portland, Oregon. I did a little more research, and everything I read about Portland made it sound like the right place for me. So, I applied to one college (Lewis & Clark), took one visit to Portland to interview there and take a look the town … and when I was accepted, I moved there virtually sight unseen. That was 22 years ago, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Portland really does fit me, for all the above reasons and more.

At the moment, as you know, I’m vacationing in San Diego, and my intention is to begin living here during the winters – starting next winter – because I want to be surrounded by warm sunshine, rather than bleak rain. (Portland’s singular failing, from my perspective.) This past spring, as I began brainstorming possible new cities, I considered various locales that would be warmer. Once again, I made myself a list of the criteria that were most important to me. This time around, they were: 1) Warm but not too hot, 2) English speaking (I was open to southern-hemisphere destinations), 3) Within an hour of the ocean, 4) Plenty of vegan-friendly restaurants, 5) A thriving ecstatic dance scene, and 6) Good bicycle and transit infrastructure, so that I could continue living car-free.

balboaOn paper, San Diego seemed to fit the bill best, but I had never seen it. So, I hopped on a plane at the end of April to spend a few days surveying the scene. I loved what I saw! In addition to meeting all of my criteria, the city got bonus points for having the incredible Balboa Park right in the middle of town, and having friendly, laid-back people everywhere I went. When I arrived here again on the train yesterday, I was filled with joy, knowing I would be spending the next four days in my soon-to-be seasonal home city.

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the power of place, when it comes to determining our happiness and satisfaction with life. When we live somewhere that doesn’t feel “right” to us, for whatever reason, it clouds our mood much of the time, and leaves us feeling unhappy on a regular basis. By contrast, living in a place that is aligned with our values and preferences leaves us feeling happy and energized much of the time.

I’m curious about readers’ experiences with this. Does your current town or city feel “right” to you? If so, what was your path to arriving there? If not, what criteria does your town not satisfy for you? What would your ideal location look like? What, if anything, is holding you back from moving to that place?