Three months after my best friend Chris Utterback lost her battle with breast cancer, I moved out of my suburban Minneapolis apartment, disposed of about a third of my belongings, put the rest in storage, and set off on an eight month sabbatical.

I had decided that the purpose of my journey was Creative Renewal. That was about all I knew.

“What will you do when you get back?” alarmed acquaintances would ask. I’d shrug and answer, “I’m going with questions, not with answers.”

One thing I did know is that I was open to change. I would abandon my business, move to a new city (or country) if that’s what I discovered along the way.

My adventure began with a family reunion in Italy. After that, I was on my own.

I had no itinerary and for the first time in my life found myself getting up in the morning and asking myself, “Where do you want to go today?”

Even after weeks of exploring, I still had no clarity about where I would land once my travels were over.

Eventually, I headed to Greece to spend a week with my archeologist sister Nancy. When I arrived, I discovered that Athens was under a heavy cloud of smog which made breathing difficult so I spent my days alone in Nancy’s apartment.

One day I found a stack of Smithsonian magazines and decided to amuse myself with them. Little did I know that an answer I was seeking was awaiting me.

The article that caught my eye was about mobile home parks that were also intentional communities. Some were designed for senior living, others were even more specific, such as the one in Malibu for retired members of the Screen Writers Guild.

The author had interviewed all sorts of people about why they’d chosen this lifestyle. In one instance she said, “For them, a home is not a status symbol. It’s a rest stop between adventures.”

A rest stop between adventures.

The moment I read those words, I knew that was the definition of home that I’d been seeking. I also realized that where that home was located was less important than how it was created to nurture me when I was there.

After all, when we run a business from the spot we call home, it takes on a different dimension than it would if home was merely a place to sleep and store our belongings.

Several years ago writer Michael Shapiro came up with an idea for a book that would  interview travel writers about their lives and careers, but Shapiro decided to conduct his interviews in the writers’ homes.The result is a wonderful collection of stories called A Sense of Place. 

Rick Steves, Frances Mayes, Pico Iyer, Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux thirteen other writers share their inspirations, why they’ve chosen to live where they do, and lessons learned on the road. Their personal visions are as unique as they are, but they each seem to have chosen a hometown that supports their visions and restores them for future travels.

My own definition of home has evolved a bit since I first encountered that description that inspired me. Perhaps it’s because I work from home that I want it to be more than a rest stop between adventures.

Home, for me, also needs to be a place that inspires adventures—whether I’m traveling or not. In many ways, creating such a place is more difficult than being inspired in a strange land.

After I had moved into my latest home, my daughter stopped by to see the progress. I was delighted when she said, “You’ve lived in such different places, but they’re always so you!”

If the place you call home isn’t a kitchen for your mind, how can you change that? And if it is such a place, how did you accomplish that?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you want some inspiration, visit the home office gallery gathered by Judy Heminsley.  You’ll see wonderful environments that bear no resemblance to a cubicle.

3 Responses to “A Sense of Place”

  1. Sandra Jayne

    Barbara, I just read this out loud to Jennie. We both repeated, “…a kitchen for your mind”.
    Wow, that’s great! We don’t have that and we need it. As always, thanks for writing from your heart and striking a chord with us.

  2. bernadette

    I’m right here with you right now! You’ve given me permission to lose the traditional work eat sleep trap we’ve found ourselves in after going into ‘traditional grown up’ mode after returning from Greece several years ago and our last big adventure….I hate trying to act sensibly grown up ~ I coach others NOT to conform and here I am doing it myself and finding both mine and my husbands wings clipped, although he does take to the settling down bit rather more easily than I do.

    A deep and wonderful discussion with my son last night prior to reading this had me pondering on a question he posed …’What do you expect of yourself?’ Are you fulfilling your deepest dreams here in this house, in this place?’ No I am not! I am frustrated, confused and not at all sure what direction I am going in, but know deeply I need adventures and like minded folk around me…I can adventure on my own but would like to have the gang round to share them.

    Well done you ~ thank you again for this I love the phrase ‘A place between adventures’ so I am going to do some deep dreaming, some creative thinking and decide where would my place between adventures be and what would it look like! Whoppee x x x

  3. Aysha Griffin

    Dear Barbara, Your blogs are a pleasure to read! I feel like we’re soul sisters… so many of the same inquiries, interests, expressions. I’ve met Michael Shapiro a couple of times at the Book Passage Travel Writers Conference and, like you, have given much thought to my personal “Sense of Place.”

    While I have no physical home of my own right now, I must create this within myself, and “be at home” wherever I am. Perhaps we are always “between adventures” – even when we are traveling; as each individual story is set in time and place, with particular characters, and the only constant is the “I,” the storyteller, the one living the adventure of being a homemaker or a traveler or however we define ourselves.

    The question this blog provokes for me is: how can I stay present, cooking up whatever delights me (with the “ingredients” at hand) to ensure the “kitchen of my mind” is a place that warms and nourishes my soul? Thank you for the inspiration!

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