During most of my corporate career I traveled a lot. We lived in Roanoke, Va for over eighteen years.
Much of that time I was driving up Interstate 81 and spending time in Reston at Apple's office beside the Dulles Toll Road.
Eventually I got to the point that I could no longer take staying in a hotel. It did not matter how fancy the hotel happened to be. I just wanted something that did not change and felt like home.
I was lucky in that my oldest daughter graduated about that time, and we rented a two bedroom apartment in McLean. The first summer my son came up and slept on the living room floor so he could do an intern job.
It wasn't too long before my daughter bought a three bedroom townhouse in Reston. That became my second home. The smallest bedroom became mine temporarily. I could leave clothes and toiletries three. I didn't have to make reservations, and I got to spend time with my Northern Va. family.
While having a bed and my own space was a huge step towards home, having familiar surroundings outside the home also plays a big part in making an area feel like home.
In today's world more often than not the stores are same, only the people change. Still there are differences. I used to enjoy an occasional visit to Reston Kabob. There were many nights when we would meet for dinner at Marie's at South Lakes Plaza. Marie's which has been gone a while was a family kind of place. They knew me since I would grab lunch there also at least once a week.
Beyond the restaurants there were the grocery stores since I always cooked my own breakfast and tried to a cook a meal or two when I was visiting. I used to frequent the Giant on North Shore. It was small and sometimes even ran out of chicken breast or hamburger, but I could get in and out of there in a couple of minutes.
Of course having a Books a Million and a Barnes Noble was like having a dream come true to a reading addict.
Still my favorite spot was Whole Foods. While I enjoyed Trader Joe's, I often marveled at the plants and exotic foods that made it to the shelves of Whole Foods. Some of the things I enjoyed from Whole Foods became such a part of my routine that I would load a cooler up with ice and take them home to Roanoke.
The other night we were headed from Roanoke to Cape Carteret to find some warmth, and I was on a mission. I wanted to find the Whole Foods in Cary, NC. It did not take a lot of effort. It was just a short distance from where 64E run into US1 N.
When we turned into the parking lot late that evening part of me felt like I was home in Reston.
It was a good feeling finding some familiar things that had long been absent from my routine. I was saddened to find that Icelandic Salmon no longer makes it to Whole Food's cases, but there was no shortage of good things that could be replacements.
It was a great experience aside from having to drag my wife out of the orchids at the front of the store. She was overwhelmed.
As much as well known stores and a house with your things can help make a place field like home, routine and rhythm also play a part.
Every place has a different rhythm. Synchronizing yourself with it makes you feel part of the place.
In Reston, traffic is one of the key rhythms. You learn to structure your life around the traffic jams. Timing what you do according to traffic flow becomes second nature. You go to lunch when you know you can find a parking place.
In Roanoke ice and storms in the winter immediately restructure people's lives. If you live on a steep hill, you know when the sun will melt the ice and likely what time in the afternoon that it will refreeze. You make plans around those times. Some roads you just avoid when ice is prevalent.
In Cape Carteret, we are even closer to the elements. Weather is a big topic just like it used to be when we lived on a farm in Canada. When the weather is good or there is beautiful sunset on tap, you will find people making time to enjoy it.
Beyond that the shifting regularity of the times for high and low tides often adds structure to our lives. We are in place with lots of water spread very thinly so it makes sense for people to know when low tide will arrive.
Finally it takes people to make you feel at home. In Reston I had family and an office family. Most weekends I was home so my church family and other friends remained in Roanoke.
Now that we are in Cape Carteret, I have an office family, a church family, and a neighborhood which is southern enough that I actually know several of the my neighbors. We have also started making some other friends. It's pretty easy to do here on the coast.
The stores here are pretty different from Reston and Roanoke. We do have an Ace and a Lowe's Home Improvement, but there is no Giant and no Kroger (the Roanoke grocery store of choice). And the closest Whole Foods is about 2.5 hours away.
Yet I do believe that the most important thing in making a home is your mindset. If you want to find the good in place you will find it.
My Giant on North Shore and Marie's are gone. Reston will never feel like the same home again. I have changed also, and my office family is long gone.
Even in Roanoke, my neighborhood Ace Hardware disappeared. We recently visited our favorite inexpensive restaurant, the Pancake House, and they were closed temporarily due to the lack of help. Roanoke might never be the same home again either. It has changed along with me.
So we cannot depend on stores to make a home for us, we have to put our trust in our own minds to build our homes with the pieces that we find and our own changed realities.
Sometimes we move and have to regroup the pieces, but it can be a very positive experience. Change is constant, and you can always go home if you carry part of it with you in your head and look for the good in your new surroundings.
Maybe that mindset is why I have managed to be happy for so long.