After years of being a spiritual nomad and deciding to settle in New York, I am enjoying getting to know my new neighborhood. From the last blog post, readers might be aware that I am flirting with the different hoods in NYC, and currently enjoying getting to know Chelsea.
A strong sense of lasting community is something I missed on the road. I was part of powerful groups along the way: With other pilgrims on the camino to Santiago in Spain, in a group of international volunteers at the clinic in Ladakh, among the yogis in the rainforest of Trindade, with the Rainbow Family in Israel’s Negev desert.
That said, these communities were temporary, and I never appreciated the value of community until I saw how fleeting it could be on the road.
As I slip into the ecosystem of Chelsea, I’ve begun to observe and engage as I interact with its residents and business owners. Graduating from small talk, faces become more familiar and I notice small traits here and there. An accent. A head nod. A gruff “How you doin.” Each interaction a string tying me into the fabric of the neighborhood.
Two coffee shops sit on the same block where I live. I switch between them, depending whether I am using my laptop, reading a book or meeting friends. I’m well on my way to free coffees on two different loyalty cards. Some staff even recognize me and toss a hip “what’s up” and asking me if I want my usual. Faces at the tables are beginning to look familiar.
Each week I drop my laundry at the Vietnamese cleaners across the street. Our very first conversation was transactional – after all, I was just another customer, one of many that day. Soon after, I began to throw a couple Vietnamese words into the conversation. Over the weeks our exchanges are warming, they greet me warmly and even now remember my name. Still working on that discount though.
On the flip side, I’ve also gotten to know the local crazies – an incident last week where a guy coldcocked someone coming out of the gym. The police soon arrived and dealt with things. A few days later I walked past the police station, and the cop who took my statement was on the stoop and we exchanged a nod.
At least now though, I can form opinions of local places to eat based on my own experience. When a friend suggested I pick a place for dinner, I naturally picked one closeby. This time, however, I didn’t have to rely on Yelp – I picked one I had walked past dozens of times at the end of my block. Unfortunately it sucked.
When selecting a spot for dinner with another friend, I became a repeat customer when I returned to a local Italian place. All of this serves to color my experience and get a pulse for my community with its various beats.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs speaks to that sense of community, a necessary step on the road to self-actualization. I’m continually learning new things about Chelsea as I venture out from my apartment and merge into the small hub that is becoming my new community.
A growing familiarity which, instead of breeding contempt, actually sets down a structure that was missing as a nomad.
It would be great to connect with others on their respective journeys. You can find me on the following channels: