When staying is settling

Someone posted an article today about how everyone, assuming they are physically and mentally able, should move at least five times in his/her life; the idea behind the article was that “staying is settling.” For the same reasons that people should travel, they should move to get a better sense of what it is like to live in another place. When you are living your day to day life in a place that is not your home and thus not a familiar, comfortable place, it forces you to really listen to everything around you, everything from the verbiage that people use in their everyday language to their accents, to what really matters to them. How do these people in the place you do not call home perceive your home? How do they see the world that is outside of their own world? And when we are all together from different parts of this country or this world, how do we fit in with each other, if at all?

I am completely aware of the privileges I’ve had as someone who has traveled as much as I have in the last 28 years of my life. Most of that travel only started happening at age 24 and after, but I know that not everyone is able to do the types of traveling I have done. But let’s be honest: millions of people have been mobile for centuries with little money to their names. Money isn’t the real factor that holds people back from exploring the world whether it’s through travel or through living in other places; it’s really fear — fear of the unknown and unfamiliar.

I’ve been very fortunate to live and spend a great deal of time in and around three major cities of this country – San Francisco, Boston, and New York City. Yes, they are all metropolitan areas, but they’re all very different from each other in countless ways and have given me some much needed perspective on what it’s like to live in differents parts of the country.

I’ve been spending time in the last couple of days with two people who have never moved out of their home town their entire lives. Granted, they are both in their 20s and still have lots of deciding to do for their lives, but both are pretty content in staying where they are and have little to no desire to move and live in other places. Everyone makes their own decisions, but it’s hard to listen to these decisions when they make stereotypes about places that they are unfamiliar with or have never been to. The most common (and untrue) stereotypes I’ve heard in the last 24 hours are that New York is a dangerous place, all the people are unfriendly, and all New Yorkers, because of the vast number of restaurants and cuisines to choose from, must all be knowledgable about different cuisines and thus food snobs.

New York City, while a unique and amazing place, in many ways is just like every other city. We have a lot of transplants, but we also have a lot of people who have never, ever left this city and never intend on doing so (and are damn proud of it, for better or for worse). We have food snobs whose preference when eating out is to only patronize “fine dining” restaurants (I’ve actually met someone who explicitly said this to me at a Yelp event), we have people who only eat at delis and holes-in-the wall type restaurants, and we also have extremely picky and narrow-minded eaters who won’t eat anything “foreign” to them (that could even mean the sandwich shop on the next street. I’m not really talking about alligator or rabbit here). We have low socioeconomic neighborhoods that statistically speaking have higher rates of crime, but we also have brightly lit, lush tree-lined streets with doormen guarding every single building down the avenue. And until you live here or in any other city, it’s unfair, baseless, and simply ignorant to make sweeping judgments about what a city is like.

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