February 8, 2017

Discovering Place

Avoiding the experience of placelessness by applying a mindset of minimalism in exploration and discovery.

Practicing minimalism opens the door of opportunity for exploring. To explore is to discover a sense of place and to develop a meaningful relationship with that place. But exploring is a lost art. Our favorite places have become noisy with commerce. From billboards to strip malls to the transportation arteries that ferry consumer traffic, this noise desensitizes our exploratory senses. Without intention in our exploration, we are more likely to discover the placelessness of a place, rather than the soul of the place itself.

Placeless places are well-known amongst social geographers who study the decay of a localeʼs relationship with its inhabitants. Oft to blame for the loss of this sense of place is the intrusion of infrastructure borne from consumer appetite: shopping malls, tourist attractions, chain stores, and industrial-office parks. The heterogeneity of the place is thus diluted for the sake of concentrating commerce, and its soul distributed into increasingly disjointed corners. Gertrude Stein famously wrote after the transformation of the Oakland neighborhood of her youth into an industrial complex, "There is no there there."

Place can still be discovered amongst the noise caused by placelessness by applying a minimalist mindset to exploring.

The consumerist version of exploring involves hectic dawn-to-dusk schedules of activity—ticketed tours and attractions and trinket shops and other amusements, with fast foods and faster commutes linking it all together into a tangled web of chaos. At best, this type of cursory discovery leads to the exhaustion borne out of only having an affair with the Place. Instead, slow down and get to know her. Develop your friendship in a deep and meaningful way and harmonize with the rhythms of the Place. Discover her conversations at a local coffee bar. Discover her breeze and sunshine by walking her promenades. Discover her scale (and yours) by meditating on a hilltop. Places, like people, reveal rich and complex moods. Exploring a Place with a minimalist mindset leaves you free to discover, and her free to impact you in a meaningful way.

Published by Ryan Jordan in Travel

Photography by Tim Wright

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