“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anaïs Nin
Last year, I moved from Istanbul to Ibiza with my partner. Ibiza feels like home, more than my home country, and I am curious why we are attracted to some places over others. I am writing this in Tulum, Mexico. Like other popular places, people come here from around the world to experience nature, parties, spirituality, sports, cuisine and connect to other people. I wonder what makes a place popular, or ‘good’ for so many people? This is the introduction, and first post of a series , I’ ll explore “what is a good place?’ by interviewing different experts, collecting stories and experimenting myself.
We have been travelling the world with a quest for beauty and to discover ourselves through the new experiences we share. We like being mobile, to diminish geographical, cultural, and ecological rootedness and bring together people through the Conscious Learning Tribe, online and offline, with many diverse ways of living and working. We encounter unfamiliar contexts and navigate values and perspectives that differ radically from our own. An opportunity for new perspectives to generate fresh insights and possibilities to live well together.
Humanity takes up space in places like any other species. And, like other species, we also purposefully transform and reshape to serve a purpose. Birds create nests, bees create hives, and beavers create dams. What seems to be uniquely human is the disposition to qualitatively transform spaces into places that are charged with distinctive kinds of intergenerational significance, curiosity and creativity giving birth to new concepts of life. Human innovation goes hand in hand with innovation in the concept of cities, home, community and workplace. We have cultural nuances, geographic effects but also global trends that shape our perception of places and our actions, such as technology, social media and climate change.
Places organise our world. The way we see and experience the world, each other and ourselves. They remain in the background as we experience various aspects of that organization. Although places have a huge impact on our lives, most of the time we fail to decode all elements consciously. Our idea of a good place can be very subjective. It changes even for the same person. You can feel and observe differently according to your mood, your company and your thoughts at any given time. Is there a way to define a good place objectively?
This question arose when I facilitated a Socratic Dialogue for the leaders of SLOW, to help them experience the art of listening, and breakthrough thought repetitions. SLOW is one of the most innovative brands, creating good experiences for both visitors and local communities all around the world, in their unique spaces that nurture the human soul through art, collaboration and nature synced experiences.
Leaders of SLOW chose to dialogue about “What is a good place?”. At the end of one hour, even more curiosity and awe were awakened in me than at the start. I want to decode the idea of a good place, and how can we enable positive societal change through good design. How we grasp places, and how different practices can yield different experiences of place is a multidisciplinary area. We need to look at the connections between place and psychology, geography, sociology, philosophy and anthropology, among other fields.
MINDSET of Places
The way our minds, our culture, and our institutions understand places can do great impact. Our descriptions of other places in relation to where we are, the way media privileges the experience of certain places over others, and the practices by which we connect to some places rather than others, can perpetuate systems of oppression (or liberation).
Take airports as an example. Most of the time the design of the airport makes you feel like you ‘have to rush’ in the way signage is designed and how queues operate. Another assumption you receive constantly in airports is that you ‘cannot be trusted’ in the way security checks are designed and how officers treat you in many airports. When I have to queue in “All Passports” instead of “EU Citizens”, I am forced to feel I am somehow a lesser human than EU Citizens. A second class treatment, usually with a longer queue.
More and more are living in digital places. A crowded digital service, with plenty of push notifications. Even without the screen time, it can be very heavy on the human system, like a busy airport. The role of designers, innovators and investors, is to make sure we provide digital places that are as respectful to human nature as nature itself.
Consider the role that place has in your work and daily life, how some places help you feel better about yourself, sleep better, work more efficiently. And how others diminish your capacity to feel, act, interact, rest and work. From colours to how chairs and tables are organised, whether you can sit in a circle around the fire or furniture designed to face everyone towards a TV instead of each other…
In cities we have seen humans using concrete to dominate nature, drawing in energy, food and consumer goods from hundreds of kilometres around. These octopus-like cities are frequently built without due regard for their environment, or the wellbeing of its habitants i.e. many are highly destructive of biodiversity and have a heavy environmental footprint. In addition, they are increasingly vulnerable to variations in climate. With ever-growing urbanisation on the one hand and the effects of climate change on the other, many people argue that we now need to rethink the way our cities are designed and built. I had the chance to meet with some tribal leaders from Amazon, they see nature’s wisdom as the guide and humans as a part of nature, to learn from it. They collect as much as they need, they move and decide in harmony with seasons. Most tribes live entirely off the forests, savannas and rivers. They grow plants for food and medicine and use them to build houses and make everyday objects.
‘We Indians are like plants. How can we live without our soil, without our land?’ (Marta Guarani)
This quote is true not only for Indians but for all Human species, more and more we see the destructive effects of disconnecting ourselves from the land, and other species in the world. It is past due to change the paradigm and draw inspiration from nature so as to reconnect our cities to the environment.
BEGINNING of Places
Let’s go back. Back to where it all begins for humans. To the wombs of our mothers. How you experience the womb of your mother can be a unique coding. Science proves that the way you start your journey has a huge impact on how you conceptualise and experience everything. Our thought and emotional systems choose to repeat the familiar, although it doesn’t feed into our potential. You might be willing to be a more honest, courageous or loving person. If your mind has a tendency to prove yourself otherwise due to your conditioning, of early experiences, cultural and communal coding, you will choose experiences that undermine your will to progress.
Going back to the womb, maybe you were a very loved child, so the world becomes a loving, nourishing place. Maybe you were an unwanted child, so the world becomes hostile, and you create experiences in which you have to survive. You can change the way your mind works for the better, through meditation and positive experiences. Changing yourself is a difficult attempt when you try to do it alone, or in places which endorse opposite assumptions.
Places for the Future
I hope to trigger a greater understanding of how to develop new places in ethical, healthy, and sustainable ways. I would like to see the field help artists incorporate the concept of place into their work, so that the experience of place can become an aesthetic one. I would like to see children involved in the design of their homes, surroundings and cities so that the experience of places can be playful and inclusive to all. I would like to see spiritual guides, shamans and Amazonian tribes involved so that the experience of places and the impact of humans can be a harmonious and sustainable one. I would like to see humans rise above short term pleasures and innovate themselves through the innovation of places, taking responsibility for all species, for many generations, in peace.
Maybe, after all, a good place starts within. The willingness to serve. The willingness to care. The willingness to innovate. And today, I chose to breath deeply to bring in more oxygen, energy, love and joy to my place within. Let’s start by one breath, and circulate our intentions for good places wherever, however we can.
Please share your thoughts, expert suggestions, stories and examples of ‘A Good Place’ with us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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