"You really make Kennett Square sound like a fun place to live."
I hear this often. And I'm sure if you follow any of my social media networks, you'll see copious #KennettSquare posts sharing upcoming events, pictures along my running routes, and check-in's at the various stores and restaurants around town. There is a lot happening here, so it's easy to get caught up in it all. And I've unintentionally become a bit of a billboard for this town in which I live.
But it wasn't always that way.
When I moved to my current town four years ago, I hated it. Like cry every day kick my feet tantrum I want to move back home hated it. I resented moving. I felt far away from my hometown (even though it was only half an hour away). I knew nothing about where I lived. It all felt foreign to me and I spent a lot of time frustrated by my surroundings. I'd lived in the same town my entire life until we moved, so it was a jolt to my system.
We weren't able to leave anytime soon, so I realized I ultimately had two choices:
Spend the next however many years
hating every minute of my life.
Embrace this place and make it home.
(You can see which path I've chosen.)
It's been an eye-opening experience to me, immersing myself in a town. Because I'd always lived in my hometown of West Chester. And yes, WC was comfortable and familiar and home to me (and always will be). But there is a distinct difference between simply living in your town and being invested in your town. Throwing yourself into being truly involved is a completely different experience. Something happens to you and the community: you become aware and excited and proud and appreciative in new ways.
It changes you and it changes your definition of home.
Have you ever really gotten to know your town?
I thought I'd share a few ideas on how one can get better acquainted with where they live. A lot of these would have never crossed my mind before. But they are now part of how I live. And I think these are great tips for everyone: whether you've lived in the same town your whole life or you've moved to an entirely new place.
So here they are, in no particular order….
Get to Know the Hyper-LocalAnd by "hyper-local" I mean the essential websites that are the resident experts of your specific locale. Start with your township/borough page, a downtown pages like Historic Kennett/Downtown West Chester or the local tourism website. They most likely have a calendar of events as well as links to other helpful local sites.
Next, search for your town, township, county on Google (i.e.: "Kennett Square, PA" or "Your Town, State"). For where I live, websites like TheTownDish.com and ChesterCountyMoms.com are solid examples of hyper-local websites that have a great pulse on the community.
You can also search hashtags (i.e.: #KennettSquare or #YourTown) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You'll find not only other people living in the community, but local business as well.
Chat It Up…With the Small BusinessesSmall business merchants are the heart of a town. These businesses are what attracts guests to visit, and I've found many store owners live where they work. In Kennett Square, the Kennett area merchants and restaurant owners have the scoop on what's happening in town and often are one of the governing forces behind some of the big events that take place in the community.
How to make it happen: reach out in person and online. Frequent the store and start a conversation. If the store is on Facebook and Twitter, make the connection by tweeting them or leaving a post. These kind of interactions build relationships and mean the world to merchants!
Drive - Bike - Run - WalkIt's amazing how much one misses by just driving in a car. I remember thinking this clearly when I was in college and decided one day to take a bike ride around town. Roads that I'd driven on my entire life suddenly had new life. The houses that were a blur during a drive suddenly had flowers in the front yard and a cute Spring wreath on the front door. I found streets I never knew existed, shops I'd never entered. The slower pace of biking meant I took in more of my surroundings.
And so it is in your town. Yes, spend time driving around to become familiar. But take a bike ride and see what new things you can find. Instead of running on the treadmill at the gym, go for a run around town. Take the family for a post-dinner walk around the downtown. You'll be surprised at the new things you'll notice.
EatIf merchants are the heart of the town, food is the soul! Food is one of the biggest attractions for a town, which is why we are seeing trends of food-related (and drink-related) festivals, as well as restaurant weeks in big and small towns alike. Restaurants are where visitors come to refuel and locals come to unwind. This is when food-centric hyperlocal websites like TheTownDish.com becomes very helpful!
Make getting to know the food of your town a fun challenge or game. Maybe, if your budget allows, you can try a new eatery each week. If that doesn't work, commit to finding the best pizza place by checking every option out of the course of 3 months. Become the resident food expert (and never hesitate to show a restaurant your media love by checking-in on Facebook when you arrive, posting pics of your yummy dishes on Instagram or tweeting them a compliment on Twitter!).
Get InvolvedImmerse yourself. When I finally decided I didn't want to hate every minute of my life living in Kennett, I knew the only way I'd start to love it was to throw myself into it. There are so many ways to immerse yourself in the culture and community of your town:
Volunteer at the local food cupboard. Join a MOMS or MOPS group. Check out the churches. Attend school board and borough council meetings. Attend First Friday events, parades and festivals (or volunteer to work them!). Take on a few shifts a week at your local YMCA. Get on the parks and recreation board. Submit articles to the town newspaper (or hyper-local websites). Be a regular at the Farmer's Market.
Whatever it is, be a part of what's happening!
And soon, you'll find that you have a pulse on what's happening your town. You won't be able to help promoting the next fun event on Facebook or the great meal from the local restaurant. You'll want people to visit and be as excited about what's happening in town as you are. When you walk into a shop, you'll greet the owner by name. During lunch, the waitress already knows what you'll be ordering.
And then find you are somehow on next year's Halloween parade committee.
Suddenly, your town is an entirely new and exciting world that you are an essential part of. And it's hard to not be proud and passionate about a community you are so tightly connected with.
Create your community.
Be your community.
Where do YOU live?
What are the go-to
resources, merchants, events for your town?