As the summer draws to an end and everyone returns from their fabulous holidays with their excellent stories, we’ve been thinking about travelling, and what it means to come home. As we’ve spread out across the globe, taking a break from our daily routines to explore beautiful cities around the world like Venice, Annecy, Lisbon, and that small harbor town in our favorite Greek island, we’ve been wondering what it is about visiting a new place (or old) that speaks to us. Why does it nourish our souls? And what do we do about returning to ‘real life’? Is it really possible to hold on to that feeling of wonder that we have on vacation when we’re back home?
This led us to think about cities, in particular, our own cities where we live – the background and settings for our daily lives where we work, live, and (hopefully) play. Why is it sometimes easier to have a more ‘authentic’ experience in a foreign city than in our own hometowns? What makes an experience authentic, anyhow? And how could we ever capture that feeling and bring it down to reality, in our cities.
We believe that most young professionals are just like us – they want to live in a great place that’s affordable, safe, and interesting. But it’s not only that – if that was the case, we could stay nearby our parents’ house (ok, maybe not so much re. the interesting part). Instead, we’ve chosen to venture out into the big city, into new areas and make our own way. At Venn, we believe that a major part of this adventure can be found within the community – that it’s precisely our own neighborhoods and the opportunities they present for us to personally make an impact that leads to a meaningful living experience. We believe the secret to having an ‘authentic’ experience at home may not be so secret, after all. It’s created through real, hands-on engagement within our communities, and it’s within our own power to create. It’s something we do, not something we just visit.
“We believe the secret to having an ‘authentic’ experience at home may not be so secret, after all. It’s created through real, hands-on engagement within our communities, and it’s within our own power to create.”
This belief is gaining wider traction within the world of urban development and social change today. As Richard Florida points out in CityLab, what matters most to the young people today who are moving into metropolitan areas, is the chance to have diverse, authentic experiences within a city. And it’s not just younger people who are recognizing the value of real experiences for having a happy city life. City leaders are being called upon by no less than the establishment McKinsey consulting firm to prioritize their residents’ well-being, sustainability, and other basic needs. “Successful cities of the future,” says McKinsey, “will present vibrant, fluid, and flexible ecosystems along the lines of the ‘live, work, and play’ paradigm.” That’s definitely something we relate to at Venn.
So, it’s not just basic needs that cities need to provide for their residents, but a full range of places and opportunities for truly active lifestyles, including inspiring spaces and access to a range of non-work pursuits. What are we talking about? Places for activities such as entertainment, sports, arts, culture, spiritual events, and other experiences that help make our lives richer. Experiences matter, across the board – no matter which city live in, how long you’ve lived there, or how old you are. Everyone wants – and deserves – a truly rich, authentic city life.
“It’s not just basic needs that cities need to provide for their residents, but a full range of places and opportunities for truly active lifestyles, including inspiring spaces and access to a range of non-work pursuits.”
This means a shift in the way cities are managed and developed – there needs to be a greater focus on the holistic experience of residents, not just on providing affordable housing and leaving it at that (though of course, that too is needed). Young people today value experiences – we aspire to travel and also make a positive impact on our communities and society at large (see research by Deloitte). We want authentic experiences wherever we go, whether traveling to new places or in our own communities, closer to home.
At Venn, we’re working on fostering opportunities for diverse, authentic experiences within our neighborhoods, every day. We do this by providing members with the support and platform to create their own local experiences. We do this not only because that’s what many members are seeking, but also because we recognize the value it has to uplift and create positive change within the entire neighborhood, and for our cities at large.