Current self-help wisdom asserts that ‘doing a geographic’ to solve your life dilemmas is a Very Bad Move. Blowing Dodge is no answer, they say.

Well, I suggest common wisdom could be dead wrong.

Melba Levick
Melba Levick

We lived in a sub-tropical beachside paradise in California for more than twenty years.  And yet it had become stifling: no longer nourishing to body or soul. Traffic gridlock, an overheated real estate market driven by greed began to (literally) rip the guts out of a humble, egalitarian neighborhood inhabited by artists, teachers and regular folks making a living and sharing our lives while leaning over communal fences, and walking our dogs, and swapping books at the Little Free Library…

[Robinson Chavez, Michael -- B582142196Z.1 Venice, Ca. June 02, 2012 Fiona Sassoon, 10, gets some neighborly advice from David Dworski, left, on book selections at the Little Free Library, a small house stuffed with books to leave and take. This one is in Venice but there are small book boxes throughout the world and they are gaining in popularity. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/LA Times)] *** []
Michael Robinson Chavez/LA Times
What we had loved so much, for so long, was disappearing.

So my husband and I did a geographic and bolted from paradise, moved to a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest that has real winters and virtually no amenities. “At your age?” people tsk-tsked. “Are you nuts?

Susan Dworski
Susan Dworski

How could we leave the hip-hop happening-ist place in the U.S., within walking distance of the trendiest restaurants, juice bars and chic eyeglass stores? In the very umbilicus of where-it’s-all-at?


I think perhaps the path leading to change begins simply enough, when you become aware that you’ve stopped noticing.

The warning signs for me were when I ceased hearing the cooing of mourning doves at dawn and blocked out the incessant howling dog next door. When I stopped smelling the jasmine twining the front fence and didn’t register the 24/7 reek of petrol fumes infusing our private garden from lines of stalled cars a block to the east.

It began when I shut down both what I loved and what bothered me, and I realized I’d slipped into the dangerous territory of IgnoreLandia.

Life is too rich to operate on 20% of our cylinders. If we’re not fully engaged, in even the smallest minutiae of life, then that’s a red flag for change.

Susan Dworski
Susan Dworski

It could mean doing a geographic. Or something less radical. But for me, a definitive act was needed to bring my soul into alignment with the quotidian; to open the doors on new possibilities and new paths. Once I realized I was living in IgnoreLandia, it was time to light out for new territory.

Susan Dworski
Susan Dworski

So we took our chances and LEAPT when we saw the farm on Lummi, against all “sane” advice. A wondrous, enlivening, challenging, completely unexpected path has been unfolding daily…

Traveler, there is no path.
The path is made by walking.Traveller, the path is your tracks
And nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
Traveller, there is no road
Only wakes in the sea.”

—XXIX, by Antonio Machado, Border of a Dream: Selected Poems

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2 replies on “When Doing a Geographic Renews and Enlivens

  1. For those of us stuck forever in los angeles, susan & david are living out our dreams.
    We are fortunate she shares her adventure so vividly,, allowing us to think, that could be us….

  2. Thank you for this. We are doing this my family and I, and it’s hard to explain, and it feels disloyal, and it’s definitely disorganized — we haven’t jobs to guide us, we’re not sure what will happen or what it will look like. And yet, I have a severe case of the blahs, and when I hear people rave about our current hometown I don’t really relate. IgnoreLandia, yes — in need of a Geographic for renewal and repurpose. I was guilty of running from places to what I thought would be greener pastures in my youth, as a way of solving problems I coudn’t run from — but this time it’s not that … so thank you for helping me articuate it and for the encouragement! x x

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