This Is Where You Belong (or How I Learned to Love Richmond)

This Is Where You Belong (or How I Learned to Love Richmond)This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick
Published by Viking on June 21st 2016
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
Buy from IndieBound


Close to eight years ago, just a month after our wedding, my husband and I loaded up a truck and moved from Michigan to Richmond, Virginia. Neither of us had jobs in our new city, which we only visited once and chose with some pretty limited knowledge. On paper, it wasn’t the smartest decision I ever made. In reality? The best.

We adore Richmond and we’ve loved it from day one, but I’m fascinated by the factors that push people to live where they do and knew I had to read Melody Warnick’s This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live. After moving several times, Warnick and her family landed in Blacksburg, Virginia, determined to stay rooted. Instead of picking up and looking for the right place, she would make her family love where they were. Armed with research on place attachment, which is the deep bond between a person and a place, Warnick came up with ten steps she could take to help her fall in love with Blacksburg.

Many of Warnick’s ideas are familiar (they’re how I fell in love with Richmond!) but what’s great about This Is Where You Belong is that it takes common sense and makes it actionable. At times some of the suggestions feel slightly privileged (joining a cash mob, donating money within your community, etc.), but they are well-balanced by the more affordable and free ideas she compiles. And even though I’m already in a serious, cozy relationship with my city, I took some of her tips to heart. There’s always room for even more attachment to a great place.

Do What Your Town is Good At


Richmond is actually good at a bunch of things that make it a bit of a charmer. It’s good at being historical and pretty. It’s good at weather. It’s good at murals and art and bikes and food.

Eat Local Food

Speaking of food. There is so much delicious food here that this is pretty much the easiest. And my favorite. If you visit, we’re eating and eating a bunch.

Enjoy the Green


In 2012, Outside Magazine named Richmond its Best Town Ever and Best River Town. Ruby agrees.

Settle Down

After two years adjusting in an apartment, we took the plunge and settled down in our own home. Now we’re on to house number two and definitely feel like this is where we belong.

  • I’m definitely going to read this one. We moved four times in five years and now that I hope we’re settled for a while, I really want to plant some deep roots!

    • The things she mentions make so much sense and really seem like they can be done almost anywhere. One thing we’ve done since we moved to our new house (which she talks about) is made a serious effort to get to know our new neighbors and it’s crazy how much closer we feel to our neighborhood.

  • How did you pick Richmond coming from Michigan without jobs there?! I’m wondering what drew you there in the first place. I loved growing up there and we’re trying to move back at some point (my husband is from there too). And, I love the new food scene…that was definitely not the case when I grew up and I try to hit a new restaurant every time I get home for a visit.
    I’d also add that Richmond has unique (well, at least for the East Coast) proximity to the beach and the mountains.

    • I feel a little insane whenever anyone asks how we ended up here because it was such a random decision. We REALLY wanted to leave Michigan, we wanted to be in an East Coast city that was affordable and warmer (but not too far South), loved the history, loved how close it is to the mountains/ocean/DC. It all kind of added up. I’m just so glad I found a teaching job before the end of 2008 because my bad decision could have been a TERRIBLE one ;)

  • Elizabeth Holladay Wilber

    Love this! I’m brand new to Richmond (well, as of November) and while I like it I’m struggling feeling ‘settled’ – adding this book to my ‘must read’ list!

    • I hope things come together here for you! I think Richmond feels much more vibrant in the Spring/Summer (there’s definitely more to do), but I totally understand that it can take some time.

  • This seems like a lovely concept and a lovely book. We’ve lived in our current area (TX gulf coast) for about 6 years now, and I’m only recently starting to fee like we “belong” here. It’s so different from where I grew up, and we’ve had a lot of change/turmoil since moving here. But now we’ve settled into long-term jobs and we even bought a house… I’m finally starting to feel like this is “my” city, haha.

    • Going through a ton of change can make it so hard to get settled! It eats up a bunch of time that you would otherwise spend trying to enjoy the place around you, so it makes sense.

  • Love this! I moved to Buffalo for college and wasn’t crazy about the city until I did an internship with the convention and tourism organization. It really woke me up to the beautiful architecture, cultural institutions, and fantastic restaurants and bars. Now I love living downtown, where I can walk or bike pretty much anywhere. I’m actually kind of sad about the idea of moving away in a year or two.

  • I always dream of picking up and doing that, moving to a new city. I think if we could, it would be Edinburgh. We spent 4 days there in 2013 and totally fell in love – my husband even said that he felt like his soul was at home there. But you know, we’re super practical people. My husband’s work is pretty Canadian…
    But then maybe I need to read this book to become more attached to the place that I grew up? It’s all so fraught because I will forever feel in between – born in NL, moved to Canada when I was 6 and then moved around Vancouver so many times, I never stayed in one place that long. And the Vancouver housing market is INSANE which makes the longing to just pick up and leave pretty strong. But then you feel like you’re being forced out.
    It’s all very complicated.
    More reading.

    • I’ve heard some crazy things about the housing markets in Vancouver (Toronto, too!). I think this one could definitely help with the attachment feeling, especially if you know you’ll probably stay there for a while :)

  • Lauren @ Malcolm Avenue Review

    I first saw this book the other day and it really piqued my curiosity, so I’m very happy you picked it up and gave us this glimpse inside. Even more interesting is YOUR journey. Some day I want that story, which must be a great one. I have never had much of a problem loving where I live. However, I still often get the itch to move on and find something smaller, cheaper, more dog friendly. I wish I had your “just pick up and go” attitude. I’m trying to find it more and more. One of these days… RIchmond sounds great, but I’m not sure I could deal with the weather (or the potholes – sorry, couldn’t resist). I’m a spoiled California girl when it comes to the weather.

    • I wish the story was more compelling than wanting to be out of Michigan and knowing if we so much as moved into an apartment after getting married we’d be doomed to stay there forever ;) We escaped! I love having four (mild) seasons, but I do have to admit that I’m super jealous of that California weather.

  • Gosh, this made me smile. I hope I find my Richmond soon!

  • What a nice post! I love hearing about what you love about your city.
    I was born in Nova Scotia, have lived here all my life, and have no need/desire to leave it. 17 years ago, when my husband and I were trying to decide if we should stay here or go out west to make money like everyone else, we decided to stay and have never regretted it. So, in that way, I guess I don’t need to read this book. But, I’m always interested in hearing about other people’s experiences of ‘home’, as well as being open to more of my own home-happiness!

    • It seems like it’s SO beautiful there, so I don’t blame you!
      It was really interesting to read even though we’re pretty settled. I found there are still a few things I should get out and do once in a while ;)

  • Amanda

    I love this! I kind of want to get this book for my sister. But since I just forced Dietland on her I’ll wait. I loved Richmond when we visited and I want to go back! There are several reasons we’re falling out of love with Chicago these days – which breaks my heart. Maybe I’ll have to try this to see if I can find the love again.

  • This really looks interesting. I’ve moved a couple of times in my life and go through those spells of wanting to move again and start over. I think the do over or start over in a new place is just that…a second chance. I’m happy where I am and have been here for thirty years. I still get those “do over and move” moments like an itch that needs scratching, but I’m still happy where I am. Interesting book.

    I didn’t realize you were in Richmond. I have family that have lived there for years.

    • The fresh start really is the best part about moving, but it can really take its toll, too. It was a SUPER intersting read!

  • I would LOVE to relocate. My husband and I keep talking about it…but it doesn’t seem to happen! ;) (We’re old. I think that’s part of it.) I would love to try Asheville, NC or Seattle, WA! Two of my favorite places! This book sounds like a practical read! Glad your move was a good thing for you, your husband, and Ruby!

  • Do what your town is good at is really excellent advice. My town is extra-great at parties and parades, and while I like parties and parades and cherish my home for being so joyous in that way, I have a limited appetite for doing them myself.

    • One thing she mentioned in that section was making sure to be a tour guide in your own town – pointing out those awesome things whenever anyone came to visit. Parades and parties are probably better when they’re once in a while with someone who doesn’t see them all the time :)

  • I love this review and can’t wait to read this one. The list you mentioned are great tips to fall in love where you live. Funny how you and the author live a few hours from one another! After reading your review, I started noticing things around my area that make it special instead of focusing on things I can’t change.

    • She gave a few little shoutouts to Richmond, actually! It’s funny how that little shift in perspective can really make you feel better about a place :)

  • I must must must read this. Also, you make me want to move to Richmond. :)

  • Rebecca Foster

    I finished this last week and really enjoyed it. My husband and I have moved around so much, typically every year or so, that we’ve never been able to really get attached to a place. It looks like we’re moving again in August/September, so even though this is where we’ve been longest (2.5 years now), we still haven’t hit Warnick’s key 3-5 years. I was encouraged to see a couple of ways that I have tried to build place attachment anyway, but there is so much room for improvement. I liked reading all her examples, from her own experience in Blacksburg and from others’ lives.

  • Sounds like fun! I love books that include a mix of science and personal experience, plus some accessible advice :)

  • Ah, I need to check that out! I love the town I live in now, but it’s only 25 minutes away from where I grew up and I’ve lived here since college. I’m taking the plunge next week and moving across the country, and even though it seems like a perfect place, I’m worried about getting homesick. This book sounds perfect for me right now.

  • I’ve got this waiting at the library and can’t wait to get started. It’s interesting because the husband and I are in the middle of trying to decide our next move (after not being 100% happy with the choice we made almost 3 years ago) and I feel like this could really help. Hopefully we can discuss when we visit your city in July! :)

  • Pingback: Books Read in March 2017 –