A Sense of Place

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A Sense of Place

Oh to be a French winemakers son.
It’s the definition of “blessing or curse.”

Recently I watched Somm: Into the Bottle, a documentary about the wine industry: from rebellious producers to cellar mould to barrel making, wine pairing, points ratings and more. (If you enjoy wine at all, I recommend watching it … but that’s not the point of this article.)

There’s one scene at a French vineyard where they’re talking about how ancient the history of winemaking is in the region – including individual vineyards where wine has been made since Roman times. Then they cut to a shot of the winemaker opening a rare bottle as he invites his son to taste it with him. The father looks at the son, and says: “He’s the 13th generation winemaker in this vineyard.”

I couldn’t read the expression on the son’s face, but when the father said those words – “13th generation” – I thought – well, that’s it. If you’re that teenage boy, you know that this is your life. You’ll live and die on this little plot of land, and you’ll be making wine (albeit excellent, world-famous wine) for the rest of your life.

What must that be like, to have your life predetermined in such a way?

I’m sure he’ll have a bit of choice: he can choose if and who he marries, or possibly be a rebel and bring a bit of creativity and innovation into their winemaking. But the major strokes of his life were set when he was born: live here, make wine, pass it on.

There must be an immense pressure of responsibility and of carrying on something important – something that extends back beyond memory – something your great-great-great-great grandfather didn’t even start himself, but was carrying on, even then.

It’s as if you came out of that land, and you’ll tend it, and then you’ll die on it. And you’d also better have a child, because no one wants to be the “13th and last” winemaker on that beautiful piece of earth.

This brief moment from the film stuck with me, because being tethered to a specific place, and being happy about it, is so foreign to me.

I knew from a young age that I was going travel the world. I used to devour National Geographic magazines with their evocative photos of far off places, and always felt an inner pull to see and experience other cultures. We’ve just returned from 2 years in Hong Kong … and before that it was 7 years in London, 2 in Paris, 7 in Washington DC, university terms in Lyon, Florida, California … and frequent trips to 50+ countries in between.

So this idea of feeling deeply connected to a place – and more importantly totally satisfied to just BE there without lingering FOMO (fear of missing out!) seems both magical and impossible to me.

Almost 10 years ago, just before I moved to Paris, I was on a trip to visit some extended family. I was a single 20-something woman, and moving to Paris felt like such a huge, scary, exciting, epic life step. But on this visit to see relatives, I was trying to not make a big deal about it – because my extended family are not at all the traveling type. But eventually word got out that “Amanda’s moving to Paris next month!”

The response? Silence.

Then my Uncle said: “Why would you want to do that?”

– –

His question didn’t make sense in my brain, at all.

Never ever ever would it even occur to me to ask someone why they wanted to move abroad or travel. Of COURSE you want to do that. Who doesn’t want to see the world and experience other cultures? And to have the chance to LIVE there as a local – well that’s hitting the life jackpot, right?

But from his perspective, it was a genuine question: “WHY would you want to move to Paris?” Implying – “What’s wrong with here? What are you looking for over there?” He literally didn’t understand what would motivate a person to move out of the United States.

So in those seven small words, I immediately understood not only a huge gulf in our worldviews … but also realized that not everyone wants to travel. And maybe that’s ok.

Isn’t it funny that we naturally assume that how we see the world, is how everyone sees the world?

See, for years I just assumed that everyone felt this irrepressible desire to travel.  Curiosity about the world will not leave me alone. I feel a strong, almost-constant urge to expand my understanding of other cultures and meet people and eat the food and visit the markets and realize yet again how different but so similar we all are.

I thought everyone felt this. I assumed the reason people didn’t travel regularly was because you were supposed to be a responsible person, repress the urge, contain it to 2 weeks of vacation a year, and get on with your “real life”.

But it turns out that lots of people aren’t just repressing it – they don’t have this travel urge at all.

This is really important to understand.

I believe everyone has an inner calling.  A voice urging you to do something. There’s a good chance you ignore that voice. Maybe you’ve ignored it for so long that it’s become really quiet and hard to hear. But it’s still there.

And here’s the thing – only you can hear it! And only you can take action on it!

No one else hears that same voice. It’s just for you.

This same inner urge which calls me to travel, might actually pull some people towards one patch of land that they can live on for their entire lives.

Or maybe it calls you to make things with your hands, research 18th century Italian literature, cook amazing meals, study physics, or be a parent, healer, teacher, or writer.

Or maybe it pulls some people to fulfill their destiny carrying on the family business.

Following these soul urges bring deep satisfaction and contentment. For me it’s traveling, but not for everyone, and that’s OK.

Which brings us back to the winemakers son.

I hope with all my heart he feels a pull to be on that piece of earth, and to carry on his family tradition of making incredible wine. Because if he does, it’s a beautiful, meaningful way to make a life.

But I also know deeply and truly that if you do not follow the call of your soul, no amount of money or status or stuff is going to make you feel fulfilled and satisfied.

We all have that little voice in our gut urging us towards something. What’s yours saying?

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