I was recently accused, tenderly but definitively, of being obsessed with locale, and more precisely, with my connection to place. As a lifelong wanderer, this struck me as slightly ironic. And accurate.
By now my fixation on hyperlocality and placeness (aka the poetics of place) have become inextricably woven into the entirety of Rosslyn Redux, the robust and resilient fiber that holds it all together, or — as popularized in the parlance of contemporary talking heads — the “connective tissue” of this protracted inquiry into our decision to purchase and rehabilitate Rosslyn as a foundational platform for our small family’s life (and lifestyle) reboot.
From 1999 to 2003 I was living and working in Europe. Mostly Paris, France. But Rome, Italy had become a second base by the end of that exciting chapter, a period that started with teaching and coaching at the American School of Paris and evolved into co-founding and launching Maison Margaux, an exclusive vacation rental startup, and Margaux Europe Group, a boutique travel platform. My business partner and I had based these businesses in New York City, and this third base of my globetrotting existence became even more important in the summer of 2001 when Susan and I discovered one another and tumbled head over heals into an intoxicating transatlantic romance.
In those years I prided myself with what I had dubbed immersion travel rather than tourist travel. The Margaux Project was founded on this distinction. Deep travel. Authentic travel. Meaningful travel. Transformative travel. Human-centric vs. travel brochure scrapbook travel… My love affairs with Paris and Rome (indeed even with New York City) were complex and enriching and multifaceted. We wanted to provide a means for discerning clients to experience Paris, Rome, (and eventually Barcelona, intended at the time to become our third property) with the nuanced richness; genuine, unadulterated texture; and personal intimacy that we had both come to appreciate.
But I was a committed and unabashed global nomad. By choice. By conviction. The dissonance didn’t really phase me at the time!
Wanderlust vs. Connection to Place
This fundamental duality — a peripatetic wanderer drawn to unique locales and connection to place — is at the heart of the thread I call Wanderlust to Houselust. I’ve learned through our Rosslyn years that I am both migratory and rooted. For many years I understood myself as a perennial vagabond, and I celebrated the carefreedom and independence that my work/life amalgam allowed.
But building a loving family and a profoundly fulfilling lifestyle around placeness (Rosslyn, Essex, Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, the North Country,..) has taught me how important community and connection to place are to me. It’s also helped me understand that I’m not either/or… not nomad OR potted plant.
Life, my life, is more complex than I’d understood despite developing Maison Margaux and Margaux Europe Group around the philosophy of immersion travel — journeying more authentically and meaningfully, interacting rather than travel-skimming. Certainly my need for connection to place was there, but I didn’t recognize what it was. Now I do. And I understand that the meaningful authenticity, the human-to-human interaction, the belonging that had drawn me to a specific type of travel was precisely what fueled my early enthusiasm for living in Essex. It was connection to place that had always enticed me. I just didn’t know it.