The New Urbanist places I have visited, although I will argue they are much better than suburban sprawl, often feel very feux-urban. Even in large cities, New Urbanists tend to aim for this small-town feel;
It fails to capture or recreate the excitement and energy of a true urban setting;
..and so do photos. How would you explain the energy of a city? A constant immersion in stimuli?
Perhaps that is why in my previous blog post I talked about how I am nostalgic about my memories of food courts and walking to lunch with my friends? It is not the actual food court itself I miss, but the social and sensory stimuli - the combination of conversations with my friends, of stepping outside and being immersed in the energetic street life, of the exercise and fresh air, and of the actual food. When I said driving to lunch felt like a watered-down experience, it may be because I am only getting two of those four experiences.
This raises an interesting question - would somebody raised in a purely suburban or rural setting, if placed in a high-intensity urban setting, feel the opposite - overwhelmed? I think so - take this photo of a train station for instance;
When I look at that, I am craving the energy in the photo and feel that I want to jump in there and soak in the urban experience - to recharge my batteries after years of suburbia. But, if I showed that to a suburbanite, would they think that is overwhelming and crowded, and thankful they do not live there and never have to experience that?
What about when they see photos of traditional cities?
It will not be long until I would have spent three years living in my suburban town. I have had a lot of good memories and experiences here. When I first came here it was relaxing, but as time went on, the relaxation has transformed into a craving (or nostalgia?) for anything that reminds me of a high-energy place - like that above photo of a crowded train station, and sometimes I think I am going crazy because that craving just gets more intense. If it were not for me experiencing suburban life, I do not think I would have started this blog or crossed paths with Strong Towns. I am really grateful for all of that, and it is comforting to think that perhaps my destiny was to put my needs aside - to take one for the team - because I am performing a greater good trying to help people here through my blog. (Then again, will not my blog be just as effective no matter where I live?)
Too much suburbia makes a person crazy. I think it is time for a vacation away from it.