Two years ago today after a lifetime in the San Francisco Bay Area we sold our home, left our jobs and relocated to the Pacific Northwest. While I continue to discover new experiences and nuances about the area, I have 10 observations worth noting:
- In a small town small business matters. When possible I find myself patronizing local businesses even if it means paying a little more. A small town without a preponderance of thriving small businesses is just another strip center city.
- That barista with an attitude might be your boss’s kid. Better to manage expectations and be kind. If you tip, be generous because in a small town, you’ll be remembered. Additionally, the likelihood of the person helping you being a friend of a friend is alarmingly high. We’re all eeriliy connected here.
- Weather forecasts tend to be unreliable here. If you’re an iPhone user and rely on Apple weather, don’t. Instead, carry a pair of boots, an umbrella, a sweater and a raincoat in the car. Better prepared than cold.
- Visitors are easily identified. Tourists can be spotted by one characteristic and it’s not their license plate or their clothing. It’s their driving behavior inside one of the several roundabouts throughout town. This tendency, though wrong is to brake smack in the middle.
- There really is more than one auto dealership in the area. But for some reason Sequim is the home of the white Subaru SUV.
- If it’s a “must have” article of clothing, it’s likely that others think similarly. Succumbing to an impulse purchase can have an unintended twinning effect with much of the local population. One need only observe the preponderance of gray and purple rain coats sported around town to understand this.
- You can tell whose lived here a while by their speech. Locals refer to coyotes as “kye-yotes” and call Old Olympic Highway “The Old Highway.” The first time I heard people talking about PA I thought they meant Palo Alto. Nope, Port Angeles!
- Independent Coffee Houses Rule! There’s an abundance of locally owned independent coffee houses in Sequim. In Sequim we have ONE Starbucks and one Starbucks kiosk inside a Safeway. That’s it! And many of the Independents feature some uniquely charming offering. Cups of Kindness at Hurricane Coffee? The concept is like “Playing it Forward” but better.
9. Parades are still relevant. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I admit that I’ve always avoided parades. Until I attended the Sequim Irrigation Festival Parade (I know, what on earth is an Irrigation Festival?) The parade is a total community effort and is quite wonderful for young and old.
10. There’s a whole lot of Kirkland going on. As a real estate broker I walk through a lot of homes. I’m amazed by how often I see some trace of Costco inside each home. From the furniture to floor-mats, hallway rugs, clothing, shoes, and lets not forget the gigantic Costco muffins. But it’s fitting right? Costco’s headquarters are in Kirkland, WA.
As a new-ish Washington State resident, I’ve recently discovered that I have options when traveling to the most menial destination. When I learned that I could either drive or take a ferry to Seattle, I was perplexed by this either/or choice. Who wants to sit inside a car when I can shave off 30 minutes and experience travel by ferry? This travel option is both intriguing, in a romantic swashbuckling fairy-tale sort of way, and a little intimidating in an unknown new experience sort of way.
Movement from one body of land to another by way of a large water-bound vessel conjures wonder and excitement, especially when you’re me and your travel amounts to planes, trains and automobiles. But yet many Washington State residents travel to and from work via ferry with the same regularity as people who live on the East Coast commute via the subway. But we’re not talking leaving your car behind and boarding BART or Light-rail. We’re talking driving a vehicle onto a ferry and driving it off.
The first time I traveled by ferry was when my husband and I went to Seattle. We drove to the Bainbridge Island terminal in order to take a ferry directly in to Downtown Seattle. A safety-flag carrying attendant directed us to a line where we would wait for the next ferry. We then joined hundreds of other vehicles into our designated lane. So seamless is the transition from parking to sailing, if you remain in your vehicle you may not even realize once the ferry has departed.
Since it’s about a 30 minute trip, riders have the option of staying inside their vehicles or vacating them to enter the main deck. After climbing two flights of stairs, I entered the main deck where I was rather taken aback by what I saw. I was not expecting to see built in Winnebago style tables and plastic benches next to the windows along with a cafeteria complete with two people working cash registers.
The cafeteria fare consisted of canned soups heated inside institutional steel containers (the kind with the hole on top of the lid for the ladle), a popcorn and soft pretzel heated unit, an assortment of tea, hot chocolate, coffee and a plethora of overpriced convenience store-looking packaged sandwiches and snacks.
The workers are friendly and it’s nice to have a little cafeteria instead of vending machines. After I purchased a cup of soup I walked around the retro strictly functional interior where I observed travelers playing cards, board games brought from home or reading books.They even sell playing cards inside the cafeteria.
Some travelers bring a travel pillow and curl up on a bench to nap. One family brought along their lunch to dine at one of the many window booths. Best part is, every seat has a view.
Up yet another flight of stairs, the open-air deck offers breathtaking views from every vantage point.
The return trip from Seattle to Bainbridge Island cost more than the reverse trip. But unlike Bainbridge Island, Seattle offered more appealing pre-boarding concessions. Once you pay and park, depending on how much time you have prior to boarding the ferry, you can leave your car and enter a “mini-mall” just for ferry travelers. There’s a wine-bar, an espresso place, a Subway and a taqueria . It’s all so bizarre and funky but yet perfectly appropriate. An announcement alerts travelers when it’s time to board the ferry. Thanks to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) app, I can determine whether this makes sense for me depending on my time frame. I can view the number of spaces remaining and time it just right so that I can pay and drive on the ferry just before it departs. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/
I imagine my ferry fascination will gradually wane over time just like everything else. The beautiful thing is unless one is traveling to a nearby island like Whidbey, transportation by ferry is not required, it’s an option. Just like taking the bus. But if I have all the time in the world and wish to take in the Washington State vibe, let the wind run through my hair while gazing down below at the chilly and often choppy waters, the ferry can be both therapeutic and enjoyable.
I recently moved from San Jose, CA; the city I grew up and lived most of my life, to Sequim Washington.
First things first:
1) It’s Sequim, pronounced “Skwim” not Sek-wim. One syllable, not two.
2) I’ve relocated. Not retired, though Sequim does seem to attract a lot of retirees.
3) I’m finding that Washington State means different things to different people. I live on the Olympic Peninsula, not in Seattle.
Sequim has over 60 small businesses within its six square block area. We have Costco, Walmart, and a few other big-box type stores and a dozen or so restaurants ranging from diners to gourmet fare. The downtown features purple park benches with matching purple trash receptacles, fresh flowers hanging in artful arrangements downtown and purple bike-shaped bike racks. The Clallam County seat, Port Angeles is about 17 miles away and possesses a cleverly and beautifully stated slogan “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” The same is true here in Sequim but unlike Port Angeles, we have a smaller population, less rain and more sunny days.
1) Unlike the Bay Area, where there are clearly defined areas of affluence; there seem to be less divisions here in Sequim. Perhaps this boils down to population alone, I’m not sure. But even in what might be regarded as a more pricey area, you can still find moderate housing. For example there are pricey areas near the water but at the same time, you can find a less expensive home. In the 17 months I’ve been here, I’ve yet to come across what appears to be an undesirable area. There are good areas, even great areas, but not sketchy ones.
3) Here in Sequim I daily witness aesthetic beauty which has provided a contentment I’ve never quite experienced. As a runner, I’m continually mesmerized by the theater of nature as I explore new paths on new roads. Sometimes it’s a wooded forest or sometimes it’s the combination of the vast open sky and the changing colors of the trees. It’s hard to not stop in my winded tracks and gaze toward the snow-capped mountain ranges and not be overtaken by the beauty. I wonder if I will eventually grow bored of all this nature the same way I got bored of the visual appeal of Santana Row or the Winchester Mystery House. But in talking with people who’ve lived here for years I’ve learned that the natural beauty we experience here is not the sort of thing people tire of. I guess it explains why the Sequim Facebook page is comprised almost entirely of beautiful images that people post of everyday observations. I can’t help but wonder if living among and within this environment actually contributes to a happier populous whose friendly hello’s are nothing more than a natural outflow of their contentment.
4) I’ve heard it a number of times but “Everyone here is from somewhere else.” Translation: This isn’t a cliquey town. Sequim is a place where the residents delight to know where you’re from not so they can judge you, because they too, are from another place. And their response is always the same: Welcome to Sequim.
Sequim is located in the Northwestern region of Washington State on The Olympic Peninsula. So north, in fact that on a clear day you can look across the Strait of Juan DeFuca and see Victoria, Canada. Better news? With a Washington State Enhanced Drivers License you can drive 25 minutes West into Port Angeles and take a 90 minute ferry to Victoria and return the same day.
What is unique about Sequim is it’s location in the Rainshadow of the Olympic mountain range. Sequim averages about 16 inches of rain annually and enough sun to have earned the nickname, “Sunny Sequim.” I’d read about this Rainshadow effect with mild skepticism before experiencing it for myself. It is not unusual to enter Sequim from several nearby destinations like Port Townsend, Poulsbo, Silverdale or Bainbridge Island and find yourself reaching for the windshield wipers-to turn them off! Don’t get me wrong, we experience rain in Sequim. But just enough to keep everything green while enjoying a lot of sunny days.
Another remarkable feature of Sequim is its astonishing natural beauty. It’s not uncommon to see cars pulling over so that amateur photographers like me can ambitiously try to capture the perfect scene. Whether it’s a sunrise, a deer, a rainbow or snow-capped mountain; many Sequim residents strive to be Ansel Adams with a smartphone. The Sequim Facebook page demonstrates this by the abundance of photos residents often posts usually followed with several Likes. Think about it, what city-themed Facebook page exists almost entirely of jaw-droppingly gorgeous photos posted by its residents? There’s a certain amount of contentment derived from not only viewing such photos, but reading comments like, “Aren’t we lucky to live in such a beautiful place?” Indeed.
I’ve just finished Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and must publicly thank my favorite sales trainer, Jeffrey Gitomer for the recommendation. I only wish I’d have read Dale Carnegie when I was younger. I attended a sales rally years ago with my former company where Jeffrey Gitomer stated that if you only read one sales book, to read that one.
As I read more of Dale Carnegie’s books, I find that he frequently quotes Dr. William James, philosopher and psychologist. Mr. Carnegie cites one particular quote in “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” that has such positive implications:
William James said “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling seem to go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”
Dale Carnegie summarized James’ quote “In other words William James tells us that we cannot instantly change our emotions ‘just by making up our minds to’–but we can change our actions. And that when we change our actions we change our feelings.”
Although this may initially seem somewhat counter-intuitive, there is considerable wisdom lurking within the above statements by both men. They’re not touting the popular “Change your thoughts change your reality” wisdom. What they are saying is that we can much more easily control our actions than our feelings. By effecting our actions, even if simply going through the motions, we can practically conjure up the anticipated feeling.
To cite only a few examples of this I will reflect on my own experiences. I’ve been a runner for most of my life but it’s so easy to come up with excuses not to run. If I think about it too much, I’ll never run. But if I simply change into my running attire and lace up my shoes, I’m a lot more inclined to actually do it. Why? Because every time I go through those motions, my body remembers and responds. My desire to complete the task increases. I’m not sure how or why this metamorphosis takes place but it would seem that my mindset transitions as a result of my actions. Did my thoughts cause me to feel like running? No way. Did the action of suiting up? Maybe not directly, but as William James suggests, perhaps indirectly.
But this wisdom is not only limited to exercise, it can also be directed in other areas of life. Like helping one cope with depression and grief. Years ago I heard radio talk show therapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger counsel a caller who was having difficulty moving beyond the death of a loved one, Dr. Laura’s advice was to begin engaging in an activity focused on others by volunteering at a senior center or at a homeless shelter. Dr. Laura knew that if this woman went through the motions of a positive action focused on others, she would gradually immerse herself in the activity. Focusing on the activity would help remove the focus on herself and her own sadness. Notice Dr.Laura didn’t tell her to think happy thoughts so that she would feel better, but rather the exact reverse. If she engaged in the positive action, the desired mental state would follow.
When I wake up in the morning I have my coffee then shower. After completing those two tasks I’m much more enthusiastic about starting my day than when I was languishing in my bed. This strategy even works when I’m in a bad mood. In an effort to bring myself out of the bad mood, I’ll intentionally go through the same motions I would normally undergo when I’m feeling happy. I’ll greet people with a friendly “Good morning,” I’ll smile when I don’t necessarily feel like doing so. This is not being insincere, it’s simply drawing on previous behaviors in an effort to conjure up an improved frame of mind. Then almost in response, my mood will have shifted.
I imagine there is a scientific explanation-perhaps it’s simply that our habits have trained our brains how to respond. And I’m not suggesting this is a foolproof method for curing all of our woes. But it is a practical technique worthy of implementation. Two great thinkers, Dr. William James and Dale Carnegie recognized that actions precede feelings many decades ago. I’m glad they did because in my experience, it’s a lot easier to modify our actions than it is to modify or change our thoughts.