College, Walking, Friendship, and Las Catalinas

August 21, 2019

Some fragament of the Amherst College Class of '81

I just returned from my Amherst College 30 year reunion.   As always, I am struck by the strength and durability of the friendships that my classmates and I forged back then.   We tend to think of our school and even our particular class as very special.   But I suspect that something like what we have experienced is shared by many.

I have thought about college campus life a lot as we have developed the plans for Las Catalinas.   For many people college is the most walkable, car-free environment they will ever experience.  For many it is also a very special time.   It seemed so easy to make deep friendships in college.   It has seemed much harder to do so afterwards out in the "real world".   I'm quite sure I'm not the only one who has experienced this.   But why?   And what might that have to do with Las Catalinas?   I think these are some of the reasons, and some of the lessons:

  1. A Pedestrian Environment - People just relate differently to each other when they are walking as opposed to driving.   It is hard to say hello to a car.   Pedestrians passing one another rarely scream and give each other the finger. This cannot be said of drivers.   Walking creates opportunity for chance encounters, and frequent encounters.   Walking makes "just stopping by to visit" somehow seem OK (as discussed in my earlier post).
  2. A Community of Shared Values - If you have a chance encounter with someone at a place like Amherst College, you can be pretty sure that you have a lot in common in terms of values.   You have a place to begin a conversation, and you have a certain comfort level that you wouldn't have with someone you met in another context.   You are practically friends before you even start!   It is the same way at Las Catalinas already, and will become more so.   Las Catalinas appeals to people with particular values.   They typically value nature and enjoy outdoor recreation.   They are curious and eager to explore and learn.   They tend to be well educated and successful.   If you are one of those people, you can be pretty sure that the person over there at the next table at the restaurant is too.   They might be from a totally different part of the world from you, but you likely have some important things in common.   That is nice ... and a headstart towards friendship.
  3. A sense of shared experience and purpose - My best friends have always tended to be people that I really DO things with.   In college you go to class together, you study together, you play sports together, you eat together, and together you try to make the world a better place.   Of course you become friends!   In Las Catalinas it will be the same.   People will be recreating and socializing and working together in myriad ways.   More profoundly, the citizens of Las Catalinas will be creating a new town that really stands for something - a joyful, healthy, fulfilling and sustainable vision of "the good life".   That's important, and doing things together that are important may be the ultimate bonding experience.
  4. A Gathering Place - One thing that I loved about college life is that if I wanted to see some friends I didn't need to set up an appointment, I didn't need a scheduled event.   There were places to hang out - and if I went there I could find my friends.   Oh how I miss that in my adult life!   In the early days at Las Catalinas those places are the beach, and the restaurant.   It is already happening.

I'd be curious to hear if these observations ring true to you, and what lessons you might see therein for Las Catalinas.   I hope that Las Catalinas will create some of the magic of those college years for people of all ages ... including you - and me!

- Charles