Though we have not found many towns that could feel like home, this trip has continually taught us which qualities we want or don't want in a physical home and in the community. This consideration has also been influenced by a book Molitor has steadily read over the last year and a half: A Pattern Language, basically a hippie/communist tome from Berkeley professors in the 1970s about urban and home design, aka "The big yellow book."
This trip has reset our expectations and need for size. Not that we're hopping on the "tiny home" bandwagon (despite having lived out of a minivan and a motel room for the last 2 months), but a 3-BR home will be juuuuust fine, thank you, especially as I expect the girls will be roommates soon...with a bunk bed! I'd love to have a big kitchen at the expense of other common areas, but that's a nice to have, not need to have. We want a public/private space like a front porch, screened in or made 3-season depending on the climate where we end up. Central air and insulation and windows that fit! (This based on my experience in our last home, which drove me nuts with its aged inadequacies.) We'd love to have nooks and crannies for the kids to explore and let their imaginations rule. We want a yard for the kids to play in--doesn't need to be huge like my childhood home's, but adequate--and hopefully a way for the kids to get from our house to neighbors' by themselves (eventually). Our stint at Grandma's taught us the huge value of being able to send Alice outside by herself to play with neighbor kids. What sweet relief!
Within the community, we want to be able to walk to groceries and a coffee shop, bike to a broader array of things, like schools. Easy access to sail-able water. And of course we'd love to have a community of like-minded folks: fairly progressive politically, hiking and camping and sailing and yoga-ing, organic foods.
And we have realized, based on our experience in Norfolk, that all these qualities are very neighborhood specific, not city specific. Norfolk statistics are horrible in terms of crime, income, education, walkability, etc. But our neighborhood of Ghent was great in terms of all of those.