By Caitlin Kelly
How about Washington, D.C.?
A friend recently posed the question on her Facebook page — and the many answers she received were fascinating.
Many said “Mexico”, and I was among them, and yet almost all of us were Caucasian.
I miss Mexico, having briefly lived in Cuernavaca as a teenager and having visited various regions there many time; I also speak Spanish.
But feeling most at home?
It’s always, since I spent a year living there on a journalism fellowship when I was 25, been Paris.
Seems unlikely, for a Canadian born in Vancouver and raised in Toronto, Montreal and London.
(For one American friend, it’s London or bust! If you aren’t reading her blog about life there, you’re missing out. For another, whose blog I also adore, it was a huge leap — from Portland, Oregon to Lisbon.)
It’s a cliche, I know, but I’m fine with it. I speak French, so that’s not an issue.
I love all the things many people love about that city: great food and wine, style, flowers, the architecture, history, its scale, ready access to the rest of Europe.
I know the city somewhat, and feel bien dans ma peau each time we return. It’s also a place that changed my life and work for the better, forever, so it’s marinated in memories.
And I know it’s not an easy city — as this blogger who lives there is sure to remind me!
It’s not always easy to feel 100 percent at home.
Factors to consider include:
- long, cold snowy winters — and/or hot, humid ones
- lots of rain and cloudy days
- jobs! And well-paid ones, a huge issue in this year’s Presidential election
- quality (affordable) education — at every level
- media — is quality journalism done there, and incisive reporting?
- shopping. If this matters to you, what’s the quality, price and ready access to the things you value most?
- food. Are there farmer’s markets? Great restaurants?
- culture! Can you afford to attend ballet, theater, opera, dance, concerts?
- style/elegance. If this matters to you, (as it does to me), a place where everyone schlumps around in sweats 24/7 is a lousy fit
- landscape. I stare at the Hudson River every day, grateful for its ever-changing skies and beauty. One friend posts astounding images of his life in Arizona’s Sonoran desert.
- history — is the place shiny new or filled with ancient stories to discover?
- politics — right/left/mixed (and it the place welcoming to those who vote otherwise?)
- guns. In the U.S., a serious issue; do your neighbors own them and carry one?
- drugs. A scourge in many places now, whether meth or heroin.
- public policies — what happens when you’re ill and/or out of work?
- citizen engagement, volunteering and activism
- the diversity of your fellow residents — ethnically, economically, religion, work, education
- personal safety from crime
- personal safety from natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes
- Access to, price of and quality of housing, rental and owned
- Do people on the street smile and greet one another — or do you prefer anonymity?
- The quality (or lack of) urban planning and design
- Clean, safe parks and ready access to nature for recreation
- Clean, safe playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts
- Well-financed libraries
- Bike trails and lanes
- Air quality (New Delhi and Beijing are now hardship posts because the air there is so foul)
- Good medical care and safe, well-run hospitals
- Policing — how safe are you and your loved ones? These days, for many angry and frightened black Americans, it even means being safe from the police.
Terrorism is now a serious issue for many people.
I’ve been living in a small town on the eastern edge of the Hudson River for more than 20 years, 25 miles north of Manhattan.
I love this town, (here’s my post from 2012 with 20 reasons why), and am very happy here, but it lacks, of course, the bustle and culture of a big city.
I chose Tarrytown on a recon trip for some of these reasons: it’s very diverse for a suburban New York town; its gorgeous location; its history and architecture and scale; easy access to Manhattan (40 minutes by car or train.)
It’s now become home to all the hipsters fleeing crazy-expensive Brooklyn!
I grew up and spent 25 years in Toronto, a large city that often makes lists of best places to live.
I didn’t hate Toronto, and usually return once or twice a year to see old friends there, but it has many ugly areas, a brutally expensive cost of housing, (and very poor quality below $1m), for purchase, crappy quality rentals and a long, grim winter.
More than anything, it held a limited set of professional opportunities — I know people still in the same jobs or workplace as when I left, decades ago.
As we hope to retire in a few years, deciding where to live and why becomes more and more a conscious decision, not just dominated by the proximity to enough decent jobs in our field.
I’ve long planned to spend some of that time living in France, some in the U.S. and some in Canada, with a lot of travel, as long as our health and finances allow.
Where do you feel most at home and why?
Is it far from where you were born and raised?