I often see posts about “10 best cities for *insert here: students, graduates, families, raising a dog, GLBT, living on a low salaries, retirees…*” it goes on and on. Well for me, there is no perfect city, for anyone. New York is the dream for many, but it is crazy expensive and the weather is horrible. Chicago winters? No, thanks. SF? The ocean is crazy cold most of the year. Yet, those places, and all the places, have tons of amazing things to offer to anyone who is willing to explore and be open.
When I moved near London for work, I ended up in a 60,000 people town that I would never have considered hadn’t it been for the job. I was already a Grinch about UK winters, the rain, the cold, nights getting dark at 4pm… But then I decided to take the other approach and look up fun things to do in the city. There were free city tours, a farmers market once a month, more than decent shopping options, even a river to go rowing or walk along any season. I would go berry picking in autumn and try to preserve the fruits we bought for a pittance at the end of the farmers’ market. In winter we’d play in the snow and spend days at Ikea to get the house nice and cosy, or go see the deserted seaside.
I would take the train to London once a week at first, to visit family and friends, then it became once a month, then once a quarter. I came to love my little town. I would walk two blocks and be in the town center, I took NLP and yoga classes to meet people, and I tried most of the restaurants in town to eat new things. Sundays would be spent in a quaint pub outside of town, drinking beer and eating roast by the firewood, and during summer we would enjoy the long days playing tennis at the free court one block from the house, and going to free events in the park.
I came to love that little town. Me, the big city girl who had only lived in Paris, Marseille, Barcelona or Guatemala City.
Next move, the Guatemalan jungle. Super limited social life. Half a dozen friends spread around the lake and that’s it until Guatemala City, 8 hours away. Closest supermarket 20 miles away. Closest decent mall 300 miles away. Hot and humid. Sometimes snakes, scorpions and racoons come say hi. I embraced it just the same. I took up running, swimming in the lake, tried to grow vegetables, raise chickens, and get my city life fix once or twice a year in Paris or Miami.
My point is: don’t expect things the place you live in can’t give you. No place is perfect, and you will rarely find a location that ticks all the boxes. So enjoy what you can have.
Guatemala is fantastic to explore the Mayan ruins, the local culture and food, there is first class diving five hours away in Belize, and to visit those places, people come from all over the world and pay a lot of money! On the other hand in Guatemala you won’t get many cultural activities such as theater plays, opera, concerts or art shows. It is taking off but a far cry from what you get in any town half that size in the US or in Europe.
I met many people who lived in Paris for a few years, and when they left realized they never climbed the Eiffel tower! When you live somewhere, you get caught up in life and forget to enjoy what your city has to offer.
Take a moment to be a tourist in your own city, you’ll be amazed. If you live in the middle of nowhere, how about a state park, or a historical landmark?
We always complain and dream that the grass will be greener somewhere else. “Oh, if I lived in NY, I would go out every night, live in a fabulous apartment, and watch the city lights from my bed”. Reality will probably be that you just wake up, go to work, commute back and fall asleep in front of the TV.
Small towns, big towns, remote villages, everything has its charm, so try to make the most out of it.
How do you make the most of your little corner of the world?
Anwar Dunbar says
I agree with your piece. I had a girlfriend once who moved to Washington DC from Miami and all she did was complain that it wasn’t Miami. When she finally HAD to leave, she didn’t want to.
Anwar Dunbar says
I also hated Albany, NY when I first moved there but two years later I had a hard time leaving. Gonna retweet this.
Thanks Anwar! We always miss what we had but should focus on what is around instead.
Where I live was (and still is to some) nicknamed “Naptown” because there is nothing to do. To them I say “wrong!” There is always something going on, you just have to be willing to go find it!
This post nails it! It is time to realize the grass is already pretty damn green no matter where you live.
haha, even if there isn’t, that means you are in the middle of nowhere, so there must be amazing nature all around, that means hikes, bike rides and more!
I agree with you about “Naptown,” Brian! There really is plenty to do here if you look. Our town of Noblesville has all kinds of festivals, farmers markets, and fun things for families. I love it. But we’re also close to Indy so we have the big city stuff too.
I definitely went through a period of homesickness and adjustment when I relocated to NYC from Montreal. As you said, people have to find the positives in every situation and they might even enjoy themselves in the process! I have discovered that living in S.I. allows me to live a more tranquil way of life yet I still have 25 min ferry ride to Manhattan if I want to indulge in city experiences.
It takes time to adapt to a new place, but if you reminisce too much about the past you can’t enjoy the present.
Great point here. That’s what I do… I wake up, go to work, come back and fall asleep in front of my computer… and then go to work again…
When I was living in another city I just did the same. We always dream of what we would do if… but unless giving ourselves the means to live those “IF”, things won’t change no matter where we live.
I believe though that the place we live can give us different possibilities and limitations. Some possibilities could fit more one dreams that the possibilities offered by the place they currently live in. But these are often offset by new limitations.
In the end, the place you live doesn’t change the person you are.
Limitations are very relative, especially now that you can work online from pretty much anywhere. I make it work in the Guatemalan jungle, and could get an online degree and an online job if needed, so any small town girl could do the same. Sure, it is hard to be the only college graduate in a 50 miles radius for example, but if you want it, you can do it.
I’ve found that sometimes it’s not what your city has, it’s about what it doesn’t have. My city may not have the Statue of Liberty but it doesn’t have much crime, either. Give and take.
You’re right. And celebrating what it does have instead of longing for what it doesn’t.
Gary @ Super Saving Tips says
I love the area I live in and I’m gradually getting around to seeing the various sights in my area as a “tourist”. I try to take advantage of special events, “free” dates at museums and historical sites, and parks and outdoors gardens. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to break out of your schedule and appreciate what’s around you.
Sounds like you are making the most of it! There are parks everywhere, usually people go to the same one all the time and get bored but visiting a different one, even if it is a bit further, makes for a great outing.
Pauline, I love this post. It resonates with my thoughts very well; even when I lived in Bulgaria (under communism) I used to tell my friends who dreamt of other places that there is no ready paradise. Heaven is what you make out of the opportunities you have been presented. I learned to love Manchester. It is wet and this keeps my skin in great condition; it is dark and this is an opportunity to take Suzi the Dog for a walk with John (and to talk) and the English can be a bit funny but they are also great fun :).
And English summers, for as short as they are, are pretty great too. The same happens in my village, some guys dream about going to the U.S. illegally, but most of them are happy with less resources because they have strong family bonds and at the end of the day, enough to eat and have a roof over their heads.
Gordon James says
It’s not just about access to activities and entertainment but also the general vibe and the feeling you are in the right spot and a place you feel connected to and want to plant roots. In any location one can find entertaining things to do and pass the time and be content. However that does not make for the best place to call home sweet home. Some places are better suited for you than others and although one can make a go of it anywhere in the world why not wear the glove that fits you best? I’ve been to many places that didn’t do it for me and others that rang my bell. Guess where will be my next home? In certain cases the grass is greener on the other side if you’ve tasted both and experienced the difference.
You’re right, and it looks like you have the freedom to take your pick almost anywhere, which is a great option to have. Everyone can move anywhere, but people choose to stay close to family, or feel like it is going to be the end of the world if they leave their job without one lined up elsewhere, and then complain they’re stuck in a boring place. To those I suggest trying to make the best of the place they live in, since at the end of the day, it is their life passing by if they don’t.
Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says
I live in Sydney! I personally believe that this is the right place for me. I would exchange this place with others. It feels great that I am surrounded by friends and family. I am so much satisfied with the place I am in right now.
Good for you! Sydney sounds like an amazing place to live.
Anne @ Money Propeller says
You’re just rubbing in that there are a ton of things I haven’t yet done where I live! 🙁
I’m slowly working through them, but I’ve been here for years now! There are some of the “major” hikes that I don’t even know where to find the trailheads for. Alas. One of my friends has more free time than ever before now and he is really fantastic at taking people of all skill levels out, so hopefully we can do some things this year.
It is good to leave some unexplored things for later too, if you plan on staying there for a while, but sometimes you just have to move and end up regretting not doing XYZ!
I totally agree. There is a lot I don’t love about where I live (geographically) but I make the best of it especially since family is here!
Family sure makes it easier to bear!
Kayla @ Femme Frugality says
I live in my small hometown again now that I’ve graduated from college (got a job here). I love it most of the time, but you are right it’s all about your attitude and perspective. I hate our winters and sometimes I miss having more social activities and shopping, but now I just take advantage of them and they are more special when I do go out of town for the day to a bigger city. (Denver usually) Great post!
I know. I’m from the Caribbean and whenever I travel people always say it must be great to live there…well it is but guess what, we dont sit in the shade all day sipping coconut water. We get up, go to work, come home, cook, do homework , sleep and do it all the next day otherwise our bills dont get paid!
Petrish @ Debt Free Martini says
Everytime I see one of those list of best cities to live in I promise you the world stops for me and I take the time to read it. Never once have I looked at the list and say…..now there is where I want to live. You’re right we can get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to stop and just look around. I live in Japan and I barely venture out or go sightseeing. Everytime I do find the time to venture out….I say the same thing….Wow!! I’ve got to get out more.
Love the post.
Prairie Eco Thrifter says
We chose to live where we do, and we love it. Sure, there are some bad things and some good things, but mainly good, and so that’s why we chose to put down some roots here. We make the best out of it by getting outdoors, and spending time in the community.
Joseph Hogue says
I’ve lived in Medellin, Colombia for a little over 3 years now. Parts are great, other parts not so much so I can definitely relate.
It’s hard giving up the cultural norms you grew up with. I still get frustrated when bars and businesses blast their music ’til late at night (not much respect for zoning laws around here). I guess it’s the price you pay to live in paradise.
I live in socal now but will retire hopefully to Oregon. I am a little afraid and excited at the same time. But I will be in my 60s and so it won’t really matter as long as I am healthy. I just think it comes down to the bottom line and my money will go farther there.
Being a tourist in your own city can be nice. But sometimes it’s actually a good sign if you haven’t been doing that. If they didn’t go see the Eiffel Tower, it means they spent a year actually enjoying Paris, not the tourist attractions.
I spent a bunch of time at Pike Place Market when I moved to Seattle for college. But it took me years to ride the Monorail — like 8 years — because it’s a short distance and cost money. So what was the point? Instead, I enjoyed a lot of parts of the city thanks to great public transportation. I went downtown or I stayed in the U(niversity) District for its unique flavor. I went to cheap movie previews advertised in the alternative papers. And so on and so forth.
Sometimes it’s about living in the city instead of living for the tourist attractions. Which tend to be pricey anyway.
Life’s what you make it. I love this post. No matter where you live, you can find things to do to make life enjoyable. When l lived in L.A, my friends were always saying they were jealous . People don’t realize that you don’t spend your days sitting in the sun, hanging with the stars etc, but instead work 12 hour shifts and hit the sack on your days off. Your paradise sounds lovely. I am sorry about your breakup, but l know you are a strong woman!
wow, so crazy if you compare this city to where you have lived before – must feel like a tiny village 😀