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?