Is your life place-specific? Are you relocatable? I am thinking about this after reading The Year of Living Danishly. The author left her high-stress job in London to accompany her spouse when he accepted a year-long contract job in rural Denmark. Yes, for that employer! She worked from home as a freelance writer, and pointedly learned about the country and its culture in order to produce the book. No word on whether this was lucrative or not!
It’s romantic to be portable, especially with a loved one. The idea of travelling anywhere in the world to work and to live as a local is definitely appealing.
Being tied to a particular place also has a certain romance – think of a cottage on the lake, a mountain hideaway, or a downtown loft. Or a celebrated locale: New York, Paris, Cairo, Mumbai! Or the rootedness of farming your grandfather’s land.
Why do so many of us, then, never live away from our homeland, or even our hometown?
Maybe it starts with the idea of opportunity. Do we go because we have a job offer or a “chance of a lifetime,” or do we not wait for that magical moment and go anyway, determined to make our own way?
I lived away from my home province for 15 years, came back, and settled down. I like living near my parents, brother and sister. We spent all of our vacation time and money visiting each other all those years. I appreciate being able to see them any time now, share holidays close to home, and be there when anything comes up. All without the stress and expense of travel – especially emergency travel.
I have had several chances to start over in a new place, and I took some of them. All in North America, though.
When I finished university, I took my first librarian job 4300 km (2700 miles) away in Saskatchewan. I spent 7 years there. I loved the land and the sky and the people; I made friends for life; and my child was born there. I adjusted to the -40C stretches in winter. I saw the Northern Lights – visible even in the city! I learned about contemporary First Nations life. The whole experience of living on the Prairies opened my mind. On one hand, it was a big culture change. Life was slower. As farmers in the grain belt, many people were attached to particular parcels of land. Everyone was accustomed to relying on family, neighbours and church, and to some degree, keeping the old ways. There was always a DIY indie ethos. Of course things have changed – I was there pre-Internet! The oil industry later brought a new level of prosperity.
Next I lived in Montreal for a few months, 3000 km from my last home, and a mere 1200 km from my hometown! I loved the downtown city life and the French culture, but it was a temporary stay.
After that I lived in Massachusetts, only 500 km from Montreal. Since it was the northeast of the US, I thought it would be more like my home province of Nova Scotia. The landscape was smaller in scale and easier to relate to. Living in a little village, everything was family-oriented and organized around seasonal and holiday traditions: First Night for New Year’s Eve, outdoor Easter egg hunts, Cinco de Mayo, 4th of July fireworks, harvest festivals, and 4-day Thanksgiving weekends.
From there I returned to Nova Scotia. When I met Rom, I tried to think in practical terms about whether living in the UK would make sense. His parents, brothers and job were there. My parents, siblings, child, job and house were here. I couldn’t imagine relocating my child for the last 2 years of high school. Furthermore, jobs for professional librarians are sadly rare in the UK, with town libraries everywhere reducing hours, closing, or being run by volunteers. And the cost of living, especially housing, is very high. It was hard for Rom to leave everything and immigrate to Canada. I can’t justify “making” him do it, but ultimately he chose to.
Being the linear citizens we are, I expect we’ll be here until we retire from our jobs many years hence.
I like my job, Rom likes his well enough, we like our house and the things we can do in our city. I wouldn’t at all mind living in a larger city again like Montreal or Toronto, but we won’t be packing in our careers to do it. After being away for a decade and a half, I want to be near for my parents, and I hope my brother and sister won’t go anywhere. But if they do, I owe them a lot of visits!
Weirdly, we are located fairly centrally between Link in Toronto and Rom’s relatives in Sussex UK. In the far off future, when Rom and I are no longer working, we could relocate to Toronto, or even to the UK if we wanted to. I like the idea that we could someday spend long periods of time in either place if we want or need to.
Then there is that other question: where would we live if money were no object? What if we could live comfortably anywhere? Rom says that apart from the winters, to which he has acclimated, he is happy here, but a city the size of Montreal (with its music and culture scene) would be tempting. When I mentioned the idea of staying in one place and travelling often, he is not so keen – he likes being somewhere, but hates the to-and-froing (air travel).
Link has also shown interest in living in Montreal, so who knows, 15 years from now!
My situation is specific to me, and there are so many choices throughout one’s life. Including the choice to focus less on work and wages, and more on living simply. Ultimately I don’t see myself packing in my current lifestyle to live on less. I like the things I have and what I do, as well as who I’m with, and right now, I could not have that mix anywhere else.
And trifling things like sunshine and warmth? Bah, over-rated! 🙂
Have you made decisions about living far from where you grew up? Or moved to another country? If not, is it conceivable that you still might?