If you could live anywhere, where would you live? Maybe it would be under the palms in an archetypal long haul holiday destination, or in a prefab pod on a wild western frontier, or behind a wall of glass in a busy city full of stuff to stimulate and entertain, to stop your brain from atrophying?
Would you lean towards the kind of place that offers things you know and like (sausages, bars, seasons), or choose somewhere that throws up a new set of pleasures and challenges? Would you lend yourself to a country, or forge bonds, put down roots? Some years ago I suggested a paper I worked for start an Expat Lives column and got to call and interview people each week about their daily lives in Japan / Panama / Patagonia / India. Compared to me at my desk, everyone appeared to be having a fabulous time, their lives a social whirl, but almost all confessed to missing ‘home’ whether that home was a country circa 1980, or a notion of childhood, or just somewhere they had made vigorous efforts to escape from.
I’m a freelance journalist (Times, FT, Guardian, High Life, Business Life etc), and producer. I was born in London, and while I grew up in Africa and have spent a large part of my career in Central America, in hotels and on planes, it’s London, (home to many friends and the people who pay me) which has remained a default base. I don’t regard it as home though. I can’t afford to do the things I want to do in it (i.e. park or work without the certainty of financial reward on my own projects), the climate’s not a good fit, and while I can run in heels, read French menus and know my contemporary arts, I do hanker after the kind of hot, empty places where you can drive barefoot.
So I started thinking, ‘as, theoretically, I can live anywhere in the world,’ (despotic, war-torn locations aside) ‘where shall I live?’ It was complicated. I did more research, and tried a few countries out for size. I went across the states and back, meeting communities of Swedes and Poles, smart people who think anything is possible, and Texans reinventing the American dream as a simpler, smaller, personal odyssey (USA Road Trip). I re-enacted Walden, but in the tropics, and lived for eight months on an isolated beach in the south of Costa Rica (Somewheresville Hot). I drove all over England, from Bakewell to Snape, and then headed due south and sunk my money into a battered old farm in Cadiz.
Whether it is possible to transplant yourself in such a random fashion I do not know. Freedom for those of us lucky enough to have it is a baffling business. I’m afraid the posts on this blog aren’t profound or particularly helpful, but maybe they’ll be of vicarious interest to someone thinking of doing the same, or resonate with someone else who has taken it upon themselves to select a new home in another country, whose heart sings when they look out of the window each morning but who constantly wonders if there is anywhere – a somewheresville – where they are meant to be, and if so, whether this is it.