I ended up living in Connecticut by accident. And while I've enjoyed my time in the Nutmeg State on some levels (I love the Victorian house I bought, and I've created a lovely haven for myself there), I never would have chosen to live where I do. And frankly, I still wouldn't have made that choice; I haven't grown into it as I thought I would. Connecticut has good schools (which I'm happy to pay for, but I don't have and don't want kids), and lovely shoreline area (which I love!), but it's also boring (songs have even been written about it) and I don't have many friends. (Everyone has children and seems to bond over — and socialize via — the kiddos, which isn't for me.) Living here also requires that I drive more than I'd like to, which I only really enjoy doing on long trips; plus, there's just not a lot of culture happening here.
I've also spent time in New York City, which is just an hour away from where I live in Connecticut — and where my boyfriend currently lives — and I've really gotten a feel for city-living life; but as much as I want to love it, and as much as I've tried, the mad crush of all those people is just too much for my nerves. I love the art, music and amazing projects that are always going on, but most of the time I'm so exhausted from running around the city for work-related jobs and meetings that I need to relax all evening just to make it through the next day. It's also insanely expensive, and while when I was younger I made a lot more money (at jobs I uniformly detested), these days I've realized that I'm much happier (mentally, though not economically) as a freelance writer and professional blogger. So NYC is out for the reasons that most other big cities are out; been there, done that, too noisy/too many people, and I can't afford it.
So I've given myself 12 months to divest myself of this great house, sell even more of my stuff (I've been downsizing for some time), and I'd like to do some traveling and live nowhere for awhile with my boyfriend. Mexico, Australia and Hawaii all seem like great options for long sojourns. But there's the question that still nags at the back of my mind; when I do stop somewhere, where will it be? Where is the ideal place for me to live? Taking a city- or town-based job and worrying about kids/schools are both off the table, which gives me a lot of freedom (which I'm so grateful for). I'm also not dedicated to living in the United States (my family is in Australia, I speak French and Spanish passably well, and I've always enjoyed the time I have spent outside America). But it also opens the field up completely! Which is daunting in its own way.
So I'm starting with a list. Here are the non-negotiables for the next place where I put down roots:
No car needed: I don't mind driving, I just don't want to have to do it more than occasionally, and my boyfriend hates to drive. Gas and insurance are expensive, and as an environmentalist, I don't like contributing to global warming any more than I already do, so I'd like to live somewhere we can be car-free. I don't mind having a good walk or bike-ride into town.
Sunshine: I never realized how much I love being outside and getting lots of sun until I spent four months living on the Big Island of Hawaii. As much as I enjoy snow and winter sports, the reverse is also true: I don't enjoy being shut inside all winter (and spring) long. I can deal with the cold, but not the dark.
Access to the outdoors: I feel like I have spent half my life indoors (it's probably been more than half!), even though I'm an avid hiker, bike rider, trail runner, and gardener. I want to live in a place where it's easy to get to the great outdoors (unlike the Connecticut suburbs, or NYC) — like walk-out-the-back-door easy. I think if I live in an area that has lots of access to outdoor activities, there will necessarily be other people there who like to do these things too.
Quiet: I grew up in the country, sleeping to the sounds of cicadas, doing my homework to wind in the trees, and lazing in my hammock to the tune of frogs and birds chirping (and sometimes, my dogs barking). I never noticed how noisy living around other people is, but as I get older, I tolerate it less and less. I really want to live in a place where I can hear the sounds of the natural world as much as possible.
Great food: I love to eat but I don't love to cook. Living somewhere that is proud of its local food heritage and produces plenty of its own local produce and other products seems like a must.
Do you live in a place with all these attributes? (Do tell!) Am I missing something from this list? What would be on your list?