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The Downsides of Moving to the City of Your Dreams

downsides moving to perfect city

It is may sound silly, but I think there is something to be said for being restless. And often enough, your environment has the biggest impact on your ability to settle down.

As a traveller or wannabe long-term expat, finding a place that you truly feel at home in is a good thing – but as with any experience, it can bring some downsides along with it.

I found this to be the case when I packed up and moved to Melbourne, Australia. This city has completely ruined my life, in the best way possible.

You see, living in Melbourne for the totality of this year (and possibly beyond) was not part of my Life Plan.

At twenty, I dreamt of moving overseas indefinitely – living in multiple countries, travelling the world. Yet three years in, I put this plan on what I thought was a temporary hold, to return home for a year.

It was during this time that I fulfilled another dream that I’d also conceived at the same age. I moved to Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city.

This was a risky move, on many levels. Having been enamoured with Melbourne from a young age, I’d heaped quite a lot of pretty unrealistic expectations on the place. I’d done the same thing with London, only to discover it wasn’t quite the city for me. It’s a place I love to visit, but I’m not entirely sure that I’d want to call that particular part of England home ever again.

Yet, Melbourne did what only one other place I’ve travelled to has achieved (Iceland, if you’re interested). It turned out to be greater than ever expected.

I find such joy in my day to day life here and walk around the city with a stupid smile on my face, constantly. I’m sure if passers by took a minute to break themselves from the distraction that is their mobile phones and looked at my face, they’d think I was somewhat touched in the head.

So, here are all the downsides I’ve personally encountered, from finding and moving to the city of my dreams before I’ve even turned thirty. Thanks a lot, Melbourne. You just had to be awesome and ruin everything, didn’t you?

It’s hard to leave

I guess this is the overriding negative factor – after having lived in Melbourne, I’m not entirely sure that I’d ever want to live anywhere else.

I’d had plans in my head to spend a year here and then move back to Europe, not necessarily London, but maybe somewhere else abroad. Yet, as my first year here came to a close, I found myself signing another lease, taking up a new job, thinking of investing in a set of wheels or a bicycle and feeling so very excited for all the prospects that my second year here held.

And for now, the possibility of living elsewhere intrigues me, but it does not excite me. I’m happy here and I think leaving within the next couple of years would be the wrong move. At this point in my life, living anywhere else just wouldn’t bring me the same amount of joy as residing in Melbourne does.

downsides moving to perfect city
Angus from ACDC rocking out – Melbourne is full of lovely urban art.

You’ll always miss your city

This doesn’t mean travelling is off the cards, however! There is still stacks of places I want to travel to, in Australia and beyond.

However, as I noticed when I went abroad for three weeks last year and then during a recent trip to Thailand – I am generally always wondering what’s going on at home.

And when the plane finally touches down back onto the tarmac at Tullamarine Airport, I feel a little bit relieved. When I walk through my own front door, I feel nothing but immense satisfaction at finding myself at home (and as excited as possible to get to the laundromat and have clean clothes once more).

To paraphrase Virginia Wolf – “In case you foolishly forget (Melbourne), I am never not thinking about you.”

You invest a lot of money in exploring your own backyard

I made a mistake living in London, where I probably didn’t dedicate enough time to exploring the city and surrounding countryside. There was the constant allure of cheap flights almost everywhere else in the world and it was a hard temptation to resist at times.

As a result, I left the city with a list that remains miles long.

I’m pretty determined not to make the same mistake with Melbourne, so I try to get out and explore as much of the city as I can. I go to local events, explore the suburbs and my bucket list for the state of Victoria is almost as long as that of London (just joking, nothing is that epic).

A friend once asked me: “Do you find you spend a lot of money in Melbourne?” And the short answer is yes. I find myself in a constant state of stimulation – there’s always something going on. Plays, movies, new restaurants to eat at, bars to drink at, art exhibitions to gawk at. I want to see, eat and do it all, but it can cost a pretty penny in the process.

So, I’d probably be a lot richer if I lived somewhere other than Melbourne. But, my life would be a lot poorer for it.

downsides moving to perfect city
Downtown Collingwood.

Everywhere else pales in comparison

When I travel to new places, I find myself mentally comparing them to my favourite city. There are plenty of other places around the world that I’ve travelled to and have been able to picture myself living in.

Funnily enough, they all have something in common – in some degree or capacity, they remind me of Melbourne (particularly Berlin).

You can still be quite far away from the people that matter

Say you find your perfect place – but it’s not near the city, or heck even in the country that you grew up in? What can you do, then?

I am lucky enough to live in the same country as most of family and friends, but then – Australia is also a continent. It is massive. My immediate family and a lot of my mates live in a different state, around 1000 kilometres away. I can fly to see them a lot more regularly than I did when I lived abroad, but flights in Australia aren’t exactly cheap and my visits back home can be so brief that it’s hard to pack everyone I want to see in on one trip.

However – I’ll take it. It would be nice to live a short distance away from the majority of those I care about, but same country and timezone is often good enough. And after spending over a year in Melbourne, I’ve developed new relationships and now have an urban family who help fill the void.

downsides moving to perfect city
Coming at Melbourne from the West.

Nowhere is 100% perfect (but you don’t care anyway)

Despite its title of “most liveable city” (7 years and counting has really helped keep the cost of living here manageable, NOT), Melbourne is far from perfect.

Its beaches are cruddy, which is a pretty poor achievement for any city in Australia. The public transport seems to get steadily worse, while prices increase yearly. I find it quite rough – there are many more parts of Melbourne that I’d never want to find myself alone in at night, as opposed to essentially walking everywhere by myself through most parts of Sydney. People here are more sports obsessed than I would like. It is by no means a cheap city to live in. Did I mention the beaches are shit?

Yet, name me one city that meets all criteria and I’ll be very impressed. In theory, no place is perfect – but sometimes you can find the place that is perfect for you.

As someone who is not psychic, I don’t know what the future holds. The part of me that itches for adventure still dreams of living elsewhere – England again, Scotland, Germany, New Zealand, maybe somewhere in Central or South America (sorry Mum).

But it’s nice to know that there is a city out there that I can always come back to, which will welcome me with open arms.

That’s my story… now over to you. Is there a place you’ve lived in which has completely captured your heart? Why did you feel this way about it? Do you still live there, or have you moved elsewhere only to think about it every waking moment?

If you liked this post, you’ll probably like these too:

Why We Do It
Which is Harder: Moving Abroad or Coming Home?
13 Reasons Why You Should Never Become an Expat
7 Lessons Expat Life Will Teach You
15 Things to Remember When You’re Almost (or Over) 30
11 Tips to Avoid Being Lonely in a New City
Death, Text Messages and Life, Interrupted

And see more content on Melbourne here (I’m trying to build up a stack of articles that are anything but “free things to do in the city!” and “what it’s like to stay in St Kilda!” – not that there’s anything wrong with them, but they’ve been done to death).

Pin me baby, one more time.

Who knew moving to a city you really loved would bring with it its own stack of problems? You don't ever want to leave, you spend way too much money on socialising and wouldn't dream of living anywhere else. Drats. / #ExpatLife / #Expat /

Who knew moving to a city you really loved would bring with it its own stack of problems? You don't ever want to leave, you spend way too much money on socialising and wouldn't dream of living anywhere else. Drats. / #ExpatLife / #Expat /

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  1. It sounds perfect for you, why would you ever leave? Just because your 20 year old self decided something, doesn’t mean your …older(?) self can’t change their mind. …I’m talking to myself here really, my 20 year old self would think I was pretty dull, but I would probably be dead by now if I had carried on like that forever! Enjoy it!

    p.s. I’m with you about Iceland too, but could you stand the long dark winter?

    1. I think there is such joy in being “dull” too now! And yeah, my twenty year old self would probably be pretty unimpressed, but I find such joy in the mundane these days. I do think that it’s largely down to Melbourne being Melbourne. I dunno about living in Iceland as someone who is used to A LOT of sun (could barely cope with a UK winter), but for visits it never disappoints.

  2. Melbourne is absolutely amazing, I lived there for 5 months, only just came back home a month ago and now I’m going back to visit again tomorrow! 😛 Interesting what you say about the beaches, I LOVE the beaches there, but it’s probably because I’m from New Zealand, not Sydney 😉 different standards haha.

    1. Haha Sydney does win where beaches are concerned, but I do think some of those outside the city limits are quite lovely (if not a bit too cold at times!). Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

  3. Finally got around to reading this post… I sort of half dread reading your Melbourne posts because they make my heart ache too much… I think I only started appreciating Melbourne in the last few years I lived there, certainly not for most of the 13 years there. Now I’m kicking myself for not exploring it more (though I do know a lot of the bike trails, haha 😀 ). Once you get your set of wheels, drive out to Marysville and take the Black Spur, it’s a gorgeous drive with these endlessly tall trees – or maybe you’ve been already??). One of my other favourite thing was going out to Warrandyte or Warburton (Lilydale way) for afternoon tea (or Jells Park in the southeast) but I think you’re in the northern/western suburbs (??) so that might be a bit of a drive too far… Must think of a few more things for you to do (though I’m sure you’ve got plenty on your list without my help 🙂 ).

    1. I am sorry about the heartache! I’ve always found it hard to find a balance between exploring the place I live in and other places around it and abroad… this is the first city where I’ve felt like I’ve been doing at least an okay job of it. Will have to add all these to the list! And keen to check out the afternoon tea, that’s my favourite thing to do. Please do send any suggestions my way!

      1. Don’t be sorry, it’s bittersweet and I love reading these posts. 🙂

        If you liked Healesville, you’ll like Warburton. The bike ride from Lilydale to Warburton is fabulous (mostly flat, except for a massive hill at the start) but it’s an 80 km return ride. A good way to spend a Sunday afternoon though, and you don’t feel bad eating a massive amount of cake or scones because you’ll work it all off again on your way back. 😀

        1. Haha I never feel bad about scones… but it is good to even it out. Will have to add Warburton to my epically long list.

  4. Hi LC – great post, I’ve been trawling through all your Melbourne-related ones, as I am a single female Sydneysider looking to relocate to Melbourne for work. I find I can walk around Sydney alone at night too without feeling worried. You mentioned above that parts of Melbourne can get rough – would you be able to share where you find yourself experiencing this? I’m looking to move to Melbourne’s north east, around Collingwood, Carlton North and Fitzroy North, and don’t want to lock myself into housing and find myself in an unsafe area. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Belinda, thanks for your comment. Glad these posts are proving useful – I’m in the process of updating my Melbourne content atm after the many lockdowns and changes wrought upon the city! I’m not sure whether I’d even stand by that comment entirely now, a few years down the track and being a bit older. Some of the city centre itself can feel a bit dicey (thinking of the tail end of Elizabeth Street near Flinders) and I reckon there’s probably parts of Footscray, St Kilda, Collingwood to some extent (lots of young people living just fine around there) and Flemington that have rough pockets. That being said, I’ve spent plenty of time around these areas and have been fine. It’s the type of city where outside the notably fancy bayside suburbs, Toorak and the like, everyone kinda just lives together, which is one of the reasons I like it so much! If I were moving to the city by myself, knowing what I know about it now, I’d definitely consider the suburbs you mentioned, as well as North Melbourne and Brunswick – around Lygon or Nicholson street. All interesting neighbourhoods in their own right and well connected. I particularly like Carlton and North Melbourne. Good luck with your move!

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