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.
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.
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.
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.