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What does where we live say about us?

Posted in Life & Love

santa monica fogWhy do we live where we live? Was it economic circumstances that brought us there? Love, maybe? Or did we choose to stay close to where we grew up? What informs one of the most fundamental decisions with a potential to shape our outlook on life?

I call Los Angeles home, but it wasn’t always so. I arrived by chance, on a job offer I couldn’t pass up but I wasn’t planning to stay. Then, two things happened: I fell in love and got married and, gradually, I also fell in love with this complicated metropolis so much so that, now, the word “home” conjures beaches, canyons and freeways. This decision, though, did cost me. My birth family is six thousand miles away; some of my closest friends are nowhere nearby and I lived in a state of “not belonging” for close to two decades.

My first boy crush was at 8, my first love at 18 but the first time I fell hard for something other than a man was at 15, when I first set my eyes on London. So unlike the warm land where I grew up, it stirred an unexpected Anglo-Saxon bent in me which I honored by choosing to live in London as soon as it was reasonable to do so. I would make that choice over and over again: London has always been the place that stoked my imagination and my ambition. London fulfills me and complements me in ways that no other place on earth has been able to. Yet, I don’t live there. Things happened, career choices took over, love won and here I am, in a city that couldn’t be more polar opposite.

Three sides of LA: foggy beach, skyscrapers and mountains
Three sides of LA: foggy beach, skyscrapers and mountains

Los Angeles works for me because we share the same rhythm, it feeds the part of me that likes a healthy lifestyle, the outdoors and a bottomless and curious art scene but I wonder in what ways I would be different had circumstances kept me in London.

We are increasingly becoming a society of nomads but how many of us choose to live somewhere solely based on pure love of a place? How many do organize their lives around needing to honor an attraction? Have you? Why do you live where you live?

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22 Comments

  1. Oh my, do you have cameras in my house? This is exactly what I’ve been struggling with – I just arrived from LA this week and have been considering trading London for that American city where I definitely don’t feel at home… life is so much cheaper, the man in my life is very open to the change but I just don’t feel it. What to do?
    London is so expensive right now, but oh so beautiful. LA is chaos and too hot for me, but I have friends nearby and would probably make a better living for myself.

    You mention feeling like an outsider for so long – how did the feeling go away? Did love help things? Let me know, I really need an European’s perspective on things!

    March 10, 2016
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    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      I just sent you a private message so I can tell (bore) you at length on the joys and pains of living in LA!

      March 11, 2016
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      • Thanks, I’ll send you an email back! Looking forward to picking your brain 😀

        March 11, 2016
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  2. Such great questions! It’s reassuring to read all these comments from fellow nomads. I’ve lived a few places… Grew up in the midwest, then moved to New England for high school, Scotland for college, Japan for a year, New York for a while, and finally San Francisco when Manhattan started to get me down. Now after 20 years in the Bay Area, I’m looking for my next destination. It’s interesting to read about your experience in San Diego, because likewise the reaction of people who live elsewhere when I tell them I’ve fallen out of love with San Francisco is… shock. It’s true, you can’t beat it for weather, pro sports (very important to me) and access to outdoor activities. But it’s too expensive, with depressing, growing income inequality, and a crumbling infrastructure that can’t support all the Millennials who want to make their fortunes at a start up.

    Who knows where I’ll land next. Chicago? Great food and culture and truer to my midwest, working class roots but the weather is pretty awful. Seattle? I actually wouldn’t mind the damp after Scotland. I’m past the point of moving to a new city without a job, so career opportunities will probably help dictate where I land. Back to the UK would be amazing, but not sure how I’d make that happen at this stage. As I type all this I keep deleting excuses akin to “I’m too old for that now”. When did I become so risk averse?

    March 8, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I think “risk averse” comes with the territory of aging. I have to kick myself now and again and remind myself not to be a pussy. You could also look at it as being less foolish. Unforseen mishaps hurt more now than they did 20 or 30 years ago. It’s interesting what you say about San Fran. I did a stint at Google a few years ago and, after 3 months, I was offered a full time job (I was only consulting for their 26 cafes…) and I pondered for a while, looked at rentals etc. The money was great. I am not too sure how to say this without coming across as an a*hole but I found a smugness to the city that put me off. A holier than thou mecca that, as you confirm, hides a multitudes of sins. Although, let me assure you, way better than San Diego any day….Still a great place to visit.

      March 8, 2016
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      • Whoa more smug and entitled than the Bay Area is tough to achieve. I feel bad saying that, though, since there is much to love here. There are days when the weather is perfect, and I’m with friends in a neighborhood where the food is excellent and the architecture is beautiful and I think “what’s wrong with me?”. I’m sure the universe will reveal the right path eventually, with enough uncertainty to make the risk exciting but not lethal. 🙂

        March 9, 2016
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  3. Maurits Kalff
    Maurits Kalff

    Very nice post and a interesting question. I call myself a ‘European Nomad’: born and raised in Amsterdam, then moved (for love) to Antwerp. Work then made me move to the city I always wanted to live in, Paris. It was exactly what I expected and wanted it to be: 4 years of bliss that redefined me in many ways.
    Then work made me move to a city I had never considered and that was London. Although it was a difficult start, London soon became not just my home, but also my spiritual home. It is the city where I have learned to be my best. That was 16 years ago and I am pretty sure this is the place where I’ll be for the rest of my life.
    During those 16 years, my partner and I spent some years in Cape Town, for his work. Whilst keeping our London home, I had to try to make the most of living in Cape Town. It didn’t work. My belonging to London held me back in everything and to justify that, I developed a strong dislike for what is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I cannot recall a happier day in my life, than the day I arrived back in London.

    The best way to summarise this is as follows: Amsterdam allowed me to develop as authentically as possible, Paris is the love of my life, Cape Town the affair I should never have had and London the best relationship I could wish for.

    March 4, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I also frame all the cities I lived in as love affairs. I lived for two years in San Diego, which is, to the eyes of most, beautiful. I disliked every minute of it – I already belonged to Los Angeles and I didn’t rest until I moved back here. The two times I visited Cape Town I was bewitched and I even considered moving for a nanosecond: it looked like Los Angeles on steroids. I suppose it has everything to do with what we are looking for at certain moments in time – I am good at adapting but, sometimes, our soul wants what it wants. And I envy you London – a little bit.

      March 5, 2016
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  4. This is something that I have been thinking about lately, but on a more local level. We live in the same urban area where both of us were born, although we’ve lived in other parts of the country too. But our region is changing very rapidly, not necessarily for the better, and those changes are starting to affect our neighbourhood directly. It’s still a very livable place, but we’re unsure about what it’s going to become.

    March 4, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      That is an interesting question: what happens when our environment changes around us and we either don’t like the changes or we don’t keep up with them (or, in some cases, we can no longer afford them). I love my bucolic corner of Los Angeles where I have lived for 13 years but more mega-mansions have been built and more young techies and movie industry people have been moving in. When I walk the dogs, I notice the beat up VWs and cooking oil Mercedes have been replaced by a fleet of Tesla. Will I want to be here still in 5 or 10 years?

      March 5, 2016
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  5. The only place that makes me feel whole? Greece. I hope I will die there one day. In the meanwhile, a flat land:-)

    March 4, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I wonder if you picked Greece because it feels like the polar opposite of Belgium. Do you really see yourself living there? Or is it just a back pocket fantasy? I have fantasized about a whitewashed house on a Greek island over the years.

      March 5, 2016
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  6. I left NYC and moved to Los Angeles for work. Was there for ten years and it was never home. I now know if I worked in different field, my L.A. experience would’ve been very different.

    I chose Italy. Which was a big surprise. I always thought I would live in London or Paris. Great cities, Rome was not on my radar when I was growing up.

    Despite all her issues, Italy is home.

    March 4, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      You took my place….I left Italy because I was in search of adventure and because a new culture beckoned but also because I felt Italy stifling. It would be very hard for me to live there again (despite my husband’s wishes) but I can’t help wonder if I would feel differently if I actually moved there. I love the place – just doesn’t feel like home anymore. And Rome is beyond beautiful, in all its chaotic self.

      March 5, 2016
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  7. Great post. I too have moved a lot, South Africa, Paris, London , Copenhagen, Los Angeles and now Dordogne in France. I agree wholeheartedly that once a nomad, forever one.

    March 4, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      That is a pretty wide variety – how was Copenhagen? Many in the US look at Scandinavia as the ultimate chimera.

      March 5, 2016
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  8. Aw, London, my home for a decade and a special place in my heart for life. I left it nearly half a decade ago, and am currently contemplating my next move… forever a nomad, me 🙂

    March 3, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I am curious to see where you will be heading next….and will the move be based on…language?

      March 5, 2016
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      • Lisbon, methinks. And yes, of course – I want to get my Portuguese up to speed. Though part (a BIG part) of my motivation is the glorious food 🙂 …especially CAKES.

        March 5, 2016
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  9. Very thought-provoking and interesting post. I should be living in Carmel, California, where I actually was born. But I live in Oklahoma, where I do not belong. I know it’s not supposed to be about that, blah blah blah, but have you ever been to Oklahoma? It’s just where we ended up. I wanted to leave before my girls began junior high, but we couldn’t. Fortunately, because I insisted to dragging them around the world, they had experiencse beyond the borders of Oklahoma as well as the U.S. They managed college in spite of our terrible school system, and went on to get multiple masters degrees. I cared more about how happy and successful they would be, instead of focusing on what I didn’t have here – decent weather, culture, live music, rivers, mountains, oceans, a farmers’ market, exotic produce, seafood, and like-minded people. But I’m here and I’ll die here. We’re retired, love our home (for once), and are recluses. I’ve managed a few lovely friends whom I treasure, and make all of the difference. Plus, with the cost of living as low as it is here, we can travel, which we do often. Sorry about the novel, but you asked!!!

    March 3, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I admire you. I always prided myself in being able to adapt, even if plopped on some remote island. Then San Diego came my way. So pretty, I moved because of family. And I just couldn’t make it work. I felt stifled, all of a sudden worrying about PTAs and bake sales. I was surrounded by women who didn’t work and focussed entirely on the children, in a very conservative environment (the influence of the military bases is powerful). Culture-wise, it felt like the options were all second tier. I really tried for a while and then, in misery, I gave up. Waited for the oldest kid to graduate high school and moved back here. Right now, the cost of living has many young people moving to places like Portland. And who can blame them? A start up house in the LA metropolitan area is around a million dollars (nothing fancy, with work needed….). How much does that buy you in Oklahoma?? Salaries might be higher here but not really commensurate to the cost of living.

      March 5, 2016
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      • I can only imagine many reason why San Diego would be stifling. I’ve also never been accepted by those women. All of my friends are from out of state! You wouldn’t believe what you can get property-wise here. I actually can’t tell you without acting really snobby. My house and six acres would cost ten times as much in Texas even.

        March 6, 2016
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