Yesterday’s NaBloPoMo writing prompt (I didn’t get very far with the whole “blogging every day” thing, did I?) was: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
It’s such a seemingly straightforward question, but when I thought about how to answer it, it started to unspool in front of me, spawning a tangle of associated questions and thoughts about how location has been a defining characteristic of my life: my peripatetic childhood as an Army brat, my college years bouncing between Massachusetts and Germany, my post-college life in Freiburg, my current life as an ex-pat in Brighton, and, ultimately, my travels with Jeremy, which have taken me to countless places that have captured my imagination and made me stop and think: “I could live here.”
But where would I really want to live? I’d have to divide my answers up into two categories: the realistic possibilities (as in, places I could actually potentially wind up in some day) and the comforting fantasies (as in, places that probably don’t exist).
In terms of realistic possibilities, I’d say Brooklyn, Seattle and San Francisco are at the top of the list. I have to admit that my perception of the first two places has been affected by family ties; my brother and sister-in-law live in Seattle, and my mom’s side of the family has its roots in New York, so the connection I feel to these places goes deeper than simply liking all the coffee shops and artisanal food producers. That said, I do love the coffee shops and artisanal food producers. I also love the mountains around Seattle and the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn. I love that these are cities on the water as well (as treacherous as that water can be). All of this applies to San Francisco, too, though the presence of friends and acquaintances would be the substitute for family ties in this case. Equally, these are all places where Jeremy and I could both easily work and where we’d already have a network of people we know to ease our transition into a new life. So when I think about moving for real instead of just going off on flights of fancy, these are the places that come to mind first.
There is a sub-category of realistic possibilities consisting of places where I think I could live quite comfortably but can’t picture myself actually moving to (at least, not anytime soon). Amsterdam and Berlin are probably at the top of the list here; Amsterdam charms me and Berlin fascinates me, but I don’t have any particular reason to move to either place. More unrealistically, I’d add places like Sydney and Kyoto; Sydney dazzles me and Kyoto enchants me—but maybe it’s enough to be dazzled and enchanted as a tourist in these towns.
When it comes to comforting fantasies, I picture living in a place that exists beyond the spatial constraints of the real world. It’s a cozy cottage, and it has a big kitchen with French doors that open onto a patio and lovely garden. There are neighbors close enough to be available if I need them but far enough away that I never see or hear them when I don’t want to. It’s within walking distance of a friendly, tidy town filled with the coffee shops of San Francisco, the markets of Seattle and the artisanal food producers of Brooklyn. All of our friends and family live in this town or the surrounding towns so we can see them whenever we want. This town is in the Scottish Highlands, on the Washington coast, on the Cornish coast, in the Florida Keys, in the French countryside, in Tuscany, in the Alps, in the west of Ireland. It’s wild and windswept, placid and tropical, calm and quiet, fun and bustling. Oh, and it’s close to an airport so I could easily get to all of the other places that aren’t this place.
So, the short answer: if I could live anywhere, I would choose to live everywhere.