Along the lines of what I’ve written recently, I want to think about an open question:
How long does it take for you to decide whether you could see yourself living in a city?
I see this as a central question for myself through 2012 and beyond.
I am hoping that in a couple years (or maybe sooner), I will not be so much of a ‘bootstrapper’, but rather a wealthy explorer who can go wherever he wants. If I have plenty of spending cash, I can afford to both ‘see the sites’, and to decide if a place is worth living in. But right now I don’t have the money to spend on your typical tourist travel.
I am also not a vacationer– someone who has saved up a travel fund for the specific purpose of traveling or backpacking around the world. A vacationer may or may not be wealthy, but still they are not looking for places they would like to live. They are traveling the world to ‘see the sites’ and take vacations.
I am interested in finding places I enjoy living in.
So, taking into account these considerations, how long does it take to know whether you would live in a city? You know, like put down roots and live there on a permanent or semi-permanent basis?
When I first started traveling in 2011, my first city was Bogotá.
I was there for 2 months. At the time, I wasn’t as clear about my purpose in traveling, but I think I was in a sort of daze because I had nothing to compare it to. It was the first time I had lived outside the United States for more than 2 weeks. (I also was confined to a rather small circle due to a volunteering commitment.)
When I left, I didn’t have a too strong of an opinion, but I had a hunch there were better places.
Then I took a trip to Medellin to realize how unhappy I’d be in Bogota. I now had another point of reference, and it wasn’t even a close call between the two. Medellin was much more desirable.
I’d say it took about 6 weeks, though, to decide I really wanted to go back to Medellin, and then another 4 weeks in the city to really realize I would be happy living there.
So, altogether it took a little over 2 months to come to the full realization.
Other cities like Cartagena (though hot and beautiful) and Santa Marta (hot and… well… hot), I easily decided within 1 week that I could not see myself living there. I think this was particularly because I now had a leading point of comparison.
In Ecuador, Cuenca was touted as a top retirement destination by world renown magazines and positively reviewed by a number of blogs and websites. I had read a lot about a spring-like climate, low cost of living, and the like. From all that I was able to research, it looked like it could be a really great place.
I had been planning to set up shop there, so I stayed there 6 weeks… That was about 4 weeks too much. I could have decided in 2-3 weeks that it wouldn’t be where I’d live.
I had already read reports on the rather dangerous city Quito, and somewhat as a result, I only needed a week there to realize it wasn’t for me.
I also visited some places on the Ecuadorian coast, but I realized very quickly (for Bahía de Caráquez, within a matter of hours) that I couldn’t live there.
One day I might come back to visit Ecuador, see the sites, go to the Galapagos, take the pictures… But I wouldn’t live there on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.
So… back to the original question…
How long does it take to decide that you would live in a place or not?
For some places it takes 1 day or less. For other places, 1 week or less. For still others, 1 month.
For the heavy hitters, the upper-tier cities… maybe 2-3 months.
At some point you’ve gotta give yourself time to get to know the locals, understand the culture, become aware of it’s particularities, it’s charm, it’s way.
This also doesn’t take into account the time you need to develop good friendships. Good friends can make even the most mundane place a rich time.
This also doesn’t take into account the life of a person who could live in a hut somewhere, away from major cities, modern conveniences, substantial development, and city features. That’s a whole other lifestyle.
I think there is something about a city you would love, though. When you first arrive, you just feel it. It’s intangible, and a combination of a lot of different input points. And this feeling makes you stay a little longer.
Then after a sufficient period of time, you’re ready to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’…
In my experience, the ‘nays’ can come quickly, but the real ‘yays’ take time.