I wonder how many people really love where they live?
When I say, “love,” I’m referring to a feeling, one of a special connection to the city/country/state in which you reside. A sense of living somewhere that you truly belong – a place that feels like it was designed for you. I know a lot of people choose to live in a location based on family, where they were raised, or where they could find the best job and make the most money, but I wonder how many of us truly love where we live. Do you?
As a child, I was oddly infatuated with all things tropical. Given that I was born and raised in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan – about 2,000 km from the closest ocean – this was a peculiar fascination. I remember an art project in Grade 4 that required us to draw a silhouette of our favorite landscape. Most students drew what they knew – wheat fields, mountain ranges, lakes. I drew the silhouette of a palm tree.
I obsessed over movies that took place in tropical locations like Romancing The Stone and watched MuchMusic videos that depicted sandy beaches (Belinda Carlisle’s Circle in the Sand and Madonna’s Cherish) on repeat. I memorized the words to the Beach Boys Kokomo and was saddened after a desperate atlas search revealed that Kokomo was a fictitious place (damn you, Beach Boys, for false hope!).
My parents brought home catalogues from travel agents filled with pictures of turquoise Caribbean waters and I spent hours pricing out holidays. I was fortunate enough to have a Mom and Dad who loved holidays and took me along on tropical vacations every year (yes – lucky, spoiled me!). When we returned from our vacations, I always cried, wondering why the hell we lived in snow and cold. My parents listened to me complain and suggested that I choose a new place to live when I was old enough to make my own decisions. So my first “adult” decision, at the age of 17, was to spontaneously tattoo a tropical angelfish on my ankle. There! I had never SCUBA dived, nor had I had much experience with tropical fish, but I had put it out to the Universe. I felt like the angelfish suited me. My Dad, on the other hand, did not. (Sorry Dad!)
I’m a big believer in “trying out” places to live (otherwise known as “fear of commitment to location”). My husband and I have had the opportunity to live in 18 different cities throughout the years – from London, England to Biloxi, Mississippi. There were always elements of places that I loved (The people in Scotland were fantastic! The beaches in Pensacola were pristine! Candle Lake summers are breathtaking!), elements that I disliked (The traffic in Calgary sucked! London is way too busy!), and elements that I loathed (-50° today in Saskatchewan? Come on!). We spent many years searching for a location that fit us, and although we lived in places where we had awesome friends, good jobs, and a comfortable life, I just couldn’t shake that silhouette of a palm tree drawing from my head.
Then, one dark frigid January morning in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, snot frozen to my face, I angrily shoveled my car out of a snowbank and threw a legit toddler temper tantrum. “Why the F#$% do we live here?” I shouted repeatedly into the arctic air. I threw the shovel into the snow and something clicked in my brain. Yes. WHY. DO. WE. LIVE. HERE? That day, I began searching for jobs. I literally Googled: “Speech therapy jobs on tropical islands.”
And here we are. Living on a tropical island. It all finally makes sense! Even after 4 years in Cayman, it blows my mind (at least on a weekly basis) that I was able to make my dream a reality. My now faded angelfish tattoo is free from the constraints of wooly socks and regularly “swims” in the Caribbean Sea – right where it belongs.
Making the decision to move here was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever had to do. We took a big leap of faith and never looked back (OK. Truth bomb: I looked back a few times, shrugged with uncertainty, shed more than a few tears, and kept going). I’ll never forget the first view of our (very) tiny island from the airplane window. My stomach churned with excitement/absolute terror. It was incredibly unsettling – like jumping out of a plane and hoping that the parachute actually opens. But man, was it worth it.
I’m not saying that moving to a tropical island is for everyone. I’ve watched plenty of people try out our little slice of paradise and realize that it’s not their jam. There are days when the island flips me the middle finger, and I find myself gritting my teeth with frustration (“Please join this long line. It goes nowhere and no one is working it, but you need to stand in this line for a very long time.”) There are days when I desperately miss my family and friends. But I know it was the right decision for us.
On the other hand, I understand that everyone is different – some feel a special connection to winter, deserts, jungles, etc. Many people dream of raising their kids in the same neighborhood that they grew up in. Some people feel incredible loyalty to their country of birth and never intend to leave. That’s cool too. It’s totally awesome if you’ve found a place to live that meets your needs and offers you comfort. And even if you don’t love it, I hope that you are at least really in like with it.
If you find yourself asking the question, “Why do I live here?” on a daily basis, then I’d like to encourage you to do something about it. There are a million excuses not to – for weeks, I convinced myself that my health wasn’t good enough, that we didn’t have enough money, or that we wouldn’t make any friends. It would have been way easier to say, “Meh, it’s just a pipe dream. Maybe in a few years. We will just book more vacations to combat the winter blues.”
But I’m so glad that I was able to push those fears aside. Be brave. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. Start slow. Start with a Google search! Every evening, when I see the silhouette of a palm tree outside my window, the same palm tree that I drew in fourth grade, I applaud our decision to perform that life-changing Google search which led me to live in a place that I love.
I found my Kokomo. Have you?