January 27, 2022
If you know me personally, you've probably heard the news: Claire and I are moving.
Yes, it’s true. This year, we’re heading to Austin for the first half of the year, then we’ll try Lisbon for the second half (roughly). After those two experiments, we might pick one to live for longer, or we’ll try another location on our list.
Welcome to our Semi-Nomadic Living Experiment™️.
In this post, I'll share why we’re moving, how we’re doing it, the rationale behind choosing locations, plus a few thoughts on how I’m feeling about it all right now.
Like many, the pandemic has given us time to reflect on what we want our lives to look like and a chance to imagine new realities. With the ability to both work remotely, we are curious to experience what living outside the fast-paced lifestyle of a megacity might feel like.
Claire pointed out that whilst we share lots of common ground in the rationale behind moving, we naturally each have our own unique reasons for seeking this change. I’ll alternate in this post between sharing my own personal reflections as well as some shared reflections.
One thing we share is intention. We both endeavor to bring a sense of intention to anything we do. Sometimes that word can feel a little stuffy, but to us, it’s simply about being choiceful, rather than living on autopilot.
Where you live is one of those big decisions that are often made by default. You grew up in a place, or you ended up there for a job. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but we want to be considerate and thoughtful about where we put down long-term roots.
Of course, there is a tremendous sense of privilege in being able to think like this, which we know and appreciate. Very few people have an opportunity to choose freely where they live, so realizing that we do have a choice here has made us even more determined to pursue it.
There are other areas Claire and I are in agreement as well, including weather and nature. We both love being outside and living an active life. It’s hard to do that in London, not least of all because the weather is prohibitive.
Where we have some differing views is on London itself.
We both love a lot about London, but I feel a stronger pull towards other potential locations. The combination of size, pace, lifestyle, and weather doesn't feel ideal to me.
That said, neither of us is ruling it out as a long-term home. But given some of the qualities above, we both felt it was the right time to test out potential new locations to call home.
We first decided we’d both like to move towards the end of 2020. At first, we thought we would just pick a place and move. That’s what people do, right?
We initially had our eyes set on Miami after spending some time there in 2021 and generally enjoying the city and the proximity to some of my family. But through a reflective conversation with my friend Ben, the idea of experimentation was born.
The question he brought to life was: Why not try out a few cities before committing to one?
Choosing where to live is one of those big decisions that influence thousands of other factors in your life. It influences who you’ll spend time with, the lifestyle you’ll live, the opportunities that will be available to you, and so much more.
It’s one thing to think about what a city is like in your head, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually live there and experience it.
We knew visiting for a week would only be a partial glimpse, so we decided we’d aim to spend at least three months in each location to allow ourselves to get immersed in the city and feel what it’s like to live there.
Lucky for us, this is possible with the business we’re running (life update ICYMI: Claire is joining full-time this year!). I’m not saying it will be easy, because many of the clients we have are based in Europe, but I’m confident we will make it work.
It dawned on me during this process how amazing the world that we live in today truly is. Had we tried this experiment even 20 years ago, it would have been so much more difficult and complex. But thanks to the Internet, we can research cities on Google, book accommodation via Airbnb, find flights on Kayak, or hop on a Zoom with a local to get advice,
Even so, it’s not been easy to manage this move. As I write this, we’re in the final 10% of the process and it’s emotional, time-consuming, stressful, and chaotic. Both of us can’t help but fantasize about the feeling of sitting down on the flight on Monday, with all the packing behind us. Wish us luck!
Over the past 18 months, we have spent a lot of time talking about where we want to live.
We’ve sketched a vision of what we want our ideal lives to look like, we’ve compared our personal values and what we are looking for in a home, and we’ve discussed all the pros and cons of the cities we’ve lived in.
This helped us narrow down the list and focus on fewer places.
The factors at play for both of us are: weather, nature, size, culture, and friends & family.
Of course, this list isn't exhaustive. We've also thought about cost-of-living, career opportunities, language barriers, and more, but for the sake of simplicity, we've boiled it down to the following.
Claire and I are both in agreement on this one, and it’s at the top of our list for a reason. Simply put, the climate you live in affects so many other factors on the list. The warmer and sunnier the place, the more likely it is you’ll spend time outdoors and in nature. The more time outdoors, the better your health.
When we looked at the US, it narrowed our search to the warmer states in the South and the West Coast. Miami, Austin, and San Diego were all on our list, but we've decided to focus on Austin this year.
As for Europe, the options were slightly more limited given there aren't as many warm and sunny cities. Lisbon and Barcelona floated to the top, and we’ve decided to focus on Lisbon this year.
With better weather comes more access to nature. We don’t want to live off-the-grid or out in the countryside, but both of us do want easier access to the outdoors.
I believe strongly that nature is essential to our mental and emotional wellbeing, and spending so many years in the urban jungle of London (despite its many great parks!) has charged up a strong desire to be in a place where getting outside is easy.
Lisbon is great for this, with beaches, surfing, and beautiful natural parks all within an easy drive or train.
Austin seems well-suited too, even if it doesn’t have an ocean or mountains. From what we’ve seen, people spend a lot of time on the lake or river, or hiking in the hills just outside town.
Additionally, they're both smaller cities which means it's so much easier to escape. While there is some beautiful countryside and forests outside of London, it can feel like a mission to get there.
Size matters, right?
I think the size of a city correlates with the friendliness and openness of its people. It’s hard to care about other people when you have to deal with thousands of strangers around you each day. Of course, a country’s culture also has something to do this with too!
Both Lisbon and Austin have populations of under 1M people, compared to the 9M in London. I’ve spent a bit of time in each, and I’ve found the people generally warm, friendly, and approachable.
Smaller cities generally mean a slower pace of life, which is something I’m seeking too. It’s hard not to get entangled in the hustle and bustle culture of a city like London. I want to be in a more relaxed and laid back environment, and I’m hoping smaller cities will bring that.
A huge perk of living in London is access to culture. Live music, theater, art galleries, restaurants, comedy shows, the list goes on. We’ll both miss this a lot.
As we’ve scouted locations, we’ve tried to find places that offer a good balance of these activities, with a more laidback quality of life. I don’t need great nightclubs or an amazing going-out scene, but I definitely want to be able to catch a gig or relax in a gallery for an afternoon.
This has been a tough one for both of us. We have such incredible friends in London, plus Claire has most of her family here. Going anywhere else was going to be tough as we’ll need to forge new friendships and build a new community.
The US has some natural advantages to me, seeing as I'm American and have friends and family spread all over. Even though my family doesn't live in Austin, they'll still be much closer to me than they have been while I've been in London. I have a few friends in Austin, but not many. It will be interesting to see how Claire and I get on with people in Austin.
Portugal doesn't have family for either of us, nor does it have many close friends. But, it's in the same timezone as the UK and it's a short 2-hour flight back to London. This means it'll be much easier to visit Claire's family, and I'm sure we will have no shortage of our London friends escaping the winters to come to visit us.
I think the bottom line is that when you are married to somebody from a different country, finding the perfect place to call home ain't gonna be easy. Either way, one of us is going to have to sacrifice being close to family, but I trust that this living experiment will at least give us a better sense of what options we have.
The mix of emotions we’ve both been feeling throughout this process has really run the gamut. As we head into our final days, I’d say I’m fluctuating between excitement and fear.
I’m incredibly excited about the adventure ahead of us. I’m excited to be in the sunshine, seeing family, exploring new cities, and meeting new people.
But I’m also afraid. I’m afraid that I’ll miss my friends in London, I’m afraid the moving will negatively impact the business, I’m afraid that we might not find a place we love.
I think feeling this mix of emotions is a good thing. It's a sign that we're in transition, and that change is underfoot.
While change is never easy, in the past, it's always pushed me to grow and develop in unexpected ways.
Here's to hoping the same holds true on this new adventure!
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