As Jones and I have spent around a year on the road, we've received some interesting comments about our itinerant lifestyle. From the politely interested to the somewhat perplexed, to a suggestions that perhaps we were on the lam, a lot of people don't seem to know what to make of our desire to be (queerly!) nomadic.
How did our plan to explore cities and be geographically independent come about? In my case, a seed was planted one week when I was doing informational interviews. While trying to figure out what direction I wanted to take my career along, I ended up scheduling chats with several people who were 10 years my senior when I was just out of college. I was constantly surprised by the fact that folks' current jobs and cities that they lived in had not been part of a master plan in most cases. They'd ended up in the city where they lived in because they'd first moved there for a new job, or relocated for a partner's opportunity. At some point, you form your own network and community, and leaving it becomes more difficult. However, that initial decision to try out a place, which then led to putting down roots further down the road, often happened by chance! So if that is true, the decisions that we make early on ought to be ones that enable us to be the most satisfied by ensuring that the places where we do end up living are the most likely to end up making us happy. If you are intentional in our location choices (and other choices -- you can really apply this to any choice that you make that has potential future repercussions), then you're the most likely to be pleased with what ends up happening.
With that said, how have we been making choices about the places to live in and explore?
1. Weather, weather, weather. I have about as much tolerance for the cold as a Brazilian armadillo. As soon as the temperature dips below 8°C, I curl up into a little ball until things thaw out to more reasonable temperatures.
But seriously. We care a lot about the amount of sunshine that a place gets, and in general try to stay away from places that have a serious winter. While we're planning on making a few exceptions, this is only because those cities score well on other criteria that are important to us.
2. Queer friendliness. On the one hand, we avoid any country/city where we wouldn't feel comfortable walking around in the street hand in hand. Additionally, since I'm a trans-masculine/dudely/FAABulous individual, I'll usually run into folks not being too sure about my gender identity on a day-to-day basis. We likewise avoid places where this could be a safety issue. Finally, our *ideal* place also has a strong queer community. While certain cities may have a lesbian and a gay community, we've come across places where the idea of someone who is (whoa there) bisexual, or even trans* and out is relatively rare. We try to find places where folks in the queer community can be diverse in their attraction, labels, gender presentation, and so forth.
On the other hand, we've really enjoyed living in some Spanish-speaking countries, where we've found that the queer community tends to swing more lesbian (without other parts of the alphabet soup), and gender presentation tends to be more exclusively femme.
3. Food. All of the food! Jones and I probably spend more time discussing food in great detail than we do any other activity. Searching for food, eating food, finding tasty ingredients for making food -- really anything that involves consuming delicious things is an excellent pastime. Not living in the US has also freed us from having to do as much due diligence with the stuff that we're buying. Fewer weird ingredients make their way into our food, and finding local/farm-raised/organic/eco whatever ingredients has been much easier, in our experience.
4. Let's never live in LA. Despite its beautiful weather, LA is fairly low on our cities to explore. Why? Because we find that we enjoy our days less when we spend a large chunk of it just trying to get places to do the things that we want to do! Our favourite cities so far have been the most walkable ones (Edinburgh, Barcelona), or ones with truly outstanding public transit. We also belive in the financial benefits of avoiding car ownership.
5. Green cities! There are few things as awesome as walking around a leafy park on a sunny day. 'nuff said.
What about you? What aspects of your current (or perhaps future!) city are important to you? How are you trying to be intentional in your location choices?