Do you love where you live? Why or why not? What circumstances led you there? Did you choose it?
With all that has been going on in the world this past year, resulting in the need to stay home with travel plans thwarted, I’ve been reflecting on this topic. How has self-isolation influenced your feelings about your city of residence? Has it been a positive experience or a heavy one? Do you wish you were somewhere else?
My answers to these questions would have been very different were it not for a life-changing move that I made, by chance, several months before the pandemic.
I moved away from home when I was 17 to attend university in another city; I stayed after graduating, feeling I had outgrown my hometown but not knowing where else to go. I wanted to remain where my new social connections were and for a long time, I do feel I was happy there. However, as the years progressed I found myself travelling regularly- feeling an intense need to escape to places I found more beautiful, more inspirational and more vibrant. As soon as I returned from one trip I would start planning the next, fighting desperately to avoid the feeling of discontent that seemed to plague me.
Last spring while planning and embarking on a bucket list trip to Scandinavia, I was feeling unsettled in my career, my living environment, my external environment, my habits and routine, all of it. I was searching for a spark of insight into how I could make a meaningful change to a life that I had come to accept blindly. I treated this particular trip as an exploration of new possibilities and an opportunity to clarify my values. I wanted to find ‘my place’ in the world, a place that truly felt like home.
I began to take note (literally and figuratively) of the qualities I was drawn to in the places I kept travelling to. Would it not make sense to surround myself with those aspects on a more permanent basis? It seemed so simple once I focused my attention on it. There were many elements that inspired me both on that trip and during past travels that became clearly identifiable in terms of what I was looking for in a forever home:
- Living by the ocean or the sea
- The presence of water, especially salt water, fills me with a peace and level of calm that I cannot find in any other environment. The feeling of being near a body of water that spreads so vastly across the Earth is lifeblood for me, connecting me to the great unknown and invigorating me with a zest for life. The smell, the tang of salt on your tongue and traces of it clinging to your hair after a swim, the abundance of ocean life…it truly cannot be replicated.
- Embracing the great outdoors
- Living in the middle of a land-locked city, I never felt a true connection to nature. There were parks in and around town, but nothing to really spark excitement; I wanted to immerse myself in the culture of outdoor living that I so admired, particularly as exemplified in Scandinavian countries. Nature has a way of soothing my often restless mind and fostering a sense of presence and mindfulness that improves my quality of life immensely.
- A small-town feel
- While I’ve enjoyed having access to the many different opportunities and events that big cities can offer, I feel so much happier in small towns and villages, with a cozy vibe and slower pace of life. As a previous victim of the ‘grind’ culture, I have stressed myself out to the point of illness in previous corporate and management roles. I am grateful for the lesson this has taught me in terms of focusing more on inner peace as a measure of success and I find this easier to embody when away from big-city life.
- Being close to the mountains
- The sight of mountains, whether near or far, invokes a passionate and almost emotional response in the core of my being. I find them to be the ultimate grounding presence. Jagged rock rising from the depths of the earth, snow-capped peaks and the way light, shadow, cloud and fog will play and dance off of these features is mesmerizing to me. Any place I have travelled to with this varying terrain has called to me and is a far cry from the flat landscape of the city in which I previously lived.
Upon returning home from this journey, having clarified what I knew I needed to thrive, going on with life as I knew it was inconceivable. Plans quickly unfolded for a life-changing move across my country of Canada from the interior to the place I now call home: the wild and wonderful Pacific Northwest. I live in a small and utterly charming city, bounded by ocean to the west and mountains to the east, both within view out my windows. There is a plethora of glorious nature to explore and a palpable, relaxed feel. To exist where the natural elements support my wellness has set the foundation for positive shifts in many other aspects of my life. With every fiber of my being I can finally say I have found my place, my forever home- made all the more meaningful by the fact that I consciously chose it.
What are your favourite elements of the place you call home? Is there anything you would change about it if you could? I would love to know!