The environment in which we live our day-to-day lives is incredibly important. We interact with it. We have influence on it. Most relevantly, we are shaped by it to some degree. Our environment offers us possibilities, but it also places limitations on us. Certain lifestyles, careers, and hobbies are only realistic in certain places. I have thought a lot about where I want to live (I'll write another blog post about where that is and how I came to that conclusion). Here are the important factors for me in choosing a place to live. These are factors that contribute to my overall sense of fulfillment in life, which allow me to clearly discern the place that is the most suitable for me. I have ranked them by importance in the following tier list:
When it comes to choosing where I would want to live, a few prerequisites would have to be met before I would even consider other factors. The place must be safe, in terms of the crime rate, the types of crime, and the general vibe. It would also need to have adequate healthcare. More accurately, I want to feel comfortable with the healthcare that exists there. The last factor in this top tier is more unusual, as most people either don't care about it this much or don't even want it at all. I personally want to live somewhere coastal. I love feeling the vastness of the ocean and the peace of walking along a beach. It cannot be overstated how much this contributes to my sense of fulfillment.
Once a place has met the prerequisites, I look at what I consider to be essential for reaching the "life is amazing" level of fulfillment: walkability. This factor is perhaps also unusual, but once again, it is something that contributes significantly to my feeling of fulfillment. I feel more free, more independent, and more healthy when I am able to conduct my everyday activities by foot, without a car. When a place is designed for people and for walkability, it makes me feel more cozy, more comfortable, and quite frankly, more safe. I find every aspect of it to be beautiful, and so much of what makes me feel fulfilled is feeling like things are beautiful or feeling like life in general is beautiful.
This next tier is what I consider to be important but not quite essential. With that said, I am striving to live in a place that offers me these factors: year-round weather that I like and relatively lower cost of living. From my experience, weather sets the highest and lowest points of my basic range of emotions (I will write another blog post in the future articulating how I experience things emotionally). When I like the typical year-round weather of a place, my everyday life is noticeably better. Without changing anything else and being influenced by any activity, I feel noticeably more fulfilled with my existence when I like the weather. A relatively lower cost of living has a similar effect, but in relation to activities obviously. Being from Vancouver, I have lived most of my life in one of the most expensive places in the world. The housing prices are astronomical and only seem to continue to climb up. Not only does it suck that it would be much more difficult for me to own a residence there, but also, it sucks that the people around you in the city struggle with it too. The cost of rent is similarly high and annoying. Looking at things like dining out, which I thoroughly enjoy, the cost is also quite high. I would dine out more frequently and have those enjoyable experiences more frequently if the prices were lower, the taxes were included in the price, and the tipping culture didn't exist, like many parts of the world outside of North America. The reality is I know that I can get the same thing for a lower cost, or get more and better things for the same cost, if I lived in a place with a relatively lower cost of living. These two important factors are not essential for taking life from good to amazing, but they certainly make that sentiment much easier to reach.
There are many things that I find meaningful and would definitely prefer to have in the place I live; however, these are also things that I am content with not having. The first factor in this tier is culture, which is quite broad. What I refer to here is the general perspective of a place's residents on various things, such as education, morals, and politics. Some concepts and attitudes are definitely essential factors, but in general, I don't mind there being some differences. If I like a lot of the common perspectives persisting in a place, then my experience there would most likely be better. In the same way, my time living in a place could benefit from liking these other cultural aspects: food, traditions, language, and history. Another factor that falls into this tier is the architecture of a place. This relates back to my belief that the physical environment in which we live is important. When I highlighted the reasons as to why walkability is so essential to me, I pointed out how certain ways of designing a space could significantly affect how I feel. When it comes to architecture, certain aesthetics and functions could have a similar emotional effect on me. I also appreciate the history and stories behind the various erections of a place, which once again, could affect how I feel. The next factor in this tier is being in proximity to friends and family. To a lot of people, this factor is probably of much greater importance. In fact, I know plenty of people who despise the weather of a place or the culture of a place, but choose to live there anyway simply due to the fact that their family and friends are there. Ironically, often times, their family and friends also have plenty of things that they don't like about where they live and are also choosing to stay for the same reason. I am an independent person, who can maintain long distance relationships with people, who can make new friends simply by living my life, and who understands that any family member or friend could choose to move away to another place at any time for any reason. If I know that a place is more suitable for me and contributes more to my fulfillment, I am completely content with moving away from family and friends. This is also because I never truly feel like I belong anywhere, I never desire a strong sense of belonging (I will write a blog post about this too), I can easily adapt to new environments, I am comfortable in what many would describe as "uncomfortable" situations or settings, I focus so much on the nuances and importance of being an individual, and I frown upon people's tribalistic codependency or reliance on others for their own fulfillment in life. The final two factors of this tier are both aspects of urban planning, which we did a 2+ hour episode on: public transit and bike infrastructure. While walkability is essential to me, other aspects of urban planning that makes carless commute convenient are meaningful to me too. Life is easier and better with a well designed public transit system, especially train-related types such as trams/streetcars, subways, sky-trains, and trains straight up. Also, I would really enjoy using bicycles on a regular basis if the infrastructure allowed it. Truthfully, a single line denoting the bike lane, which drivers often ignore, does not make me feel safe enough to actually bike. As meaningful as all these factors are, I want to stress once again that I can reach the "life is amazing" level of fulfillment without them.
The lowest tier on the list is the factors that I think would be nice to have. They are the cherries on top - the garnish. They are not that meaningful but their existence would be appreciated. Over time, the accumulation of experiences enabled by these factors would contribute a significant amount to my fulfillment. The factor in this tier is a solid restaurant scene. As I mentioned before, I enjoy dining out, with friends or by myself. It is nice to have places I can frequent for tasty dishes. It is also nice to have restaurants of different styles and different cuisines I can try out or just switch things up once in a while. I also love to cook at home. There are many things I eating cooking and more importantly, eating. Some of those things require access to cultural ingredients such as ChongQing spicy hot pot soup base, guanciale, and Japanese curry cubes. In terms of recreation and pastime, it would be nice to have nice parks and trails, as additional ways to enjoy nature. I would enjoy having decent sports facilities too, such as football (soccer works too, I just prefer the term, football) fields and basketball courts. On the theme of sports, I would like to have a professional sports team that I actually like in the place I live. I am a fan of watching pro sports, whether it is at home, at a bar, or at the live venue. If there are local pro sports team and I actually like them or some of them, then I would get something out of it; I would be able to have nice experiences from it. Lastly, I would enjoy frequenting opera houses and jazz clubs. I am a big fan of both of these broad genres of music; I am a bigger fan of live music in general. Although, I only like live music in more intimate and orderly settings, hence opera houses and jazz clubs. Crowds, mosh pits, and other elements that create a chaotic vibe for me drastically decrease my overall enjoyment of the live music experience; thus, they also rid me of any desire to partake in it. I prefer to sit down and enjoy the musical performance, perhaps with a drink or even a meal. I might do some dancing at a jazz club if there's a proper dance floor and the music has the "right" groove. At the end of the day, it really isn't a big deal if the factors in this tier are not present in a place that I am considering living in.