I’ve always thought of myself as someone who could live anywhere. I like to try on different lives and see things from different perspectives. As I get older though, I guess I become less adaptable. After a year on the road, I’ve been ready to settle some place for a while. Before I left on my farming adventure, oddly enough, I was actually in search of the perfect city. I love the city and the country equally but feel like the city is the right thing for me at this time of my life (as long as I can get enough time away). I’d always wanted to be based in Europe and thought Stockholm was my dream location and tried to move several times but it never worked out. I came to Portugal on a whim, and as it turned out Lisbon had many of the things I was looking for and I hope to make it my home for as long as possible. I guess it comes down to thinking about what’s really important to you in the same vein of what I talked about here.
What does your perfect city look like? I ended up finding my dream city in Lisbon! Of course no place is perfect and you sometimes you really do have to make the best of where you are and I do know you can find beauty and great things everywhere. That said, it’s great to live someplace that makes you feel good and is in line with what you value. Here’s what I look for in a city:
As a freelancer, it’s really important to me to live someplace I can afford. It’s why I lived in Portland, OR for so long. I don’t see the point of living someplace cool if I can only afford an apartment with rats and I have to work all the time. That said, I think a lot about priorities and perhaps you spend more on housing but you go without a car. You have too look at it from different angles.
Art + Culture:
I love going to the ballet and spending rainy afternoons in museums. This is something I missed in Portland. While there are a fair amount of cultural events and a great symphony and if you look you will find things, Portland has more of a crafting culture than an art culture, though perhaps that is changing a bit now. This is something I really love about Europe. I’ve found amazing theater in small English towns and incredible museums in off the way farming communities in Germany.
Close to the Sea
Growing up in New England and Washington state, being near the sea is a necessity for me. Lisbon is located right on the River Tagus which feeds into the Atlantic so watery views abound and the sea is just a hop, skip, and a jump away!
While I love the thrill of a big city, I feel more at home in the small or mid-size ones like Portland, Stockholm, Lisbon! It feels more digestible to me. I don’t need a million options for everything. There’s a beautiful simplicity about doing with what you have and making the most of where you live.
Maybe that’s why I like small cities, it’s perhaps easier to find your community. I loved the people in Lisbon from the very start. It was the biggest selling point for me. Most I met were super real, down to earth, and warm. I felt I’d be able to make friends here.
I hate driving! Public transportation is great but I prefer to move my legs everyday! Lisbon is one of the most walkable cities I’ve been in. I love scheduling in a little more time for walking to appointments. It’s a great way to engage in slow living. Instead of scheduling in time at the gym, I prefer movement to be a part of my day.
Not too Hip
I love that Lisbon has an old world feel. There’s a fantastic mix of offbeat, young artists and old mom and pop stores that have been around forever! Everything feels rather West Coast USA to me, slow, laid back.. not too pretentious!
Access to Gardens
I fell in love with the gardens of Lisbon! I have a post about them coming up soon! If I can have green spaces to wander and at least a balcony garden, I am a happy farmer in the city!
Now of course, I will have to deal with the challenge of learning Portuguese, being away from my family and my urban family, and will continue to go through paperwork challenges with visas, being away from my Northern “soul landcapes” (but in turn I get sunshine!). Everything is a trade off but it’s a good one for now!
P.S. Here’s an interesting article about the wave of artists moving to Lisbon right now.
What does your perfect home city or town look like? Where is your dream place to live? What do you value in a city?
Photos from my Instagram. Backpack shown is from a favorite Lisbon studio, Project 226.