I’d love to live in a place where I never have to shovel snow again, a place where the food and wine are yummy, the natives are friendly, and the sun shines a lot. This is a partial wish list. As the saying goes in my native Dutch tongue: Ik heb heel wat noten op mijn zang. Which translates into: My song has quite a lot of notes. If you catch my drift.
My prince and I are rootless nomads, and in the last few years we’ve been checking out possible locations to plant ourselves when/if the mood for root-growing strikes. We may not be able to grow roots, but we can try.
The world is a fabulous place, stunning, miraculous, fascinating. So how to choose? Where to go?
We spent some time in Costa Rica. Unless you’ve lived in a cave, you must have heard how beautiful and bio-diverse this country is. I was gobsmacked by the scenic splendor. I saw my first bubbling volcano there. I know it’s just a picture to you, but you shoulda been there!
Costa Rica is also a country now overrun with American and Canadian retirees ensconced in gated communities, and not all are blessed with cultural sensitivity, or have any desire to learn about and engage in the local life. So I’ve heard. So I’ve read. Is it true? I don’t know.
We were in Italy half a dozen times, mostly in the south of the country and loved it there. The food and wine? Well I don’t need to tell you. We met some lovely people who invited us in their home, fed us, lent us their car, and took us shopping. I mean, when does that ever happen when you’re a stranger some place? “Take the car,” she said. “Be back by one for lunch.” We’d only met her a few days earlier.
But somehow it didn’t all add up for root-growing.
We vacationed a bit in Portugal on two occasions. Portugal has its charms, but it did not seduce us. How about the Indonesian island of Bali? We were there years ago, and were enthralled. Island of peace and harmony, of temples and festivals, of smiling people and taste-titillating food. Such seduction of the senses!
I would learn to meditate, finally, and do yoga and get in touch with my Higher Self. Yes, I’d go live there, in the mountains, not near the tourist beaches. I’d go in a red hot second, if only… Well, you knew that was coming, didn’t you? If only…Bali wasn’t so far away from family and friends, most of whom hang out in Europe and the US. I’m afraid I’d never see them again.
A couple of years ago we scouted out Ecuador, much advertised as a cheap expat heaven, but also rather out of the way for our purposes. The country is gorgeous. Lots of culture, great bio-diversity. The many different climates — from tropical to cool and rainy — make it possible to grow fruits from strawberries to coconuts, all fresh in stunning markets overflowing with the bounties of nature. They grow fruit there I never knew existed, and I’ve been around.
And of course there’s fresh seafood, since the country is located right on the Pacific Ocean. And the wine? Sadly, only imported. Local cheese? Not so exciting. You can read about our experience right here:
What else is on my wish list? I want a slower pace of life. Slower than what, you ask? Slower than where we are right now, which is in the US, in the countryside, but not far from Washington DC. It doesn’t matter if you say you’ll slow down and take it easy, savor the small joys of life; somehow the rat race culture sucks you in. It’s in the air, on TV, in the shops, in the lifestyle of the people you meet. You can’t escape it.
I crave a leisurely sidewalk café culture. I love eating outside, or lingering over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine while watching the people go by. They’re good at that in Southern Europe. People in my native Holland love it too. They’ll sit outside with their coats on if that’s what it takes. In February. Do I want to settle in Holland? Forget it. The climate is lousy and the rat race mode is fully established, even with sidewalk cafés everywhere.
So where do I want to go? We’re thinking of the South of France right now. Not cheap, but I can tick off a lot of things on my list. But I will have to give up on having house help, a joy I’ve much appreciated in my various expat locations in less affluent countries. Yes, I know, your heart bleeds for me.
Where is Paradise? What is Paradise? It’s not just a particular place full of goodies, is it? Really, how shallow do you think I am? Okay, pretty shallow, but I do know that what matters most is not the location but the people you surround yourself with, the ones you live with, the friends you laugh with.
And the ones you dance with.
That, and a glass of wine on a terrace in the sun.
* * *
Have you found your Paradise yet? Where will you live in your dotage?