Here’s a truism if there ever was one: Travel widens your horizons.
You can know a lot of things intellectually, theoretically – but often you can’t really grasp them until you’ve experienced them firsthand. Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?
What would my ideal city be? I’m still stumped. Somewhere warm, but not punishingly hot. That poses a problem for T, though. We would prefer to live at opposite ends of the globe in that sense – I’d decamp to a sunny island, he to Antarctica. Other criteria:
- Somewhere with advanced transport – a comprehensive metro system.
- Somewhere with diverse, awesome and affordable food options, including a range of ethnic choices.
- Somewhere with cheap/free entertainment options year round.
- Somewhere with proximity to beaches, and maybe bush, mountains, etc.
- Somewhere that doesn’t have a sky high cost of living, or at least a place where incomes and costs are in line, proportionally speaking.
I’ve yet to find this magical city, and I fear it does not exist.
While New York is now my absolute favourite destination in the world, it’s not my forever city. Sure, it seems like a fabulous place to live in your 20s, but long term… probably not so much.
Toronto was another city T and I found ourselves nodding at. Canada seems pretty close to perfect as a country goes; it has the good stuff you enjoy in the US (low prices, a range of ethnic cuisines, good customer service) and none of the bad (guns, healthcare, lack of employee rights, the imperial system, litigiousness – did anyone else adore that Don monologue to the lawyer in The Newsroom?). But the weather! I doubt I’d survive a single Canadian winter.
I thought I would return home either with a newfound fervent love for New Zealand, or the exact opposite. Turns out, it’s a grudging mix of both, tilted slightly in favour of the former.
My city has its faults. But I also need to appreciate what we do have.
- Auckland has ridiculously unpredictable and rainy weather, but it’s milder than almost anywhere else in the world. A variance of about 15 degrees from hottest to coldest really isn’t very much at all. Many parts of the world have it so much worse; sure, they have lovely hot, dry summers, but by the same stroke, bitter, snowy winters.
- We have the most pathetic excuse for public transport, but we aren’t under CCTV surveillance everywhere we go. Nor do we have armed police.
- We have no squirrels, but also, we have no scary/poisonous creatures (or even plants) that are out to get you.
- It’s hard to get ahead if you’re part of the squeezed middle class, but we do have a reasonably laid back and egalitarian culture.
- We don’t have anywhere near the variety of cuisines that bigger international cities have to offer (though that’s sloooooowly improving), but at least we don’t put high fructose corn syrup in everything.
- We have crappy uninsulated houses, but at least you don’t need to rent a plot of land if you want a garden – or abide by strict rules about what you can do with it.
- Everything costs a lot. There’s no getting around that. But, erm, at least we don’t add sneaky taxes at the till?
I realise things in Auckland are unlikely to change. We are too small for mass transit; we don’t have the density and possibly never will. We like our houses, detached ones. (That goes for me, too.) It’s a city that’s desirable enough that prices keep steady or continue to increase; there’s still enough money around, both local and international, to feed this – even if the rest of us get left behind and priced out. We are too small for competition in consumer markets and far away from other countries – the tyranny of distance still exists for certain kinds of goods.
Living in New Zealand really is a lifestyle choice. Now, at least I’m a heck of a lot more aware of the sacrifices I’m making in exchange for what I get.