“Location, location, location.”
The quote is generally used in relation to business and real estate, but I find it to be just as important in terms of happiness. Knowing what you don’t want is not the same as knowing what you do want, but it’s a good step towards finding out. It was not until I made the choice to leave California and explore other locations that how important location is to me became clear. There are a couple of reasons why location is important to me and much of this has been learned by negative experiences and feelings.
I am an introvert through and through. I like interacting in small groups, I am not overly chatty in person, and I recharge by being alone. As such, I will never really be happy living in a large urban area. I began to realize it when I left Seattle, but it was truly driven home when we spent some time in Australia. Huge crowds, traffic, people everywhere, the constant hustle and bustle. It all drives me crazy. I am constantly slightly on edge, nervous even, and I am never really able to truly relax in such a setting. My brain just can’t handle it.
When I was living in Seattle I frequently found myself slightly nervous all day long. Many of the things I enjoy doing in less populated areas, like going for a drive or a walk, are a source of stress for me in the city. Frequently I found myself a little frazzled by the time I got to work just because of the drive. Driving around LA County, where I spent my youth, is just as bad, if not worse. The drivers are crazy and traffic at certain places is unavoidable, no matter what time of day. The same could be said for walking. There were always other pedestrians about, especially in Seattle. While I don’t mind other people, the constant need to move left, or move right, look out for the person looking at their phone, and the thousand other things that one needs to be constantly aware of when walking in crowded areas got to me. Even when I found myself on an empty path, there is always the background noise of life in the city.
I had similar feeling in some cities in Australia. Sydney is a beautiful city, and the Australians have done a wonderful job incorporating nature and making it a pedestrian friendly place, but it is still much too crowded for my liking. No privacy, no parking, everything is expensive, and it just all feels so impersonal. We visited Byron Bay for a matter of three hours before we ran away. It was just packed with people. The beach felt like a concert it was so crowded and noisy.
Being constantly surrounded by people makes it very hard for me to fully relax and recharge. As a result of not being able to relax fully, I am frequently running at 75% (or less). It had been going on so long that it had become standard and I didn’t realize it until I got out of the city for a while. After living in Seattle for six months my girlfriend and I went backpacking for a couple of days. The first night out we slept for thirteen hours straight. I hadn’t realized how tightly strung I had become until I had a chance to unwind.
All of these negative emotions and experiences have taught me a few things though. Many of the things I like to do to recharge involve peace and quiet. One of my favorite things to do is sit on the porch and watch the sunset. When I am out in a place that is not in constant motion, it is a very peaceful time of day. The beauty of the sunset combined with the small sounds of nature, as even in the middle of no where its never silent, are very relaxing to me. The same can be said for sitting outside and reading in the sunshine. It can be so wonderful. I need space, nature, and quiet to be happy. I very much enjoy the solitude of station life and I have rather enjoyed visiting many of the small remote towns we have been to on our travels. The slower pace of life and the proximity to nature are all very appealing to me. I feel like I am able to really enjoy life on a day-to-day level when I am not constantly surrounded by humanity and everything that comes with it.
Sunshine is of huge importance to me. I often say I am a desert child. I love the sun and the warmth it brings. Living in the grey of the Pacific Northwest was torture for me. I need to see the sun often to be happy. I love the warmth of the desert. I love wearing shorts and no shirt, feeling the sun on my skin and the breeze in my hair. I need frequent sunshine to be consistently happy. Its one of the reasons I have loved Australia so far.
All this does not mean I want to live in the middle of nowhere. I do enjoy having people around. What I need is a good balance of both. I need to be close to nature, so I can escape there to relax and reground and reconnect. I also need to have some people around to interact with and do things with. I think living a bit outside of a town would be the way to go. A place where I can come home to nature and quiet, but have the people I love a short travel away. A small to mid size town may also be a good way to go; something less then a hundred thousand people perhaps.
All of this has made me realize that where I choose to live is going to be very important to my happiness. I am not one of those people who can live anywhere. While I have not found the perfect place to settle down yet, to be honest I didn’t even know I was looking until recently, I am confident that I now know much more about what it is that I am looking for. I will find a place where I can be truly happy.