We’ve had the opportunity, as a family, to live in three world-class cities over the last decade as a family. In San Francisco, our daughter was born, then six years in Berlin and now Barcelona. Of course, there were challenges, such as local bureaucracy to establish residency, finding the ideal place to live, a good school for our daughter (now 8 years old), and simply settling into a new place. That said, it has been worth the extra effort to satisfy this dream of living abroad.
For me, the desire to live overseas started when I was about 12 years old. Learning about history and geography in school filled my head with all kinds of ideas, such as learning a new language, meeting other people, and visiting landmarks wn my textbooks. So I started by moving from Mexico to the U.S. for university and ended up in San Francisco. Afterward, my partner and I, then with a one-year-old child, decided to move to Berlin for the experience, since Berlin is a great city with a high quality of life and great kids’ options. After a few years, we got the “change bug” again and decided to settle in Barcelona. Also, we felt this would be the last opportunity we would have to make such a transition with our daughter. She was 7 at the time and felt she could adjust easily and did.
Since then, many family members, friends, and even strangers who meet up talk about living vicariously through us and our experiences. Sure, moving even locally is challenging, therefore moving overseas is exponentially tougher, but the option for us would have always been to wonder why we didn’t at least try. And that is how it all starts. You select a city or country you want to live in, and you think about the opportunities and threats that might offer. Then comes the logistics, such as residency permits, job or work opportunities, costs incurred, local services, such as schooling and healthcare. In our case, all three cities offered good opportunities and a few threats to our personal standard of living.
The biggest challenge, at least I found, was selecting the right location once we got there. I knew from past experiences that you could travel to these places, as we did, to scope out neighborhoods and districts to find the “perfect” fit. Still, after you move and live there a while, you think, “I wish I had known about this other neighborhood” or “it would be perfect if we lived just one or two streets up or down or over from where we live now.” Some resources provide you with reviews for local restaurants and shops, and schools, but the overall review of a city and neighborhoods is usually missing. And that is what we have set out to do at www.citywriteups.com. We can provide as much information from our experience and other residents on what the various neighborhoods are like and what they offer.
For example, in San Francisco, we lived in the Bernal Heights district, which is great if you have a dog. At the time we had three. It is also great for coffee and uncommon cuisine, such as the only Nepalese restaurant in the city called “Little Nepal” or amazing sushi roll creations at “Moki’s.” There is also a sense of community there because it is far removed from the city’s ore touristy parts, And the local library offers great activities for kids. More about this later on our website.
For example, living in Barcelona, we know where the best local bookstores are, which holiday festivals, such as the “Three Wise Men” to attend with our daughter. Also, which streets and neighborhoods are the loudest because that is an issue in Barcelona with traffic, motorists honking their horns at an above-average rate, and all the scooters and motorcycles. Also, we live walking distance to well-stocked supermarkets and great health-food stores. And can access the rest of the city on a bike using the dedicated bike lanes at our front door or the very reasonably priced transit system just a block away.
Although all the logistics issues I wrote earlier are essential and need to be addressed, at the end of the day, what matters is where you feel the most comfortable and at home. For me, the feeling is instant, like falling in love at first sight. A few minutes in any city will let me decide whether or not I could live there or not. And it has nothing to do with the city’s beauty or stature as a world-class city, but rather a feeling of connection and attraction; much in the same way as with people. And I have lived in cities worldwide, for work mostly, which I did not enjoy and was even miserable being there, but they would have been satisfactory enough for other reasons. However, it was not enough for me. I knew that I had to and needed to live where there was a perfect connection amid all the other imperfections.