How Do You Know Where to Settle Down?

Whenever I travel somewhere new, especially a city, I always find myself asking the same question:

Could I actually live here–or better yet–settle down here?

In Utah’s middle schools, I was brainwashed–erm, I mean, taught, that when the Mormon Pioneers hauled their wagons to Salt Lake City and first set their sights on the blue skies and the Great Salt Lake, they cried:

“This is the Place.”

Thus, Utah became the home of the Mormon Pioneers…. and Salt Lake now has a (ridiculously) named “This is the Place” museum.

But that slogan–tagline–whatever you want to call it, really stuck with me.  I thought that someday, somewhere, just like those Mormon Pioneers supposedly did, I would finally end up somewhere and say:

“This is the Place.”

Deutschland!

When I was younger I thought that, after traveling the world and living in a handful of cities, I would eventually find out where that certain somewhere was.  I had a guess it would be Japan.  Maybe somewhere in Asia.  Being from a small town, I thought living in an exciting, metropolitan city like New York or Paris would suit me.

But Even After Traveling the World, I Still Can’t Figure Out Where to Settle Down

LA Traffic on a good day

It seemed like that, no matter where I went, I was able to pick out some quirk or cultural aspect of the location that just didn’t fit my future needs.

Japan was safe, comfortable and rich with culture; but it was also an extremely overworked society that was alienating and socially repressive.

China had a lot of jobs, was home to some of the best people on Earth (Chinese friends got your back for life) and was extremely convenient.  On the flip side, the pollution and authoritarian government was kind of worrisome–especially if my husband and I ever planned to have a family.

Los Angeles has awesome food, beaches, diversity and great weather–but dear god, that traffic.

Minnesota was nice, but insular and…. flat.  Not to mention it gets -20 F (-6 C) in winter.

Dallas is not a bad place at all; but again, the sprawl and reliance on a car is something I would like to avoid.  Traffic here is also gnarly.  And the lack of nature and greenery gets me down.

Portland is by far my favorite pick of the bunch in terms of US cities, but the job market is flat.  It’s housewife or nothing in Portland.

Salt Lake City, my home, would be great because my family and friends still live there–but again, the job market is nil for me.  Plus, the car thing.  Ugh.

China was great! … But didn’t care much for the pollution

And this is where you’re probably thinking:

Jeez Mary, nitpicky enough?

When I was mentally analyzing why I could never settle down in Dallas and all the above locations, it dawned on me:

Maybe the Problem Isn’t the Place–Maybe it’s Me?

Move to Paris?

I once asked my classmate, a 55 year old lawyer turned grad student and mother of two teenagers, when she knew that she wanted to become a mother.

“Did you wake up one day and think:  Wow.  I feel it.  I really want a baby.”

“Nope.”

“What?  Really??  Doesn’t that urge for motherhood kick in eventually?”

“I was 35 and it didn’t kick in Mary,” she told me with a smile.  “You just gotta make it happen.”

…. which made me think….

….maybe that same logic applies to settling down as well.

Maybe instead of over-analyze what is the best place and why, perhaps it’s just better to put your foot down and adapt.  Maybe no one knows where they’re actually going to settle down, but sooner or later they end up making a conscious choice.

Stay here, or keep moving.

Man, would love to live in such beauty…

My husband and I are agonizing over where we should settle down.  Where we put our bags down and say “this is the place.”  Because after all of our moving, we’re exhausted.

After traveling the world for years upon years, I’m ready to put some roots down (for a while, at least).  I want to decorate a home.  I want to enjoy my neighborhood.  I want some familiar faces and stability in my life.

I’m still hoping that someway, somehow, I’ll arrive to that special place one day–look around–and think:

This is the place.

How did you decide where you were going to settle down?  Or have you thought about where you’ll settle down?

14 thoughts on “How Do You Know Where to Settle Down?

  1. autumnashbough says:

    I like to think it’s more like, “This is the place…for right now.” Because while I dream of 20 acres in a tiny town in New Hampshire in the fall, I know that isn’t quite the place quite yet because, you know, job market. Health insurance.

    But there was something special about finding our perfect “the place” in Southern California. We found a big yard with a view of a hill. We knew it was meant to be our house. But we also know we might move on to another “the place.” So find your best “the place” for now. You may grow roots and never leave. Like the Mormons (even after they figured out the lake was salt, LOL).

    • rubymary says:

      Thanks for the advice, Autumn! It’s what I needed to hear. “The place” doesn’t have to be forever… it can be just “for now.” I should keep that mindset instead of thinking I have to root myself down somewhere forever and ever.

      You really make me want to go visit New Hampshire, you know!

      Haha and yeah, the Mormons got a salty lake. Worked out for them in the end.

  2. CrazyChineseFamily says:

    My wife and I decided to just settle down to the best place affordable for us and giving us also some future perspective -> this is how we ended up in my hometown in Germany few years ago instead of contiueing in Finland.
    Sure we dream about a nice house with a big property but that is not something which will happen anytime soon.

  3. Eileen黃愛玲 says:

    My heart is in Taiwan. I already found home, but sadly it is not a reality. When I came back to the States, I thought that at least it isn’t South Florida. Bam. I’m in South Florida again. I thought, well, at least it isn’t shithole Miami. Bam. My husband found a job in South of Miami, and the commute is long. We may just have to live in the Miami-Dade1 area. I give up.

    • rubymary says:

      Yeah, that’s even more frustrating 🙁 Knowing where you should be, but not being able to go there.

      Is there any way your husband can get a job in another part of the US? I know Taiwan would be ideal, but perhaps a change of scenery from Florida might be good…

  4. Anna says:

    Thanks for writing this, Ruby Ronin.
    This topic has been at the forefront of my mind for as long as I can remember too. After a stint in Tokyo two years ago, I am completely obsessed with trying to find ways to go back to Japan, but I don’t speak Japanese and I would be subject to the work culture there, as you mentioned.
    Now I am living out of two suitcases with all my belongings as I job hunt in various cities around the US and Asia. I wish most of all to be able to be somewhere long enough that I can start to know people and make some friends…even if it’s just the “for now” place.

    • rubymary says:

      Oh, I’m so glad you could relate!

      I hear you about living out of two suitcases… I feel like I will be physically ill if I have to stare at a suitcase again. There’s something about staying in a place long enough that you start to make friends and build a community. Man, I don’t have much in terms of friends in Dallas so far, but having the guy at the coffee shop and my repairman know my name makes me happy. Signals some kind of stability in my life.

      Was there anywhere in the US you thought you could really settle down into? Or do you still have your sights set on Japan?

      To be honest, I want to live in Europe. I have the citizenship, but I don’t know if I could find a job there. Plus, my husband is a US doctor so we’re stuck here.

  5. Marta says:

    But is there such thing as “the place”? Every place has pros and cons, although it’s true that some of them have many more cons, haha. Also, it doesn’t have to mean forever, so if in the future you feel like a change of scenery, or a good opportunity comes along, you can transplant your roots someplace else (although that will probably involve a stressful and expensive move). I think in most cases we cannot really choose, we go where the jobs are…

  6. Lani says:

    I completely understand. So so much. And just like you, after all this moving and unsettled energy, I’m ready to establish roots. I think places are like anything else, as Marta mentioned, filled pros and cons. This really can’t be avoided. I think we fool ourselves into thinking that we will find the perfect place but I don’t think that truly exists. We have to decide what we can live with and what’s important and then I think we can make better decisions.

  7. Rick Zhang says:

    It’s hard to find a perfect place. The “nicest” places in the conventional sense usually are overrun with people who drive up cost of living and add so much congestion that it’s no longer the perfect place.

    I think it’s perhaps best to find a good place that meets your top needs and then take frequent vacations. Nowhere will have it all, but maybe somewhere with a job, nature, and family/friends is best.

  8. mmarinaa says:

    I feel like you do have an idea of places, minus the job market. Which I think is what a lot of it comes down to…. where you can find work. That’s how I ended up in Abu Dhabi and it’s part of why I’m still here. (The idea of moving back to the USA and its teacher salaries is meh.) But once you pick a place and settle, I think that any place can be “the place” as long as you make the most of it. I have friends here who bemoan the lack of nature, the insane heat, etc. But it’s very much about perspective. The good things far outweigh the bad for me, and it’s about rebalancing it to make sure that’s always the way I see it, until it’s not and it’s time to move on.

    • rubymary says:

      Yeah, I’m also realizing that a lot of it boils down to job market (but what if the job you want is in a place that sucks!? sigh).

      I like your comment. It really is all about perspective. I still dream about settling down in Europe or Asia somewhere, but I know that the work style and the salaries would not compare to a lifestyle that the US could give both me and my husband. It sucks to give up on that “dream” I always had, but maybe the grass is always greener. Our plan is to take that good job wherever it is and hope it all works out, making that new place our home.

      Wow, Abu Dhabi! That’s a big culture shock, but maybe in a good way? I do feel bad for American teachers, they are severely underpaid despite having one of the most important jobs in this country. I really hope that will change.

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