Where to Live Abroad…If You Could Live Anywhere

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? This is a question that’s been floating around my house lately.

Thanks to two restless parents and a curious nature I can’t seem to avoid, I’ve lived in a lot of places, but 10 years ago, I made the decision to settle in Sacramento, California. Why? I had lived there as a teenager, was attracted to a big city and the adventure of California, had family there, and got a great job. There are many things about Sacramento that I still love, yet I can’t help but think of all the other places I “should” live (more on that in a later post).

My husband and I are both qualified ESL teachers, so we can live almost anywhere, and we plan to take advantage of that flexibility, possibly by living in various places for short periods of time. Here are the places I keep coming back to as I consider where to live abroad:

Europe

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. There are so many reasons I would love to live just about anywhere in Europe, but the biggest one for me now that I’m a parent is the sense of security, especially the low rate of violent crime.Β  Also, the cultural value of not working too hard and instead spending time with family and friends, plus the continent’s beautiful nature, cultural diversity, historical sights, and travel opportunities make it my idea of the perfect place to live.

Prague?

I lived in the Czech Republic and though I love the country, I probably wouldn’t live in one of its smaller towns again. Prague, however, has continued to attract me and I’ve thought many times about moving there. I’ve realized lately that its cold, cloudy weather and busy living pace wouldn’t be a good match for us anymore, but spending a summer there one of these years might be a good compromise.

Prague Old Town

Florence, Italy?

You probably know that I’m a bit obsessed with Florence. I fell in love with the city while studying abroad there and then returning for 3 weeks with a friend the following year. Since then, I’ve considered living there to be a dream that would never happen. I often wonder if I would still love Florence like I did when I was younger. I hope to spend much more time there both as a visitor and leading art tours but don’t think we will live there on a permanent basis.

Florence view

Amsterdam?

I loved this city and have wondered if this is the best place to live. The Dutch seem very evolved…the values of tolerance and harmony attract me, plus the city’s compact size and use of bikes make it seem livable, but I doubt we would find work teaching English there because its population already speaks English well.

Amsterdam bicycles

Portugal?

I actually haven’t been to Portugal, but my husband and I are very excited to check it out because of its natural beauty and slow pace of life. Also, its vegetation and climate are similar to California’s. Most importantly, we could speak Portuguese there. I look forward to spending a few weeks exploring Portugal and Spain soon.

And what about outside of Europe?

Brazil?Β 

I’ve never been excited about living in Brazil; even though there are many things to love, there are some aspects of life there that leave me feeling a bit insecure. The possibility of living in Brazil has come up many times because my husband’s whole family is there, and we know we would find work–Brazilians are eager to learn English, and the fact that we are bilingual in Portuguese and English would be a huge plus. In fact, Brazil is going through fast, exciting changes and has a thriving economy.Β  If we decide to live there for a while, I would prefer a beautiful coastal town like Paraty:

Paraty Brazil

Β Japan?

We were in Japan only 3 days but it made a big impression on us. The combination of friendly people, convenience, and safety makes it seem like a great place for us to live as a family. We will never forget passing rows of bikes left unlocked on the streets of Osaka, a city of almost 3 million people. And it’s not difficult to find good work teaching English, possibly through the JET Program.

Japanese sculpture

How about you? If you could live anywhere, where would you live? Why?

(Photos are mine and from Wikipedia Commons.)

28 Comments

  • Lily says:

    I enjoyed this post! And that question has been floating around my head as well, so appropriate! I’m trying to decide where to move and weighing pros and cons of where I could teach in addition to other aspects you mentioned. I hope to find an answer soon. πŸ™‚
    Portugal was on the list. And I’ve never been to Brazil!

  • Nina F says:

    Very intriguing question…If I could live anywhere, where would it be?

    I am quite happy making my home for the past 17 years in southwest Utah, with its desert environment, abundance of national parks, and outdoor activities within a few minutes to a few hours drive away.

    Your comment about living in various places for short periods of time hits the nail right on the head. If you can have ‘a sense of place’ and enjoy living somewhere for ANY length of time, more the better!

    That said, I would love to visit any of the places you listed here, and enjoy “living’ there, for however long I stayed, particularly Amsterdam.

  • Rachel says:

    Your post rings a lot of bells, as ‘where to live next?’ is a question my husband and I are grappling with right now after quitting our jobs last year and travelling ever since. I moved to the UK from the US in 2005, and I’m actually not in a rush to move back. We’re considering Europe and potentially New Zealand or Australia. NZ in particular has a really good outlook on life, we found. I’m hoping we’re able to visit Vancouver later this year as that’s a city with really good quality of life and possible job opportunities in my husband’s field.

    I do love Amsterdam, and would definitely consider it. Copenhagen’s a wonderful city as well. I spent 2 years studying in Edinburgh and loved it, would move back in a heartbeat.
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    • Jenna says:

      I haven’t been to Copenhagen yet. Vancouver is another place I think would be great to live, but the weather might be too cold for what I’m used to now… Good luck with your decision! Living in the UK and traveling since last year sounds like a great life to me!

  • I am so happy to see that Europe topped the list my friend and three cities I would consider living in too especially Florence and Amsterdam! One day I will leap frog across the pond for good and perhaps in one of the cities you mentioned above. Then, you’ll just need to come visit me if you’re not already living there as well!! Wonderful post.
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    • Jenna says:

      Oh, you can bet I’ll be paying you a visit if you move to Europe! And I would be so envious! πŸ™‚

  • Susana says:

    I’ve been living in the same town for 10 years and I’m itchy to move but at the moment I don’t see how it is possible for various reasons. The only place I’d not choose from your list is Portugal. But hey, I’m in Portugal…so, I’m biased. πŸ™‚ If you do move here (and I’m still here), please let me know as I’d love to meet you.

    At the moment I am hoping to visit more of Europe, finances allowing, and then we’ll see.

    I loved this post. It made me dream. One day…one day I’ll live in all of those places. Hopefully. πŸ™‚

    • Jenna says:

      I like to dream, too, and I think of it as being possible if I could live in some places if just for a few months at a time. I will definitely let you know when we come to Portugal. I’d travel there right now if I could.

  • Andrea says:

    New York City – I haven’t found anywhere else I love living more than there. I miss it all the time!
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    • Jenna says:

      I hadn’t thought about NYC because I think of it as a place I’d love to live but not with a family. I hope you have a chance to live there again since you miss it so much!

  • I am not sure I have visited the place I am meant to live yet, but I do know it should be warm, near (or on) a beach, promote a casual lifestyle, be a medium sized town and next to a major city. Phew…that narrows it down πŸ˜‰
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  • monique says:

    I love this post also! Paris (#1) or NYC (#2) without a doubt. Both places I’ve been to (NY quite a bit for past work and Paris several times) – and both places I could imagine living and raising children. Italy won’t make the list since we achieved that dream … although I still kick myself for not spending more time in Rome…. – I believe that if you truly want something the stars will align – and you seem to be someone who could figure out a way to live abroad. good luck and go for it!
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    • Jenna says:

      I hadn’t thought of NYC or Paris, but I can imagine that Paris could definitely make my list after I spend time there again. I was a teenager the last time I was there!

  • Ayngelina says:

    I love to travel but I have really discovered that I love living in Toronto more than anywhere else.
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    • Jenna says:

      I think it is so important to love the place that you are living, and it’s great that you have found that in Toronto. I don’t really feel that about Sacramento, but my work here is so rewarding that I can’t imagine leaving it.

  • Steve says:

    I have a yearning to live in Berlin. Parts of it especially the old East Berlin did not seem to have the hectic pace you would find normally in capital cities.

    • Jenna says:

      I am so interested in spending some time there and would probably consider living there, too! My list of possible places might get even longer, and I didn’t even include southern Spain in this post!

  • Jeff B says:

    I think about this topic all the time. I think I would really like to live somewhere in Spain. Either Madrid or Barcelona.
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    • Jenna says:

      I haven’t been to Madrid but Spain is definitely on my list of possible places to live. There are many things that attract me about that country and its culture.

  • Adriana says:

    My dream is to retire in any of the Nordic countries of Europe. My choice would be Finland or Norway. They are efficient, clean, the best schools and fabulous food πŸ™‚ . I lived in Italy and liked the place but really did not like the people. Romanians don’t have an easy life there. I loved living in Germany where I got used to people doing what they said they would do. πŸ™‚ Belgium is fabulous for the obvious reasons but again you deal with the Latin way of “it will get done, one of these days”. To be fair the Dutch side is a a lot like Germany, very efficient. Next we are dreaming of South Korea. I will start a blog then πŸ™‚

    • Jenna says:

      The Nordic countries appeal to me, too, because of the quality of life. I don’t think I would be happy in such a cold place, though. I’m too used to California weather now.

  • Mandy says:

    I am from Seattle and have been living in Copenhagen for 2.5 years. I never knew how much I would love Denmark! (Seattle is tough to beat!) As a Mom, I feel the same as you, the safety and value of work/life balance is wonderful here. …But right now, I would love to live in Spain for a spell. I need more sun. πŸ™‚
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    • Jenna says:

      I think I would struggle in the cold winters after having lived in California for so many years. However, I am intrigued by the quality of life in Copenhagen and other places near there. I’m glad to hear that you have had such a positive experience there!

  • Van B says:

    I’ve read all the comments above and none seem to have been in the one of the world’s highest tourist attraction city of Cape Town in South Africa,indeed RSA in a European country lost in Africa.

    The breeze around Table mountain and the sea really describes God’s wonderful creature.Nkhata bay in Malawi is also one great and beautiful town to be.

    I’m in Malawi but I’d love yo visit London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Adeje,Spain and of course not forgetting Florence,Italy.

  • Arissa Ayumi says:

    I was thinking about that for some time. I’m definitely a travel lover and I’m used to travel with my family, even it’s just a little travel by car to the other state, coming back at the same day, or a big travel, to Europe or Japan. I came from a japanese and european family, born and raised in SΓ£o Paulo and I read some of your posts, they are briliant, I love all of them!

    I’m turning 18 this year and next year I’ll study abroad, so it’s a real question for me. If I could choose, not depending of application or money, I was probably going to England, maybe Japan, but I’m so excited with my real possibility! I’ll apply to Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal, in some universities at France and Germany! I am so happy with the possibility to live and study in Germany!! That will be fantastic. So, that’s my answer: if I could live anywhere, I want to bring my family some day, but first, I’ll make it a home, doesn’t matter where it is, how it will be or where I will study. For me, home is where I can feel comfortable, so, probably anywhere πŸ™‚
    Thank you for your posts, they are amazing!

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