5 steps to find out where to live

essentialism_where to live

When I talk to my friends and clients (or when I talk to myself) I frequently get the question:

How to decide where to live?

City or countryside? Foreign country or hometown? Move to a different place for a job?

The preferred answer is: “Just a second, I’ll get out my magic crystal ball and it’ll tell you everything.”

Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball. And unfortunately there is no one size fits all solution.

The question of where to live seems to be one of the most complex decisions I encountered, next to finding the right career.

I live in Berlin and I have lived here for the past four and a half years, except for a half year break when I was travelling. In the beginning I loved the city unconditionally, but after about two years doubt set in. My mind was full of contradictions.

I loved the open mindset of the people, but I was annoyed by the coldness and caginess of them.

I loved having cafes, shopping possibilities, and restaurants right in front of my door, but I also craved empty parks and nature.

I loved having my friends live nearby, but I was pissed off by the crowded streets.

I loved walking 10 minutes to my yoga classes, but I missed running in the woods.

I am now happy in Berlin.

To come to that conclusion, I came across a great set of tools that I don’t want to keep from you. So here is how I made up my mind about Berlin.

Step No. 1: Get rid of your illusions

As you can see the chances of finding a place to live that fulfils everything you ever wanted is an illusion. I don’t want to sound harsh. Especially in our generation, we were told that we can have everything we ever wanted. And I absolutely belief that we can have a lot of things, but designing a place to live exactly according to your gusto is not one of them. At least not until we life in virtual realities.

Instead of searching for an imaginary place that fulfils all, realise that you’ll have to make some compromises.

I know that just the word compromise can be scary. Compromises are not a bad thing though, in fact, they can be a great guide.

Compromises show us what’s important to us, because we are forced to make decisions. It made me decide if it’s more important to me to have my friends nearby or to enjoy quietness.

So making compromises is just another way of prioritising, which leads us to step No. 2

Step No. 2: Find out what’s important to you 

The following exercise will help you find out what’s important to you when you try to find a place to live. At the end, you’ll have a list of values, that function like a map to follow.

  1. Print out the list of values. The list contains values connected to your possible domicile. If you have more, feel free to add them. You can do it on your computer as well, but I suggest taking the time to actually print it out. Getting physical about it makes it a lot easier to let your subconsciousness decide.
  2. Ask yourself with each value “Is this important to me?”
  3. Choose your top ten values.
  4. Prioritise them.
  5. Focus on the three most important values.

At the end, you’ll have three values to focus on when you try to make a decision where to live.

Why three? Because three is a number you can actually focus on. If you have too many, it’s easy to get lost. And three values is a realistic amount that can actually be fulfilled. BUT: If there is a fourth value, that you absolutely want to include, go for it. As I said, there is no one size fits all solution, so go with what works for you.

Step No. 3: What to do about it now

Now that you know what’s important to you, what do you do with it?

This is where some work on your side is required. You have to find out if those places fulfil your values.

1) When one of your values is to live a sustainable lifestyle, I want to note that living in cities is a lot more environmental friendly than living in the countryside. There are a couple reasons for that, but I just want to point out three.

  1. Transportation: In the city you often don’t need a car. Instead you can use public transportation or your bike.
  2. Heat: When you live in an apartment aright next door to somebody you won’t need to heat as much as when your house is all by itself.
  3. Space: We are over seven billion people on the planet. There is hardly enough space for nature to flourish. If we build houses in the countryside, where priorly were none, we are taking that away from nature.

This can be easy. If for example your top value is quietness, but you live in the middle of New York City, you don’t have to be a genius to see that your value is not fulfilled.

It might need more in depth research if your top value is low expenses. Finding out where you have high living expenses can be a little tricky. One great website to get some numbers on living expenses is numbeo.

Go through each value and do your research. Can it be fulfilled or not.

Step No. 4: Making the decision

So what if two or more options fulfil your values and you can’t decide.

That’s where the remaining seven values come in. Repeat Step 3 with the remaining values until you find discrepancies.

Go for the one that fulfils more of your values.

Step No. 5: Moving

This can be written down in a word: Move. But of course, it’s easier said then done.

Talking about moving is easy. Motivating yourself to go through with it is a whole different story.

The thing is, we never actually feel like doing something that’s uncomfortable and takes a lot of energy. That’s just how our brains are wired. The result: we procrastinate.

Not moving, even if you want to, is one way of procrastination.

To overcome it, you have to stop saying BUT. BUTs are our worst enemy when it comes to fulfilling our dreams. We want to apply for a new job, BUT it’s to risky. We want to work out more, BUT we are too tired after work. We want to move, BUT we don’t know how it turns out.

Motivation is killed by ourselves within seconds. BUTs come up about five seconds after we think we’ll do something. And our brains are damn creative in finding all kinds of BUTs. The thing is, if you listen to them, you’ll never get anywhere.

So stop saying BUT and just do it.

That’s how you not only find out where to live, but you actually end up there.

Last but not least: Don’t think about the future too much, you never know where you’ll end up 10, 20 or 50 years form now. Your priorities might change. The circumstances might change. Times have changed. Where most of our parents still lived in the same place all their lives, we are now a lot more mobile. It’s no different than career choices. For our parents it was mostly one choice, one company, one career. For us it’s often the opposite.

So don’t have the feeling that you have to make a final decision now. There is no such things as final decisions. Instead, choose something that you think might work for the now and the next few years.

And the most important thing: GO FOR IT.

References   [ + ]

1. When one of your values is to live a sustainable lifestyle, I want to note that living in cities is a lot more environmental friendly than living in the countryside. There are a couple reasons for that, but I just want to point out three.

  1. Transportation: In the city you often don’t need a car. Instead you can use public transportation or your bike.
  2. Heat: When you live in an apartment aright next door to somebody you won’t need to heat as much as when your house is all by itself.
  3. Space: We are over seven billion people on the planet. There is hardly enough space for nature to flourish. If we build houses in the countryside, where priorly were none, we are taking that away from nature.

2 Comment

  1. Susie says: Reply

    Excellent article! Moving to a new place or deciding to move to a new place entails so many things but most importantly I’ve learned to put aside the illusion of a perfect place. I’ve changed so many times over the years as well as my circumstances that nothing can always remain the same.
    I’ve learned how to appreciate living in the moment!

    1. jessica says: Reply

      Hi Susie, thank you for your feedback! Living in the moment is the right way to approach such tough decisions.

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