Friday thought #28 Apartment hunting – what matters and what doesn’t??

When looking to move to a new town, finding somewhere to live is an absolute minefield, especially when you don’t currently live in the place you’re planning to move to. Do you look to live in the city centre? Right in the hustle and bustle but easier to make friends and socialise. Or do you look out of town? Quiet, peaceful, more space and overall more appealing but with the knowledge that you may end up feeling cut off and out of touch. Should you live near work and avoid the commute, or live somewhere more desirable and travel to work? So many things to consider!!

It’s a big step upping sticks and moving somewhere completely new, and add to that a new country and a new language and your life suddenly becomes very complicated. However hunting around, comparing prices and studying maps of the area is a great way of finding your way round a new place. You very quickly get a feel for where you would like to be, what’s too big, what’s too small and far more importantly than what you do want, is to eliminate what you absolutely don’t want.

I’d say this can be the same for many aspects of life, if you can’t decide what you’re looking for or where you would like to be, consider what you’re not looking for and you will immediately reduce your options enormously. When looking at somewhere to live, for example, an estate agent’s website may display 300 potential properties in the city and surrounding area. No-one has time to trawl through all of these but by carefully considering your criteria you can vastly narrow your search, thus making the whole process much less irritating! But the big question is, what are your criteria? Being forced to think about it really makes you realise what is important and what is an unnecessary luxury. How many bedrooms do you really need? How often is the spare bedroom actually used? How desperately do you need a garden? What can you get rid of? How will your cat come and go? By adamantly insisting that you will only consider 3 bedroomed houses, are you missing out on some lovely 2 bedroomed places?

All useful questions, the answers to which are only considered when we’re forced to make a decision. But it’s a very useful exercise whereby you often learn something new about yourself. What do you really need, and what do you not? The answer is rarely what you first expected…

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Should you move for the job or the place?

Only once have I moved somewhere to follow a job, and that was as a young newly qualified teacher who needed year of experience under my belt, so for the sake of ten months it didn’t really matter to me where I went. It was pretty dull, but a means to an end and since then I would never dream of moving somewhere I hadn’t chosen purely to follow a job. I’ve always lived in places that I want to live, places that I chose. But I’m very aware that this isn’t really the norm. Almost everyone you meet is where they are because either them or their partner has followed a job. I guess to most this seems like an obvious life choice, go where you can earn money, but it strikes me as surprising how highly people place jobs and careers on their list of priorities, and I’m intrigued as to why more people don’t consider where they would like to be and their quality of life as a lot more important. Indeed an astonishing number of people you meet have reached retirement having lived in a mediocre town that they simply tolerated rather than enjoyed, for the majority of their working lives. A two week holiday once a year is their only chance to escape to somewhere they enjoy. Fifty weeks of slog for two weeks of reward just doesn’t seem enough to me.

When I moved back to the Alps many years ago and got a teaching job, I lost track of the amount of new colleagues who asked me “So is your husband working here?” And oh the strange and bewildered looks I got for saying that no, my husband didn’t have a job here, I had chosen to move here!

Of course there are the obvious drawbacks to simply following your desires, and being reckless often doesn’t work out for the best, but sometimes I wonder whether people focus too much on money, jobs and careers, and forget that their own happiness also counts. How many people stop and consider whether they actually like living where they do? Or have they just grown accustomed to it, and aren’t brave enough to think about changing? I spend a lot of time considering these things, and like to think that I’ve found a healthy balance. I love my job, and could be doing exactly the same thing in a place I hate, but instead I chose to explore my options, and I discovered to my delight that there was a way of doing what I love, in a place I love.

My thoughts are, you only live once, so make the most of it…