Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The World's Best Cities to Live in?

Last week, the BBC published an article on the world's 'top 50 cities' to live in (London only UK entry in world's 'top 50 cities'). Based on the Mercer Quality of Living ranking, the article cited London's lowly 39th position on the rankings table. Fortunately for me and my troop, it also cited Sydney as sitting pretty in 10th place, with Vancouver riding high at 4th. T

his week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the release of a PriceWaterhouseCoopers' report highlighting Sydney's superior natural and living environments, and air quality, which put it above and beyond most other comparable cities (Sydney, the good news... and bad).

Vindication for our major upheavals to what is consistently acknowledged as two of the world's top 10 ranked cities in the world? Or a sad indicator that London (and the UK writ large - no other UK city made the top 50) just isn't 'cutting the mustard' as a decent place to call home?

I always enjoy reading these rankings and take a perverse pleasure in citing them to friends and family but I'm not convinced they paint a fair picture of a place.

Poor old London doesn't make the top 10 but is surely one of the world's 'great' cities, bursting at the seams with history and culture, unrivalled arts, fashion and music scenes, and a trend-setting vibe that gave Cool Britannia its good name. The top 2 cities, Vienna and Zurich, are indeed beautiful cities, combining magnificent European architecture with wonderfully planned city spaces, but would I really want to pick up my things and move to dreary Dusseldorf in Germany (#6) or boring Bern in Switzerland (#9)? Probably not.

I guess I'm missing the point here. The cities are based solely on liveability factors and these factors are the kinds of things that we value in a city. Factors like low crime rates, political stability, good hospitals, clean air, and a decent climate. The problem is that the 'great' cities like London lose out in a number of these key areas and when taken, for example, with the industrial cityscape of Birmingham or the relatively volatile Glaswegian environment, the UK simply doesn't stack up in terms of safe, beautiful, liveable places to call home.

When we set off from the UK in 2003, we were consciously searching for the 'wow' factor and subconsciously searching for those things that make a city great to live in. Whilst I still don't believe that the rankings fairly represent the great cities of the world that we love to visit and spend time in, it does prove that liveability matters, and cities like Vancouver and Sydney are among the most liveable in the world.

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Thursday, 20 May 2010

First things first

Picking your life up and moving it to a foreign country is no small undertaking. It's fair to say that leaving loved ones, selling the house you've worked hard for, putting your dogs on a plane for God-knows-how-long, even giving up the job you've worked at for the past 5 years, is quite a big deal. But we'd made the decision to make the break and now there was no turning back. We broke the news to family and friends, we dreamed of our new life in Canada, and we visualised getting on the plane and leaving for that magnificent, diverse, breathtaking environment. Yet there was just one small matter to take care of... the visas.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Farewell England, Hello Canada and Australia

I left England in the summer of 2003 with my girlfriend, Sarah (now my wife), and our two beloved labrador retrievers, Murphy and Milo.

We went in search of a change to the monotony of our lives in the UK. Bored with the humdrum of our 9-5 routine and keen to seek out a more interesting life for ourselves, we headed to the great white north. To Canada, eh?

It was a traumatic time, saying farewell to family and friends with no idea if, and when, we would ever return. When I now look back seven years later, I wonder what exactly was the catalyst that gave rise to the decision to leave. Oddly enough, I think it was a conversation with a gym buddy that did it. He was moving to Calgary, we wanted to move overseas, and that was that.

I'm not sure at what point Canada became a serious contender. My Canadian ancestry played a large part in the decision but my family didn’t herald from the West, they came from the East - from Montreal and from Newfoundland. Vancouver was an altogether different proposition but the place appealed to us on a completely different level.

Maybe it was the Coastal Mountains, the proximity to the world’s number one ski resort, the generally laidback way of life, or the ability to sail in the morning and snowboard in the afternoon before being back in town for dinner in the evening. Whatever the reason, in mid-2003 we arrived on the shores of the North West Pacific and Vancouver welcomed us into its rainy, wind-swept arms.

Yet within 18 months, my job had us driving across the enormous Canadian vista to the capital, Ottawa, and only 18 months later, we were on a plane headed to Sydney, Australia, which has been our home for the past four years.

In seven years, we’ve lived in three continents, called eight houses our home (and owned three of them), had a number of different jobs, spoken several variations of the English language, and have shipped our dogs from one side of the world to the other… and all in the name of our search for a life less ordinary.

My aim in this blog is to share some of those experiences, both the highs and the lows, and to offer insights and advice into those amazing cities, states and countries we’ve called home.

Who knows where we'll end up but I do know one thing... I wouldn’t trade anything for our adventures in making a home from home.

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