I realised both times when I lived in Melbourne and the Gold Coast that something was missing, something did not make me feel at home. I had a routine which was normal; I would work, go to the gym, play sport and go hiking or surfing or away for weekends. So why wasn’t I content?
Why was it that 3.5 million other people seemed more than happy to call Melbourne home but I felt bored and unfulfilled? What had I missed?
I learned an incredibly valuable lesson which is; not all people think or feel about the same thing the same way. Some people love Melbourne or cities, they love the metropolis lifestyle. Going out to bars, cafes, art galleries, chilling in the park. But these are not things I love, they are just things I like to do once a year and that’s enough.
I grew up being able to go to the beach in a few minutes, in a town with no traffic lights, no sirens blaring, no buildings over 2 storeys high, surrounded by nature and national parks. And I liked life that way.
So it’s important to recognise that although many people may rave positively about a place, about a country, an experience or even a possession; that thing may not be for you.
Here are some practical examples of why I won’t live in a city again.
Cities are more expensive. That is no surprise. More competition drives up prices. Rent costs more. You pay for parking. The lifestyle most people live costs more to support, like eating out or meeting up with friends for drinks.
“Noise it the impertinent of all forms of interruption. It is not only an interruption, but a disruption of thought” Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that in the 18th century! What he refers to is the disruption of focus and of clarity and of an at-ease mind. I can only speak for myself, but in my personal experience this is true. The constant sound of traffic, sirens, cars honking, trams belling, music playing, crossings blinking, construction jobs blaring and so forth ; for me became a low hum of frustration. I love the sound of the wind, the rain, the birds or even silence. So to have constant sound for me was a major reason I disliked the cities.
Cities like Sydney and Melbourne have a low pollution index of below 6.5/ug/m3 which by international standards is good and below average. But I dislike the amount of traffic and cars, the smells and the amount of rubbish that is generated in cities. Breathing in air that is less clean or dusty and tolerating other people’s mess it not something I now enjoy.
To summarise this point, my hobbies revolve around the outdoors. I enjoy hiking, camping, surfing, fishing, skiing (in the winter) and so forth. So none of the major things that bring me enjoyment in life are easy to access in cities. Therefore I find that the cities detach me from the things I most enjoy.
I love to run and I also love being on the ocean or in the mountains. Running in cities I find to be very ineffective. You are constantly disrupted by crossings and traffic lights or doing 10 laps of the same park, 5 times a week does not interest me. Therefore I find it easier to be in a smaller town where I can go on a long relaxing run. In smaller towns you are still completely capable of playing team sports like soccer, rugby, touch football and basketball.
Getting to National Parks is accessible within a few hours from cities like Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast. But a few hours for me is still too much. I enjoy being able to walk into a forest, to walk to a mountain track or to walk to the beach. Many people may think that is naïve or selective of me, but if it meant getting a lower paying job to be closer to nature I would choose that option any day of the week.
Road closures, paid parking, toll bridges, toll roads, crowded shopping centres, lining up for services, waiting in traffic, tall buildings which block the sun but which you are not allowed to enter. All of these eat into your time and freedoms. In cities I feel that you have less freedom to walk and move as you please through the landscape. You have less input into what happens locally to the town or place you live.
Cities can provide jobs and opportunities, that’s true. But in my personal experience there is ample work and opportunities to be found in smaller towns if you just know where to look or are willing to upskill or change industry. Again, it’s all about sacrifices. Really want to surf on the weekends? Well then you may have to change career!
Pace / Speed:
The pace of cities is amplified to that of smaller towns. This is a metric of population, not energy however. If you have 3 million people in one area, there is going to be more need of goods and services and opening hours of these goods and services will match that demand. It is not that people live a ‘faster pace’ lifestyle in the city, it is just that they are used to things happening faster for them. Consider that for a minute. People may move around more hurriedly or more often, but it does not mean more is achieved.
More people means more crime. I prefer to live in smaller communities where there is less organised or serious crime.
For these reasons above I feel that cities provide me a lower quality of life. Sadly many people I know find that living in a city long term has negatively impacted their mental health or other aspects of their life.
Life is all about doing what you love and enjoying the time you have. I find that I am able to have a better social life, better health, better finances and a better lifestyle outside of the city than why wouldn’t I take that offer?