In September 2019, I ended the relationship I'd been in for more than 13 years. It was the first time I was single as an adult, having started seeing my ex when I was just 19 years old.
It was also the start of a new phase in my life. One in which I'd stop wondering “what if”, figure out who I was, who I wanted to be, and – most importantly for this blog, maybe – where I wanted to be.
I'd long felt that Belgium wasn't the place for me. While it's my home country and where my family lives, it's not a place that in general values the things I've come to find so important: self-development, curiosity, openness, entrepreneurship, and positivity.
My relationship had kept me in Belgium but the desire to live abroad, to travel more, longer, and slower, grew until it became so strong I could no longer ignore it. In the last months of 2019, I stored my things with family, finished the trips I still had planned departing from Brussels Airport and crafted a plan to go in search of a new home.
The idea: to spend one month living in different cities at a time, getting a feel for the kind of place I'd like to end up in.
The goal: to find a new base and community to belong to, at least for a year but hopefully for longer.
While there are many places in the world I'd still love to visit, there are not so many that answer to the criteria I have in mind for my new home. I realize that these criteria might change as my quest progresses and – who knows – because of the people I meet – but for now, I've listed below the things I'm taking into account when moving from one place to the next. These are also the things I'll be reporting on each time I've spent a month somewhere.
Lots of people chase the sun and I'm no different. I'm not looking for a place that's tropical all-year-round but I'd love to live somewhere that receives more sunlight than Belgium. While I'm not a fan of the cold, it's the greyness of my home country that affects my mood and energy levels.
Live music scene
I absolutely love small live music events. Jazz, funk, Latin, classic, … Good music gives me all the feels and I want to surround myself with more of it. If a place has some live music bars or lots of cultural/music events throughout the year, that's definitely a plus for me.
Dance is my one big passion aside from traveling. I haven't been able to take classes as much as I used to in 2019 and I miss it tremendously. While I love different styles of hip hop, dancehall, house, and afro, I'd love to learn some Latin dances and maybe even some swing.
If a place doesn't have a good dance school, it likely won't be for me.
This may seem like an odd criterium but eating healthy is important to me and I've visited places in the past that I liked but where it was hard to find a nice range of vegetables and fruits at the supermarket (I'm looking at you, Budapest).
Yes, going to the farmers market is an option but as I'm the kind of healthy eater that doesn't enjoy doing groceries or cooking, I need a place that makes it easy for me to find what I need.
The absolute dream is somewhere that has at least one large supermarket that offers grocery delivery. Bliss!
Meetups and community
My search for a new home is just as much a search for a new place as it is for a new community. It's super important to me to find or be able to build a community somewhere of like-minded people. Not people who share my opinions but people who look at life with a similar curiosity and eagerness, who are working to become better versions of themselves and are able to have long conversations about “the big things in life”.
And that will have cake with me, of course. Another kind of food will do too.
I realize that community is something you build but throughout my travels, I've also noticed that somehow-similar people tend to group together.
Chiang Mai is known for its digital entrepreneurs. Bali is a hotspot for those into yoga and other types of personal development. Berlin is where you want to launch your startup.
The kind of people I'm looking for probably won't be living in the middle of nowhere on a farm herding sheep – nothing wrong with that, of course, but also not the lifestyle I'm going for and so while I do have an idea of the kind of people I'd love to surround myself with, this criterium will probably be one of the hardest things to confidently check off.
As much as I love the variety in cafes, meetups, and cultural events that a lot of cities have to offer, having easy access to nature is important to me. Even just being able to go for a stroll along the river, a walk in the woods or a hike in a nearby nature park can make such a difference for your mental wellbeing.
I love walking so as much as I love a city like Los Angeles, I think it would be too big for me to live in. I know what it's like to drive to lots of places and be stuck in traffic jams all of the time (while Belgium is small, the north of the country is pretty congested and public transportation connections aren't great) and I don't want more of that.
Ideally, I'd find a place where I can get around easily on foot and make use of public transportation for anything that would take more than 25 minutes of walking.
That I'm looking for a new base doesn't mean that I plan to stop traveling and thus keeping that and my line of work in mind, it's important to me to have easy access to an international airport. “Easy access” to me means the possibility to get there within half an hour's drive or a maximum of one hour on public transportation.
Access to cake
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know I have this thing with cake. While it would be better for my health and finances if there weren't any great cake cafes at the destination I choose to make my new home, it would also be a tad sad :-)
I love learning languages but I'm not sure whether I'd want to dive into a new alphabet, for example. This one is optional but I think I'd choose a place with a language I'm interested in learning over a place where the language doesn't appeal to me as much. But we'll see :-)
Unique about this place
While the above criteria are all quite important to me, I realize each place might have something unique that will make me want to stay or that will leave a lasting impression on me. I'll make sure to discuss these things in my monthly recaps as well.
Speaking of which: monthly recaps!
I decided to do these when I was already halfway through my February in Berlin so the first two are a bit delayed. And that's not all that has been delayed: due to the C-virus, I've decided to pause my quest and return to Belgium until it's safe to head out into the world again.
In the meantime, you can read about the first months of my Nomad Quest for a New Pad here:
- January in Valencia
- February in Berlin (coming soon)
Thank you for following me on this journey,