Growing up in New York City, you get the sense that Somewhere Else is a very important place. They do things like the rest of the world: students ride school buses each morning, people buy baguettes that taste good and kids eat pop tarts for breakfast. You are always aware that where you live is different from where other people live.
The languages that fly around, the kids going to their country homes and to visit their grandparents, respectively, at the weekend cement the sense that life occurs in Somewhere Else land. Each kid has a relationship with this mythical place. Some choose to babble about how they are dying to visit Australia. Others will use any exuse to talk about how they saw The Last Supper in Milan and a few will take the tactic of pretending that their family has strong culture ties to their homeland (they don’t). The limbo that exists between our world and Somewhere Else isn’t a fun place to dwell in.
My personal Somewhere Else was always less about an actual place and more an imaginary island, like Dubai’s artificial islands in the shape of the world. During high school, I spent my days dreaming about foreign countries. Occassionally I even visited them. These visits were always through rose-colored glasses, which isn’t precisely a bad thing. Seeing another place as simply beautiful is the epitome of somewhere else.
Living abroad isn’t about somewhere else. Traveling quickly, moving swiftly and collecting passport stamps is somewhere else. Somewhere Else isn’t about the reality. It’s all about fantasy and perfect in its own way. Changing hotel rooms every other day, spending hours on trains and maintaing an intoxicating sense of distance all feed the dream of finally entering that new place. But you haven’t entered, you’re only observing.
Because, as living abroad for any amount of time will tell you, Somewhere Else doesn’t and cannot exist. Living in another place allows you to transfer the routine and rhythms of your life to a different location but won’t radicalize how you live. It’s a fantastic and disappointing realization.
No matter where you go, you can create a similar life, based on who you are. There will be different accessories, but there will be few 180 degree changes. The largest change will that this new place, that place that was once Somewhere Else, will now be yours. You’ll have your favorite shops, favorite streets and least favorite bits, too. You can complain and compliment with authority.
And if that’s not great, I don’t know what is.
Where do you think of as the dream place to live or visit?