On the Notion of Somewhere Else

Corner in Paris

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.

Under the Manhattan Bridge

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?

8 thoughts on “On the Notion of Somewhere Else

  1. Afancywindowseat

    I really liked this post, mostly because the idea of somewhere else isn’t really talked about very much, despite everyone having that daydream of a better life somewhere else. For me it isn’t necessary a specific place I know of, but the idea of being close enough to a city to feel uptown, to a body of water for solitude, to a farm for fresh produce, close enough to Europe because I’m disposed that way, but also close enough to Africa, so I feel a connection with being African.If that isn’t imaginary, I don’t know what else is!

    In his book The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton, sort of discusses this, but from his opinion, our somewhere else is actually just as amazing as we imagine, but we tend to bring our old dispositions with us to a new place and so in a sense, we kill that dream..if I’m making any sense.

    1. Emilia Post author

      Thank you! I love how you describe your idea of this other place, like a hodge-podge of all the different bits of our identity. It seems to me that the closets we get to talking about somewhere else is the arrival fallacy. We all think we’ll be happier then, but we’re not. Yet, so often the location bit of that idea is forgotten.

      I definitely must read The Art of Travel. Thanks for the super comment! 🙂

    1. Emilia Post author

      It’s always the best when you’re happy where you are!
      And I completely agree that everywhere would be a lovely place to visit 😉

    1. Emilia Post author

      Thank you! I agree, there are so many places I’d love to live as well (though sometimes I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist the siren-like call of home).

  2. Pingback: Elsewhere Espresso in the East Village | Emilia Lives Life

  3. Pingback: On Living Abroad on Sunday Mornings | Emilia Lives Life

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