Urban or rural? Beach or mountain? Large luxury resort hotel or family run pension? Michelin cuisine or simple street food? Quiet tasca or bouncing nightclub? Bustling city or tranquil village?
We live in a world where it increasingly feels if you indicate you like one thing it must mean you don’t like another, or vice versa.
It almost seems unfashionable to have a wide range of likes which are wildly contrasting.
For example, I like all of the things mentioned in the opening paragraph.
Some people have very clear cut ‘either or’ ideas of what they like and don’t like when it comes to travel, or even choosing where to stay. We were asked recently “why don’t you choose to live by a beach?” In this case my answer was the same as it would be if someone asked “why don’t you live up a mountain?”
Because we’re working, we’re not on holiday.
There are a whole range of ingredients which are important to us when it comes to choosing where to live. If we could meet all of them and live beside a beach as well, then fantastic. But the beach wouldn’t be the first priority.
We have a friend who lives in a remote valley on La Gomera. It’s stunningly beautiful, but she has no internet connection and it’s a 40 minute drive to the nearest shop. She tried to visit us recently, her first attempt was aborted because her flight had been cancelled due to bad weather. Monitoring the situation online, I knew the day before that this was a possibility. But she had no idea her flight had been cancelled until she arrived at the airport, after a long pointless drive from her house. We visited her many times before relocating to the Canary Islands. Experiencing her remoteness, beautiful though it is, proved a valuable lesson in helping us consider what were essential ingredients for living and working in another country rather than just living in one.
Subsequently, when deciding where to base ourselves on Tenerife the ingredients were as follows:- somewhere which felt rural but wasn’t far from beaches or a decent-sized centre which had a) a good selection of restaurants b) lots of cultural and traditional events and c) the sort of facilities which made it easier to work and live – food, fashion and household shops, officialdom, garages, dentists, medical centre, IT specialists, hairdressers etc.
We ended up midway between Puerto de la Cruz on the coast and La Orotava slightly inland (it was so midway we paid electricity bills to one town council and water bills to the other). We were within close distance of a number of beaches, yet also within easy access of some of Tenerife’s most enjoyable walking routes. We could walk to some of the island’s best restaurants, and it was a 10 minute drive to a great modern shopping centre and local markets. Being close to two traditional towns meant we were spoiled by the choice of cultural and traditional events – from art, jazz and rock festivals to religious processions, quaint traditions (goat bathing at Midsummer) and a boisterous fun-filled carnival. And yet when we turned off the bedroom light at night it was so quiet the silence was initially deafening.
Relocating to Portugal we knew exactly where we wanted to be, but finding somewhere suitable proved more difficult than we anticipated. For some time, thanks to the intervention of angels who rented a house to us, we were based in a remote part of the Alentejo. The view from the terrace, across a valley sprinkled with cork trees to Marvao perched on a hilltop, was such that it distracted us from starting work every day. So did the range of exotic sounding bird calls – from golden orioles to blue-winged magpies. But it was over an hour’s drive to the nearest train station. Not ideal when your job involves a lot of travel. It was so rural that even getting a haircut involved planning a trip. I ended up getting my first haircut in Portugal in the Spanish city of Caceres, if that makes sense. The living was lovely, but working was more challenging.
Eventually we found a place which suited us perfectly in the area we were really interested in. It’s on a farm, and surrounded by vineyards and small fazendas where sheep, tiny goats and ducks roam free. Ten minutes in one direction is the coastal town of Setubal with its fabulous fish and seafood restaurants. The town borders the lush Arrabida National Park where there are golden beaches as spectacular as I’ve seen just about anywhere. Ten minutes inland is the traditional hill town of Palmela with its Moorish fort. Ten minutes in yet another direction are the wetlands of the Sado Estuary where dolphins swim and flamboyant flamingos strut. And it’s a short drive to an excellent shopping centre as well as a bustling food market.
Basically we’ve got easy access to a mouthwatering selection of restaurants b) lots of cultural and traditional events and c) the sort of facilities which make it easier to work and live (see the Tenerife list). And yet when we turn off the bedroom light at night it is silent.
Our living preferences aren’t wildly different from our travel ones – sometimes we want to walk in the hills, sometimes we want to lie on a beach; sometimes we want a city experience, sometimes we relish being alone with nature; sometimes we want art on our plates, sometimes you can’t beat a piece of battered hake wrapped in newspaper; sometimes we like the facilities of a large hotel, sometimes we enjoy being treated like a friend rather than a guest at a tiny rural hotel; sometimes we want to drink wine in a quaint tasca sometimes we want to guzzle mojitos at a lively street party.
We’re simply not ‘either or’ people, we love contrasts. Town or country? We want both.
Variety is the spice of… and all that jazz.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+