I've been thinking a lot about why people move--about the concept of "home," and and the even more elusive concept of "happiness." People move for work, for affordability of life, to be close to their family and friends. Affordability aside (that's a whole separate issue to tackle), work and people are complicated. People move for an actual job, or for increased job prospects, or they telecommute and can live anywhere. That's kind of a new thing. People-wise, our families and friends are increasingly unlikely to live in the same city, let alone the same region or country. And then there's general location: what if you want to live in a rural area? This is connected to affordability, too (it all is, ugh) (why is the entire state of Oregon so expensive), but also proximity to airports and proximity to people and proximity to a grocery store.
Given an ideal work situation where you could live ANYWHERE and make enough to live (pretend your pay scales up or down to fit the quality of life in your chosen area) and your parents don't have any health problems that require you to be close for hands-on care (assume everyone you know is super healthy), where would you go? If you are close to your family, do you choose their city as your hub? Proximity to the largest number of friends? Screw it all and pick the coolest house on the most beautiful plot of land and make it work?
There are all kinds of real estate blog posts on millennials and their moving/buying habits, but they don't have that long-term data I crave* (which you can only really get from hindsight, so that isn't really their fault). For instance: a lot of us have moved for school and then for work but find ourselves, around 30 years old, finally starting to buy homes and "settle down." But will we stay in those homes, or are we so used to uprooting every few years that we'll get antsy and sell and move and sell and move, etc?
This is an anecdotally-motivated question and not based on any studies I've read. But it wouldn't be so surprising, right? Is "home" the city or the people?** And with people so spread out, how do you prioritize between them? And would trying your hand at running a small bookstore in a teeny east coast town be even more fulfilling than social city living? How the heck do you know what will make you happy? Is happiness all an impossible illusion?? ...I mean, yeah, probably--but some situations are definitely better than others. Practically speaking, though, it's a bit difficult on any kind of (non-insane) budget to take your partner and your two cats on some kind of US/UK tour-of-living where you spend 3-6 months in each place that could POSSIBLY make you happy (and then create a real killer spreadsheet, because how do people make decisions without spreadsheets, I ask you).
All of this is to say that I seriously envy people who can daydream and not be super depressed by it. I spent a few hours looking at old Victorian houses in the middle of nowhere and am now totally paralyzed by (1) existential confusion and (2) my apparent inability to comprehend my own preferences.
*and are mostly dumb: they share stats on how those of use who move do it "for fun and adventure" when only 27-30% of people report moving for lifestyle reasons--40% move for a job, and 27-30% move to find a job, so that's 70% of people moving for work and not a "vacation," guys. MATHS.
**this obviously comes down to preferences and not some deeper "rightness." I'm just curious how people feel about it.