Where I Might Be Meant to Live

BLOG Where I Might Be Meant to Live

dymaxion map 3 - where i belong
As you probably know, I’ve decided I’m ready to walk away from our civilization culture and just be nobody-but-myself:

I’m going to find someplace natural, someplace warm and peaceful, probably near forests and ocean beaches, perhaps build a cabana or a yurt, live mostly off local and home-grown foods, and reconnect with uncivilized life, with my instincts, with my senses and emotions, learn to pay attention, live in now time, play, reflect, explore and learn about the local ecosystem, and just be present. And from that stillness, I’m going to imagine and write about what’s possible.

You’re welcome to come and visit, and stay as long as you like.

This place might evolve into a natural Intentional Community by force of gravity — if enough of you also walk away, and visit, and stay, who knows what is possible?

But where? I’ve identified the following criteria:

  • A place warm enough not to need heating.
  • In or near forests and beaches.
  • Peaceful.
  • Not overcrowded.
  • Reasonably sustainable when the economy and culture collapse.
  • A place where the people nearby have a high sense of well-being, by their own standards, and ideally are progressive in their thinking.
  • Connectivity: not too remote for visitors to access, and with high-speed Internet available.
  • Proximity to the current locations of those I love.

Some readers have suggested that if I don’t choose well, civilization and its problems will quickly arrive in the community I live in, and I’ll be back where I started.

I’ve done some preliminary research:

  • I’ve visited (last year) and will be visiting (this year) some places that would seem to meet these criteria.
  • I’ve researched average temperatures, population density, and local economics, politics and social cultures for the areas that would seem to qualify.
  • I’ve looked at the NEF’s Happy Planet Index for each country, and drilled down to the Life Satisfaction Index. I also looked at a British study of Subjective well-being. And I answered the NEF survey so I could assess my own gauge of personal well-being, and also understand what measures they used to assess this (emotional well-being, life satisfaction, vitality, self-esteem, resilience, autonomy, personal capacities, support relationships, sense of belonging and trust, and work satisfaction — a pretty good list). This is worth a read — their list of 5 things you can do to improve your subjective well-being resonate strongly with my list of 10 things I practice every day: improve connections, physical and mental activity, attention skills, new learning, and giving/generosity. 

With that very incomplete and subjective data, I put together a preliminary list of ten places, shown on the map above. In no particular order:

  1. Nature Coast — Southeastern US
  2. Belize — Central America
  3. Nicoya/Cloud Forest — Costa Rica
  4. Almapá — Brasil
  5. Curitiba/Santa Catarina — Brasil
  6. Açores — Off Coast of Portugal
  7. Esperance — Western Australia
  8. Queensland — Northeastern Australia
  9. and 10. Pacific Islands — Palau, Société Islands (e.g. Bora Bora), and perhaps even Hawai’i

The hardest thing for me in compiling this list was excluding some stunningly beautiful places I’ve visited that are just too cold. I could easily come up with twenty places I’ve seen, or would like to see, that would be on this list otherwise. I also reluctantly took some Caribbean islands I’ve visited off the list because they are overpopulated and unsustainable.

What do you think? Does any one stand out for you? Any obvious clunkers? What’s missing I should check out?

And, perhaps the most important question: If you were to walk away from civilization and live a radically simple, natural life, where would you go?

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32 Responses to Where I Might Be Meant to Live

  1. Brutus says:

    I can’t advise you, and your research appears to be far superior to anything I could offer. The whole prospect is rather intriguing, though I can’t see myself making the leap you’re preparing for. Three movies I’ve seen recently that have to do with walking away keep resonating in my mind: House of Sand, Into the Wild, and Grizzly Man (fiction, fictionalized, and documentary). The last two of them ended rather badly for the protagonists. The first one ended well, sort of, and was luminous in its poetic vision but rather heartbreaking nonetheless. (Whereas you mourn for Gaia especially, I also mourn for at least some aspects of civilization, flaws and all.) Obviously, none of the settings meet your criteria, but your identification of the northern coast of Brazil caught my eye. I can’t even guess if Internet access is available.

  2. Nick Smith says:

    “What do you think?”I think that while ever you seek for a place of sanctuary in the world you’ll forever be looking.IMHO, peace is something you have to discover within yourself… and when you do it won’t matter where you go because you’ll bring respite with you… and the world will fall at your feet in gratitude for that. BTW, IMHO this is the way you save the world. ;) Godspeed Dave :)

  3. Theresa says:

    I don’t know. I think it looks a lot like you might be a part of an elite group in society – people with enough money – who are all prepared to jump ship when the economy collapses. I think you blogged about that once..it might have been in links of the week I don’t think I can find it. Anyway, hope you don’t have Bernie Madoff’s relatives and such for neighbors. Bowen Island is probably a better idea as any place can be subject to extreme temperatures or political turmoil.

  4. Michelle P. says:

    Well D. Quite frankly, I’d be cautious about QLD on the whole! I’ve not been there myself and I’m an Aussie BUT… given my impressions of the state from my vantage point here is the way I would perceive living in QLD.1. The spots that are temperate and “lovely” to live in most of the year around are closer to the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast. They are touristy, crowded, will cop the brunt of any massive tidal surges and are hyper tied to the culture and economy. 2. Further north QLD they’re going through some of the most insanely perverse flooding and rain in decades. Dengue fever is on a massive rise as well as Malaria strains we “thought” had been wiped out. It can be unbearably humid and hot during the “Build up” and that is just as uncomfortable as living in extreme cold! 3. It would break your heart to watch the Great Barrier Reef slowly die as it is currently doing. Only compounding your sense of grief in the long runMy suggestion would be somewhere slightly north of Perth perhaps or if you are intent on near QLD (for the internet aspect), then Northern NSW is possible…IF you can find a spot along the coast that isn’t too heavily populated. Every man and his dog seems to want to live in or around Coffs Harbour in recent years. Lovely place, though, I believe. Good luck with your version of Eat, Pray, Love anyway. I hope you find where your heart is home.

  5. Ryan W says:

    Hi Dave,I have been more of a lurker here. Reading and absorbing rather than commenting but the family is sleeping and I feel inclined to add to this post.Factoring in global warming and sea level rises which now scientists believe both will be rising much faster than anticipated, it would seem that a few of those places may not be habitable in a few years as natural food supplies dwindle and average temps rise. Also, I am wondering, as society crashes and Canada is not the land of milk and honey that quite a few immigrants come to take advantage of, will be returning to where they are from (talking to a few Philippine friends I have anyways). I’m not too sure I would want to be an outsider either in some countries. Right now it would be alright but if times got tough, being different an ocean away would not be my choice especially when air travel may leave us stranded the next time oil shoots above 150 a barrel again…governments will not be able to bail them out with these tight times ahead.I came back to Northwestern Ontario last fall, leaving friends and supposed good jobs out in Alberta, only the good friends remain, not the jobs. One thing I noticed here is that we have a few different animals now as it warms up a bit. Squirrels have moved in from Southern Ontario as have a few new species of birds I don’t remember seeing growing up. I think these northern climates may warm up enough in the winter to be quite comfortable and still be too cold for a lot of the viruses that are sure to spread with systems collapse, and warm moist weather.I don’t think high speed internet is going to survive a crash for long, the internet now consumes a vast amount of our electricity every year…I don’t remember the % but it surprised me. Our virtual life is going to become extinct, I’m sure.I really don’t mean to be a killjoy Dave, just thinking out loud about things I’ve already considered. (I considered perhaps the Philippines or Costa Rica as I have friends in bothplaces)

  6. Hi Dave,I moved to Chan Bang, Rayong, Thailand, six months ago and it meets all of your criteria.Another place that could be of interest to you is San Blas, Panama. I haven’t lived there, just visited.Regards,Jan Nordgreen

  7. Just a correction: I live in Ban Chang, not Chan Bang. It is so easy to mix up the bang with the changs in this place. :)Regards,Jan Nordgreen

  8. John says:

    I would reconsider the Southeastern US if I were you. It’s never had a reputation for progressivism (try googling the Republican Southern Strategy). While I didn’t believe this growing up, I’ve had it beat into me in the past five years living in central Florida that quality of the educational system matters a lot in terms of fostering tolerance in society. Here, there is virtually none.Also, you trade unbearably cold winters for unbearably hot and humid Summers. You can virtually drink the air in August. And if you have mold allergies like I do, forget it!Just my $0.02US

  9. Ken Stokes says:

    Come to the last place on your list, Dave! Hawaii (specifically Kauai: Population ~60k). We’re rural/closeknit, warm/wet, self-reliant/defensible, coming from way back in the pack on sustainability (so could use your help), and we live in the Aloha Spirit!Oh, and, you could help organize house-less camps on our beaches as unemployment shoots toward 10%. Or, camp-out under our treehouse in Kapaa…My own path/quest is similar to yours, and you’ll find many sympatico folks to fall in with here.

  10. Why not New Zealand?

  11. vera says:

    What, no New Zealand? That’s where I’d go if I were rich enough to be “took.” Australia = spiders, bugs, snakes, even trees! that like to kill humans and can (not to mention the sharks and the fires). Kiwiland = all nature is benign. Sheep far outnumber people. Government is green(ish). And the beauty… ah… :-)

  12. EJ says:

    Do you have papers for living in all these places? Beware the wish list if you don’t. While it may be possible to enter and “just stay” in the long run this will likely come back and bite you. If you don’t have the right papers you can stay underground in many countries. But it means never leaving, or if you leave, never coming back. It means never needing hospital care, insurance or driving. No owning land, no real job. No library card. Are you ready for that?

  13. Daisy Bond says:

    Dave, best of luck on this journey! I hope to me making this choice for myself soon enough.As for choosing a location, I hope you will bear in mind rising sea levels and increasingly intense storms. Islands and many coasts may quickly become very dangerous places.

  14. vera says:

    Hey Pete, you lucky dog… :-)Well, if Dave is willing to do Oz, which is also remote, why not NZ? I’d pick NZ over Oz any day, and the hot springs make up for a bit of cold. But that’s me.Dave, what about mosquitos and malaria? Beware of some of those islands… I checked out Vanuatu once, very tribal and wonderful, but infested. Also… think of whether you like flat. Belize is mostly flat…

  15. Dave Pollard says:

    Additional comment from Steve Hinton:I can

  16. kim sbarcea says:

    DaveHave a read of this before thinking about Australia (where I live).http://climateprogress.org/2009/02/02/australia-faces-collapse-as-climate-change-kicks-in-are-the-southwest-and-california-next/Note Western Australia. You may also have heard about the tragic, fierce fires we have had in south Eastern Aust. I would also agree with the comments about Qld. Aust will be doomed IMHO – water scarcity, fierce temperatures, ongoing drought, crop failures.Portugal has very specific immigration criteria (my hubby is Portuguese and whilst we are relocating to Portugal eventually, there are immigration issues for me). We are currently scouring Portugal for a place along the lines of what you wish for. Also considering Spain, Azores too. We’ve had enough of current “civilisation”.

  17. Dave Pollard says:

    Additional comment, from William Lucas, sans hotlinks which apparently are blocked by comment server:Hi Dave More research is needed. Try here.(epi.yale.edu) I notice that NZ is missing from your list. I strongly recommend that you consider some parts of it. I’ve walked the length of it barefoot and have lived here for most of my life. My own choice after research is Atamai village (atamai.co.nz). It is newly being put together, and would really benefit from your input. Only have time for a short email (at work) but I have some knowledge of Oceania. Another map that is floating around on the internet somewhere is of projected temperature rise. It is colour coded, and areas are shown in tones from gree, yello, organge red and purple. The greatest projected rises are 5 or 6 degrees. The least rise in the whole world, a small patch of green in the pacific Ocean is centred on NZ as I remember. I too place an emphasis on being warm and not being depened on heating or technology to remain warm, but I’m nervous of being caught out should the temperatures climb. I was once in New Delhi for a month when the thermometer never dipped below 40 (104 F) degrees Celsius day or night. It topped out at 47 (116 F) William p.s.I wouldn’t go to Australia. Jared Diamand says it has the most fragile western ecology.

  18. vera says:

    Yeah, and so does Tim Flannery. But of course the Oz politicians are still trumpeting immigration. Last I heard, anyway. Seems like most politicians have gone insane. Or were they always?A few more thoughts… Subtropics are luscious to dream about, wonderful to visit, but not necessarily nice to live in. My own experience (so. Florida): gators in the creeks and canals, out to get your dog if it dips in for a swim; cockroaches the size of mice; nasty humidity (everything mildews in the closets, even with a/c); brutal summers. And I learned something important about myself: I love the 4 seasons! When I lived down there, after 2 years I was longing even for the sleet and mud of late fall. With four seasons, I always look forward with delicious anticipation to the next one by the time one is ending. If I had to live in the subtropics, I would choose a place with mountains, so that the summer can be escaped on the higher ground.

  19. Dave Pollard says:

    Additional comment from Randall Ross:One real concern is immigration policy. Having spent many years in theUS with no real path to becoming permanent, aside from marrying acitizen (no thanks), or enslaving myself to a corporation forsponsorship (no way), I decided to come home to Canada. If you haven’tplanned how you will stay permanently, then I recommend that you givethat your #1 priority. This not only applies to the US of course.If I were to choose an “ideal” location, I’d likely pick a pacificisland not in or under control of the US. In the past I had researchedTonga and Tuvalu as possible locations. Tonga was fairly easy to settlein by giving the royal family some $$.Please keep us posted.Best Regards,Randall

  20. Jon Husband says:

    Arcosanti in the US Southwest for a year, just to learn a bit more about IC’s and decompress before the next stage of your deep dive ?

  21. Dave Pollard says:

    Wow, thanks everyone. Some great ideas here, and I’ve taken lots of notes. Some general comments:1. OK I’ll put NZ back on the list, because while it fails the temperature test, it outranks most of the other 10 in several other of the criteria.2. I am very fortunate/privileged to be able to walk away without great personal risk because of my savings/pension, but I’m hoping to discover how/where we can all walk away and live a radically simple life, even without money to ‘buy our way out’. 3. I’m not so concerned about sea level rise in my lifetime; my research suggests it will be 50 years or more before the impact of Greenland/Antarctic ice melt will produce sea level rises enough to sink a billion people, and most of the world’s current beaches.4. I’ve lived in some very hot places, and I’ve never found a place so hot I wanted to escape. But I take your point about the legalities — immigration and health care and property ownership (though I’d prefer to rent not own) — and also disease and insect threats. It may be that the only places that will take me are well down the list of favourite places, but the idealist in me says pick the ideal spots first and then worry about the legalities.

  22. kim sbarcea says:

    oh and I should have said since I am a New Zealander, check out NZ for sure. I much prefer the colder climates and think it fits largely what you want. Sorry to my beloved NZ for not mentioning you :-)

  23. Mike says:

    “If you were to walk away from civilization and live a radically simple, natural life, where would you go?”I did. I’m working on simpler. I’m here, now.Everywhere’s uncertain, given the reality of climate change. Nowhere’s perfect, and nowhere’s “guaranteed safe”, but I have a strong feeling that the “First World”, being higher-up the tech pyramid, is in for a much harder time down the energy-slippery-slope.

  24. George says:

    Jan Nordgreen is on to something. I was surprised not to find Thailand on your list. If you picked a place off the tourist path (like Rayong) and integrated yourself into the community (definitely possible – especially if you could see your way to practicing Buddhism – which incorporates a lot of your values) you could have what you want subject of course to the fact that no matter where you go, there you are.When the collapse came, if it did, you would be away from the beaches, part of a community, and accustomed to the heat. Thailand is a food exporter and so has margin to get by on that front. Thailand is actually quite diverse and much too easily stereotyped but if you chose well you could strike the right balance between tolerance of westerners and attachment to traditional non-globalized Thai ways. The country was never colonized (though some think it has been neo-colonized) and if you look carefully it shows. They also have a retirement visa. :-)I’ve been there five times and never been to a beach. My son has been living there for five years and the above is based on my visits and my conversations with him.

  25. I like Brazil a lot–the attitude of the people and their warmth, along with the warmth of at least some of the country is lovely. A little inland, out of the horrific cities. Lots of beautiful women, too.

  26. Paul Admas says:

    Why the list? Why the research? Get on with it, as for the cold you are a mammal with your own central heating system. I live in an intentional community (what ever that means) on a small tidal island of the coast of Scotland, last summer we had two and half months without a single drop of rain and had to resort to washing in the north Atlantic every morning, I got used to it. The island has had a long history of

  27. Paris says:

    Hei Dave, If you really want a warm place and don’t worry about sea level rise, if you want to find welcoming people living in harmony with their environement, then I definitly recommend french polynesia. I have travelled there extensively, and there are many different islands to choose from. Those close to Tahiti are to be avoided, Bora Bora is a no no, it’s full of tourists, people are money oriented and there are too many ghost hotels (money laundering). But when you fly further to the Marquise for example, or to the exquise Maupiti, then you find authentical polynesian people. The climate is very mild due to ocean (no hot weather) and landscapes are wonderfull, in addition ocean is generous (fish).You could ask me more details if you were to put that farthest part of France on your list. Of course anyone speaks french over there, which shall not be a problem for a canadian:)

  28. John Banfill says:

    Why live anyplace permanently. Why not be semi-nomadic and experience as many places and cultures as possible. There are good and bad points to every place.

  29. Janene says:

    Hey Dave –Long time, eh…. but I look in on you with some regularity even if I don’t pipe up…I’m doing my thing in Central Colorado. Yes, the weather turns cold, but not too cold for a tipi…so what the heck. We are planning to buy some land and put up a tipi village. Combo of full time residents and tipi-resort during the summer (with probably some off season conference/primitive skills workshops etc). This particular part of Colorado is an alpine desert, so it gets cold, but it gets lots of sun year round and very little snow here in the valley. We have a raging river industry in the summer (and river rats will dig the tipi camping experience), and a semi-active winter ski/snowboard industry in the surrounding mountians. The local community is very progressive, generally, and there always seem to be a lot of interesting things going on…. Anyway, guess my whole point is that if you want to live temperate, that’s cool…. but remember that it isn’t neccessary from a sustainable/general lifestyle perspective. What the hell… I know you know this, its just that once upon a time that was what I wanted too… until I found a place that I fell in love with…..Janene

  30. Tim says:

    It depends partly on how much isolation you want. For instance, the islands would probably be safer given a catastrophic civilization collapse … but also completely cut off from everything and unable to acquire certain materials. Unless you’re willing to forgo all industrial goods, you would need to have large stockpiles of metal, transistors, etc. If you lose communication in Costa Rica you can eventually find out what happened … but if you’re way out in the Pacific that may not work. Also consider that islands would hinder movement and exploration, and be more vulnearable as a result of the isolation.On the other hand, the areas connected to land might be more affected by hordes of people fleeing the breakdown of civilization. It sounds like you’ve done far more research on this than me, but if you haven’t done so I would suggest you check out macro-regional stability. These areas may be fine on there own, but how would they function in a crisis when people began seeking refuge? “Man is wolf to man” … Also, without any background knowledge, I would not choose Acores simply due to its proximity to Africa. (and Europe for that matter)

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