Other People’s Lives

We recently spent 25 days in the United States. There are many things you can do while travelling and we do try to put in a certain variety: visiting museums and tourist spots, sampling local foods, going to musical performances, shopping, etc. All on your standard Lonely Planet fare.

But there’s one thing that I think we focus much more on than many other travellers do. And that is the question of: what would it be like to live here?

We happily wander around neighbourhoods like the Upper East Side, Greenwich Village, and Brooklyn Heights (New York), Beacon Hill, Bunker Hill, and the Waterfront (Boston), trying (not always successfully) to look as inconspicuous as possible, wondering what it’s like to be a local.

Sure, other visitors also visit these places, but compared to more touristy spots in the Big Apple, Washington Square Park in the Village seemed positively devoid of outsiders. And I’m sure that at least some travellers occasionally stop to think about the life of the locals. But I suspect that we take it just that one step further and treat is not only as a fleeting thought, but as an opener for a lengthy and semi-serious discussion.

Instead of leaving it at “Oh, this street seems nice,” we’ll venture into “What kind of jobs could we find here,” “What would the commute be like,” “What kind of pay could we get,” and even look at unit prices in the window if we happen to pass by a local real estate agent. This has almost become a pastime of sorts for us, comparing the liveability of towns and cities we visit. We’ve done this in as different locations as Melbourne, Canberra, Darwin, New York, Boston, France, and probably others I’ve forgotten.

So what’s up? We still live in Denmark, and there are no immediate plans to the contrary. But I take it as yet a symptom that I don’t feel as bound to Denmark as my passport might indicate, neither am I completely settled in in my native country. I guess this is the perpetual wanderlust rearing its beautiful head once again.

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