Where to Live When All the World is Home | Robin Sparks

Where to Live When All the World is Home

San Francisco



I recently read an article online called “Parents of the Third Culture: Where to Retire When All the World is Home”.

It got me thinking. I’ve been moving and living abroad in over a dozen countries on 6 continents for over a decade to learn who is moving where and why for articles and a book I was writing about expat life – and ultimately, to find my own way home.

I’m often asked what qualities are on my Where are the best places on the planet to be an expatriate list. Here’s the short one: Geographically beautiful, within an hour of the sea, pleasant year round weather, a community where art and culture and architecture are valued, where colors are bright, where music and dance are an integral part of life, a cost of living significantly lower than that of the United States, within an hour of an international airport, a warm, loving, inclusive, progressive community with a world view, low crime rate, excellent, affordable healthcare with an emphasis on holistic health care, and where good healthy food grows easily and abundantly.

I would learn that most countries don’t allow foreigners to earn money legally, so my list grew to include a place where I could work. I had discovered in Turkey the most hospitable, inclusive people I’d met anywhere on the planet – and the most misaligned, thanks to a movie called “Orient Express”. I dreamed that if Westerners lived even briefly in real homes in real neighborhoods in Turkey, they might go home to report that muslims do not actually sprout horns and that we are in fact, more alike, than different. Maybe, my dream went, the undeclared war that my country had engaged in against all things Muslim, might begin to seem, well, nonsensical. And so Oneworld ltd was born and grew to include 7 apartments which I now rent out to global travelers passing through Turkey.

Three years later, Istanbul’s soaring cost of living, bleak winters, and spiritual polarization (one it seems is either a fundamentalist Muslim or an atheist in Turkey, with very little in between), and lack of environmental awareness and concern, resulted in new additions to my list: spiritual, conscious, alternative, environmentally proactive – and led me back to Bali.

Thanks to the internet, a Turkish manager and assorted “assistants” on the ground, I run a business in Turkey from a lumbung in the tropics of Bali.

One of the many things I have learned over the past 10 years, is that expat havens have a growth trajectory. Take St. Tropez for example. Expat havens begin as bohemian artists’ enclaves. Word gets out and within a few years (barring a bomb or ongoing political unrest), the masses arrive, followed by the developers, prices escalate, and the qualities that initially drew foreigners in the first place disappear. The bohemian early adoptors move on to the next best as-yet-unknown place, and the old expat havens become high priced made-to-order-for-tourists parodies of their former selves.

Many of the locales in which I have lived have already peaked on this trajectory – San Francisco, Paris, Buenos Aires, Buzios (Brazil), Deia (Mallorca, Spain)…There are others coming up from behind and they include Istanbul and Bali…

Yep, my antennae are up and quivering. Next best place? Shhhhhhh!

4 Responses to Where to Live When All the World is Home

  1. Lina May 2, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Come to the northern part of Portugal – but don’t tell anyone!

  2. Joe Jaffie May 4, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    Hi Robin, I have just been reading some of your articles and as you see to be an expert I would like your opinion on Sao Paolo, Brazil. I am considering moving there and want to know your opinion on cost of living and security among other things. Can you help?

    Dear Joe,
    Sao Paolo has always been a ‘pass through’ for me, never a destination. So I’m probably not qualified to answer your question. My sense from talking to foreigners living there is that Sao Paulo has an unbelievable plethora of entertainment and dining options. Safety? Nix. The fire-y temperament of South Americans leads to physical violence on a fairly predictable basis. The same characteristics that make the South American culture a gold mine of romance, bold color, musicians, and dance, also makes them prone to hair trigger violence. High rise apartment or a house with small barred windows and rottwiellers patrolling the yard? No thanks. And so, back in 2006, Brazil and Argentina came off my Perfect Places on the Planet to Live List.

  3. Roy Rajan May 29, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Not sure places like San Francisco or Paris ever really peaked, at least not as magnets for foreigners. San Francisco, for one, has more foreigners living there than ever before. They are expensive cities but they were never really cheap compared to other places. However, they do have well-paying jobs. Buenos Aires is still relatively cheap, especially in comparison to the US. My sense is that Bali peaked a long time ago and Istanbul is getting there. There may be no more undiscovered places that meet your criteria. It is hard to find places that have not already been discovered by luxury hotel chains.

  4. Roy Rajan July 27, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    Hi Robin,

    Any place within an hour of an international airport has already been discovered. The declining US dollar has also put many places abroad out of reach for Americans. I just concentrate on finding places with nice people and leave it at that. Hope you are doing well.

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