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Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.

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When I decided I was going to leave Canada for a warmer climate, I knew that I would be in for a challenge.

I never expected that the biggest challenge would be finding a place to emigrate to.

Looking for a new home has been a near-constant exercise in frustration for several years now. With the entire globe open to us, you’d think the choices would be endless, but every time we close in on a place, something happens to change our minds.

The most recent pick was the Canary Islands. Located close to Africa and Europe–both continents I’d love to see a lot more of–the Canaries are relatively safe, warm, and sunny, with no threat of hurricanes or other scary weather.

But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about how the Canaries are “full”, and due to the current economic crisis, there are fears that the islands’ systems and resources cannot support the people who are living there now, let alone any more immigrants. The government is primarily concerned with illegal immigration, but I imagine they are being a lot more selective when it comes to allowing any immigration at all.

I’ve also seen reports that it is “boring”, with a distinct lack of a cultural or arts scene, unless you are into the party-hard style of the resorts (and I’m not sure how cultural that is). It’s not as warm as I would like and quite windy, or so the Internet says, but these things are difficult to determine without actually going there. Still, what I’ve read recently makes me question our decision to move there. With a growing number of unemployed and desperately poor people, can a higher crime rate be far behind? We will, of course, visit a country before we take the leap and move there, if at all possible.

Our first choice was Curacao. Curacao sounded perfect on paper, but the reality was altogether different. It has beautiful weather and is relatively free from hurricanes, but the crime rate is high and getting higher. The government is corrupt. All of the locals we spoke to were afraid of being the targets of crime, especially with Venezuela’s drug trade so nearby.

The cost of living is extremely high, and there is a tension resulting from the country’s all-too recent independence from the Netherlands that is impossible to ignore. We found Curacao’s permanent residents assumed we were Dutch and ignored us until we greeted them in their language–something they don’t often see the Dutch do, apparently. Since much of Curacao’s services, including the military, are still dependent on the Dutch, it’s rare to find a native who will publicly bash their friends in the Netherlands. But if you’re paying attention, that simmering resentment is everywhere–and more than a little scary. When you take into account that most of the big, fancy (and well guarded) homes are owned by the Dutch, you get the sense that you’re witnessing a ticking time bomb that could blow at any second. Did I mention that most of the island’s inhabitants are descendants of slaves who were once controlled by the Dutch? Yep, that doesn’t exactly add to the comfort level.

When you’re in a place as gorgeous as Curacao, with its white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and lush forests, it’s devastating to see the evidence of human destruction. Piles of garbage seem to be everywhere. Garbage washes up on even the most isolated and uninhabited beaches. There is no recycling program. And brown smog from the decrepit oil refinery discolours the sky. If I moved there, I’d become less a writer and more an environmental activist, though that will probably happen no matter where we go.

It broke our hearts to cross Curacao off our list, since there was so much we loved about it, but it was too expensive and too unsafe to seem like the right place to relocate. However, it is a wonderful place to visit in many ways.

Next week I’ll discuss the second place I considered, but currently, I’m turning an interested eye toward one of the coastal towns of Chile.

Have any of you ever been or lived there? What did you think? And if you have another place for me to consider, please let me know in a comment.

(Oh, and let’s get this out of the way now: I don’t expect to find any place that is “perfect”. Where we’re living now is far from perfect. But we do have certain things that we’re not willing to live without.)

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9 Comments

  1. Lisa S.

    While it’s not as exotic as you probably would like, I hear there’s lots of Canadians living in Bermuda.

    Reply
  2. Holli Moncrieff

    Exotic is not something on our “must have” list. We have looked at Bermuda and other Caribbean islands, and the issues are all the same: gang and gun violence, and hurricanes.

    Surprisingly, for a tropical place, Bermuda can get quite cold in the winter, dropping to temps well below zero. I’d like to avoid that. 🙂

    Thanks for the suggestion, though!

    Reply
  3. Lisa

    Interesting question..my husband and I recently returned from Negril, Jamaica…We’ve been going to the same hotel for the last 5 years so are getting to know the place. We’ve toyed with the idea of some day retiring there…maybe buying a small hotel/B&B type of thing.
    What draws us there are the friendly people we meet each time we are there. The town of Negril is very laid back and quiet. Almost all the population of Jamaica speak English, and one really great thing is that you can drink the water..no need for bottles or watching your ice cubes.
    Downsides…Poverty is very high in many areas, especially when you travel to the interior areas. It breaks my heart to see some of the shacks people call home. We’ve heard that crime can be bad in certain areas like Kingston, the capital, but have never experienced it first hand.

    Reply
  4. Holli Moncrieff

    Sounds beautiful, Lisa. The crime is a little too high for me, but I’m sure there’s a way you two could make it work It’s so nice to find a place that you love that much.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Reply
  5. Boxing scientist

    Wow, all those places you mention would be way too hot for me. But running in shorts in snow and rain is something I was brought up with, and it’s the sort of challenge I love. Amd that’s before you even get into the lack of cultural life in most of the places you mention (and the crime). Would you be able to find a boxing gym in most of these places, of the sort of standard you want? It beats me why anyone should want to leave a country with beautiful cities like Vancouver and Montreal.

    Reply
  6. Holli Moncrieff

    Because Vancouver and Montreal are way too busy and expensive for me. I want to go back to a quieter life, with space, where I can look out the window and see the ocean instead of into someone else’s house. I’m tired of being cold. I am more than willing to give up martial arts for swimming in the ocean, but I’m sure wherever I move will have something.

    Thanks for your comment! Glad you’re still reading.

    Reply
  7. Michelle D. Argyle

    I don’t travel hardly ever, although I have been to Europe. I’m pretty ignorant about much of anything concerning travel and moving because I live in a bubble. Not that I want to stay here. Not much help, am I? 🙂

    Reply
  8. Kyla Roma

    This is a tough one! There are so many great places to visit, that would still give you the option to enjoy the perks of being Canadian and part of an advanced economy. I sure there’s a reason, but what if you had a vacation house to start and came back to Canada in the summers? You wouldn’t have to experience the cold and could rent your place to travelers. Are the tax implications that awful? The doubt I would have is about finding anywhere that isn’t European that has the health care, senior care or an economy that I’d trust the last half of my life to.

    Reply
  9. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks for your comments, ladies.

    @Michelle: Nope, no help at all. 🙂 But I’m glad you commented all the same. And I haven’t seen nearly enough of Europe, so you’ve got me there.

    @ Kyla: Sometimes that is tempting. But The Boy had a good point–“if we live on an island, can you really see us wanting to come back to Winnipeg every year?” Uh..no, no I can’t. There are some islands that have really good health care and are a lot less expensive. Health care is always taken into our decision-making process. And as for senior care, seniors are often more respected and treated better in other countries than they are in ours. Not that I’m thinking about living the last half of my life yet….

    The traveling part could get really expensive, depending on where our vacation house is. And the careers we build in other places wouldn’t necessarily work here. Neither of us have jobs that would allow us to be gone most of the year…we would lose them. We have thought about it.

    Reply

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