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.)