Never Normal Newsletter

Move to Europe?

Long time no see!

I skipped sending a newsletter the last few weeks to spend more time with family (finally able to visit us here in Spain after 2.5 years of planning).

I also took a super short trip to Lisbon too see some friends/colleagues.

The summer of travel continues here in Europe. It seems like half of America has descended on the content in the past month.

Speaking of going from the US → Europe, a few weeks ago Peer Richelsen asked Twitter:

The tweet struck a nerve.

Over 6 million views in just 3 days. And thousands of replies filled with patriotism, peanut butter, and assertions about of the quality of life across the Atlantic.

I’m not surprised.

Many people are proud of their homeland, but Americans in particular don’t like hearing that life might be better somewhere else.

So where is the best place to live, in the US or Europe?

Six of the ten “most livable cities” in the world are in Europe. None are in the U.S.

The conventional wisdom is that America is better for making money and climbing the socioeconomic ladder, while Europe is better for enjoying a more relaxed, healthy life.

But now, in the era of remote work, your economic opportunities are far less constrained by your location. You can live it up sunny Spain while writing code for a Silicon Valley startup or save a ton of money living in Bulgaria while working for a Boston-based company.

So Peer’s tweet brought to the surface what lots of people were already doing or thinking about.

Travel bloggers Brent and Michael just wrote about their decision to leave the US (“it seemed like a country in rapid decline”) and become digital nomads traveling around Europe.

Fellow Americans Dan and Ian just recorded an entire episode of their Tropical MBA podcast on “The Europe Question”.

And now all of a sudden, I think these questions aren’t so much what does the digital nomad who’s this edge case traveller want to do, we’ve got this entire graduating class of the mainstream, who are asking themselves the digital nomad question: why don’t we live in Europe? It’s so nice. They have public transportation. Why haven’t we been there yesterday? Why don’t we move here this year?”

Hanging out in expat and nomad forums online, I often see Europeans and Americans who have the opportunity to move asking:

Is life really better across the Atlantic?

As someone who holds both passports, grew up in the US, and has lived in Europe for a few years now, this is something I think about often, and feel pretty well-qualified to weigh in on.

First, the usual caveat: It’s hard to generalize. America and Europe are both big places, each with diverse cultures and climates, and populations in the hundreds of millions.

The most general answer I can give is that, most Europeans and Americans are probably happier living in their home countries.

My American friends and family find Europe charming, but they like having more open spaces, big houses, big cars, free refills, friendly customer service, and more disposable income to spend shopping online and in big box stores.

All things that they would sacrifice to some degree by moving.

Europeans enjoy America’s national parks, higher salaries, and sunnier weather, but they prefer their own safer cities with better public transportation, labor-friendly laws, and universal healthcare.

All of this is another way to say, the best place to live depends on your priorities. If you’re really thinking about moving somewhere else, consider making a list of what you value, and then find a place lines up with your values.

Personally, I love living in safe, dense, walkable cities that also have lots of parks and public spaces for people to gather. Ideally, I like having a beach nearby.

The longer I stay in a place, the more I care about having lots of sunshine year-round. And having easy access to travel around to other regions / countries.

So living in a city on the coast in Spain works really well for me, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. But I still get itchy feet to move on and explore somewhere new 🌞

That’s all for this week! More soon…

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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