Friday, January 6, 2017

A Place to Call Home

Now as I approach the age to begin considering retirement, I have discovered that I am stumped about where to settle for our retirement years. Where will home be? What makes a home?

Although I grew up in a small town, the same town where my father grew up and where my mom and some siblings still live and I spent all of my early years there, I have moved a great deal since first leaving home to attend university. I have lived in three Canadian provinces and in nine different communities. I have returned repeatedly to certain communities, such as Vancouver, to live there at different stages of my life. I have also lived in various other places on a short term basis of a month or two. I have owned five houses and have lived in rental accommodations, including apartments, a shared house, and university dorms, and I have lived with family and with friends' families.

As I think about where to settle in retirement, I have the feeling that I belong nowhere. That is the consequence of moving so often. Just as I began to set down roots in each place, I was off again to somewhere else.  The moves were all related to work opportunities, schooling, or to follow a partner's job. Now, with the most recent job move, we have ended up somewhere far away from family and friends. Although we love our house and have begun to grow comfortable here, we know that this is not where we want to settle for the rest of our lives.

At the same time as feeling as though I do not have one single home, I could be comfortable living in many different places. I have moved before, and I can move again. It will be just fine.

What makes it hard is that we want this to be our last major move. We want it to be a place that we can settle into and make it our home. We want to be closer to our kids and grandkids, and our friends and other family. We want the place to have a small town feel; we don't want to live in a city.

We have just returned from a month in a rental holiday home on Vancouver Island. We had a wonderful time spending Christmas with my daughter and her family, and my two other grown children who presently live in that area or nearby were also with us for Christmas. It was so good to be close together for the holidays.

           Vancouver Island beach

In a sense, we were also trying out what it would be like to live there. Neither of us have ever lived on Vancouver Island for more than a short stint. The climate and lifestyle shares many similarities with the part of BC where Rob spent most of his life, but the winters are not as harsh and there are better health services nearby. On the other hand, the climate is damp, which seems to exacerbate our arthritis.

However, many of our friends and family live in more northerly parts of British Columbia. So although living on Vancouver Island would bring us much closer to my grandkids and a little closer to those in the north, there is no perfect solution that would allow us to be close to all of our loved ones.

We were also a bit horrified to discover how quickly the cost of real estate is going up on the Island. We would not be able to afford the type of home that we currently enjoy without taking out a substantial mortgage. We are mortgage free, and do not want to commit to paying a mortgage in retirement. A home in northern BC would be more affordable.

Ultimately, we do not know where our kids will end up as they continue to build their careers and their families. Moving to the Island will provide more time with some of our grandchildren in the short term. But in the end, we have to choose a place where we will be happy to settle, regardless of where our kids go and how their lives unfold. It's the "for the rest of our lives" part that is making this decision such a hard one.

I know that this is a wonderful problem to have, and I am grateful to have this choice to make. Having wide open choices is much better than having fewer options. We are lucky to have dear family and friends, and wherever we finally end up, we plan to travel often to visit them.

Perhaps the reason that I am stumped is that I am trying to make a "perfect" decision instead of a "good-enough" decision. If I reframe it and say, this is where we will move for now, and keep open the option that we might move again when things change, it wouldn't seem like such an impossible choice.

Rob's point of view is that we should just pick a place and go for it, instead of researching it so much. Sooner rather than later is also what he would say. Like me, he believes that he could adapt to living in whatever place we end up. I'm the one who keeps searching for a place to call home.


  1. IT's a challenge, trying to pick your "forever" home. We attempted to do that almost 12 years ago. In retrospect, I would say that in the end what mattered most was:
    1) Close to friends and family
    2) Close to adequate health care services
    3) An area where there is plenty to do, both indoors and outdoors

    We spend the winters in Florida so as to escape the bitter cold and snow. The rest of the year we live in Central New York, which meets all of the other requirements on our list.

    Don't be to hard on yourself as you struggle with this issue. It is a moving target, and fortunately changing your mind is always an option!

  2. SO interesting! Carole and I must live very close to each other as I live between Central and Western NY. As someone who spent many years working on my doctorate (in decision analysis) - you are definitely right about "optimizing" vs. "satisificing". You are trying to optimize and make the perfect decision and Rob is satisficing by trying to choose anyplace that would be "good enough". Optimizing can certainly get you stuck. In our qualitative research courses we learned out to look at what others say/write to search for themes and clues as to where they are getting stuck. You wrote "I could be comfortable living in many different places. I have moved before, and I can move again. It will be just fine." That really aligns with Rob too. Maybe clarifying your end goals (such as Carol listed above) and ranking them based on importance would help? Just a thought. You could compare your options then. But based on what I've read, you will likely be happy wherever you go. Just as you said.

  3. Carole, you have zeroed in on the the most important factors for us. We will probably end up in either the southwest corner of BC or in the northwest corner of BC as we have friends and family in both locations. My kids and grandkids, some friends and 1 brother are in the southwest, and my Mom, 2 brothers, Rob's kids, and many longtime friends are in the northwest. Better health care in the south; more affordable housing in the north. Cold winters in the north; rainy winters in the south. Arg!

  4. Vicki, I have adapted your decision matrix and and value rankings and used them. That process helped us narrow down our choices from "anywhere in BC" to four possible locations. Rob and I each completed the matrix and rankings separately. My top choice was his last choice, and his top choice was my third choice. However, our scores were not far apart, and when we summed them, the top three choices received nearly identical scores. Also, we both had the same second choice, which came out as the top choice when we summed our scores. It was definitely a useful process. But ultimately we still don't have a decision because choosing to live near one set of family and friends means choosing not to live near another set of family and friends. Unfortunately, the two general geographical areas that we are considering are 1000 miles apart, so although we can still visit, it would be a 1-2 day drive. So I'm still spinning in circles on this decision. And to top it off, there are several other small towns in BC that we could see ourselves living in that didn't make the list because they are not near family or friends. But when we drive through them, we look at each other and say, "ooh, wouldn't this be a great place to live!"

  5. Hi, Jude - I believe that you already know my (partly biased) point-of-view. That aside, I do completely agree with Carole on this issue, i.e. "Don't be so hard on yourself...changing your mind IS always an option!" Good luck with your decision making and let me know if there is anything that I can do to help.

  6. Donna, I so much enjoyed our coffee get-togethers when we visited the Island recently. It is nice when a blog relationship flourishes and grows into a real life connection. Wherever we settle in the end, I will certainly be on the Island on a regular basis, and I hope to keep in touch with you.