As I stepped off the plane, a sense of revitalization flowed through my veins. A new city. A new adventure. A new culture to embrace and explore. My mind filled with romantic ideals of the city I was about to embark upon. I thought of the adventures and misadventures I’d have. I imagined the sexy girls I’d meet, date, and hopefully, mate with. Smiling faces and friendly people flowed around my head. I was optimistic – to say the least.
Could it be my city? Is this the city I could spend a majority of my time in and find some sense of real happiness? True happiness…Ok, that’s a little much. But I had high hopes for this place. A romantic at heart, I’d always envisioned finding the perfect city. My perfect city. A city filled with endless avenues to explore, beautiful nature to gawk at, and wonderful people to connect with.
The Perfect City
I want there to be a perfect city. Deep down – I want to find a place to call “home” for a majority of the year. Traveling fast is amazing, but productivity levels tend to plummet when you visit a new city every week or month. It takes at least a week or two to get into a rhythm and then you’re leaving in less than a month. You find a gym, a grocery store, a few good restaurants, a coffee shop to work from, some friends, and maybe a cute girl to spend some time with.
Then you leave. And often, you won’t be back. You “can’t” come back – if the city isn’t your perfect place. Time isn’t an infinite resource. You only have so much time here. And if you’re spending time in one city, you can’t be in another. Time spent in Bogota, Colombia is time you can’t spend in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. You simply can’t be in two places at once. Every action has a consequence.
So you move on. You leave the city behind and go somewhere else. You continue your quest for the perfect town. You don’t even know what the “perfect” city entitles for you. You think you have an idea, a fairytale in the back of your mind. You believe you’ll know it’s your city when you get there. But there’s no guarantee the city even exists. How could it?
The perfect city is a personal thing based on what a traveler values. For instance, any number of factors can go into where a tourist visits, stays and lives. Here are a few:
Population: From a town of 100,000 people to a city of 10 million, every traveler finds the perfect size of city eventually. Often, the level of excitement you’re looking for will correlate with how big of a town you choose to travel in.
Cost: Many travelers prefer living in cheap cities – even when their funds are straight. There’s something enjoyable about feeling like you got a “deal” on lunch or a bottle at the club. Some people prefer living in expensive places that keep the cheap, backpacker types away. Everyone is different.
Climate: Hot. Cold. Eternal spring. I love hot weather and the sunshine. Dreary weather makes me lethargic. I was baffled to find out some people despised the heat and hated on cities I loved just because it was too hot and sunny for them. Your perfect city will have your ideal climate.
Region: I love traveling to Latin America. It’s close to the United States, has hot weather, low cost of living, and more. Many travelers won’t visit the region due to the lack of infrastructure and high crime rates. Every region has its plus and minuses.
Nature: Maybe you love the city and don’t care about nature. Maybe you love the mountains and hiking around. Or you could be like me and find great joy swimming in the ocean. For me, no city could be perfect if it doesn’t have a beach.
Culture: Certain countries have strong cultures that haven’t been influenced by western ways of thinking. Other places have assimilated to a western way. Both have positives and negatives. Depending on what you’re looking for as a traveler, you’ll prefer certain cultures over others.
Men/Women: A life of celibacy isn’t ideal for most of us. So the men and women living in a country could play a role in where you travel. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to travel to an exotic locale with good-looking locals.
Language: The language barrier can be a problem in certain countries. For example, you’ll want to speak a little Spanish if you visit Barranquilla, Colombia. In Lima, Peru – you won’t need much Spanish to get around. If you enjoy learning languages, then the barrier may not be an issue. But some travelers prefer to stick with English. And that’s just fine.
With so many factors playing a role in the making of a good city for you, it’d be hard to find the perfect place as a “virgin” traveler. After you visit 50+ cities, it becomes damn near impossible to find a city that you have no qualms with. Personally, I’d have to find a city that has:
Beaches and nature like Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
Low cost of living like in Nicaragua
Infrastructure like Lima, Peru
Women like Barranquilla, Colombia
Nightlife and population like Bogota, Colombian
…And that’s just a few of the factors. Crime and safety play into things, too. I’d also want a city where I can get by with English and average Spanish. While not trying to be too pessimistic, I haven’t found a city that fulfilled my criteria yet. And I doubt I will. I don’t believe in the perfect city any longer. And it doesn’t matter. That’s the thing about being a traveler. You spend some time in a city. If it doesn’t work, you pack up and move on. No big deal.
The Myth of the Perfect City
I’ve fallen into the trap of looking for the perfect place before. Searching Airbnb endlessly. Googling “the biggest beach cities in the world” and opening up 15 tabs for research purposes. Now, I’m not too concerned with the search. The process is what’s important. Being on the road is what’s important. Interacting with the people you meet and understanding their culture is what’s important.
Now, I step off the plane with no expectations. I don’t believe in a perfect city any longer. There’s no such thing as perfection. I don’t chase it any longer. Instead, my focus is on being present. While a city may not be the best place you’ve been, there are definitely some amazing aspects to nearly every city. It’s your job as a traveler to find, embrace, and enjoy what the city you’re in does well.
Once you’ve embraced the positive aspects of any city, then decide if you want to stay. If not, pack those bags and head out to the next adventure. Chase experiences and memories. Forget about perfection and enjoy the flaws. If you don’t, the myth of the perfect city will hinder your experiences and continually lead to travelers’ indecision.
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.