Have you ever been totally obsessed with a place, but you had never been there? Like you had some totally romantic and idealized version of what it would be like even though you’d never been there?
I felt this way about New York City when I was growing up. I finally went for the first time when I was 21, and I did – and still do – love it, so no big letdown there for me.
But for some folks, the places they’ve fetishized in their minds don’t turn out to be so wonderful.
In this AskReddit thread, people discuss how they feel about the places they were obsessed with that they actually moved to. If you’ve ever done this, tell us about your experience in the comments.
1. At least the summer is nice.
“Into the Wild was my introduction to Alaska. I’m from the tropics.
Met an Alaskan man.
Visited in the summer. Loved it!
Married the Alaskan man.
Moved in the summer after.
Finally found out what an interior Alaskan winter was like.
Hated it, but husband will not move.
Became a reverse Persephone, my cold-weathered husband sends me back to the land of hot weather for a month of the year.
Still completely in love with the Alaskan summer.”
2. A mixed bag.
“Paris, France. I studied French for a long time and eventually moved here to do my master’s degree. I do love the city itself – always something to do, amazing museums/art/culture/architecture – and even though like all cities it can be crowded/dirty sometimes, I still enjoy it. The thing that gets me is how hard it is to get to know and become friends with the French (Parisians in particular).
They are perfectly polite but if I didn’t have a strong foreign student friend community here it would be much more difficult. There are always exceptions of course – I have a handful of good French friends – but a big factor in why I don’t think I can stay in Paris in the long term to settle down (maybe somewhere else in France would be better) is that the coldness can really wear you down. That, and also the bureaucracy. It’s unreal.”
3. Living the dream.
“I dreamed of living in NYC as a teen. I was drawn to the theater, the fashion, the excitement. Now I’ve been living in NYC for about 13 years, basically my entire adult life, and I still love it but my appreciation has changed. A lot of the things that initially attracted me require lots of money, but I’ve discovered so many new things and met so many wonderful people that I don’t miss the loss of that fantasy. I still feel a thrill when I go running over one of the bridges and see the skyline.
I love not driving, and being able to find practically any food or specialty shop I want. I am very plugged into the arts here and love to go to live music, readings, lectures, art shows, and performances, so many of which can be enjoyed for little or no money!
I definitely see how city life doesn’t appeal to many people but whenever I think of leaving I can’t imagine anywhere I might like better.”
4. The good and the bad.
“I’m a small town Midwesterner who really romanticized California (particularly coastal California.) I had the opportunity to move there right after college and it was probably one of the best decisions I’d ever made.
Things I liked: the weather was always perfect (even on rainy days, the temperature was still mild.) There was always something to do. There were so many different beaches and I never got tired of seeing the ocean. I did more hiking in the first year I lived there than I’d ever done in my home state. Lots of good shows and music around the Santa Cruz and SF area. SO MANY GOOD RESTAURANTS. Plus, it felt good to go back to my tiny ass town and tell people I moved to California.
Things I disliked: It’s expensive. The traffic is as bad as they say. There also seems to be an air of ignorance with (not all, but some) people native to the area. For instance, when I told people I was from Iowa, someone asked if we had electricity and running water, another person chimed in that they had a cousin who lived in Montana (which is no where even close to Iowa,) and most people had no idea where to even find Iowa on a map. When you’re from a fly over state, you automatically learn which are the “superior” states because they get a lot of coverage in media and entertainment.”
5. Won’t live there again.
“I’m an American, was a serious Irish dancer my whole childhood. I also play music. I wanted to move to Ireland and go to university there — and I did. Overall, it was a great experience especially in terms of local music / dancing and opportunities to learn more. But also I hated my degree program and ended up studying abroad and then transferring to a school in Canada, where I’m much better settled. I still pinch my pennies to go back to Ireland and visit my friends and stuff, but I’d never ever live there long term again.
Also, I hate cold rainy weather and have asthmatic reactions to mold, so Ireland’s climate was actively trying to kill me the entire time I was there. Good times. No regrets, but also wouldn’t repeat.”
6. The Big Easy.
“New Orleans is deeper and broader than I imagined. 20 years later I have no regrets, only memories that I reflect upon and smile. When I tell stories I have to leave things out, because the reality is unbelievable.”
7. Not in love with London.
“Moved to London with stars in my eyes. A year later, all I think now is how is no one speaks to each other and there’s pigeons everywhere.”
“Seoul, South Korea!
It’s my first experience in a big city, and I’m not disappointed! Public transportation is great, food is amazing… i eat a lot of Japanese food here tbh. Depending on where you are in the city, night life is crazy. And i find the older parts of the city to be absolutely beautiful. I know for those born and raised in the system it’s a whole different story, but for a 20 year old foreign student, i can say it’s not half bad.
As far as the negatives go however, the lack of nature can be hugely depressing, i pay $400 a month for a 50 sq ft room, dining alone can be difficult, and there’s always trash everywhere in the streets. Honestly though I think i had a decent grip on reality before coming here. People expect these places to be like an instagram-esque dream world. But at the end of the day, it’s just another place you wake up, do your groceries and pay your bills in. All that fun real life stuff.”
9. Finland = Paradise.
“It was Finland for me. Rather weird country to obsess about, but I started learning the language in high school and fell in love with the culture. Went there for an exchange and was shocked at how close to paradise it was! Beautiful nature, friendly and helpful people, good-quality food and more humane pace of life. It helped that I lived with a wonderful host family in a small town – the people you meet are a huge part of your experience in a place. Best part was getting to learn more Finnish!”
10. Spoiled it…
“Hawai’i. It is absolutely gorgeous. Had land there and spent time there during the downturn.
The tourist thing wears off though, and although it is still an absolutely gorgeous place, the cost of living, the corruption in government, and seemingly like every contractor is trying to rip you off spoiled it for me as a long term relocation.”
11. The old country.
“Not as popular but Greece. My maternal grandparents are Greek. It’s a big loud friendly group and had been my entire life. I had a several month long gap before grad school and a great aunt willing to house me so I moved to Patras. The first few weeks were wonderful I did all the tourist things then I realized how forced all of it was. You can’t just ever have a friend over it has to be a major production.
The food was wonderful but every contractor or small business I interacted with took it at a point of pride to tack on added fees or try to scam me. I was stolen from multiple times. The older people particularly the men had no personal boundaries at all and their wives would hand wave off anything. Everything public that wasn’t intended for tourists was falling to pieces. It was just very sad considering how proud I had been of my Greek roots until then.”
12. Everything they wanted it to be.
“Seattle WA. Spent my first 30 years living up and down the eastern seaboard from PA to GA. I was in grad school in SC and inexplicably Seattle just popped in my head one day – no trigger or anything. For the last 6 months of school (2003) it just consumed me – sight unseen I needed to be there. So that’s what I did. Got my degree, packed up my car with no job, place to live or contacts and drove to Seattle.
It could very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy but it was everything I wanted it to be. The city has changed quite a bit with the Amazon explosion but I’m glad I got to live some “old Seattle”. There’s still plenty of treasure to be mined. Sure the luster is gone but I have a family now and still love to explore the city with my daughter. All my old haunts are gone but the fun now is finding new haunts! It’s what we make of it.”
13. Chicago is a great city!
“Probably not a city that people dream about moving to but for me, Chicago. I loved Chicago from age 6 (saw Ferris Bueller), visited a couple times, loved it even more and then moved here three years ago. It feels like home, I absolutely love it here. Sure the winters can suck but I appreciate the nicer days so much more.”
14. New Zealand is A-OK!
“I wanted to go to New Zealand since I was ten and my best friend moved there, I finally went when I was 25 and got a 1-year working visa. It was awesome, I met my husband there, and saw my old friend again.
It’s still great, I would live there if they’d have me!”
“Tampa, FL. I’m from the Midwest and we ALWAYS associate Florida with spring break and the beach and happy fun times…
Turns out I live an hour from the beach, traffic is the WORST (largest US city without a commuter rail), and the humidity is always 110% and about to kill me. You can’t really be outside and it sucks.
Edit: because first of all I came back after work to a billion notifications, who knew Tampa would get this much conversation started?
AND SECOND OF ALL because someone remind me about THE DRIVING and I just have to add that to this comment that the driving is the wwwwoooorrrrssttt maybe even worse than humidity, read my comment below for passionate rage about pulling over for emergency vehicles (or the lack thereof I suppose).”