This is the fifth in a series of blogs for book clubs and discussion groups who are reading my book, A Thin Slice of Heaven. Weigh in below, or send me an email through my website letting me know the results of your book club or group discussion.
If you had the opportunity to start over, where would you choose to live? This is a dilemma that Charleigh faces in A Thin Slice of Heaven. Born and raised near Boston, she knows nothing else. But with few family, few friends and a husband who has just informed her - in a text, no less - that he's leaving her for another woman, she finds herself with the opportunity to start over.
How would each of these factor into your decision to move someplace else?
1. Language - The ability to communicate with others should not be overlooked. Yet I am fascinated by HGTV's series, House Hunters International, and how many people move to countries where they do not speak the language. How would this influence your decision?
2. Culture - Every country has it's own unique culture. How would that persuade you for or against a particular locale? For example, I am an animal lover and I would never want to move to a country where bull-fighting or cock-fighting or similar sports are legal. I also could never live in a country that raises dogs and cats for human consumption.
3. Food - This may seem like a given, but religious and cultural influences often dictate what can or cannot be eaten. Consider, for example, that in some cultures eating beef is considered barbaric. Others subsist on meats, seafood and vegetables that cause Americans to recoil. How much emphasis would you place on this?
4. Money - In some areas of the world, it's customary to spend $5,000 US per month for a one-bedroom apartment or studio. In other areas, $5,000 would get you a palace. And in still others, $5,000 would support you for an entire year. How would you consider the monetary factors? There is also the matter of employment, unless you are independently wealthy or can live comfortably on a nest egg. What type of employment would you need to receive to make the move worth your while?
5. Acceptance - Some countries may welcome tourists but inwardly dislike outsiders. Others welcome newcomers with open arms. How important is it for you to make friends and fit in? I had a friend years ago who volunteered her time and money to help build houses in a third-world country. When she arrived there, however, she found the people to be extremely judgmental. They disliked the very people who had come to help them. She never returned - would you?
6. Housing - I have to admit, I have grown quite fond of large rooms. Extra bedrooms have been turned into a study, a guest room and a massive closet. What if the place you wanted to live had one or two bedrooms and 1,000 square feet was spacious? Would that satisfy your needs? What if glass windows and locking doors were unheard of? I've heard of people who moved into homes in the middle of jungles or in remote areas. How would that impact your decision? Would you prefer city living, suburbs or country? Apartment, adjoining home or detached home? Yard or no yard?
There are also areas of the world in which gated, armed communities and barred windows and doors are the norm. Could you adjust to such an environment?
7. Amenities - I lived in the Washington, DC area for most of my life. I was accustomed to museums, festivals, a variety of shopping, restaurants of every cuisine, national parks and monuments, and much more. What do you have where you currently live? Could you live without them?
8. Climate - I would love to think my snow-shoveling days are over. I once lived in central Virginia where ice storms knocked out my electricity for several years in a row, and always at Christmas when I had a houseful of guests. For others, a mountain scenery is valued high enough that snow and ice are the norm and completely acceptable. Others prefer the heat and humidity of the tropics, while still others prefer a climate of moderate temperatures year 'round. How much would climate factor into your plans?
9. Government - Some governments are quite liberal, others conservative and still others can change rapidly with coups. How much emphasis would you place on a stable government or its policies?
10. Crime - I knew a gentleman from Europe who made America his second home, and his European friends could not understand why he wanted to live in a country that was so accepting of crime, particularly murders. Some cultures have grown accustomed to high crime and consider it the norm, while others find any crime to be socially unacceptable and often barbaric. Cultural influences often go hand-in-hand with high or low crime rates. How would this factor into your decision?
What other considerations would you give to moving to a different country or culture? What would cause you to remain where you were, or influence your decision to relocate?