Has anyone ever felt inexplicably attracted to a city or country?
February 15, 2022 4:09 PM   Subscribe

So yeah, and this will probably be unusual, because the place I'm interested in isn't where people normally go to. The place is Calgary and by extension Alberta. I'm not generally very conservative, at least not socially. I sort of agree with some better economic ideas that conservatives have in general, but it is really dependent on which. I feel like they also have a bunch of wacky stuff when it comes to economics.

Regardless of that, whenever I think of which place I'd like to move to after I finish my time here in grad school, there's Toronto and then there's Calgary. You'd think someone like me with an interest in finance and tech would pick other places second. Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Halifax are other people's second choices before Calgary and I get the feeling a lot of people would rather move to those places first rather than Calgary.

At any rate, it's an unusual place, one that most people probably wouldn't choose, but I can never stop thinking about it and about Alberta. I am not particularly interested in oil and gas, conservative politics or any of that. Of course, that's not all Alberta is, but I still don't know what is it about Alberta that I find incredibly enticing.

Has anybody ever felt like there is just one place like that, like you like it a lot for some reason and you want to go there, but you don't exactly understand why?
posted by Tarsonis10 to Travel & Transportation around Calgary, AB (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A little unclear - have you ever been to Calgary? Because then yes, I think that's perhaps universal - some cities just click with whatever wave-length I'm on, they feel right, and the cities I've felt this way about are by no means identical.

But I'm also not entirely sure about your premise - I'm in the US, but I once had a friend from Calgary who always spoke fondly of it, and there are over a million people who live there...it might not be as popular as Toronto or other cities, but clearly some people are choosing to live there.
posted by coffeecat at 4:38 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]

I guess there are sort of two questions here:

Has anybody ever felt like there is just one place like that, like you like it a lot for some reason and you want to go there, but you don't exactly understand why?

Yes, I think this is actually really common. As you probably realize, the reality of these places are often quite unmoored from the feelings (/impressions formed from various media). I remember first experiencing this when choosing a university, but I've certainly experienced it other times. In the case of Calgary, I don't know why you in particular have these feelings, but in Canada it certainly has plenty of western/outdoorsy/rocky-mountain-adjacent associations that are independent of the politics.

I still don't know what is it about Alberta that I find incredibly enticing.

Highly recommend visiting before you make any decisions. I have in-laws there, and while I do very much enjoy the outdoor spaces and mountains that are at least nearby, living in Calgary itself is something I would never want to do, for reasons that are much simpler than the politics (which can indeed be fairly awful). It is at the same time both extremely high cost of living and one of the most sprawled / driving-centric cities I have ever personally spent time in. There's an immense amount of driving time required to navigate the city, and my in-laws who live there don't even seem fully aware of how much time they spend in their cars while even doing the simplest errands compared to other places. Having witnessed this, I know I just couldn't handle doing it. Anyways, this is no doubt a highly skewed perspective on the city, but the point I'm trying to make is the same as the above -- the reality of a place as somewhere to live is likely to be quite far from the ideal you might have of it at a distance, with factors that you may not have even considered before. Visiting is a key step, rather than obsessing from a distance. [Re this last point, I have to say that I have read/answered several of your questions before and this one seems to fit a pattern that may be worth doing some reflection on.]
posted by advil at 5:08 PM on February 15 [11 favorites]

I know what it is to love a place, particularly one that makes others say, 'Eww, why would you want to live there?'

My heart aches for it all the time. I wish I could be there. I read about the great new things happening there and feel sad that I'm not there. It's a place where I felt like I could be myself and explore who I am.

I've also longed for a place before ever going there (Iceland). When I finally had the chance to visit, it was every bit as magical and wondrous as I had hoped. I am so grateful! I desperately hope to go back someday.

It's not clear to me whether you've already visited or whether you want to visit, but your feelings are not at all strange.
posted by aquamvidam at 5:12 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]

I have this exact attraction for Alaska. I've lived in liberal American coastal cities my whole life, but for decades I've wanted to visit (the fact that I haven't is on me) and I fantasize about making it my home. (Probably in Anchorage, since almost 40% of the people in Alaska live in Anchorage.) As far back as when I was on the verge of graduating college and had every option open to me, I was telling my friends I would move to Alaska and split my time between being a graphic designer and a bush pilot.

I'm not at all sure why. I know a lot of it is the "simple life/back to the land" bushwa city people tell ourselves, as if one day of chopping firewood in zero degree weather wouldn't make us all run screaming back to our tiny apartments with ten streaming services and a hundred food delivery options. But having lived exclusively in cities or city-adjacent suburbs, the idea of living in a place where nature has not yet been entirely subjugated is enticing. I would love to be able to look out my window and see woods and a moose or a bald eagle or the tallest fucking mountain in North America.

I also think it's an extension of my greatest desire in life, which is to be left alone. Not that I'm antisocial or a sociopath, but there's something about lighting out for a vast area with a low population (and thus the lowest population density in the US) that seems like it would be at least some relief from societal pressures. Maybe I wouldn't have to worry that I wasn't successful enough, popular enough, or interesting enough if I was some weird hermit in a cabin on the tundra. I definitely need to get a therapist and talk to them about this.

And I certainly do not align with the politics of the state. Alaska went for Trump by "only" 10 points in 2020, whereas I've exclusively lived in states that haven't gone red since Reagan. But that just gets folded into the fantasy, in which I run for local office as a carpetbagger, fighting as hard as I can for women's, LGBT, and Alaska Native rights. (Yes, this is directly opposed to wanting to be a weird hermit who is left alone, but after all the premise of your Ask is that it's inexplicable.)

So yeah, I get you! You should definitely dwell a little more on what it is about Calgary that attracts you; you might surprise yourself with your answers! And if we both wind up moving, hit me up and we'll discuss the price of oil in our respective countries.
posted by ejs at 5:21 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]

Hawaii for me, but most people get why you'd love Hawaii. I also used to be fascinated by New Orleans, but after visiting there, it wasn't quite as awesome as I'd hoped somehow. More run down and it felt more unsafe than I expected (I'm already on edge in cities), I suppose.

I would say, as a hippie person, that maybe there's some kind of spiritual reason calling you to Calgary and the only way you can figure it out is to actually go if/when you can. I'm not clear from this if you've ever been or not?
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:37 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]

I have socially liberal friends who have since moved back to Ontario for family reasons, but they loved living in Calgary (downtown-ish, ~10 years ago). It's a big and relatively diverse city, and places like Toronto and Vancouver are also expensive and include many conservative people (hey, Ford was mayor for a reason). So if Calgary calls to you, go visit, try living there for awhile, even - worse comes to worse you'll need to find another job in a different place, but at least you'll have tried it.
posted by ldthomps at 5:44 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]

I'd nearly give up everything to move to Mexico City; but not quite enough of everything, 'cause there are students who depend on me and a US salary and health insurance to worry about. Sounds like the usual problem of being a cosmopolitan person
Don't regret not doing things!
posted by eotvos at 6:35 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]

I've been to Calgary, briefly, it's got a nice vibe! The striped landscape around there with the yellow canola was a background on one of my computers for a long time.

Have you been there at all yourself?
posted by freethefeet at 7:04 PM on February 15

I have a place like this, though in my case it's because I've lived there. I moved away years ago but it's still home. I cried when I had to get a new driver's license for a different state.

A while ago there was a post on the blue about an older guy who lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere and people would be like why don't you move and he'd be like "this land is etched on my heart."

There are some places that just do this to you.
posted by basalganglia at 7:19 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]

I think you should visit both cities before deciding. They are very different. Personally I would never choose to be in Calgary for more than a couple days, but I love Toronto.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:53 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]

Calgary is fine. It's not a big city like Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, but if you're drawn to it, why not try it out? Not a tonne of tech in Calgary compared to Vancouver, but there certainly is plenty of finance.

Alberta does tend to be a little more conservative than BC, Quebec or Toronto, but the central part of the city tends to attract people who are less conservative than those in the suburbs or smaller towns (though central Edmonton is even better), so you don't need to worry too much about that aspect if having a conservative provincial government isn't a huge problem for you.

A lot of people have moved to Calgary over the past decades, so it's not that unusual to consider.

It is at the same time both extremely high cost of living and one of the most sprawled / driving-centric cities I have ever personally spent time in.

Definitely agree on the sprawl (though it is also reasonably bikeable), but Calgary is not particularly expensive. Real estate is downright cheap compared to Vancouver or Toronto and probably pretty comparable to most other cities of similar size in Canada. Recent trends in real estate prices are only up a little bit, which is obviously quite different from many other parts of Canada which are up a lot. I think other costs in Calgary are probably pretty comparable to other cities as well.
posted by ssg at 8:06 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]

Hahaha! yes! This is normal, I think (though I hope this is based on you actually having been to Calgary). I say GO FOR IT! Move to Calgary! Live your unusually-specific and to others seemingly modest dreams!

This essay might also resonate with you, I really liked it as someone living very very far from where I grew up in very very different circumstances than I ever expected.
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:55 PM on February 15

Definitely agree on the sprawl (though it is also reasonably bikeable), but Calgary is not particularly expensive.

Yes, I wasn't really intending to present my view of calgary as the truth, I think it's probably highly skewed by decisions some of my in-laws have made (e.g. none of them are going to be doing a lot of biking). And it's definitely fair to say that costs haven't gone up in the last few years like they have in some other places in Canada, partly because the energy sector hasn't done well. I still wouldn't personally want to be involved in the Calgary real estate market in any capacity though, "cheaper than toronto/vancouver" is not a high bar and the sprawl seemed to lead to anything affordable being in some fairly painful location.
posted by advil at 6:26 AM on February 16

When I was younger I had a chance to travel to many cities, mostly as a tourist but (I realized later) also looking for a place that felt like home. I never found it.

Years later when it came time to retire I randomly stumbled across a Wikipedia page for a relatively obscure city in Mexico. I flew here that week, within 15 minutes on the ground I knew I was home, and moved here by the end of that month.

When people ask about it I try to make up reasons, but the truth is that it's just the right place for me to be at this point in my life.

When it comes to something as personal as finding where you belong, go with your instincts.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:00 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]

I've been extremely lucky to travel the world and visit most of the cities I've longed to see. I definitely feel a longing for and an urge to live in certain places, including some that I haven't been to yet, so I can also assure you that your feeling isn't of an uncommon sort.

Having lived in Calgary for 25 of the last 30 years and having experienced all of the cities of Canada, many of the major cities of the US and most of the great cities of Europe, I can tell you that Calgary is stupefyingly boring, severely lacking in cultural opportunities at every level, hard to get around without a car and generally full of generically pleasant people. Maybe that will help you make a decision.
posted by chudmonkey at 9:14 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

As an Edmontonian, I think culturally Edmonton has more to offer (more vibrant arts scene, more affordable and less conservative) but Calgary is very beautiful and the proximity to the mountains (or job opportunities) has persuaded a handful of my co-workers and friends to head down over the years.

I have lived in a number of places, and there some that felt spectacular (there's reason that my comparison is Vancouver for every coastal city I've ever visited from Auckland to Sydney to Edinburgh - it set a standard for me). Edmonton just feels like home in a way that other places I've lived over the years do not. I have the ties to my rural routes but also escape them here - and a lot of my neighbours have similar trajectories.
posted by Kurichina at 1:49 PM on March 2

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