Ah, The Life of Le Riley…

Let’s imagine you had a tidy, independent income that would allow you to live anywhere in the world. And that you had no other real ties binding you to where you’re living now. Where would you most want to live?

Would you settle in a little rural village somewhere?  Rent a penthouse in a luxury hotel in some cosmopolitan city? Move into a charming villa on the Mediterranean? Buy a houseboat and putter around the world? Or maybe just stay right where you are?

Every year, for the last 30 years, International Living Magazine has  ranked some 194 countries in a Quality of Life Index.  They look at things like:

  •  Cost of living
  • Leisure & Culture
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Freedom
  • Health
  • Infrastructure
  • Risk & Safety
  • Climate

For the 5th year in a row, France has won the number one ranking. Tied for second place are Australia, Switzerland and Germany. The USA is at 7th place, losing its previous 3rd ranking because of its faltering economy, the cost of living and environmental factors but scoring 100% on infrastructure.

Canada is in 9th place with mediocre points across the board except for 100% in Freedom and in Risk & Safety. Have a look at the chart. It makes interesting reading.

What’s really sad is that the health care system we’re so proud of only scored 6 points higher than America’s health care system, of which we’re so terrified. There are, in fact, a lot of countries on the chart with higher scores in health care than Canada. Does that surprise you?

So where would I go, if I could live anywhere in the world? Well, this Quality of Life Index, not withstanding, I’ve always thought it would be nice to live in France – at least for a while. I’ve never been there (a situation that will soon be remedied) but what I’ve read, heard and seen about it is very attractive to me.

I’d probably not want to live right in Paris, but perhaps a house in a village somewhere in the south, near the sea, with a couple of olive trees, a patch of lavender, maybe a couple of chickens and goats …. That’s my idea of perfection.

The accompanying article to this Quality of Life Index says village homes in the south-west of France can be had for less than $100,000. (Ahem… Violetsky??) 

There is so much about the Old World that suits me better than the New World, I think. Maybe because I was born there, but whenever I’ve visited Europe I’ve always felt very much at home.

The pace of life appeals to me. I especially love the French emphasis on quality food and drink and on excellent health care. I like that France has always known who and what it is and that they do their own thing no matter what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Once I retire, I’d like to go give it a try for a few months – maybe get it out of my system for good or maybe stick around for a bit longer. We shall see.

How about you? What’s your secret dream life? What are the odds of you being able to make it real one day?

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33 responses to “Ah, The Life of Le Riley…

  1. I’d want to live in Thailand, been there twice and wish I could go more often. Peaceful, relaxing, tropical and cheap.

    If I wanted to live in a city, I’d go for Singapore – it’s very cosmopolitan, easy to get around and traveling from there is so easy – Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia are all right next door as are many other countries.

  2. I’d like to live in Asheville NC. It’s politically progressive and within driving distance of the beach. I used to want to live in the UK or Ireland but since they have security cameras every where and you get arrested for taking photos of stuff I’ll pass thanks.

  3. I find it interesting that the United States only scored a 92 on what we pride ourselves most on…Freedom. Hmmmmm.

    I have two warring dreams of my ideal spot: Boston and an island off of Maine (alas, I’m not too well traveled). I love the culture of Boston and all there is to see & do, but there’s a part of me that also craves solitude, or at least, a more-minimalistic life. Can I spend half the year in each? 🙂

  4. I’m not surprised at all the Canada didn’t score that well on healthcare. We have very quietly been dismantling our universal healthcare (dropping services left and right) while other industrialized nations have been bolstering theirs to truly meet the needs of their population and making an effort to tie in health care with other standard of living basics like housing. France, the Nordic Countries, Britian all have much better healthcare than we do.

  5. Sean – Thailand. Cool. And instead you’re coming to Ottawa, which is none of those things. Poor you.

    Dr. Monkey – Ya, I think the UK is a great place to visit, but I’m not sure I could live there either.. not for long anyway. So, why can’t you live in Asheville now?

    Violetsky – Well, there you go! A walking stick and 100 K and we’re all set. Don’t the photos look lovely?

    Skye – Sure! It’s your dream. And they’re close enough to each other that it’s not impossible. As for the freedom score…lets’ see…we got 100% and you lost 8%. I wonder what freedoms we have that you don’t have? It couldn’t have anything to do with the equal rights for same sex couples could it?

    Mudmamma – Pretty much all of Europe, Australia, New Zealand.. We also did pretty poorly in Culture & Leisure which includes literacy rates and post-secondary school enrolment. And our environmental score is just shameful. Brunii got 100% in that category! So, where would you live if you could live anywhere?

  6. I think Canada should have been ahead of the States in terms of ranking, but anyways.

    I would like to live in a small town in Spain, also near the sea. Something about Spanish food, art, history, language and culture is very interesting. Plus, the climate sounds more appealing than here, particularly during the winter months.

    But I’ve never been to Spain so maybe its not as great as it is in my head. Someday I hope to visit though!

  7. I’d love to live in the southwestern US desert. Every time I go there it just feels right to me…

    And the cottage. Summers at the cottage and winters in the desert. Perfect compromise.

  8. I want to live somewhere where lots of people drop in at once with covered dishes and instruments and wine and funny stories. The sky is blue. The air is clean. The sun shines 365 days a year. It only rains on days I wanted to sleep in anyway….

    Is that on the list?

  9. Pauline – That’s very patriotic of you, but we slipped up in the Culture & Leisure (which includes education) and Infrastructure sections. Spain would be lovely, too. We could be neighbours and meet in Nice every winter for little weekend getaways! Or Italy for pizza.

    Jazz – I knew you were going to pick that! Ha. I think that’s pretty doable for you guys..eventually, isn’t it? Something to look forward to, for sure. No more snow and cold.

    Mudmamma – Or the Codswolds? They’re supposed to be lovely, too. I can see you and your wild menagerie in Yorkshire or Ireland. Do you think it will happen one day?

    Amy – That sounds like fun – as long as they don’t drop by while you’re trying to sleep. Sounds like something Mediterranean to me. Portugal or Greece maybe?

  10. I think I’d have to go with a yacht… Nothing huge with submarines and stuff, just big enough that I wouldn’t feel cramped and my crew could cross oceans in it. (I would of course fly and meet them when they arrive.)

    I think I would spend most of my time in France and Italy with some trips over to the UK. I’ve also heard good things about Spain. The thing I would love to do the most is travel and a yacht would let you take home with you.

  11. I lived in France a long time ago as a student and it was nice enough.
    My goal is to retire to Scotland. I already bought a lot with an ocean view on the Isle of Lucy.

  12. I’m another one for France, but I think I’d want to live right in Paris. My other choice would be New York City. Obviously I’m a city girl at heart.

  13. What a bizarre poll that has Belgium in the top ten…!

    Being Scottish I would just like to live somewhere that had clearly defined seasons. I’d like a proper summer, a snowy winter, a crisp autumn and a cheering spring- whichever country comes close to that I’ll consider.

  14. MG – If you have a lovely yacht and a crew, why do you need to fly? Isn’t most of the fun of owning a yacht taking her out to the open seas? I’d like to actually live in more than one place, too — but for 6 months to a year at a time and then moving on. I don’t know if I could live on a boat though.

    Lebowski – Burgundy, right? I thought you were retiring to BC. Have you given up that idea? When do you reckon to be heading to Scotland? It’s always good to have friends with guest rooms in foreign countries.

    Pinklea – Well, I’ll stop in for a coffee whenever we’re in the city and please feel free to come for a weekend whenever you want to get away for a bit.

    MisssyM – It’s not a poll! It’s a scientific index thingy. What’s wrong with Belgium? I hear it’s very nice. And, the place you describe as your ideal sounds exactly like Ottawa. I don’t think there’s another city in this country that matches your requirements quite as well. We’re officially the 2nd coldest, snowiest capital city in the world in the winter (and the world’s longest skating rink), we have the internationally reknown tulip festival in the spring,, hot, hot summers and dazzling autumns full of brilliantly coloured leaves and chilly nights and crisp sunny days

  15. I’m lucky enough to live in France and I love it. I think it’s mostly because I am happy with who I am with and who I am right now. I’d love to have a cottage by the ocean somewhere, although I’m not sure where.

  16. Fun! If money were no object I would live part of the year in the Riviera…French, Italian or Spanish…France being my first choice. I also fancy retiring on the Isle of Skye, but it might be too quiet after a while. My hubby and I both love the East coast of Canada. I could see us moving to Halifax for his business one day. That would be just fine with me…I really like that city. XUP you lived there – worth retiring to?

  17. Nah, I think I’m more likely to end up someplace like Scots Bay. LOL!

    My youngest and (step)oldest can both have French citizenship so if they take off France I could follow them in my old age.

  18. Your ideal sounds very nice but after watching “House Hunters International” for several years, I know I would not want to live in a European village of any sort. I need my modern amenities.

    Except for the crazy extreme weather here, this is a perfect place to live. We are 15 to 20 minutes from the Kimbell Art Museum and Bass Performance Hall and so have access to all sorts of great cultural activities and we live just minutes from an international airport. I would use that income to travel all over the place. Like the old saying goes, “Nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” That’s how I see most places.

  19. Linda – I can tell you love it by the photos on your blog. And you’re so right that a place in and of itself isn’t going to make anyone happy unless they’re happy with who they are as well. Wise words.

    MM -OooooOOO Riviera yet! We need to have a long conversation about Halifax some time. It definitely has its good points and I loved it there for the first 5 years. But there is also a lot of not so good stuff which becomes really wearying after a while. I’d say if you have friends and/or family there and you have a good pile of money, it would be a fine place to retire to.

    Geewits – Ya, I know some of the smaller villages have issues with plumbing and electricity, etc. I’m pretty attached to those things to. And I don’t really know if I could live there full-time or long-term. I would go for a few months and see, maybe try out a few places for a few months each and keep a home base back here. I think it’s great that you’re so happy with where you are.

  20. I’m not sure where I’d like to live, ‘ties’ (moola and kids) have interferred with me dreaming about that. I immediately think of living near water and sand, I’m not leaning towards tropical, it could be sandy beach near one of the Great Lakes but I love sand and I especially love water.

    One of my dreams has always been to own a very old house in an area that is rural but close enough to a small/med city, and to completely renovate it. Big gourmet kitchen, big elaborate bathroom, lots of wood and stone, high ceilings, fireplace. Ahhh! But you were asking for location and I don’t know the answer to that yet…it will make a fabulous topic to fall asleep thinking about tonight.

  21. i remember when we were honeymooning in belize, we were visiting a remote beach area. along the boardwalk, there were little beach houses, some on stilts, some built in the trees (like tree forts!) anyhooo, jo was wearing a canada flag t-shirt and they guy yells “hello down there”! and climbed down his tree-fort thingy. turns out he was from ottawa, retired to belize with his wife, and they lived in this tree fort, quite happily. jo and i saw it as sign that that would be us when we retire.

  22. Why settle for just one place? We split our time between Comox, Vancouver Island in the summer (when the rain sometimes stops :)) and Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico in the winter, where it is usually sunny, warm, not humid, the sea is unspoiled , the sky is cerulean blue, there is an active arts community, and a whole bunch of “interesting” people…

    But, to be honest, no place in itself makes life great. It’s what you do with your life.

  23. MM – No, don’t give up the dream! I sent you an email explaining.

    Betsy – I love a good “falling asleep” topic, don’t you? And despite things you think might hold you back, there is always a way of realizing a dream if you really want it. That’s what I think anyway.

    Meanie – Belize, eh? Sounds very romantic. Are you still able to visualize yourselves living in a treehouse on the beach in 20 years?

    Vic – Hello and welcome to the blog. And yes, you are so right that where you are isn’t as important as where you are in your own head…and often who you are with. Of course living in Mexico and Vancouver Island doesn’t hurt in making things a little better either, does it?

    Loth – No. I know you secretly yearn to live in Ottawa even though you refuse to visit. I know you’re saving it up for your retirement.

  24. Ah, dream time, eh?

    Okay, I’d definitely join you in France. Because (a) excellent coffee, (b) excellent bread, (c) cobbled stone streets and (d) all of August as a holiday on the coast. Now that is one good life!

    But, in the real world (family considerations, etc), if someone handed me $10 million right now, I’d pack my bags and buy a house by the beach in Sydney, Australia. And I’d literally need $10 m, that’s how expensive it is there!

    Chances of $10 million falling in my lap or slim. So let’s make is a mere $5 million — in that case, a beautiful home in the Gulf Islands of B.C. with an art studio out back and the ocean out front.

    Okay, I know I’m supposed to feel inspired by this topic. But now I’m depressed. *sigh*

  25. I’m sorry, but as a professional statistician, I find these random rankings to be, uh, rank.
    I could easily produce an index using a series of indicators that could put Canada out front by a country mile and challenged only by the UAE for its environmental record.
    Look, indicators and indices are my living and I have seen very few that approximate a comparative analysis of some given variable on a one to one basis. The UN and OECD have a few that – in a pinch – may serve as statistically viable, but the International Living Magazine?
    Pfhh… I fart in its general direction.
    I’d sooner follow my WAGs or DBMs (wild ass guesses or dart board methodologies).
    And for the record – Parry Sound in the summer and Aguascalientes, Mexico in the winter.

  26. Julie – I don’t know that it was supposed to be inspirational exactly. I guess it depends on how badly you want to make that dream come true or how close you are to making it happen. If you feel like you have no chance ever of realizing it, then I guess it would be depressing. But a life without lofty dreams?

    Trashy – Well, exuuuuuuuuuuse ME! Ha ha. I have no idea what you’re talking about with your comparative analysis of some given variables jargon, but if a international magazine tells me something I really want to hear, I will believe them. Okay? I like your choices – they seem very reasonable and achievable.

  27. i agree, france is beautiful and i’ve love to spend time there. my dream place would probably be ireland but i’m basing it solely on pretty pictures and people i know that moved from there to here with their stories.

  28. Leah – It’s interesting how many people would choose Ireland as their dream place to live. With all the madness that’s been going on there for decades and how volatile the whole UK is… but I guesss it’s a beautiful country. You can come and visit us in France whenever you want, by the way.

  29. Ooh! Where are you going and for how long? Can I offer any advice? I was in Arles and Paris in May of 2007. If you buy a “village house” for that money, you might want to take some apprentice training in plumbing and electrical before you go.