Moving to the country… gay and single

This move to the country is full of surprises (read obstacles?). Not only is the actual purchase of the farm still being held up by all sorts of paperwork and permissions that need to be in place before the transaction can go ahead. But also on the personal front, I had a “surprise”.

Yesterday came the big “It’s not you, it is me” discussion. Or in short, if I previously had the illusion that although I wouldn’t move to the countryside with my boyfriend, I thought I wouldn’t move as a single.

So any plans for romantic reunions on weekends, orange harvests together and spiritual support from afar while building up the farm have been put on ice. Of course, everything is still a little too early to say  exactly how it will turn out, and my feelings are a bit confused at the moment.

Aside from the emotional component: On the one hand, I imagine that it would have been a lot easier to carry out such a project as a couple, rather than alone. Even if your partner may not there with you, there is “spiritual support” somewhere.
On the other hand, I also know that I am definitely a lot “freer” and can do more of what I want. But how this all will pan out in practice will probably be something to see.

Of course, there is the not insignificant component of being gay. And while there are plenty of gay men in the city, at least in the countryside “single men” are supposedly in short supply. Frankly, I had to stop googling “single gay men in the countryside” in frustration after all the results predicted a completely lonely life…

Well, “only time will tell” as they say.

Speaking of time: So far there is no news from the bureaucracy front… so there, too, we will have to wait and see.

Lisbon, Tourism and Gentrification…

.. or why is it time to move to the country?

One of the questions my friends keep asking me is why I don’t just stay in Lisbon. A good question, and here is an attempt to answer it…..

Without a doubt Lisbon is a great city. If you live here, you can be on the beach in a few minutes, the nightlife is top and great food and cheap drinks are available at every corner. Actually a great city to live, one should think. For me personally, however, there are some very decisive factors that slowly convinced me against living in Lisbon: Firstly, my current life goals. And on the other hand, the impending and very much foreseeable consequences of the increasing gentrification here in Lisbon.

Unfortunately, not a day goes by without another report in the newspaper or the news about the effects of gentrification. That’s a pity, of course, because tourism and investment can, if done right, be really good for a city or region. Of course it’s hard to keep a sustainable and slow-advancing middle ground, especially in a country like Portugal, which needs tourists’ income urgently. On the other hand the mass tourism and the gentrification (I connect the two here, even if they are, of course, somewhat different things) destroy exactly what makes the city so attractive. And it’s happening super fast…  Even in the two years I’ve been here I realise every day how hard it is for the folk here. There are certainly more competent sources that give the full account of the consequences, but I notice how strange (i.e. annoying) it is to live in a house in which there are 14 apartments… but only 2 have people really living in them all year round. And more and more restaurants in the area are replacing traditional cuisine with pre-cooked (and Spanish!?) paella…. and the list could continue for a bit.
Gentrification is something I didn’t like about London, and one of the reasons I decided that London has had its day and it was time to leave. However, the gentrification (and also the hype around the city) there seemed to be progressing at a snail’s pace – at least when compared to the pace here in Lisbon!

On the other hand, of course, my personal priorities also have a decisive influence. As an openly gay man, I quite simply assumed, without further questioning, that life in the countryside is rather complicated. And therefore, life in the big city, with all bars, discos and clubs was actually the only viable alternative. Meanwhile I take a more nuanced view: Of course there are a lot of possibilities to meet other gays in the city (and not only gays, of course). On the other hand, however, I also see that, unfortunately, and especially in cities, many people are totally lonely (not only gays of course). And that’s why I think it would be interesting to try “country life”. We’ll see if it works. But I could at least imagine that in the countryside there are fewer “opportunities” to go out and get to know each other, but that contacts become deeper as a result. We will see how and whether this thesis works.

In short, there are these two big reasons to try it now completely outside my “comfort zone”: out of the city, and off to the countryside….. how will it continue? Don’t forget to check back for more updates – soon!

Urban flight: Is the countryside the new cool?

From London to San Francisco, from Sydney to New York: living in big cities has become increasingly stressful and expensive. But is urban flight, especially beyond suburbia and into the deep countryside, a real alternative?

By chance I recently came across an interesting talk by German politician, self-declared nerd and big “urbanite” Simon Kowalewski. Hardly the sort of guy you’d imagine that starts advocating leaving the city. During his talk at re:publica, a leading tech and digital culture fair in Berlin, he offered some interesting insights into why he is thinking that the future could be in the countryside.

Unfortunately, the full talk is only available in German (YouTube). But here are a few points he covered, upsides first:

1) Prices. The obvious one, of course. In his talk he notes that  the price of buying a square metre in a rural part of Germany is less than renting one in Berlin for a month.

2) Environment. Another obvious one, maybe. The environmental impact of living in the countryside can be much lower than in the city. Why? Because it is much easier to install environmentally conscious solutions, such as solar panels.

3) Health, above all mental health.  According to his talk, all sorts of mental health problems are much more common in cities. (This is actually a well documented phenomenon, with a variety of reasons)

The downsides?

1) Transport, at least sustainable transport. Of course this is an enormous issue in the countryside, where buses and trains don’t run on two minute intervals. No easy solution here, unfortunately… at least not until electric cars get better!

2) Internet…actually, not so much according to him. Although I guess German connectivity might be particularly good in the countryside/bad in urban areas. While there are certainly solutions, connectivity can be a problem in Portugal (and other countries).

3) Health… or maybe not. Another one where the apparent downside might be more of a myth than a reality. Busy inner city hospitals and doctors with lists covering many thousands of patients are indeed something more common in urban areas.

4) Politics… or rather the legend of the “backward countryside folk”.  Here, he makes an interesting point during his talk: he notes that at least as far as serious and organised right wing politics is more common in urban areas. On the contrary, in rural areas, while people may feel “left out”, they are less likely to be hard core xenophobes.

So, does rural living really present an alternative for him? Well it certainly seems so. As at least in his conclusion the positives outweigh the negatives, and many of the negatives are more myth than reality.

What do you think? Would you consider living in the countryside?