Every few years, I feel the urge to move to, and live in, another country. I am not a digital nomad as I don’t travel constantly, but I have nomadic tendencies. That said, I need a pied-à-terre, although I do not want to grow roots. The world is far too big and interesting to stay put in one place.
A vacation is fine, but to really know the culture and traditions of another country, you have to live there, at least for a year or so, meet the locals and make new friends from a different culture. I have done so since I was 18, which is many decades ago. And I haven’t finished yet; six years in the same place is making me feel restless.
As I was getting older, I choose places where it is warm, they always need to be by the sea or at least a large river. I won’t mind at all, if I never see snow again.
I was born in Germany – in Berlin to be precise – went to school there (four different ones) and remained until I graduated, ready to go to university. The Berlin of my youth was a very different one to today as it was still a city divided by the Wall which made it impossible to visit all the treasures of the former east.
I have only once been back and do not feel homesick at all.
I started my moving around the world by attending university in Basel/ Switzerland where I read law. I wasn’t only restless as far as where I live is concerned , but I also radically changed my profession. From practicing as attorney for many years in London and Marbella, Spain, I changed to becoming a travel and lifestyle writer.
Back to the subject of this post, which is the best places in the world I have lived:
Basel is a beautiful, romantic city with an impressive medieval center, divided by the Rhine River into Gross-Basel and Klein-Basel. It is dominated by the cathedral, known as the Basler Muenster. With its twin towers, colorful roof tiles and red sand stone walls, it’s one of the most famous landmarks of the city, together with the Town Hall, the Barfuesser Platz and several bridges across the river.
An added attraction are the many museums and art galleries, elegant shops, restaurants and cafés that are great meeting places for friends.
Basel is located a few miles from the borders with Germany and France (Alsace), so this invites to lovely day trips. For winter, there are no less than 13 ski resorts just 1-hour’s distance, among them Adelboden and Grindelwald or Freiburg im Breisgau.
Moving around is easy because there are buses and trams, so you don’t need to drive in the city center where parking is not easy. But, Basel is best explored on foot. People are friendly although a bit reserve – no Mediterranean hugs and kisses here on first meeting.
Basel, like all of Switzerland, is not cheap, but you can get by easily on the sumptuous snacks called brötli, chocolate, a coffee or a glass of the most popular red wine, called Dôle. Not to forget Basel’s most important festival, the Fasnacht, or carnival, when Swiss reserve flies out the window for three crazy days.
I spent the longest time in London; in fact, seven years. As opposed to many people who call the capital of the United Kingdom “the big smoke,” I loved it. (The nickname does not refer to the dense fog that often falls over the city but to the smoke resulting from coal fires during the industrial revolution.)
I am a great fan of art and history and London is full of both. I choose southwest London, more specifically the leafy suburb of Putney to live. Only about 45-minutes away from central London by bus or tube , Putney seems like a rural village, with a High Street, a bridge over the River Thames, a vast Green and Common, cozy pubs and not a high rise in sight.
The biggest joy is the river with long paths along its shores, lined with restaurants and pubs, a lively population and the chance to watch the famous Oxford-Cambridge rowing race right from standing on the bridge.
If you are a tennis fan, the tube takes you in a few stops to Wimbledon. On weekends I often walked from Putney to Piccadilly. It takes about one hour of leisurely strolling along the fashionable King’s Road and admiring the elegant town houses in Sloane Square.
It does rain quite a bit, but when the sun comes out London with her many green space and parks, is idyllic, especially in the fall when the leaves turn.
Crossing the Atlantic, my next place to live was Miami for nearly two years, and I was very happy there. You will be hard pressed to find a more exotic, colorful and lively place in the world. Everybody speaks Spanish first and then, when you don’t understand, switches to English. This is because Miami has a huge South American and Cuban community and they contribute a lot to the overall swinging, Latin American atmosphere.
South Beach with the glorious Art Deco buildings, its wide beaches and the strong waves of the Atlantic Ocean satisfied my need to live by the water. I lived in a condo that overlooked the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, and I could watch the manatees swimming by from my balcony.
I did many a trip to the wilds of the Everglades, riding along in an airboat among the alligators and a few times I did the epic trip over the Keys down to Key West. Miami is full of art galleries and several memorable museums, not to mention chic boutiques on Lincoln Avenue and Downtown in the Brickell
I have always been fascinated by the landscapes and culture of the Middle East and if you want a real life fairytale, Muscat, capital of Oman, is the place to go. Muscat’s coastline with its stark black and while volcanic rocks, jutting into the sea is a sight to behold. So are the many white and gold buildings and mosques including the blue ,white and gold sultan’s palace.
I went on a boat trip to watch dolphins and turtles and a day trip that took me to the imposing castle of Nizwa and further into the mountains through wadis, rural villages and dry river beds.
Another highlight was a visit to the busy souk at night when, due to the heat, everybody comes out to shop. All infused with the unmistakable scent to frankincense which is burnt everywhere and is a symbol of Oman, as is the gigantic frankincense pot sitting in a park.
My most romantic adventure was a night cruise on a traditional dhow along the coastline and the illuminated buildings and fortresses in competition with the sparkling stars in the black sky.
I have lived in several more places around the world, among them Istanbul, Beirut and Marbella, but these are my favorites.
Read more here from Inka here in Dispatches’ archives.
Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel and lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits among many other publications.