Where Would You Go?
October 16th, 2012

It started as it always does, with some permutation of the question, “What if we moved to New York?”  It happens every time we are there.  Without fail.

GAP and I spent the weekend in Manhattan.  He had business there on Sunday and Monday, so I tagged along and we made a weekend of it.  This being our fourth or fifth trip to the city together, we’d covered most of the “must see” tourist destinations, and were able to spend a decent chunk of time wandering the streets of Manhattan aimlessly.

This kind of aimless wandering is one of our favorite ways to experience almost any vacation spot.  Not only does it grant us the opportunity to get familiar with the character of a place, it provides the opportunity for us to exhaust all sorts of topics of conversation that get sidelined in a home life that is filled (happily) with our careers and children.

So as we wandered up Second Avenue on Saturday afternoon I think I asked him, “If we were to move here tomorrow – with the kids – which part of the city would you want to live in?”  This gave way to the clarification “Are we moving there just for a year to have the experience, or are we moving permanently?”  The answer, of course, changes in each context.  (One year?  The Village.  Permanently?  Upper East Side.)  The introduction of finite timing then led to the next version.  “If you were going to pick any city in the world to live in for one year, which would you pick?  What about three years?  What about five?”  There were more complicated and contingent versions of the question that followed these.

The answers to these questions* matter less than the exercise of asking them, I think.  It’s the conversation that comes from asking the “what if” questions that makes them interesting, and gives us insight into both ourselves and into the people talking with us.  We might surprise ourselves, as I did with my one-year answer.  We are forced to think about the calculus that factors into such decisions.  We come face to face with the very nature of our character and values:  Do we favor adventure or predictability?  Do we crave a challenge or something more relaxing?  What would we find exciting or stifling or alienating or fun?  How do our answers to these questions change when we consider making such jumps with our kids in tow versus without?

In some way the answers to these questions serve as proxies for greater statements about us.  The choices we make in our external lives are often quite crystalline reflections of what we believe and value internally.  Asking someone, “What do you value most in your life?” is bound to produce broad (and likely uninteresting) answers.  But more specific questions that might be the manifestation of those values can be much more telling.

For two working parents with two young children finding the time to get lost in conversation is sometimes hard to do.  But in my experience walking aimlessly through a city is almost always the right backdrop for just that.

*One year = Shanghai.  Three years = London (although Barcelona was a strong contender).  Five years = New York.

4 Responses to “Where Would You Go?”

  1. Lindsey Says:

    I love this. We struggle to get truly lost in conversation, often, and you remind me of the importance and power of doing so. I spent my childhood moving every 4 years and grew up determined to simply STAY PUT once I had kids. My sister, however, reacted exactly the opposite way to our shared peripatetic childhood. She and her family (husband and daughters ages 3 and 5) spent last year living in Jerusalem. We visited and the spark flared up inside of me: oh, wow. This is what adventure feels like. Why aren’t we doing more of this? So now we find ourselves wondering. My son’s godmother (and one of my best friends from high school and college) is living in Beijing now with her family (husband and sons ages 2 and 4) and I am currently scheming how to visit them. Maybe for now I’ll just do trips. I don’t know … it’s very tempting!

  2. Holly Says:

    One Year: Jerusalem (ironic since Lindsey had the same thought!)
    Three Years: Paris
    Five Years: Washington D.C. (or a suburb)

  3. Gale Says:

    Lindsey – I remember when you first wrote about your sister moving to Jerusalem, and it didn’t register with me at the time that you and she had experienced opposite reactions to your transient childhood. It’s so interesting how different people can internalize the same experience in such different ways. I love to think about these “pick up and move” scenarios, but I wonder how much nerve I’d have if presented the opportunity. I was very adventuresome as a younger adult but with kids I seem less so. Or perhaps I’m just using the kids as an excuse? Something to think about! Either way, the conversations are interesting. (And I think the Beijing trip sounds wonderful!)

    Holly – I think Jerusalem would be really fascinating. I actually didn’t even consider it. (For shame…) I would also love Paris. But I think I’d grow weary of D.C. pretty quickly. Thanks for playing along!

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    South of France.
    Occasional visit to wherever my sons “light.”