Jan 112011
#8: Valencia, Spain.  Such amazing architecture!

#8: Valencia, Spain. Such amazing architecture!

I had a lot of reasons for leaving my career and home to travel around the world in August of 2009, and one of them was a vision of starting a new life abroad.  For the first eight months of my voyage, I was convinced that (after rockin’ out Asia and Africa) I would find the endpoint of my dreams in Barcelona, Spain.

When I arrived in Spain, however, I realized Barcelona was nothing like my idealized vision of it, and (though it’s a great city for many), it ain’t a great match for me!  But which of the 57 cities I traveled to between 2009 and 2010 did almost qualify to be a sweet home for a gal like me?

After extensive reflection, here is my rundown of the top 8 cities of my travels that I think would be great to actually LIVE in, not just travel through. Click the highlighted blue words for more articles and photos on each place!

#7: Aburi, Ghana.  A stunning climate and park.

#7: Aburi, Ghana. A stunning climate and park.

8. Valencia, Spain. I stayed a long time in Valencia, partly because I met some fantastic people there, and partly because I found it such a delightful mix of modernity and cosy homey-ness. Valencia has: ample universities and an intellectual flair, a beautiful long green park that winds through the city, the most amazing architecture I’ve seen in ages, a delightful climate (and an ocean beach!), cutting-edge restaurants, and a prime location in Europe.  I really felt at home there!

7. Aburi, Ghana. I loved the three months I spent in Ghana, especially the wonderful people, but if I were to move there permanently I would melt… unless I snagged a house in the temperate town of Aburi!  Aburi is where the rich and famous of Ghana (such as Jimi Hendrix’s widow) often choose to live because it’s up a mountain, and thus not ridiculously steamy hot.  Aburi also has an unbelievable wood carvings market, and one of the most spectacular botanical gardens I’ve ever seen.

#6: Luang Prabang, Laos.  Feast for the eyes and tummy!

#6: Luang Prabang, Laos. Feast for the eyes and tummy!

6. Luang Prabang, Laos. This dreamy town on the Mekong River is widely celebrated as “The most beautiful city in Southeast Asia,” and in fact won my #1 prize for most beautiful place in all of my 2009 travels!  Oooh, I can see it now: the blue river against the ornate golden temples by the green hills… the monks wandering by in bright orange… the scrumptious food and cheap housing and things to buy… It’s no wonder that I met so many successful Westerners who were permanently moving to Luang Prabang!

5. San Francisco, California, USA. Right before flying to Japan to start my journey around the world, I made a free 5-day stop in the stunning city by the bay to visit my brother and an awesome college friend.  Truly, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and it’s hard for words to capture the majesty of those white buildings climbing the hills overlooking the sapphire bay connecting to the emerald green Marin hills.  The people are chilled-out and smart, the food tastes better and fresher, and outdoor adventure abounds.  If I weren’t so enamored with Boston, San Francisco sure seems a tempting place to live!

#4: Lisbon, Portugal. My bro and I were happy to be there!

#4: Lisbon, Portugal. My bro and I were happy to be there!

4. Lisbon, Portugal. When my brother flew out to travel with me for his Spring vacation, we only stayed a short time in Portugal’s capital, but hooo baby I was smitten by the city!  Before arriving, I didn’t expect how romantic and winding its streets would be, or how exotic the hills, or how the sun would glint off the water.  We even got to attend the dinner party of the local Couchsurfing group, which proved the town is chock-full of fun folks.  I hope to explore the city further, one day!

#3: Granada, Spain, as seen from the Alhambra.

#3: Granada, Spain, as seen from the Alhambra.

3. Granada, Spain. I loved Granada with a passion.  For me, the coolest part of it its rich history of Arab influence.  The city exudes a sexy, exotic flair that I’ve never before encountered. Fun backpackers and locals revel and mix on all corners, and exciting goods are sold everywhere.  All this, AND you have the giant Alhambra palace protecting you from the hill above!

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand. There is a consistently giant expat community living in Chiang Mai because it’s got all the perks of Bangkok with a fraction of the craziness.  In Chiang Mai, you still have the excellent free Wi-Fi internet access, delicious cheap food and clothes, inexpensive accommodation, and beautiful temples and history… but you don’t have that same level of terrifying traffic or in-your-face prostitution as the country’s capital.  Interested in New Age arts or massage practice?  There’s a vibrant healing arts community in the city.  In Chiang Mai, you also have convenient proximity to mountain hikes and short, cheap flights to paradise beaches.  All this led me to declare Chiang Mai a great place to wait out the recession.

#1: Chiang Mai, Thailand.  The city has disco ball walls!

#1: Chiang Mai, Thailand. The city has disco ball walls!

1. Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Sometimes it turns out there’s no place like home… and it sure is easy to fall back in love with your natal town if it’s as green, smart, historic, walkable, and fun as Boston!

So those are the 8 most livable cities I enjoyed during 2009-2010.  What about you?


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  54 Responses to “8 Great Cities of RTW Travel to Actually Move To and Live”

  1. I would love to visit the city of San Fransisco to enjoy the great tasting food and learn the history of the city.

  2. Looks like a great place to visit, and I hope to visit sometime.

  3. These tourist attractions are very exciting and I would have loved to have gone to Ghana! Maybe some day in the future I will be able to go just like you. My favorite attraction is the Blue River you talked about!

  4. Valencia rings a bell in my soul too. It’s a fantastic beautiful city, rather less-known to most people. Even I was surprised by what I’ve found there. The Old Town is fantastic to get lost in and take photos…
    The city is VERY clean and soooo calm. At least is seemed. A lot cleaner and calmer than Barcelona. It felt safer too.

  5. Well, Granada Spain is awesome, and I would love to live there, It’s not quite the typical small college town we are use to in the States, perhaps it is so for Spainiards. When I visited Spain, Granada was my favorite town.

    Everyone sees something different, and not everyone has the same taste, but I lived in California, just north of San Francisco, and I can say without a doubt, it is one of the last places I would ever live. Yes, you can drive into San Franciso, or fly in, and it can be beautiful….on a sunny day, but most days are not sunny, San Francisco has a lot of fog, that can last all day, and it gets very depressing, and it can be 50 degrees in the summer. Parts of it is really ugly, although we had friends who had lovely homes. The Golden Gate Bridge to me, is hideous. It has to take a certain person to like it. I know people who do, but most of people I know do not. However, I will agree, that the food is great. California restaurants are some of the best.
    The two places mentioned, that I would like to see, that I have not, are Portgual & Ghana. I have been to South Africa, and Botswana, and love them both, and hope one day to visit Ghana.

  6. I have a feeling you and I would have a lot in common. 🙂
    I liked Barcelona, but didn’t love it. I do love SF and Granda, and Valencia. Haven’t been to Asia yet.
    I’ve been to Beantown once a long time ago. Looking forward to a future visit. Aside from the winters I know I’d love it.

  7. Great list. I’m thinking of Melbourne at the moment. Lived there when I was 19 and have always been keen to go back and live there again. Hoping to get there by the end of the year.

  8. All these places are gorgeous. But, Boston is always home to me. Sadly, all we’re getting is rain or showers.

  9. […] of these cities and found them all to be fantastic. It’s a great list from Around the World L8 Places to Live Around the World This was one of my favorite finds of the week just for the sheer awesome oddness of it. I […]

  10. Boston, San Franciscon, Granada, Valencia and Luang Prabang – all great options! Also, it should be noted that only America and Spain made the list twice – and I wholeheartedly agree!

  11. Valencia was cool. If we end up moving to Spain for whatever reason, I think that would be my first choice to look. I certainly liked it better than Madrid. I keep hearing good things about Chang Mai.

    My ideal cities have a big university presence. Somehow having students around keeps a city feeling vibrant and usually brings culture along with it. Good public transport is a must, as I have no interest in owning a car again. Good wifi, food I am willing to eat and a good group of people to hang out with. Amazing how much those things aer not dependent on location.

  12. I agree, there is no place like home. The pictures you posted are amazing!

  13. Wow I think those are some really great pictures you should put up more pictures

    • Good thing there are 449 other articles on this website, eh? 🙂 And remember, you can click on any of the blue-highlighted words for a whole other article about that specific place… with more photos!

  14. I knew you would say Boston, because you wouldn’t want to leave your students just like that.

  15. I would love to live in San Francisco. It’s so warm there and my uncle lives there. And also you could go to the beach after skool

  16. I agree there is no place like home. 🙂

  17. Wow, the pictures from all the cities look really beautiful. One of my favorite cities is Barcelona, Spain I hope I can travel around the world just like you.

  18. I’m Portuguese Ms. Marshall! This makes me want to go check out the country even more! Get ready Portugal because Malaysia will be coming as soon as possible!

  19. Awesome post! Nothing beats travelling to a new, exciting place but having it feel like “home”, too!

    For me, Sydney was love at first sight. Cosmopolitan, lots of green spaces, great weather, kick-ass water features, a double decker subway system, sandy beaches…not to mention the beautiful, beautiful men haha 😉

    Istanbul is a place I could see myself living in – fairly hectic, but hop on a ferry across the river and you’re on a different continent! Love the place.

    Daegu in South Korea, too. Friendly locals, cheap prices, easy to get around, and just a chilled-out, happy vibe – I love this place, my home for the past 2 years 🙂

  20. Ms. Marshall!!!!!! I am happy to say that I am sooooooo jealous of these beautiful experiences you’ve had! Wow so many awesome places out there, and Portugal seems like a match for me! Portugal here I come in a couple of years! woooo! =)

  21. Wow! These pictures are beautiful! You are very fortunate to have been able to visit them. I would love to go see Luang Prabang, Laos. The architecture is so unique and stunning. 🙂

  22. If you ever got to go to Europe again, you should go to Milan! Milan is a great place to go to because it has beautiful attractions. I would also recommend Hong Kong if you haven’t been there yet.

  23. Travel can be the best release sometimes. I always hought about it. Seeing that first photo only makes me want to more. It looks kind of futuristic.

  24. Ms. Marshall these places look great. I wish I could of went to one of these places.

  25. Wow!! That is a really cool architecture. Is that woman lying next to water? It looks like a mini beach, such a beautiful view.

  26. Ms.Marshall how do you do it? You have been everywhere. I have gone nowhere compared to you. I am very jealous of you going to all these places.

  27. Ms. Marshall you are really lucky. I wish I could travel as much as you travel. I have only left Massachusetts twice and came back.

  28. Wow Ms. Marshall, I didn’t know that you travel to that many places. I’m so envious of you, I wish that I have the money to go to that many places. They looks and sounds so wonderful, especially San Francisco!!!!

  29. I think when I’m traveling I’m always looking sub-consciously for new places that I could move to. Spain is hard to beat…I ended up in Madrid for almost a year…and shares a lot in common with California I think.

    Interesting that Ghana made it…would like to check that out someday.

    • Lol@Stephen.. you should. You’d be pleasantly surprised. We might not have the sophistication of the advanced world… yet! … but you’d soon come to understand why we are called the Gateway to Africa. Akwaaba anytime…

  30. Hi Ms. Marshall,
    This time I didn’t spell your name wrong! It’s good that you traveled with your brother, even though it’s only for a week. Your relationship with your brother must be very close. I hope I didn’t have any grammar demons this time!


  31. Lillie, great list & good to see Granada high on your list. Next time you here explore some of the surrounding area, especially the Alpujarras & Costa Tropical.

    So great articles, fun & informative reading. BTW, did you ever find out if Phillip & Tom returned from the forest commune.

    • Thanks, and yay! I hope to explore those other areas soon.
      In answer to your question, NO, I never saw those guys again!!!! They probably have beautiful hippie brides by now and will never come back from the forest!!

  32. Wow. Valencia, Spain looks amazing. That’s how I imagine the future to look like. It looks so clean and sanitary. Luang Prabang, Laos looks beautiful, especially because of how the building colors contrast with the sky. Granada, Spain looks kind of scary to me. By the way, Mr. Marshall makes you look so short! I want to travel the world when I get older too. Your life somewhat reminds me of the movie “Eat, Pray and Love.” 🙂

  33. I am very happy to have you as a teacher Ms.Marshall. You open my eyes to a world that I have not yet encountered. I wish I could just drop everything and travel the world. You inspire me to travel the world when i get older!

  34. Great post! Especially since I have intentions of relocation. Thailand remains my favourite destination. It’s amazing that you got to so many places:)

  35. HI Ms. Masrshall,
    I can’t belive it! Ms. Marshall, you’ve been to that many places. I wish I could travel to all these places, too. By the way, did you travel with your brother?


    • You WILL travel as far and wide as you desire, if you work hard at making it a reality! In answer to your question, my brother traveled with me for just a week of the nine months. It was great to see him!

  36. Such an awesome post!! You’ve given an average high school student with ambitious traveling dreams an insight on some pretty cool traveling destinations. Tuesday before heading home, I stopped by the southie library to check out a couple movies (I didn’t want to get bored during the following snow days). One of the movies I got is “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” which turned out to be an amazing movie. As the end credits rolled I started thinking… if they were to die right now (God forbid), which adult around me would be most proud of what they’ve accomplished during their lifetime? You were the first person to pop in mind. 🙂

  37. Great post, Lillie! This is a tough one for me because I reckon I live(d) in the best place on earth (Melbourne, Australia) but still travel, and now moved to New York City. Love the Granada inclusion – amazing vibe though not really for me long term. I’d probably go with Barcelona instead. My inclusion would be Paris – dying to move there to improve my French – and Cape Town, South Africa, which has just the most chilled-out relaxed vibe you have ever felt in your life.

  38. We have fallen in love with Chiang Mai too, but I do wonder about the disco ball walls….

  39. Wow! I love the pictures!

  40. Awesomely pleased to see my home region Lisbon, Portugal so high on the list! Agreed.

    But WHERE is our beloved San Jose? The grime and crime are surely Top 10 worthy?!

  41. We’d love to live for a while in many of those, especially San Francisco (hopefully for a few months later this year). I’d add Buenos Aires and Sucre, Bolivia to the list – we spent time there last year and they are both places I’d like to go back to. Buenos Aires has so much going on and Sucre is very chilled and pretty.

  42. Would love to live on any of those. San Fran is 45 mins away from where we are. It’s ridiculously expensive to live in though…

  43. Well, I have visited some of those cities: Valencia, Granada and Lisbon. Of the three of them my favorite is Lisbon, I am very fond of everything that has to do with Portugal! Lisbon is a great port city with lots of charm. In my list will be Prague, London and N.Y. for sure. Nevertheless, coming from Madrid I chose a small village to live in and since then I have a very different sense of life. The funny think is I don’t miss travelling around so much, there is still much to learn, feel and see…N.R.A.

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