Where Would You Move if You Could?

CC BY 2.0. Haida Gwaii pier/ Lloyd Alter

I cannot decide between Berlin and a hollowed-out tree stump on Haida Gwaii.

These are strange times where I live in Toronto. The city is run by a cabal of suburban politicians and a Mayor intent on never spending money on anything but fixing highways and digging expensive one-stop subways because the late Rob Ford promised that no driver should ever be stuck behind a streetcar. The province, which really controls the city, is run by the late Rob Ford's older brother. It's all dysfunctional; they can't shovel the sidewalks or fix zoning and they may well blow the Sidewalk deal. It's all driving people like journalist John Michael McGrath to tweet:

It got me thinking: Where would I live if I could just pack up and move? We all work from home or wherever we are. TreeHugger Mat used to file his posts from India and we would go days without figuring it out. Since I started at TreeHugger I have been blessed with a few wonderful press trips, speaking gigs to Passive House conferences, and two glorious trips with family; I have written about them all on TreeHugger or MNN.com. Here's a roundup of the ones I actually would consider moving to (sorry, Las Vegas).



Quito/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Perhaps the most amazing press trip I have taken was the first, to Ecuador with the Rainforest Alliance. There is so much variety in the country; starting in Quito, you are a few hours away from the Amazonian rainforests in one direction and mountains in the other. If you like nature, you will never be bored. More:
Sani Lodge: The choice between rainforest and oil field
The Wildlife of Ecuadorian Amazonia



Copenhagen/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Visiting as a guest of the INDEX: Design for Life organization, I fell in love with everything about this city. The bikes! The architecture! The people! The design! And again, the bikes. More:
How did Copenhagen become Copenhagen?
Living near a bike lane makes you fit
Riding the new bike and pedestrian bridges of Copenhagen


Senior in malmo
CC BY 2.0. A senior cyclist in Malmo, Sweden. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

The problem with Copenhagen is that it is really expensive, so a lot of people commute across the famous bridge from Malmö. On its own, it is a fascinating city, and very bike friendly. More: Urban Multifamily Passivhaus in Malmö is Cool and Modern Oboy, we visit the Cykelehuset Ohboy! an apartment building built around bicycles


multifamily low rise

Lloyd Alter/ Housing in Vienna/CC BY 2.0

Attending a Passivhaus conference, I totally fell in love with this city. I have not stopped talking about the housing, the transit, the museums. It is a model of how to build a city. The Economist called it the world's most liveable city and I think they are right.
Vienna shows how cities don't have to cater to cars.
How does Vienna build such terrific housing?
The Economist calls Vienna the world’s most liveable city

Somewhere in Portugal


Cestaria is the one in the middle/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

My most recent trip was to speak at a Passive House conference in Aveiro, Portugal, and I stayed in a Passive House in nearby Costa Nova, a kind of beach town which was pretty empty in November. But it was so charming, and such a beautiful beach. It's also really cheap. I always thought that living here or in Spain would be great while working at TreeHugger, because being a few time zones ahead of the rest of the North American market would be a big advantage. Finish by noon Eastern time and then it is off to the beach.
Passivhaus may well become the new standard of luxury for tourism


Berlin Street

Berlin/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

We are down to my two favourite spots. I loved walking down this street of low apartment buildings, with a sort of private zone next to the buildings for cafes, a walking zone, a totally chaotic strip of bike parking, guerrilla planting, car storage and more. It was like all of Berlin; a little edgy, a lot of fun, affordable, so much to do. If one is going to live in a city where you can get a bit of everything and never get bored, this is it.
Biking and walking in Berlin is a breath of fresh air.

Haida Gwaii

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0 Then there is the total opposite end of the world, the isolated islands of Haida Gwaii, of the coast of British Columbia. The small population is about evenly split between Haida and hippies. There is not much to do, about six places to eat and one good museum. But the trees. The wilderness. The wildness. And most importantly, the friendliness, the remarkable, eccentric and interesting people. When I left I was certain that this was the place. But it is seriously remote. Perhaps what I need is a summer place, a tiny house like the Wotten cottage here, carved out of a giant tree stump, and then back to Berlin. I can wave as I fly over Toronto. This tiny house carved out of a single tree could be in Hobbiton instead of Haida Gwaii Haida culture is alive and well on Haida Gwaii Island tiny home built from bottles, bones and beach debris

Where would you like to live? Where do you think is affordable but exciting? Leave a note in comments.