What makes a place livable?

Are you thinking of a sea change? Want to escape to the mountains? Or prefer the never-ending action of a bustling metropolis?

You only know what you know, and the beauty of spending a life time of travel and living around the world, is you get to figure out what you don’t like as much as what you do!

We’ve lived in five countries – and several places within the countries – so have figured out the most important things to consider when moving – either abroad or within your own country.

man and girl holding a pint of guinness
At the Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, 2003

After being a nomad for so many years, it’s hard to visit a place without evaluating it in terms of whether it is livable.

On our travels around the world, Craig and I have caught ourselves saying so many times “I could live here”. I’m sure you’ve said it too. But living in a place, and visiting a place, are two very different things!

Before I started traveling, I thought the perfect place was Australia near the beach. Then for the next 10 years, I lived far from the beach in metropolitan areas. My definition of what makes a place livable changed, and if there is a beach or not, rarely gets factored in.

For some, they’d base it on job opportunities, which is understandable, but it’s something that has never really factored into my equation. Most people can find a job in any place if you believe you can.

I try to make the decision based upon the factors that would really make my heart sing the most. After years of exploring, we finally found the home that’s the most livable for us – Raleigh, North Carolina.

You will never find a perfect place, but you can find one that checks off the most important priorities.

Here are some of the factors we considering when deciding what makes a place livable.


a view of the ocean from Burleigh Heads National Park, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
View from Burleigh Heads National Park

Climate is a major factor in what makes a place livable. I used to think it was about being hot all the time, so Thailand came up trumps.

But, I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina – where it sometimes snowed – and I loved it. What makes a place livable is more about a balanced and consistent climate.

I can handle cold winters, if I know they just last x number of months each year and the lifestyle caters to the cold. Most of Australia is really slipping in my list because of this.

This may seem crazy to most, as Australia has this image of hot and sunny weather. The north of Australia is HOT, although it has a wet season so it’s not always dry. But, for the past 3 years I’ve found the weather in Australia to be so inconsistent, it’s driving me crazy. And a lot of the places in Australia lack insulation and heating.

When I first started drafting this post in December, I was wearing my UGG boots and freezing. At least in Raleigh, I knew in October it would start to get cold and then in April it would get warm again. Without fail.

Read more: 45 facts about Australia (know before you go)


View of Surfers Paradise from Coolangatta Beach - Queensland, Australia
Coolangatta Gold Coast

The place we eventually settle down in has to be in a location that is accessible and close to a vibrant city, I’m thinking 1 hour maximum and day trips.

Bright, Victoria is one of my favourite places in Australia and is one I could definitely live in, except it’s too far away from a big city. If only it was an hour away from Melbourne instead of three.

I don’t think we could live in Perth, because it is the remotest city in the world and would cost us a fortune if we wanted to go to a lot of places we love, internationally and domestically.


girls on a hillside
Lots of options in Sydney

I need to live in a place that has a little bit of action and lots of OPTIONS. I need restaurants, and cafes and parks and biking trails. Even if I am not going out to enjoy the nightlife, I love it if the option is there for everyone else in the town.

I also need live concerts and festivals, and sporting matches and fun new places to visit.

We felt we were slowly dying in our hometown – you couldn’t get a coffee after 4:00pm. We’ve also previously lived on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, a beautiful part of the world, but a little quiet for us at the time, and we’re not huge fans of Brisbane, 1 hour to the south. Maybe the Gold Coast, being bigger, would suit us more.

(Update: We now live on the Gold Coast and love it. Here’s why we think the Gold Coast is the best place in Australia to live.)

Open Spaces

people sitting at table with views of downtown raleigh
RAleigh is an uncrowded city

Tokyo would not be for me. I like the vibrancy of a big city, but I don’t like them so big and crazy that I feel squashed and unable to process the frenetic energy.

We absolutely loved our 6 months living in Bangkok, but it used to get a little too much for me with its non-stop buzz and pollution and noise. It was hard to find a place to chill out. (Although these 6 places work!)

London, although big and populated, always seemed so spacious- except for when you rode the tube. And Raleigh, was like the perfect sized city. Enough vibrancy, but plenty of space and clean air.

Melbourne is currently doing a GREAT JOB of checking off vibrancy + open spaces.


man stand up paddle boarding on a lake
Lake Johnson Raleigh

I gotta have nature, any way you can dish it out. I need beaches, lakes or rivers and nearby mountains and forests. Don’t just give me a concrete jungle.

Mentally and energetically, I’d go insane if I lived in a place that did not allow me to connect to nature.

Outdoor living

Bird Island, North Carolina
Kindred Spirit Mailbox hike

I need the focus to be on the outdoors. It’s the biggest reason why we left Dublin. Stuck inside 2/3 of the year due to the incessant drizzle. Hell NO! I want to be out walking and exercising and exploring nature.

I love getting up early on the beach towns of Queensland – 6am and it’s like peak hour, people are up power walking, jogging, kayaking, swimming, letting loose their energy and gathering more for the day ahead.

Good transport system / walkable

peopel walking across The Millennium Bridge, London, England
Walking across the The Millennium Bridge towards St Paul’s Cathedral

Aha, this is one that Raleigh failed on, but London came up trumps! Dublin also won on the most walkable city to live. Melbourne has a ton of great transport options from cycle ways to trams to trains to walking.

I don’t’ like driving much. I‘d much prefer to walk or cycle from point A to B, or if not to easily jump on some form of public transport.

And it MUST have an international airport close by.

Cost of living

woman steering boat down river
affordable living in Bangkok

I’ve always wanted to live in Sydney, but haven’t – it’s probably because of this reason. Although there are some great free things in Sydney as a visitor.

Let’s face it, at the end of the day, we might find the most livable place in the world, but if we can’t afford it, it doesn’t matter.

Job opportunities

woman sitting on balcony with computer
Office views

We’re so fortunate we have our own digital business, so we really don’t have to worry about this. I know many do. You might find your paradise, but if there is no work, then it has to stay just a dream.

When we lived in Raleigh, my teaching job was a 40 minute drive away, so I guess you can say there were no job opportunities in Raleigh. But because it was so livable, we decided to live in Raleigh, and I’d just commute each day.

If you haven’t worked it out already, you can see why Raleigh is probably the most livable place for us at the moment. It really did check off the majority of our lists.

Melbourne comes close, except the weather is a major issue for me, and as mentioned the Gold Coast in Queensland is also attractive.

What makes a place liveable for you? For other places we could live in the world and why click here

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