Pictured above: Cafe Ferlucci, a charming little cafe on Castlenau a few blocks from my Montréal flat.
I woke up this morning in a bit of a panic. I'm not sure if I had a dream or what happened, but I tossed and turned and couldn't fall back asleep.
I'm in love with Montréal, but I know I cannot stay.
It's not uncommon for me to fall in love with cities when I arrive, only to find the love affair wear thin after a season or two. But here, the love affair is a bit more practical. Montréal, to me, feels like the most livable city in North America.
There are myriad grocery stores within walking distance. The streetscape is pleasant and inviting. The culture is elegant—not flashy, not overdone, and not opulent (I'm looking at you, Florida). People ride bicycles to work, down streets designed to accommodate them. There are very few large pickup trucks, and when you see one, you laugh at how ridiculous they look trying to navigate Montréal's crowded streets. You hardly ever see Canadian flags on things, because people here evidently don't feel so insecure about their country's standing so as to shove their nationalism down your throat. (I'm looking at you, America).
To me, it is a more civil society. Now, this is all my impression from the few square kilometers I've seen of Montréal. The rest of Canada, I'm sure, is probably nearly as backwards as much of America. But here, life is incredibly pleasant and rich. That the city is bilingual only adds to this richness.
And I really don't want to go back to the States.
That's not to say I don't love America. It's a place that had a great run. Some of the best art, music, and film was and is produced in America. If you're an immigrant from a less affluent country, moving to America can be an opportunity out of poverty. But compared to the rest of the developed world, we've messed up, severely. We've prioritized the illusion of individual self-determination—a tenuous illusion based on false premises—over the development of the commonwealth. That has left us with crumbling, inadequate infrastructure, housing that's built for the rich few, ever-increasing healthcare costs, and a society of self-help gurus and get-rich-quick schemes.
Again, that's not to say anywhere is perfect. Canada is certainly not perfect. But in traveling, one can see where our deficits lie.
I've done a bit of research, and it would be quite the uphill battle to immigrate to Québec. The most difficult part of the process, I imagine, would be becoming fluent in French. But Québec is more strict with its immigration policies than the rest of Canada. I feel fortunate that I have a technical skillset that is in demand around the world, so I imagine if I found a job and became fluent in French, I could make it happen.
For now, being that I still have an apartment in Florida, I'm going to enjoy the winter in St Pete with the beautiful friends I've made there. But something has been gnawing at me for years—that something just doesn't feel right to me living in America anymore. Being here and feeling so much more at ease is confirming that. Maybe the grass is greener if you find the right grass.