Anyone who has ever met me knows I’m a Pittsburgher for life. I’ve got a drawer of my dresser crammed full of Pittsburgh t-shirts. I root for all the Pittsburgh teams (even the Pirates, who stink stink stink) and fervently defend my city whenever someone admonishes it. But, I’ve also done a fair amount of traveling around and realize that there are other cities I would deem livable if Pittsburgh were to suddenly burn down and I had no other option but to relocate. So, if that unfortunate event ever occurs, here’s where you can find me.
Option #1 – Berlin, Germany
I’ve only been to Berlin once for five days, but it was enough to know that I could cast my lot somewhere in the Kreuzberg section of the city. Having taken many years of German in high school and college was definitely advantageous while I was there. The beer (bier) was delicious and the atmosphere on the streets was electric. When you combine the ability to drink while walking around? My goodness, that’s my kind of town.
Pros: Lots of biking, beer drinking on the streets, industrial, a little dreary (I can’t help it; it’s the Pittsburgher in me that will never die.)
Cons: Never been a big fan of German food (ate a lot of McDonald’s during my trip)
Fantasy Life: I am a bike messenger. I have a German shepherd that accompanies me everywhere. I don’t give a fuck about anything other than riding my bike and hanging out with my awesome dog. There is a 50/50 chance I’m squatting in an abandoned building.
Option #2 – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
You might not be aware, but Vancouver should always been pronounced “Vancoooooooouver,” kind of like how Dracula might say it. Just go with it. Vancouver simply astounded me. It was perfect parts city and nature. The downtown was lively and interesting. The surrounding area was lush greenery full of bike trails and beaches. How is this not one of the most perfect places on Earth? The city is made of glass and it sparkles, literally.
Pros: It’s in Canada! (I have a weird fascination with Canada.) Tons of outdoor activities. Definitely an opportunity to actually live in a downtown setting. Plus very interesting “coffee shops” that cater to those interested in very different “c” word. (Think about it. Or google it, this is 2011 after all.)
Cons: Ummm… None?
Fantasy Life: Probably dating Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks and living in a sweet ass condo in the sky. Taking long bike rides in Stanley Park, checking out a coffee shop and passing out on the beach afterward. I’m a bartender, and life is awesome.
Option #3 – Chicago, Illinois, United States
I have always shied away from the big American cities. (Does Boston count as a big city? I mean, well-known, sure, but large?) They feel like too too much. I get overwhelmed. I start to feel lost. But I never felt that in Chicago. In Chicago I felt like the city was at my fingertips. It was incredibly easily to navigate on foot, bike, and public transit. I loved how eclectic and unique the neighborhoods felt. I liked the lake, and imagined myself biking up and down Lake Michigan all summer long.
Pros: Flat! Easy for biking. Pizza. Steak.
Cons: Everyone tells me it’s fucking cold. And when I say, “Whatever.” They say, “No, it’s fucking cold.” So, I guess it’s cold. I wouldn’t know. I’ve only been in the summer.
Fantasy Life: Riding my bike to Polyvinyl Records every morning for work. Hanging out and eating pizza and having beers with friends all the time. Continuing to stalk Owen by following him on Twitter and casually showing up wherever he happens to be.
Option #4 – Buffalo, New York, United States
Unlike Chicago, I’ve only been to Buffalo in the wintertime, so I know exactly what it’s like when it’s cold there. The times I’ve visited Buffalo I’ve been most impressed by one thing: how much people of Buffalo love Buffalo. They are the only city dwellers, besides Pittsburghers, who are so very much in love with and excited about their city. The bars are open until 4 a.m. They take their karaoke seriously. They are a good breed, and I’d be happy to join them.
Pros: Tim Hortons. A hop, skip, and jump from Canada.
Cons: Don’t be fooled, poutine in Buffalo is gross. Don’t even try it.
Fantasy Life: Fixing up and flipping beautiful old Victorian homes for a living. Running a baked goods business out of my kitchen on the side.
Option #5 – Wilmington, North Carolina, United States
I had a dream when I was 17. I was going to move to North Carolina. I was going to get into college in Wilmington and meet a nice southern boy and that would be that. But guess what! The University of North Carolina only accepts like 4% of out-of-state applicants. For me, Pitt was it. But then a friend from Boston moved to Wilmington, and months later I was on her porch, ready to explore the dream town I’d never ever stepped foot in. Why Wilmington? Because I own every episode of Dawson’s Creek on DVD. (Duh.)
Pros: Living out my teenage fantasy of being a character on Dawson’s Creek. Though, in my versions it’s called Allison’s Creek.
Cons: I really don’t think I could handle the slow pace of the South. It kind of drives me crazy.
Fantasy Life: I am the President of the Dawson’s Creek Fan Club. I have rescued Leery’s Fresh Fish (it was vacant when I was visiting) and turned it into my headquarters/awesome dive bar. I lead tours through Wilmington of all the best Dawson’s Creek sites. I live across the street from my friends Trista and Tim and I finally have met that nice southern boy.
And that, my friends, is that.
Allison Rowland is a native Pittsburgher who loves to travel almost as much as she loves Pittsburgh. You can read about her adventures at Everything Better Pittsburgh.