Illustration by Bill Brown
If you’re looking for an art nouveau apartment on Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, I can tell you approximately how many pesos it will set you back. If you’re curious about how much time is required to scrape down a guy slathered in oil at a men’s spa in Azerbaijan, I’ve got a clue about that, too.
For as long as they’ve been airing, my two favorite TV shows have been House Hunters International and The Amazing Race. I realize that both programs are wildly manipulated and edited to fit the needs of the producers, but I don’t care. Through these shows I see how people live in other countries, which interests me not just because I fancy myself a student of the world, but because I dream of living abroad one day. The idea took root on my first big trip. I was eight years old and so enchanted by Britain during our family’s two-week vacation there that I begged my parents to leave me behind. Across the pond bathrooms were called “loos,” half-timbered buildings with thatched roofs (slept in by Shakespeare, no less) were straight out of a storybook, and ice cream vendors stuck chocolate wafers in vanilla cones. It was exotic and heavenly.
I never did renounce my U.S. citizenship, but my fascination with a life foreign to my own remains. Whenever I’m abroad I end up looking at available real estate as much as I do local landmarks, whether it’s a stilt house in New Zealand’s rain forest or a converted train station in the south of France. Don’t read too much into this: I am not constantly seeking to escape L.A. I love my job, my house, and my proximity to family and friends. But who doesn’t fantasize about chucking it all and taking the leap? Suzanne Rico did just that. She had been an anchorwoman at CBS2, living the superficial life (her words) of a broadcaster when she was suddenly fired. Burned out on L.A., she and her husband packed their bags and circled the globe with their two young boys, an adventure she recounts in this issue. It took being far from home for her to better understand—and appreciate—what she’d left behind.
For me, the desire to leave town for good can strike unexpectedly, like when I merely want to pull my hair out (six cars back in a left-turn lane that’s not moving) or am deeply depressed (after I read about another senseless gang shooting that takes the life of a teenager). In those moments my mind wanders to that decaying colonial in Mérida some woman got for a song in one of my favorite episodes of HHI, or to the time racers boated through the turquoise splendor of Phuket on TAR. Then I remind myself: I already live in one of the world’s most international cities. Even on the best trips, I am relieved to feel the wheels of the plane reconnect me with the ground in L.A.