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23 November 2009 | PR 09/164

Escaping to the ‘good life’ – an attainable idyll or intangible dream?

Lifestyle Migration

The dream of the ‘good life’, pursued by thousands of migrants each year, is often vastly at odds with reality, according to a new book, edited by researchers from Loughborough and Bristol universities.

Bringing together research by an international team of leading academics, the book explores the previously overlooked phenomenon of lifestyle migration – relatively affluent people who move to another region or country in search of a more fulfilling way of life. It examines their motivations for migration, their dreams and aspirations, and the reality of their new lives.

Karen O’Reilly from Loughborough University’s Department of Social Sciences is one of the book’s editors and contributor to three chapters. “Lifestyle migration is about escaping from somewhere or something to make a fresh start. But it’s very different from the migration of refugees or asylum-seekers, which has been widely researched. It’s about individuals who are choosing to seek a better way of life that may not be materially richer.”

Over the last 50 to 60 years, lifestyle migration has emerged as a distinct trend, due, for instance, to increased opportunity for travel and flexibility in people’s working lives. However, it has remained a relatively poorly understood phenomenon.

The contributors to the book spent time living among specific migrant groups to collect in-depth accounts of their experiences – middle-class professionals ‘downsizing’ in the US; young Westerners seeking a spiritual life in India; second home-owners who split their time between two or more locations; British people who had moved to rural France or coastal Spain; and those in cross-cultural marriages.

Some had migrated permanently, while others regularly returned to their original ‘home’. The search for the ‘good life’, however, was a common thread among all the groups.

“The research showed that overwhelmingly people migrated to get away from the monotony or routine of their lives, or the materialism and consumerism of society,” says co-editor Michaela Benson from Bristol University. “Some were fleeing because of real experiences such as redundancy, divorce or crime. Others wanted to move on because of the unpredictability of their working lives – they wanted to avoid the futures they believed awaited them.”

As well as the migrants’ motivations for moving, the researchers examined how they selected their destinations. They found that people’s choice of destination could be categorised into three groups – the rural idyll, the coastal retreat and the cultural/spiritual attraction. The migrants had very clear perceptions of how life would be in their chosen location, drawn from both personal experience and from wider cultural narratives.

Their expectations, however, were often idealised and romantic, and the migrants were forced to reconcile their actual experiences with their hopes and dreams.

“One of the researchers spent time with women who had married Italians and settled in Florence,” explains Dr Benson. “Elements of the Italian way of life that they had originally perceived as exciting and exhilarating became a source of disenchantment following their marriage. They found they had become part of the Italian family’s hierarchical structure, as a result of which their personal autonomy that had enabled their migration in the first place became more limited and their lives became characterised by compromise and frustration.”

The book also examines how the local population feels towards the migrants.

“One of the research team looked at Britons who had migrated to Turkey. While the locals were positive about the financial stimulus resulting from the migration, some expressed unease about the power and influence incomers might eventually obtain, believing it could lead to them becoming second-class citizens in their own country,” said Dr O’Reilly.

“Interestingly, some of the migrants we spoke to said that if the place they had settled in became spoiled by extensive immigration, they might look to move on again, to somewhere that offered the promise of a better life.”

The collection emerged out of a Loughborough University initiative: the lifestyle migration hub, at www.lifestylemigration.net

– Ends –

For all media enquiries contact:

Hannah Baldwin
Head of PR
Loughborough University
T :01509 222239
E: H.E.Baldwin@lboro.ac.uk  

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2009 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, and was named winner of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other institution.

It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research-intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

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