Lifestyle migration is the movement of relatively affluent individuals to places that offer, either in the imagination or materially, the possibility for self-realization and the pursuit of a better quality of life. Being relatively affluent, the distinguishing factor is that they are able to put quality of life reasons ahead of other considerations such as work or safety. Lifestyle migration is voluntary, driven by consumption, and shaped by cultural imaginaries. Lifestyle migrants are attracted to places that have specific amenities such as the weather, the physical environment, health and social services. They are also drawn by social and cultural dimensions (a strong sense of community, a tranquil life) that imply certain ways of living that they can relate to as offering fulfillment. Furthermore, lifestyle migration is often enabled by visas and permits that other migrants find more difficult to obtain. In more recent years, lifestyle migrations have spread farther afield than previously, and they now incorporate many destinations shaped by prior colonial relations and global inequalities. Lifestyle migration is thus marked by power and privilege.
Lifestyle migrants are not people driven to move by poverty or hardship; they are not aiming to benefit from the better economic position of the country they move to, but often from the fact it is a poorer economy. They are not moving within the context of paid work, as corporate Interner Link: expatriates (although they may need to work to fund the lifestyle they seek); they are not seeking asylum or refuge. Lifestyle migrants are often retired, self-employed or flexible workers, and usually creative individuals shaping new lives for themselves. Lifestyle migration is thus a form of migration that runs counter to those migrations with which researchers, governments, and policy makers are more familiar. The majority of migrations around the world are of people driven by poverty, political upheaval, environmental risk, and poor work opportunities. Most move from poorer to richer economies in search of security and a better standard of living. Of course, there are other types of migration including forced migrants, corporate expatriates, students, travelling artists and journalists, and entrepreneurs. In fact, migration at the global level has become increasingly complex, fluid forms of mobility are becoming more "normal", and there are many flows that run counter to the more dominant and familiar flows. Lifestyle migration is one such counter flow. Here I will discuss its roots, what lifestyle migrants share in common and its diversity, the wider factors that shape it, and some of its longer-term impacts.
Interner Link: This text is part of the policy brief on lifestyle migration.