Lifestyle migration is the movement of the relatively affluent, in search of quality of life. The movement may be permanent, temporary, full or part-time, or a fluid combination of these. Nevertheless, this contemporary form of mobility holds a sense of permanence; lifestyle migrants often speak of establishing a new home, new attachments, and a new life, even while retaining a strong sense of their "roots". They may not be absolutely wealthy, sometimes funding their lives through casual work, self-employment, pensions, and/or capital investment, but it is the fact they are able to put quality of life above other considerations that distinguishes lifestyle migration from other forms of migration. A durable unifying theme in case studies of lifestyle migration is self-realization: lifestyle migrants contend that moving frees them to be the person they want to be and to live the lives they value. Lifestyle migration appears to be a realization of what a range of contemporary theorists have referred to as the rampant individualism, fluidity and reflexivity of liquid/second/post modernity. But it is shaped by wider social, cultural, and environmental structures. For example, lifestyle migration is shaped by geographies of meaning: people are moving to places that literally or figuratively imply certain (good) ways of living. It is difficult to ignore the historically-formed, global inequalities that facilitate and shape lifestyle migration: lifestyle migration is enabled and shaped by relative wealth and global structuring. It can also have devastating impacts on local environments, economies, and cultures. However, our research has often shown the migrants to be critical and reflexive agents aware of their position and privilege and keen to make some contribution to the communities of which they are now part. Management, control (and exploitation) of migration are often reduced to analysis of costs and benefits. Diverse governments are therefore trying to find ways to attract what they see as wealthy migrants, encouraging them with tax breaks and other incentives, allowing rampant development, based on assumptions about individualistic, profit-maximizing behavior, but they fail to understand the complexity of this migration. Lifestyle migrants are not often absolutely wealthy, they do not seek luxury goods, do not engage in conspicuous consumption, and do not appreciate mass development. Instead, in search of some sort of "authentic" life, they often care about the environment and the local community, want to restore property, are willing to invest time and energy in the locality, and are often far less materialistic than is assumed. It could be possible to harness their search for the good life for a sustainable growth.
Lifestyle migration is the movement of the relatively affluent, in search of quality of life. The movement may be permanent, temporary, full or part-time, or a fluid combination of these. Nevertheless, this contemporary form of mobility holds a sense of permanence; lifestyle migrants often speak of establishing a new home, new attachments, and a new life, even while retaining a strong sense of their "roots".
Dr. Karen O'Reilly is Professor of Sociology and Head of the Social Sciences Department of Loughborough University, UK. She is especially interested in social anthropology and has been studying lifestyle migration for almost 20 years.
Email: E-Mail Link: K.OReilly@lboro.ac.uk