‘Would I ever be though?’: A Review of Sarah Alderson’s “Can We Live Here?”

ever-wish“I cannot believe two things: one, that kids these days are such little shits in this part of the world, and two, that within minutes of re-entry into my native land I’m as aggressive and mean as everyone else who lives here”


As a teacher, I am far too painfully aware of the foremost point (though they can also be articulate, compassionate and hilarious when they want to be), and the second is something similarly familiar: I seem to constantly being deemed ‘bitter’. And is there any wonder?


Having heard a 13 year old express a naively insensitive desire to trade places with a victim of ‘War Child’, whilst analysing the following advertisement, I cannot help but be drawn to places where an education in held up in such high regard: to teach girls who never dreamt they would be able to experience a thing that so many take for granted.


Reading the brilliant memoirs of Sarah Alderson in “Can We Live Here”, I have established that she is my spirit animal. Either that or I am the illegitimate and immaculate love child of her and Lauren Juliff. All of the thinly veiled cynicism and frustration of Sarah, matched with the coiled anxiety of Lauren, yet all three of us with a shared (and entirely un-cynical) understanding of the profound ‘healing power’ of travel. Like Sarah, I’m a cynic who longs to be a hippy: living the beach bum, barefoot lifestyle- though without the giving up meat, cheese or solid foods part! (She also seems to be a fan of Buffy and references one of my favourite poems- what’s not to love!).

“The cynic in me might be dying hard, but it is dying. And maybe that’s got a lot to do with not living in London anymore, where cynicism seemed hardwired into my DNA”

Anyway, the school in which I teach has weekly reading registrations and fortnightly ‘library lessons’ in which alongside my young ward I am able to be transported into the land of fiction… or in this case non-fiction. And, on far more occasions than I care to count, I have received sideways glances and peculiar stares from students and colleagues alike after I have found myself laughing out loud at the predicaments that Alderson finds herself in alongside her partner and their young daughter.


From an incident in which Alula- their three year old- fails to hit the mark when trying to deposit her drink, from bladder back to bottle (A story incredibly reminiscent of similar encounter on my very first holiday abroad where, when suddenly struck with travel sickness, I proceeded to transform the coach into a slalom of vomit. Decidedly stinkier, but equally treacherous.) to a massage that flits between mild BDSM  (though more pain than pleasure) and a (less than convincing) advert for pro-biotics, it is side-splittingly, laugh out loud funny.


It also makes me yearn for the open road, the beaches, and even the disastrous journeys and mis-translations that come with it.  I want to sample the food, lap up the culture and luxuriate in the warmth and sunshine- all the more as the dark nights and rainy days draw in. 


For the first part I found myself incredibly jealous of our protagonist, but as time went on I found myself simply in awe of her and the steps she had taken for her and her family. Envy faded to inspiration and lust turned to motivation.


“So if you’re out there wondering whether working in an office for the rest of you life is it, or you have an inkling that you could move to somewhere hot and figure out a way of making money that doesn’t require sitting in a management team meeting trying to look like you care about ‘spending reviews’, then remember the power of saying ‘Fuck It’. That’s all we did. And somehow we ended up here. So go say it to your boss. And see where you end up”


It was a combination of this bluntly encouraging advice and her portrayal of Bali that had me trawling the internet on my lunch break this afternoon to get an idea of house prices (amazingly, for little more than the amount we’ve paid off our UK mortgage in the last 18 months, we could get an amazing villa (pool and all), albeit on a more temporary basis than in the UK [this is how it works in Indonesia, more often than not they’re leasehold]).

It is a book that I want to race to the finish of (but also long to prolong!), not only because I’m enjoying it so much, but because I want to thrust it upon Adam and make him speed read it, so that we can talk about it together (and hopefully turn his entirely too logical and grounded brain to saying ‘fuck it’ too). 


However, I know that I will soon have a gaping hole in my life: I need a new book to temporarily placate my need to travel. Something to delay my bags packed, house sold, flight to Bali. Any suggestions?


It also threw up an interesting  quandary that we’ve been considering and commonly questioned about by friends since we decided upon a time frame for our departure. Will we come back?


“But am I ready to return to London? What do you think? Does it sound like it? Would I ever be though? The answer is no. I have tasted sunshine and ecstatic dancing and canoed with dolphins and eaten grapes off the vines in the Napa Valley and faced-down a bear and written two books and started a third and found that there is a whole world of amazing opportunity and potential and incredible adventures out there so, no, there’s frankly no going back that I can see.”


We have family here and friends, a house and a fur baby, but equally this concept, from the opening of my blog post, of Britain bringing out the worst in people seems to be true. The ‘me’ that I am here is a million miles away from the ‘me’ that I am on Caribbean time. The things that seem all encompassing in the UK are minuscule from the top of a mountain. And the people that I have met in developing countries are the most generous, friendliest and happiest I have encountered. Adam and I don’t want children, but I have always expressed that if we lived elsewhere, somewhere far away from the hustle and bustle and stresses and pressures of modern day, Western living, maybe things would be different. We don’t want children, but more than anything else, we don’t want to bring children into *this* world. A world that makes me furious and stressed and ill.

“I worry about stuff more here in the UK. I stress about silly, inconsequential things. I have to think more: what time train? What shoes? Umbrella or no umbrella?… It’s mentally exhausting. i feel like a character from a Bronte novel- and no, not the plucky heroine, more like her annoying great aunt who’s always needing the smelling salts and having an attack of the vapours.”

All in all,  it is a fantastic read and I plan to savour every remaining page and hope to enjoy more of her writing soon. Although it can sometimes feel a tad disjointed and occasionally leaves me longing for further details, these briefer chapters do make it much easier to dip in and out of (if you can manage to tear yourself away that is). As I’ve said before, she creates a light and incredibly humorous, likeable and relatable voice that gives you a honest and foible filled account of her adventures. It’s a must read for anyone who’s after a great insight to life on the road, life in Bali or just needs a light-hearted laugh. Parents of young children will probably get even more of a giggle from Alula’s antics, though that does not in any way diminish the enjoyment for those without children- whilst parents may empathise with potential similar experiences, the child-free of us can laugh, safe in the knowledge that we’re free from such escapades… For the time being at least!

“Can We Live Here” is available from Amazon for £8.99 paperback or at the moment on the Kindle for a mere £2.79: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Can-We-Live-Here-Paradise/dp/1910536113/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474371648&sr=8-1&keywords=can+we+live+here

2 thoughts on “‘Would I ever be though?’: A Review of Sarah Alderson’s “Can We Live Here?”

  1. This is the loveliest loveliest review. Thank you so much and I’m so glad that it inspired you! We are now living in beautiful southern California so I’m a huge believer in taking leaps of faith and daring to do crazy things. It’s been a wild 6 years but so exciting and so fulfilling.


    1. Thanks *so* much for connecting. I enjoyed your book so much and will be looking at purchasing some of your fiction soon too :). How are you finding California? Nerve-wracking times politically atm I’d imagine! We’re still playing it safe for the time being but hoping to take one of those leaps soon! Glad things are still going so well and thanks again! x


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