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Pour en lire plus : Opting for Elsewhere: Lifestyle Migration in the American Middle Class

Brian Hoey, 2014, Opting for Elsewhere: Lifestyle Migration in the American Middle Class, Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press, 273 p.
Zainub Ibrahim

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1The book Opting for Elsewhere by Brian Hoey is a thought-provoking read with an appeal to a wide audience. It is about the challenges and opportunities from voluntary resettlement. These challenges and opportunities are examined in light of changing life circumstances or re-evaluation of quality of life. The book is written in the first person and takes the reader on a journey along with the author in constructing lifestyle migration and its role in contemporary American society. Throughout the book the reader is introduced to the stories of numerous individuals and the forces in their lives that lead to their migration, the challenges they face upon migrating, and how these influences are eventually resolved as migrants seek to restart their lives. These stories are based on Hoey’s years of ethnographic anthropological research and interviews in the American Midwest, with an emphasis on rural Michigan.

2A broad interpretation of lifestyle migration is assumed and includes virtually anyone migrating for a better lifestyle rather than being limited to a specific group such as the affluent, which is often the case in lifestyle migration literature. This is reflected in the title Opting for Elsewhere: Lifestyle Migration in the American Middle Class, which emphasizes that this is not an undertaking of the privileged few, but potentially a mainstream movement. In this sense, it challenges our current understanding of lifestyle migration to a much more popular phenomenon that could potentially have significant implications on the evolution of cities, communities, employment, families, and cultures. In this sense, the view that is assumed is along the lines of that of Richard Florida’s creative class idea of mobility. This view, however, can be tricky when attempting to draw the lines of lifestyle migration, because most forms of migration are undertaken with the intention to improve one’s quality of life and can arguably be qualified as lifestyle migrations.

3Hoey tells the tale of lifestyle migration by taking the reader on a journey, and achieves this by organizing the book into six parts. Part 1 covers essential elements of lifestyle migration and introduces processes that lead to the decision to migrate. Part 2 details the accounts of migrants and situates the concepts within ideas of the “fifth migration.” Part 3 further examines essential elements of migration, such as changes in the meaning of work and sense of place. Part 4 features the tensions between the actual and potential selves of migrants, while Part 5 extends these tensions to those between migrants and long-time residents. The book is concluded with an epilogue that contemplates the direction where the American society is heading next as an emerging postindustrial society.

4Throughout the text, Hoey indirectly highlights contradictions offered by lifestyle migration, and it is often up to the reader to resolve these contradictions and decide how, or if they in fact fit the construct of lifestyle migration. Some of these include attitude toward risk, ideas about work and leisure, the freedom or force to relocate, rural versus urban settings, life stage of migrants (retired, pre-retired, working, families, young graduates), place versus the idea of place, and whether lifestyle migration is a relatively recent phenomenon or one that has always existed as people search for better lifestyles. Through these contradictions, the author paints a picture of lifestyle migration that is inherently American, where there is a combination of the open road and freedom and the desire to incorporate that into one’s life by gaining control through starting over.

5Because the book is based on individual stories of lifestyle migration focused in a limited number of American Midwest settings, there is a certain level of implicit generalization. For instance, the cases depicted represent overwhelmingly positive outcomes for the migrants, and this differs from other cases of lifestyle migration found in the literature, such as that of Canadian snowbirds in Florida or British migrants to Spain. These often result in buyer’s remorse and migrants expressing a desire to return “home.” This is not the case in the stories presented by Brian Hoey, perhaps because these stories exemplify migration within their country of origin by primarily Caucasian individuals who easily adapt to their new environment. Whereas in other cases, migrants may not share the same ethnic, linguistic, and cultural background as other residents, resulting in an added stress for them as they attempt to make a life for themselves in a foreign land. Furthermore, although family life is briefly mentioned, there is no detailed discussion of how family and specifically children influence migration decisions.

6Overall, this book is an excellent read for newcomers to lifestyle migration as well as academics and practitioners familiar with the concepts. Lifestyle migration literature is frequently closely aligned with tourism theories as there is often a common ground. However, this is not obvious in this book, thus emphasizing the breadth of the types of lifestyle migration. As such, the ideas presented offer a springboard for further studies in lifestyle migration both in the American Midwest and abroad.

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Electronic reference

Zainub Ibrahim, « Pour en lire plus : Opting for Elsewhere: Lifestyle Migration in the American Middle Class », Téoros [Online], 36, 2 | 2017, Online since 08 September 2017, connection on 06 December 2021. URL :

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About the author

Zainub Ibrahim

Professor, School of Hospitality and Tourism, Algonquin College, Ottawa :

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