About lifestyle migration

Palm trees and sun

Lifestyle migration refers to the relocation of citizens from affluent industrialised nations in order to find a more meaningful and relaxed life, usually in places with lower living costs and sunny climates. Often, they claim to be escaping from the “rat-race”, hectic lifestyles and pressures at work.

Scholars of lifestyle migration and tourism-informed mobilities are interested in the social conditions that lead individuals to pursue ‘the good life’ through geographic mobility and travel.

Lifestyle-informed migration creates new forms of transnational community and identity.  It also has important social and environmental effects on receiving communities.

Studies have focused on North Europeans moving to Spain or Turkey, or buying second homes in Morocco or Malta. Lifestyle migration scholars have also published on migration of North Americans and West Europeans to Latin American destinations, and to South or Southeast Asia.  They have also worked on Japanese and other Asian migrations to amenity rich or lower cost environments.

The expansion of case studies has led to new theoretical approaches to lifestyle migration that have enriched previous scholarship.  Lifestyle migrants are often retirees or pre-retirees. However, new studies have also focused on transnational families, children growing up in lifestyle communities abroad, and on working age migrants who relocate for a better quality of life.

Individualism and community

Since lifestyle migrants say they move in order to create a better life at the destination, scholars first explored the cultural imaginaries that have informed these relocations, paying close attention to the ideas they have about the places they are moving to. Tied to this is the very notion that individuals can and should construct their own lives and their own communities—making lifestyle migration one of the key research areas for work on contemporary individualism and community.

Individualistic cultural ideals and in some cases, post-colonial (and neo-colonial) imaginaries of exoticised landscapes may help structure individual travel and relocation. Lifestyle migration scholars have, however, also been attentive to the material and environmental effects on receiving communities. Lifestyle Migration typically develops in international destinations whose culture and landscape have previously been commodified by tourism-related corporations from the Global North.  This leads to rapid development of the transportation, construction and real estate sectors in receiving communities, with detrimental effects on long-term residents and the environment.

Reasons for migration

Scholars of lifestyle migration were among the first to call attention to new forms of mobility and new flows of migrants.  Lifestyle migrants in a number of destinations relocate for economic reasons, often related to the decline of pension and health care entitlements. As austerity programmes undermine the 20th century welfare institutions in Western Europe and North America, more and more potential migrants, especially retirees, seek ways to protect their lifestyles and savings.  In Japan, demographic shifts have also contributed to out-migration of older citizens, searching for affordable care.  Lifestyle migration scholars have studied how care is being increasingly offshored, and where international care chains involve multiple and linked migrations with geographic locations at sharply different levels of economic development.  They have also studied how access to property, employment opportunities, and other amenities have shifted social burdens from North to South.

Lifestyle Migration scholarship overlaps with earlier scholarship on mobilities, amenity migration, and second-homes, and has in turn, inspired research on lifestyle mobilities and North-South migration.

Our hub

This lifestyle migration hub is a focal point for researchers in the fields of lifestyle migration and other tourism-informed mobilities. It offers a directory of academics who are undertaking research in a range of fields and sites, using diverse methods, but united in their focus on contemporary, fluid and flexible forms of mobility.

The purpose of the hub is that we can get to know each other; share our work with others who may be interested; post details of conferences, networks or workshops; share working papers and links to publications; and share information between ourselves and with others