I'm looking to move - how do you, as a marathon swimmer, choose a place to relocate to?
I want to leave Hong Kong because it is unaffordable and the climate is too hot. It is impossible for me to rent a flat in the city centre for my profession unless I work for finance. The pay is s**t compared to other developed nations. The are few days off (legal minimum 7 + 12 days compared to 20 + 8 days in the UK) and there are few opportunities to develop my career. Also there are few opportunities to develop my sports including orienteering and marathon swimming as well. The problem is that I don't have other citizenships and I will need the company to sponsor work visa if I want to work in another country which is known to be extremely difficult.
Now the CCP has already set up the "law" which breaks one-country-two-systems, and UK has responded that it will open its door to those Hongkongers holding BNO status (which I have) to come to live and work, which means once implemented the barrier of getting visa sponsorship will be gone. Therefore I'm already researching where in the UK I want to go.
Based on my previous research I was looking at Bournemouth. However I based my research on the assumption that I would do a working holiday with training for channel swimming as my main goal at that time. Now I'm looking for moving semi-permanently instead, which means "getting the channel done" is no longer my first and foremost priority as I have more years (I will have at least 5 years instead of only 2 years in my life to try it) to do it again in case I'm unlucky, and I have to consider the quality of life, my career prospect, the climate, etc.
I want to know, as a marathon swimmer, how will you choose a place to relocate to once you have decided you want to leave? Specifically, I have the following questions:
- Do you generally prefer a place with high salary but with high cost of living, rather than low salary with low cost of living, assume that the amount you earn gives a similar quality of life in both countries? For example, based on my experience, I can expect about £55k salary (£40k after tax) in London, but only £35k salary (£27k after tax) in a smaller city in the UK. However, the rent in London is ridiculous. It will cost about £1750 per month to rent a 1-room apartment compared to about £750 in smaller cities in southern England. Also the public transport fare is also much more expensive in London than elsewhere in the UK. Based on the above figures the increased earnings won't get me a better quality of life in London.
- How do you value proximity to the sea if you are a sea swimmer? I think that lake / river swimming is boring so I prefer living by the sea. The problem is that, London simply has much more job opportunities than any other cities in the UK. More job opportunities mean more chance to make job change, and more chance to get a higher-paid job. However living in London means no sea swimming, also swimming in River Thames is banned. I've heard that channel swimmers based in London take trains every weekend to Dover for training, but that will take a lot of time travelling on trains (about 1 and a half hours each way, i.e. 6 hours on trains over the weekend) and nearly £100 on train fares every week. If I insist on staying on the seashore but in a city with a lot of job opportunities (rather than a few), I will need to look outside the UK which will mean it will be difficult to get work visa sponsorship unless the country in question offers a visa which allows me to work as a software developer without company sponsorship.
- Do you prefer a country with relatively low tax rate but without much "social security" (e.g. the U.S. which you can get extremely rich working as a software developer but can get bankrupt by a medical bill coming at an unexpected time), or a country with much higher tax rate with good public service (e.g. the nordic countries which you may need to pay as much as half your income as tax, but the state takes care for all your health, your families, your children's education, etc.)?
- How do you value if the country is English-speaking or not, assuming that you don't know their native language? For example, it's possible to get a job in Tallinn (a seaside city with great opportunities) knowing only English in the software development sector which the government actively attracts foreign talents, but this will mean I will lose a lot of social opportunities when you don't understand Estonian / Russian, especially that as a marathon swimmer I will want to join a club to train, but it's all Estonian / Russian to me.
To answer the swimming aspect of your question:
Dover is probably the best spot, the channel group meets every weekend there in season, with possibly some swimmers there out of season. You will benefit greatly from being around other marathon swimmers. However, and with apologies to anyone from Dover, it wouldn't be my first choice for somewhere to live. It's a busy port town with lots of traffic.
I don't know when you intend to move, but if you are going to be there for more than a year, which I suggest you do given the water temperatures you currently are exposed to, you won't be swimming in the sea in Dover out of season. So, I suggest somewhere within an hour or two's travel, which puts you in the south / south east of England, with a plan to go to Dover every weekend in the season. For the remainder of the week, I'd get my swimming done in a pool, preferably 50m or heated lido. If the pool has a masters club, then even better. You can get some coaching too. So, live somewhere in the south east of england within a few mins of a pool for your daily swims and an hour of Dover for your weekend swims. This is the ideal, however most people don't have that luxury and make do with the situation they are in.
The other "life choices" questions, I believe are best left up to yourself.
Dover is out of question for me for living because there are no job opportunities.
Originally my plan is to go for a 2-year working holiday but not due to recent events my plan is to go for 5+1 years. The ideal situation is that I can swim in the sea all year round, and can find a group to swim in the sea before / after work in summer on weekdays (I got some sea swims done in winter in Hong Kong before work a few times per week). I specifically want to find a triathlon / open water club to train because I also plan to do triathlons / running races as well, and master clubs train all 4 strokes which I have 0 interest in. For my pool swims, I prefer to swim in an unheated lido as it will be better for me to do my high intensity training in 16°C pool rather than 25 - 28°C Olympic pool. (except winter when it's under 10°C).
Do you think it will be better to live by the sea in a city elsewhere on the coast rather than paying expensive train fare to travel to Dover every week (which I may not be able to do so because I will need weekends to race orienteering / triathlons)?
You wont train in the sea all year round in the UK. Winter sea temps are well under 10 deg. That's too cold for any meaningful marathon training, Unheated lido's and lakes go colder, approaching 0 deg, so you won't do any meaningful training there either. Cold water is nice to get into and do short swims as a break from the pool work over winter, but unless you're going for ice mile territory it doesn't serve much use for marathon swimming.
Most triathletes swim in (hot) pools and as part of masters swimming clubs. Swimming strokes other than freestyle is a good thing. It helps prevent injury and improves shoulder stability. Don't discount it. Triathletes only train for a max swim of 3.8K, most train for shorter swims. 3.8K is only a good warmup.
The DCT group only swims at weekends during the season (as far as I know) so you will need to be in Dover every weekend while training is on, and maybe some more weekends too. I don't see where triathlon fits into this.
I hope to do cold water swimming when I move to Europe and I really enjoyed swimming in cold water in a trip last year. Although it is unlikely that I can do training long enough for marathon swimming, it will be great to do some short sprint sets (e.g. around half an hour) in winter to build my speed up which I can't do in a pool which is too hot.
Although I haven't swum in ice water yet, I believe that it is in reach of my ability if I put in a season for that (in the trip last year I swam at a beach and got 26 minutes when I felt that was enough and I should get out. The water was 5°C at that moment. However I really need to have proper guidance to prevent making mistake like visiting a sauna afterwards.) so I want to train for it when I move to Europe. I hope that I haven't lost my cold tolerance from last year yet.
Triathlons come in a variety of distances, some can have the swim as long as 10 km. However, is it true that most triathletes prefer a hot pool rather than a cold pool, which is happening in the triathlon club I'm in now? The club trains in a university pool which is not temperature regulated in the summer, which means it can be as hot as 33°C, however, in winter when the university pool is around 16°C - 20°C it moves away to a heated pool which I really don't like. Therefore I now seldom train with the club most of the year apart from a few months in spring and autumn.
Therefore I'm looking outside of Dover for training opportunities as stated in another thread. I would like to have most training locally and don't want to spend hours travelling and pay a hundred £ of train fare every weekend.
@miklcct I wonder if you'll find this utopia you seek. You may have to compromise, which is what most of us do.
I'm thinking if Bournemouth will be the utopia I'm looking for. It's affordable, with job opportunities (though not as much as London), with a known channel training group. It will be my definite target city for a working holiday. However I'm thinking about non-swimming quality of life also as now I'm looking to emigrate semi-permanently, and I'm wondering if there are better place which has a better qualify of life in general and also offers the same swimming opportunity as well. I have a list of cities in my mind like Tallinn (cheap living cost, gov't supports innovation), Helsinki (Nordic lifestyle, bigger city), Dublin (more FAANG offices, English-speaking), etc. and I want to know if there are also good channel training groups there as well.
If it were me,* I would prioritize the long term quality of life as a whole. What's the REST of your life going to look like? Not just swimming, but employment, social scene (are you looking for an area with a reasonable group of Hong Kong ex pats?), and all the other things that make life work. I think that a move across the world may be a big culture shock to begin with, totally outside of having to learn a new language to get by outside work. As long as you CAN have access to swimming, I'd base my decision on the rest of it, even with your channel goals.
Also, there's no perfect answer. Just places that will more or less suit you.
*and all of this is so intensely personal, so you are really the only one who can decide