In Pursuit of the Good Life

Tasked with writing an editor’s letter for an issue devoted to the good life, it seemed obvious that I should first know what exactly that life entailed. So, I grabbed a copy of Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate in search of a definition. What I found, however, was disappointing. It read: “A life marked by a high standard of living.”

Well, I thought, that much is obvious, not to mention how much it leaves to interpretation. There were no specifics — the particular things I should strive to have, or be, in order to know I was really living the life. After all, who’s to say what defines a high standard of living?

I wanted something more precise. Is there a particular food I should be eating or a philosophy to adhere to? Would I be living the good life if I were to vacation regularly in Brazil or if I drove a large conversion van adorned with a Western-themed mural? Should I avoid cable news or men named Philip? Is napping involved or is it strictly forbidden? Does it have anything to do with comfortable shoes?

In short, I was hoping for a list that detailed the books to read, things to own, places to go, and people to know. Instead, I was left with an answer so vague, it seemed dismissive. As if Webster himself had laughed condescendingly and said, “If you don’t know, don’t ask.”

So, I went to the computer. Surely, a quick Google search would provide a more precise definition. But what I found, however precise, was no less confounding.

It included a British sitcom that told the chuckle-inducing story of a couple who transform their suburban home into a farm; a life coach, and self-proclaimed “rainbow person”; an RV resort in Mesa, Ariz., and a number of bars and restaurants — including one in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., (not to be confused with Kill Devil Hill, home of the Memorial Pylon). But among the song lyrics, books, and bed & breakfasts purportedly offering the good life, none of it got me anywhere near the concise definition I longed for, and intended to use as the basis of this letter.

With that in mind, I offer my apologies and this issue’s “Best of the Good Life” readers survey. While it isn’t a complete guide, it does begin the daunting task of pinpointing exactly where to settle and where to get the goods with which to feather your proverbial nest. In other words, it’s the best of where to live and shop, as chosen by our readers. We hope it helps.