The Future of Lifestyle Migration: Challenges and Opportunities
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The Future of Lifestyle Migration:
Challenges and Opportunities

Lifestyle migration, both as human practice and scholarly field, has blossomed. Initially more extensively documented in the case of Europe (Benson and O’Reilly 2009; Gustafson 2008; Huete 2009; King et al. 2000; O’Reilly 2000; Rodriguez Rodriguez 2004), growing attention is now being focused on the migration of Canadians and U.S. citizens to Central and South America (Bantman-Masum 2011; Benson 2013; Croucher 2009; Hayes 2014a, 2014b; Jackiewicz 2010; Janoschka 2009; Lizarraga 2010). Locales throughout Central and South America rotate routinely through the top spot on International Living’s annual list of “the world’s best places to retire,” empirical data, albeit still lacking point to increasing numbers of individuals from Canada and the U.S. moving to settlement sites south of the Rio Grande (Dixon et al. 2006; Rojas et al. 2014), and scholars from a wide range of disciplines are turning their attention to this notable migratory trend. As a collection, the articles compiled for this special issue of JLAG provide both valuable illustrations of what is known about lifestyle migration, and useful suggestions as to what remains to be better understood. This concluding essay synthesizes insights of contributors to this volume and others, and identifies promising directions and potential challenges for future research on a still relatively under-studied form of human mobility.

The diversity of experiences encapsulated by the category “lifestyle migration” leads many scholars to warn against drawing broad generalizations about this migratory trend (Huete 2009; Huete et al. 2013). Their cautions are reasonable, but a central argument advanced here is that given the current development of the field, in terms of both the number and the diversity of cases, the time is right for cautious generalizations, or at least clarification of what is generalizable and what is not. A second and related contention is that comparative analysis is a tool that can and should be utilized to much fuller potential in the study of lifestyle migration. This is the case in terms of comparing lifestyle migration experiences within and between various geographic sites, as well as across types of mobility. Such comparison can facilitate the refinement of concepts for exploring socio-spatial reconfigurations taking place in the context of macro-level economic, political, and demographic factors—namely neoliberalization and the aging populations of the U.S. and Western Europe. Fullest achievement of the potential benefits of generalization and comparison will require greater consensus, or at least clarification, among scholars, with regard to terminology, the compilation of additional data, and a broader analytical lens. [End Page 161]

The Terminological Dilemma

Questions regarding how to best characterize this contemporary migratory trend, and what to label those participating in it, may seem relatively minor semantic concerns, but greater consensus and clarification about terminology will facilitate deeper understanding of the complex phenomena being investigated. To date, one of the strengths of this emergent field of study is its multi-disciplinary nature. Anthropologists, geographers, psychologists, political scientists and sociologists are bringing valuable insights influenced by their respective disciplines to bear on the micro and macro-level dimensions of this form of human movement. Yet, with an expansive range of descriptors that include “global amenity migration” (Moss and Glorioso 2014), “international retirement migration” (Sunil et al. 2007; Truly 2002), “lifestyle migration” (Benson and O’Reilly 2009; Janoschka and Hass 2013, “long-stay tourism” (Ono 2008), “north-south migration” (Janoschka and Hass 2014; Viteri this volume) “privileged mobility” (Amit 2007; Croucher 2009, 2012), “quest migration” (Therrien 2014), and “residential tourism” (Huete and Mantecón 2011) scholars run the risk of talking past each other. Ultimately, different terms may indeed be needed to capture distinct dimensions of this mobility trend (a point discussed by Rainer and Malizia in this issue), but clarifying this need will be essential.

Not surprisingly, many of the contributors to this special issue on “lifestyle migration” frequently use the label “lifestyle migrants.” In doing so, some scholars have argued that “lifestyle migration” is a term preferable to “international retirement migration” or “residential tourism” because it is more encompassing with regard to age and purpose of migration (Jackiewicz 2014). It is the case that not all lifestyle...