Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where oh where shall I go?

Earlier this year, I made a decision that I was going to really try to build some kind of social network here in NYC or else move away. That's still true but nothing is going to be decided upon this year or rashly. I think about packing my glassware and the cost of hiring movers and it freaks me out enough to not think about it and just stay put. But, I don't feel like I should be in New York out of habit or convenience - and it's been feeling that way. It feels like the only things holding me here are my job, the food co-op and Prospect Park.

Truthfully, I have deep doubts that I'll be able to build a community of friends that will keep me here (hopefully I'm not sabotaging myself) and, if I don't, who knows if I'll have the balls to pull the trigger and actually move? But, let's put that aside and have some fun with this: Where would I want to go? Right off the bat there are a few places I'd consider:

Portland, OR
I keep hearing such good things about this city. How friendly, beautiful and green it is and that it's a pedestrian- and bike-friendly city. I've never been there, but I want to check it out. I hear the economy isn't so great there, though. Plus, I don't know much about this city.

Seattle, WA
Another city I've never been to but hear good things about. The stereotype is that it gets a lot of rain but a friend of mine who lives there says that it's the 26th rainiest city in the US and that the small amount of rain they do receive is just spread out over more days. I hear I'd get good coffee.

San Francisco/Bay Area, CA
(Settle down now, Chelc! :-) I've been to SF once, back in 1995. For years, everybody said I would love it and truthfully, I didn't. I recall a lot of homeless people. We went to a restaurant, sat outside and a homeless guy, who was on a cell phone, stopped and asked us for money. Another memory of SF: driving up a hill in a convertible and thinking that it felt a lot like being on a rollercoaster and feeling really, really nervous.

I really liked Marin County (and I recall that being very expensive, so I doubt I could live there). So why is the bay area on the list? Because I really liked California as a whole (we went everywhere while there) and am willing to give SF and the surrounding area another look. Plus, I'd probably be able to get a job there. High, high, high cost of living though.

Raleigh/Durham, NC
I went here because of my job and found the area to be very charming, especially Durham. Jobs might be a little more old-school than I'd like (not exactly known for their internet start-ups) but it has access to beaches and mountains and the weather is pretty nice and the pace is slower. The area is surrounded by colleges and therefore has a lot of progressive, liberal people. However, while there, I noticed subtle racism in relation to how Raleigh inhabitants spoke of Durham. Durham clearly was where the black people lived and they spoke of it as crime-ridden, containing a lot of "foot traffic" and as undesirable. Meanwhile, people from Durham stated that crime wasn't a problem at all. Durham definitely seemed diverse and that's a positive. Housing-wise, both areas are still relatively affordable and I'm actually considering purchasing a place just to rent out.

This one's obvious. My family is in South Florida, but that doesn't mean I'd automatically move to Miami but it would seem stupid to move there and be 4 hours away by car. Job-wise, I wouldn't have a lot to choose from, it's not known for its tech community (yet, surprisingly, Mashable is holding an event in Miami). The allure is spending more time with my family and having more access to the beach and pools. Downsides are the multitudes of strip malls and chain restaurants, although I tend to find really good Indian food in FL. Another issue is that FL is so car-oriented. I like driving, voluntarily. It's another thing to have to commute on a regular basis and live in my car.

Ok, so clearly I have a few places to visit. If I did move out to the West coast, I think my mom would be sad. I visit her quite often since it's cheap and quick to fly down from NY. No more weekend trips if I did that, though.

I decided to take the test at findyourspot.com and see what they have to say. (It made me a little uncomfortable taking the quiz, with them asking all sorts of religious and political questions. If you decide to take it, use a fake name and your spam email address.)

What did Find Your Spot suggest?
1. Portland, Or
2. Baltimore, Md
3. Corvallis, Or
4. Hartford, Ct
5. Fredrick, Ma

And what am I looking for in a city?

- Pedestrian friendly
- Good public transportation system
- A vibrant downtown or neighborhood main street
- Local shops, not full of strip malls
- Music scene
- Colleges nearby
- Relatively nice weather
- Nearby beach, parks, forests, mountains, lakes, something.
- Vegetarian friendly (meaning a co-op, local veg restaurants, farmer's markets, etc)
- Available tech jobs
- Some crunchy granola-ness
- Not terribly congested
- Not republican

Clearly some of the places I've mentioned don't satisfy some of the options on my list, but I'm willing to give on some of these things if I really like the place.

So what are your thoughts? Have you been or lived in some of these cities? Are there cities I should consider that I haven't mentioned?


Chelc said...

I don't even know where to start here! I hate moving, but sometimes it's worth it. A change in location can make all the difference.

First off, you know we would love to have you over on this coast - even if it's not in CA. I do love the Bay Area, although the Peninsula where I grew up is really expensive (and yes, Marin is very very expensive). We picked our litle town because it's out of the way, quiet, right on the coast, and close enough to the city and the Peninsula and the East Bay that we can easily reach any of them. So it's perfect for us. I lived in SF proper for a little while, and could only live in the Richmond District/Sunset if I were to go back. But I only like to visit the city these days.

Portland and Seattle - I have friends in both who both love them. Portland is a lot sleepier, but they're supposed to have a great sense of community (like how I feel about Brookyln). Seattle is definitely rainy, but their summers are definitely warmer than SF (though the surrounding areas are warm).

I've known some very redneck folks who live in NC and love it. But I've also heard that it's up-and-coming (EA Sports just opened a new HQ there). And FL - well, family is hugely important to me too, but it is nice to be away from them and just go visit because then you can start fresh, and you can be whomever you want.

It's hard to have someone else give you advice on where to live because it's just so personal! But your list sounds very west coast to me (maybe it's the crunchy granola factor that's swaying me!). Colorado has a lot of those traits on your list, and I have a lot of friends who have moved there or will be soon. Austin, TX is still known for an up-and-coming tech area (though some people love it and others not so much).

The other thing is, there are so many individual characteristics to each town in an area, that even if you don't love the big-name towns, there might be a lesser-known one with your name on it. Nothing beats visiting them, though.

I know, I probably haven't helped at all. It's exciting and scary to look, though, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Coming from an east coast transplant, SF is about the closest I've found to NYC's energy, neighborhoods and cultural diversity. yeah, the homeless suck but you learn to ignore them.

The penninsula and Marin are expensive but you can find cheaper locations in the east bay. still expensive but not as much. Much like NYC, the outer boroughs tend to be cheaper. If you're used to NYC, you'll find it's about the same.

You know you have friends out here if you want to visit. And think of the bonuses, like having a full Rock Band group to play with!


vivzan said...

Chelc, AF,

Austin has been recommended to me before, along with Colorado, both places I've never been to before. Not on the list as well is New Mexico and Arizona which I love as well. I really just want a Winter home there. :-)

It *is* exciting and scary to look. I wanted to post about it because it offers some accountability; I've been talking like this for years without putting in effort into looking at my options. If I choose to stay in NYC, that's fine. But it needs to be a conscious choice on my part.

Skim suggested that I take a tour! I'm trying to work the logistics of that out. :-)