In 2016 Alex and I set off on a 4.5 month cross-country road trip in search of a US city that we'd fall in love with, and eventually move to. We did our research, seeking out up and coming cities, cities that are diverse, cities that have a nightlife scene but nature nearby, etc. We even listed our most important criteria and gave points to our top 12 cities to help narrow it down.
We are native New Yorkers, and while we've accepted the fact that there will never truly be a place like the Big Apple (for us), we wanted a change. The cities we kicked off our "new home" list with (in alphabetical order by state) after reading countless articles and considering a number of factors were:
- California: Oakland, LA, San Diego
- Colorado: Denver, Boulder
- Georgia: Atlanta
- Louisiana: New Orleans
- North Carolina: Raleigh, Chapel Hill
- Oregon: Portland
- Texas: Austin
- Washington: Seattle
The problem (other than those being liberal cities in average / conservative US states)? No one city met all of our criteria and we couldn't agree on which "musts" to let go. We've taken smaller road trips since then and revisited a few places (and even added a few more onto the list) with no luck. The truth is, I don't think we are going to find a US location to settle in anytime in the immediate future. Here's why:
1. It is expensive
We New Yorkers have expensive taste, apparently. And not enough funds to back it up. While small towns are cute and all, they don't cut it for the long term (unless all of our best friends move to the same small town and we created the most poppin-est town ever).
On the other hand, cities that have a good nightlife, gastronomic, or brewery scene are usually more expensive, hence the issue. We essentially haven't found a city that is expensive "but totally worth it". Or small town "with huge potential".
2. We have climate dilemmas
Y'all. This is big. And it's pretty much mostly my fault.
I hate the winter. All my life I've disliked the cold. I was born and raised on the four-season east coast and even made the regretful decision of going to university in Boston. Now paired with the rheumatoid arthritic side effects of having lupus, cold and rainy weather is far from comfortable. On top of that, I hate wearing long sleeves shirts and heavy coats. I hate wearing shoes, let alone snow boots. I do like cozy fireplaces and the way snow *falling* looks, though. I hate winter dry skin and hair. And most of all, I hate having to run errands during such weather.
You get the picture: I dislike temperatures lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit -- though I will still travel to such places short-term if the reward is exciting enough. On the other hand, Alex loves to snowboard (hence the dilemma). Searching for a place that is still close enough to the slopes without forcing me to endure winter for four months seriously narrows down the options.
3. My work is in travel
Minus the fact that I don't really want to commit to one location long-term anyway (that can be remedied with frequent trips) if I want to continue working in travel, I need to live in an ideal location. One that offers a hub airport under 100 miles away or dirt cheap flight connections to one. Being in a hub city means three things for me, as a travel media professional: better flight deals, more flight options, and an increased likelihood of secured press trips and sponsored partnerships.
The best hubs to live near if I want to keep traveling abroad as a career are:
- New York City
- Los Angeles or San Francisco, CA
- Miami, FL
- Chicago, IL
- Atlanta, GA
Notice this list isn't very long (or entirely low-cost). Also note, there are more hubs that are great for domestic travel that aren't on this list but international travel is my focus.
4. Loved Ones
Okay, the elephant in the room: family and friends. As much as I wish to live my life without consideration of what other people do, I'll admit Alex's (and my *slowly growing*) desire for proximity to family and friends has also affected the moving decision a little.
Though both our young adult years were nurtured by boarding high school and college environments, we approach relationships very differently. It could be because he is the youngest of two and I am the second oldest of four. It could be because he's more extroverted and I'm an ambivert. Who knows... Either way, he wants to be near people he knows and I can go either way.
That should be an easy decision, right? The problem is, these loved ones are everywhere. So where do we choose? And to be frank: the older we get the more we realize that our loved ones aren't getting younger. Some are dying (while others are giving birth to new life). There is a bit of guilt because we want to try to be part of those people's lives without sacrificing the goals we have set for ourselves.
At the end of the day, someone will always have a suggestion for what they think we should do. Someone will always have a critique about the decisions we make for our own life. And someone will always have a complaint. But our loved ones are generally all supportive and we appreciate that.
5. I don't feel completely safe... anywhere
I hate talking about this because it makes me upset -- but it is true. I'm a woman. I'm brown. I use birth control. I'm unmarried. I'm Latina. I'm from a low-income background. I've received government aid. I have a pre-existing condition.
While there are some wonderful places in the United States (in fact some of the most beautiful in the world), when considering permanent relocation I sometimes wake up thinking, "Wow. I am literally everything half this damn country hates."
On top of that, the biggest frustration with this search is dealing with something not everyone has to worry about: being in an interracial relationship (which some people have more of a problem with than my skin color itself). Alex and I have been in situations where people stared at us negatively, rejected us at a cash register upon realizing we were together, or generally spew micro aggressions disguised as compliments. And sometimes Alex doesn't even realize it is happening because well... he's white and doesn't have to deal with it directly. I don't want to move somewhere where everyday is a lesson in Micro Aggressions 101. I'm exhausted just typing this paragraph about it.
Anyway, yes -- this still happens in the United States. This even happens in "liberal cities".
Remember, it's only been 50 years since the Loving vs. Virginia case. Only 50 years since it was declared unlawful to prohibit interracial marriage.
I don't feel safe settling down in a new place that I am not sure will love us. That, if we chose to have children, might not love our interracial child. I selfishly am not ready to deal with that more than I already do. And I am certainly not ready to bring a family into a country that would still elect someone like our 45th President (he-who-must-not-be-named).
So no, we haven't chosen a place that would be fair, safe, liberal, great weather, social, and affordable to live in. And now that I list it that way, it feels quite sad. I must be missing something!
Tell Us: Where should we live?
What do you think? Now that you know our concerns, where do you think we'd love to live? To be honest: I'd rather live abroad, but that discussion is still pending... :-)
We haven't completely given up. Instead, we've taken the opportunity to use housesitting and petsitting as a way to continue testing out new locations, neighborhoods, and people. It is also a (free) way to decide whether things like weather, family, and airports are really the biggest deal breakers. Or if we've judged a destination too prematurely. Diversity and basic rights definitely are deal breakers, though, so don't go suggesting some ridiculous location that doesn't value women, help the low-income, or hate immigrants.
Alternatively, if you have encouraging words of advice, please feel free to share!