Back in 2007, DeeAnn and I went all in on what we called "the writer move." In particular, we decided to stretch our savings by moving out of the San Francisco Bay Area to a more affordable city--meaning we had most of North America to choose from.
Some places we ruled out right away, for various reasons. Seattle was also too expensive (and still is). Canada would require proof of rabies vaccination for our cats, which in itself wasn't a problem, but we didn't want to risk losing them to international quarantine or for some other obscure medical reason. And flying the cats anywhere also seemed like asking for trouble. But that still left forty-eight of the United States to choose from.
To narrow down the wide field of candidates, we created a big spreadsheet and researched data which were important to our lifestyle. Some of those properties included:
- Winter comfort (January windchill and annual snowfall)
- Summer comfort (July heat index and average rainfall)
- Cost of living estimate, averaged from five different sources
- Distance to nearest airport
- Distance to nearest VA hospital
- Number of Trader Joe's stores within 15 miles
- Number of Thai restaurants within 5 miles
- Percentage of population identifying as religious
- Percentage of population identifying as Democratic
Here's a link to the full spreadsheet, if you're curious about the details. Note that we gathered this data seven years ago, and much of it will be out of date now:
We took trips to visit our top two out-of-state candidate cities, shown in black text on that spreadsheet: Cary, North Carolina (in the Research Triangle) and Portland, Oregon. (Our fallback was Sacramento, California, which area we were already familiar with from all our Hogwarts Game scouting in 2006.) Cary had a fantastic farmer's market, but the neighborhoods weren't remotely walkable. And Portland... well, we live here now.
It took us a little while to adjust, but now we couldn't be happier with our home. (And no, I am not saying that ironically.) The move also inspired me to ask for 37 Postcards back in 2010, and that was pretty amazing, too.
If you're thinking about relocating, and you have some latitude in your selection criteria, Internet research is an excellent place to start. We started with information from Sperling's Best Places, then supplemented and corroborated that with data from various other online sources which we judged reliable and relevant. Your mileage may vary.
Hmm. How'd you decide on Cary for the Triangle? While I haven't been there in a while, it's rep is summed up in the not-uncommon acronym by long-time Trianglers; Central Area: Relocated Yankees. It's grown tremendously in the last couple of decades, which I suspect led to the non-walkability of the neighborhoods. I'm not as sure about Raleigh proper, but Chapel Hill/Carrboro certainly have some very walkable areas, as well as certain parts of Durham.
IIRC, it was my fellow ex-Richter Scale Gray Norton (who was probably not the source of this leak...but that's another story) who recommended we check out Cary, NC. The walkability was actually a larger issue in the south; i.e., long, undeveloped stretches between city blocks without sidewalks or other obvious pedestrian paths.
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