How to Pick a Place to Live (that you'll love)
Lots of people in our lives have been looking at our route and asking us - in the kindest way of course - why we are going where we are going? They want to understand how we go from living in one place for over a decade and just pick a new city to reinvent ourselves in. What's the criteria to find a new place to live and what do you do to make sure it will be a good fit?
First, let's just get this out of the way: there is no certainty we have achieved that with the process we took and the route that resulted. We did our best and still there's a likelihood that this route is "imperfect," that we will miss visiting a great place, and end up in a city that is nearly our best fit, but not quite. But guess what? We reject perfect. We are looking for "fit" here not the perfect, golden city - and we think a lot of places could be a good fit.
So many people have been telling us the places we should go - saying things like, "Why aren't you going to [fill in the blank with the best city ever that I can't believe you would skip]?!” And we understand your angst. If we thought we were seeking a needle in a haystack, we would be angsty too.
In other words, we can guarantee we will miss great places on our route. Because there are a lot of great places!
Further, we believe we will end up in a place that we like a lot and grow to love one day. Because - punchline - we don't actually believe there is only one place we could be happy!
Here’s the process we took to pick potential places to move and build our route. We hope it helps other seekers and individuals looking to make a love connection with a new place.
1. We first talked about the type of life we wanted to build where we landed.
For us, there’s a growing desire to balance our rural and farm impulses with the community and culture a mid-to-large city provides. We also are curious to explore a simpler life (more about this in a future post) with less material stuff weighing us down. We think this could allow more mobility and flexibility in how we organize our work and lives, which is a desire of ours. We want a reset button on our careers, hoping to tap into our passions and talents more in our day-to-day work, and are seeking a place that could support that reinvention. Are you looking to start over or continue the happy life you have, only in a new place? What is your why? What is the end goal? Begin here.
2. We had a serious heart-to-heart convo about our must haves in a place we live.
Our must haves included (but weren't limited to): walkability, cost of living, vibrant or burgeoning local food scene, green spaces, a thriving artist community, an active population, and a less extreme winter than our current city. Figuring out your non-negotiables is incredibly important.
3. An honest conversation with each other about our differences and what we were seeking in a place that the other one wasn’t.
Joel definitely wants to be able to connect with other comic artists and Sara wants a community of female farmers she can geek out about plants with. If you are moving with someone else, be honest about the different things you each need in order to be happy in a place. Sidenote: we are also spending solo days in the places we visit so we can unravel a bit of these different sides of places.
4. Even more honesty with each other. (OMG, so much real talk!)
We love California but felt the cost of living was out of reach for us at this point in our lives. It’s possible one or both of us will want to pursue further education, so we want to have continuing educational opportunities within an hour of where we live. We think New Orleans sounds amazing (and still plan to visit to scope it out), but have a feeling that we don’t want to live in a coastal city because of climate change.
5. Speaking of climate change…
Climate change actually really, really impacted our thinking. Is there something you are a little sheepish about admitting to others but would effect your well-being and happiness in place? While there’s only so much we can control, if something is coming up for you again and again, pay attention: it is giving you valuable information about your desires.
6. Time to research!
Thank you, internet! We took to the world wide web searching best of lists, hidden gems, weather patterns for different places (see above, climate change), and drilling down into the criteria of our must haves (such as walkability scores, cost to purchase/rent land, up-and-coming foodie towns, and so forth). Our friend Sarah told us to check out livability. Research helped us immensely, but we also hit a wall. It’s good to know what your limit is if you plan to research. There is such a thing as – yes, we are going there – too much research.
7. We shared our lists of “places we could see ourselves living” and discussed.
After each coming up with 5-8 places we felt we could be happy relocating to, we shared our lists with each other. There was some overlap (North Carolina, Colorado) but also a few differences. We explained our picks and debated. We laughed when we realized we both put in the “pro” column for Austin “it’s weird.” We learned even more about what we were seeking through this conversation.
8. We ranked the cities and built a list…that included some “maybes.”
We began to build our route, connecting the top cities on our list. We had about 5 top cities and a few others than came up in our research that we remained curious about.
In this way, we have an “A” or highly intriguing top group, a “B” or slightly possible group and then – very importantly – a “C” group of places we most likely won’t move but felt pulled to visit for other reasons.
The “C” list places are mostly inhabited by people who are either living in a way we are curious about (farmers, artists, activists) or who we think will have sage insights about home, place-making and life purpose. You know, the small conversations.
By not whittling down our list too much at the beginning, we are staying open to the possibility we will be wooed by a place we didn’t uncover in our research or didn’t think was a top contender. Making room for the possibility of being totally surprised by a place is exciting to us. If this excites you too, perhaps add some wild cards to your list. And again, embracing that it is highly likely there are a number of places you could happily put down roots is incredibly liberating.
9. We shared our ideas with people we trust and who know us well.
After we had our basic route mapped out, we shared our criteria with people who know us well and who we felt would be honest with us about what we might be missing. From these conversations we got a number of new suggestions, researched them, and ended up adding a few more places. Your community is an excellent resource – use it!
10. We stopped overthinking and went for it!
We dove headfirst into some logistics, tweaked our route on roadtrippers, checked the mileage and distance between places, decided on lengths of stays in different places (more nights in "A" group places), sought hosts, and built in some spontaneous re-route time along the path. At some point, you just have to go for it.
Our process is an example of how to mix intentionality with leaving some things to chance. We fully believe that what makes a place "good" is different for everyone and that no place is inherently bad. The key is to figure out what your good looks like; what’s a fit for you? Embrace what you know about yourself, leave room for some surprises, remember to enjoy the process.
Finally: free yourself from the incorrect notion that you are looking for one, perfect place. There is a high likelihood that you will find a number of places you could be happy building a home. Now you have the great opportunity to pick one that is resonating with you at this moment in your life - what a gift.
Have you relocated before? Did our process look like yours? How do you know if a city is a good fit for you? Share your thoughts and other reflections in the comments.