One year ago today we packed up our apartment in Houston and hit the road. Since then, we’ve lived in ~12 cities (depending on how you count…), driven through 23 states and 2 Canadian provinces, met new friends, and reconnected with old friends. We’ve hiked Rocky mountains and Appalachian mountains, and dipped our toes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans…
Summer seemed to last forever – we finally saw the leaves change in Pittsburgh – and then had two Springs, one in Savannah and one in Salt Lake City. We’ve only had one flat tire (knock on wood). We’ve gotten really good at packing our car like a Tetris game.
Next Friday, we’ll pack up the car once more and turn around to go back east to Minneapolis – a 26 hour drive. Finally, a month in Chicago, and then we will decide where we want to live long term.
Everyone asks which cities we’ve liked the most. Montreal was amazing but we don’t really want to live there for language and logistics reasons. I loved Asheville, Portland, Maine, and Philadelphia. I really loved Burlington, Vermont too. I had a kind of love/hate feeling about Pittsburgh. It’s such a great place with interesting people, great food, distinct neighborhoods, and lots to do. But the weather and the public transport kind of sucked. I have no desire to go back to Savannah or Charleston – they seem to exist for the tourists. Salt Lake City was nice but less walkable and I feel like we were starting to outgrow it after about a month. Portland, Oregon is gorgeous, walkable, has top-notch public transit, and a ton of outdoorsy stuff a short drive away… but frankly, the homelessness issue is major here and politically incorrect as it might be to admit, it makes me feel really uncomfortable.
We’ve done a lot of talking about what we want in our new home. What it comes down to is this: we want to step out our door and be in the thick of it. We want to be able to walk in any direction and find things to do, see, and eat. We don’t want the quiet residential neighborhood just “steps away” (real estate term for you there, meaning 15 minute walk) from local attractions. We want to live on the street that the parade goes down when the local team wins the Super Bowl… where we probably do need a car but maybe only drive it once or twice a week… where we can walk to the grocery store but have neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar if it’s raining outside. Also perhaps somewhere I won’t freeze 8 months out of the year… and somewhere in the Central or Eastern time zones, because it’s hard for both of us work-wise to be starting our day so much later than the rest of the world.
So that really helps narrow it down– for example it cancels out Asheville, which is charming and I loved it, but its downtown is tiny and totally disconnected from the River Arts District and West Asheville. It cancels out Minneapolis for weather reasons, Portland for time zone reasons. It does leave a couple of major cities on the table, and we are eagerly building our pros and cons list to decide (in fact, Braden has created an intricate rubric with algorithms meant to measure the relative importance of categories like walkability, arts/theater scene, outdoor activities, housing cost, and more.) We’ve figured out a lot since we left Houston and we ARE closer to a decision… just not all the way there yet.