How To Decide Where to Live
A few weeks ago we had some out-of-towners come into the office for a business meeting. To get the introductions rolling, we each told our guests our favorite thing about living in Idaho. Most of the responses revolved around the outdoors (not surprisingly), but this conversation did get me thinking about why I choose to call Idaho home. Now, you might be thinking, “Wait…this blog is supposed to be about where you go when you leave home.” But when I Googled ‘how to choose where to live,’ the lists I found were written for a decidedly non-Jane clientele. Hopefully, this post will give Janes an idea of where they should call base camp, when they aren’t busy seeing the world.
Remember that song by the Beach Boys that describes how girls from different areas are different? Well, I might not know about all of their conclusions (do Mid-West farmer’s daughters make you feel alright?), but they do bring up a good point; our country can be broken up into chunks and people who are from those chunks do behave in similar ways. I have known for a long time that at heart, I belong in the West. I am not fashion forward, I spend very little time getting ready for the day and I enjoy that I live in an area where lots of women have similar values in those respects. Think about the cliches that exist for certain regions of the U.S. (or world). If you find that a certain cliche describes you, you might want to think about living in that area.
Do you enjoy being a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond? Is a raging nightlife important to you or are you totally content hanging out with yourself when the town shuts down at 6:00 p.m.? Do you mind spending mind-numbing amounts of time stuck in traffic?
This criterion is a biggie for me. I prefer a small, feeling-bigger city. Have you ever been to a place like that? They have all the modern amenities of a bigger city, but it still feels like a town. I have lived in my beloved B-town for about 26 years. In that time, we have experienced tremendous growth and sadly, Boise is losing its small-town feel. To be honest, during that business meeting with the outsiders, I wanted to tell everyone to just be quiet. I don’t want anyone else moving here! It’s not really up to me though, so I sense there will be a time in the future when I have to find my next small (big) city.
Just how certain geographic regions are known for certain things, towns are known for their vibe. If you are into music, you will probably love getting down in Memphis, NoLa, Nashville or Austin. How many Southern coastal towns in California are full of laid-back surfer types? Heck, Portland has a whole slogan about how weird it is. You will feel happiest in a town whose vibe you can fully appreciate. If you want to know the feel of a town, you can listen to locals describe their home. Most people will come up with roughly the same answers if you ask them their favorite things about the place.
There’s a funny part in Bridget Jones’ Diary (the book) when Bridget realizes that even if her friends don’t make up a traditional family, they are still each other’s people. If you find a place to live that meets all of your needs and your family happens to live there, that’s terrific. But if that place meets your needs and you have no blood relatives around, you can still build a tribe and be happy. Most of my family has moved away from Boise and for most of the year I am the only one in town. But I have met up with others in the area and together we have made our own tribe.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I loathe humidity. I get red, sweaty and frizzy…not my best look. My ideal climate is dry and I would much rather slather on lotion to prevent dry skin than live in a humid climate where lotion and chapstick are unnecessary. Also, I love four seasons. This can get tricky when, for example, my sister doesn’t want to live in a place with summer and her husband would prefer somewhere without winter…eek! Another thing to think about is elevation. If you go high enough, you can knock off quite a bit of heat. My favorite place in Idaho is over 6,000 feet, and it gets mighty cold there at times.
Ease of Escape
A huge priority for B and me (and should be for everyone) is how easy it is to get out of dodge. For us, we can actually walk to the airport, so that’s real easy. But Boise itself is not a big airport. Most of the time we have to fly to bigger airports and connect on our way. If you live a few hours away from an airport then you have to add that time in when you are thinking about your adventures. I like to visit family in the Seattle area and fortunately, there are a few direct flights from Boise to Seattle that only take 1.5 hours. Seems quick, right? Well, you tack on a 30-minute lightrail ride followed by a 45-minute ferry ride followed by a 30-minute car drive and quick 1.5-hour trip gets a lot longer.
Not everyone will be able to have an airport in their town. But when you are picking somewhere to live, you might want to think about if there is a major airport nearby. It usually takes us a few hours to get to the next big flight hub on our way somewhere. So even if you live in a small town that you have to drive several hours to get to the airport, you still might be better off than us if that airport is a major one with lots of connecting flights.
Cost of Living
B and I are not loaded, but neither do we need to count all of our nickels and dimes. We live in a town with a low cost of living, which is very helpful when in saving up money for new trips and adventures. You might argue that you can save up a commensurate amount if you earned more and lived in an expensive town. But for us, a low cost of living really helps sock away money if our rent is on the lower end.
My favorite thing about my town is….well, I don’t want to tell you in case you want to move here. 🙂 But I will say I very much enjoy being outdoors and hiking and biking. A place that has pretty mountains to climb all over is pretty important to me. Other people might care most about how many major league sports teams are around because they like to go to all of the games. It is not rocket science to think about living somewhere that boasts your favorite past times. However, I don’t think many people write down a list of things they like to do and then find a town that has these things. I think they should!
Neither B nor I are foodies, which is probably good because our town’s cuisine is not super robust. If you are really into food though, you might want to think about that when you are contemplating a move. This past weekend B and I were visiting some of the more remote areas of central Idaho. Before we set out I stated we could eat lunch in X-town. She asked if I knew whether there were restaurants there. I grew up in the city. B grew up in the country. She understood that just because a town is on the map, that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be food available there. Weird, right? So even if you don’t need a thriving food scene, you probably want to make sure there is at least somewhere to eat when you don’t feel like cooking.
Idaho is a fairly homogenous (read white and conservative) state. This we know and we have accepted. You don’t have to agree with everything in your chosen place, but you have to able to accept it. I understand that when I go to the polls and vote, I have roughly the same chance of choosing a winning candidate as I do pulling a winning handle on a slot machine. That’s just how it is and there is enough other reasons to keep me satisfied living here. Make sure you take a good hard look at the politics, demographics, etc. of a town before you live there and decide if you can be at peace if you are in the minority.
The above list is not all inclusive, and there may be other priorities for you that rate higher. But if you find yourself in a situation where you have to relocate, it can be helpful to research and analyze different things that might fit your life situation as a travel-happy Jane.