worlds at the feet
July 24, 2011 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Where should I live?

I currently, suddenly, have so many options as to where to reside that I cannot think straight.

I'm currently living in (not the real name) Crolineton, a vague and sinking place that has given me a full-time job, and enough money to consider relocation. Not a lot of money but enough.

I have friends in Baltimore, Chapel Hill, and Berkeley- in Baltimore they are visual artists, in Chapel Hill, film-makers, in Berkeley, academics; their interests would undoubtedly influence my perception of life in those places.

The most important thing I do is write, and as I can do this anywhere, there are no necessary connections that propel me to any single place.

I don't know where to go, don't know what to care about besides making and seeing- as in the past, I can live in my car, and work the lowest, if the place is right.
posted by past to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Baltimore certainly has the lowest cost of living of those three. You could live in Durham and visit your friends in Chapel Hill (or get them to come visit you) and save a lot of money. I don't think there are very inexpensive options near Berkeley.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:04 AM on July 24, 2011

Berkeley, for a writer, is not great. I am from there (born, raised) and have had to leave out of state not once, but three times to go to other places in order to find work. If you can land an academic or higher education job you might be able to swing into something quickly, however published writers get precedence so YMMV. As to living in Berkeley, the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment is $650 a month but with the tight competition with young professionals you may find yourself in West Berkeley (near Ashby Bart) before you find yourself elsewhere. I would suggest picking a big place where you would have the opportunity of a wide range of experiences and living options. I personally have thought a lot about Chicago and Baltimore/Washington DC, although frankly Washington is so much about status quo it can feel like a coffin at some points.

You might check out Seattle.
posted by parmanparman at 9:17 AM on July 24, 2011

The cool thing about Baltimore is that it's currently going through a bit of a renaissance, so there is a lot of opportunity to do stuff that would never find an audience in other cities. If your friends are artists, they can confirm this.

Examples of things that I've participated in in the last month (and note, I have a real job that has nothing to do with art/culture type stuff): a community art show where I sold my first painting, a series of parades with bands and stilt walkers through Artscape (which is supposedly the largest arts festival in the country), and various local music events. Today, I'm volunteering at a burlesque water ballet. Depending on what kind of writing you do there are lots of alt-paper type things around to chronicle all of this excitement.

So, yeah. depending on where your interests lie, Baltimore can be a pretty great place for not a whole lot of cash.
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:27 AM on July 24, 2011

I agree with parmanparman that Berkeley might not be the best place for you (I lived there once so I speak from experience). It's surprisingly small and insular, VERY expensive, rental housing tends to be in poor repair unless it's very high-end, and there's a surprising amount of crime. Also, if you need a "day job" of one kind or another, the trailing spouses of the UC academics, the students, and the trustafarians tend to slurp up whatever retail and temp jobs there are. The weather is great, there is loads to do, but if you don't have a fairly stable job lined up first, Berkeley is a no-go, IMO.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:13 AM on July 24, 2011

I suspect you need to give us a bit more information. I know it's overwhelming, but the more you tell us about who you are, what kind of writing you do, and what kind of cultural activities you enjoy, the better we can figure out what plays is right for you. Also, what kind of weather do you like? That matters, too.

All that being said, as a writer myself, I say move somewhere cheap with some culture. Small college or alt-focused towns are great--the triangle area, Asheville, Gainesville, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New Paltz (where I just moved, on metafilter's advice; I love it!). But a lot of this is really determined by factors of personality we're not privy to from your question.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:29 AM on July 24, 2011

Berkeley has the best bookstores.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:08 AM on July 24, 2011

Who do you want to be around and what's important to you in an area? For example, I can't deal with living any place it snows. I just hate snow. Likewise, I have to have something resembling a cultural scene and lots of yuppie amenities. And good, abundant ethnic food. And where are you comfortable cost of living wise? I know you said you can live in your car, but I assume that's not your perfect option.

Of the three you present, I'd skip Berkeley because it's expensive if you're just starting out. I lived close to Chapel Hill for a while and it's a fun college town if that's what you're in to, but it's also pretty much just a college town if that ever starts getting old. I hear Baltimore is just starting to turn around, but that also means it's just starting to turn around.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:00 PM on July 24, 2011

Baltimore must be much cheaper than I remember, because last time I was pricing Chapel Hill it was very cheap but jobs would be a factor. Baltimore and Berkeley both have sketchy parts, living on the cheap would no doubt lean in those directions, while Chapel Hill cheaply would be more rural and remote.

Also, Berkeley 1 Bdrms for $650? Uh, link please. Maybe they meant $1650.
posted by tremspeed at 12:53 PM on July 24, 2011

Yes, I meant $1650.
posted by parmanparman at 3:20 PM on July 24, 2011

I was in Berkeley a couple of years ago, went to a grocery store to pick up various items for the friend I was staying with, a few meals, whatever -- I was astonished at food prices, compared to Austin, a bag or two of groceries and I began to understand those fregans. (Or whatever it is they're called, those high-falutin' dumpster divers.) I knew housing was much more but wasn't aware of the food thing. Maybe Texas is just inexpensive, more than I know -- I'd not assumed it was that inexpensive to live here but maybe it is.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:30 PM on July 24, 2011

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