Where should my husband and I move?
April 16, 2012 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I've lived in Vermont for my whole life and I am itching to move. I'm a nurse, my husband is a carpenter. Help us decide where to go!

Me: 26, I've been a (new) nurse for two years. I like to read, run, go for walks, hikes, exercise in general, and cook. Have spent my whole life in rural VT save four years at UVM in Burlington, VT.

Him: 27, a self-employeed carpenter. Successfully building his own business with a great customer base here. Also from Vermont but went to college in Colorado. Loves to mountain bike, hike, build things.

Us: We have three dogs who do everything with us. We don't have many close friends and spend the majority of our time with each other and our family, which we are more than okay with. Our entire extended family is here in Vermont with us.

I've been itching to move someplace before we truly "settle down" and start a family. Right now we are both thinking that we would come back here to do that in ~7 years. But before that I'd love to move someplace new. Right now we live in a family property rent free and have $20,000 to put toward this move.

We are currently in the brainstorming mode, and I figured why not gather some input? Here's what we've come up with as loose parameters:
1. Not overwhelmingly liberal or conservative. He and I are "moderate" by Vermont standards and probably more liberal than your average folk, but I'd rather not move to a repeat of Burlington in that sense. This is important to us. This seems to nix places like Austin, Portland, San Fran, etc; which is good because..
2. Not terribly expensive. I make good money as a nurse but my husband will probably take a major pay cut. He's planning on looking for work with another contractor off the bat. We will probably buy a house and do not want to spend more than $200,000. We are interested in buying a beater and having him fix it up, which is actually the majority of what he does in his current business.
3. We are looking for a small-to-medium sized city. We are country worms but want to try out living in a city neighborhood. Probably bigger than Burlington (almost 40,000 people) but not Chicago.
4. Close to great outdoor activities. We both think we would be pretty stifled if we were surrounded by tons of suburbs and interstate. Outdoor things we like to do: Pretty much anything and everything. This is important to us.
5. Dog-friendly. We are used to letting our dogs have free roam of our 15 acre property but realize that its not gonna happen where we move. Still, it would be great if there were dog parks / other areas where we could bring them to strut around.
6. Walkable. I'd love if major stuff (a downtown area, or grocery stores, restaurants, hopefully a hospital for me) were within walking distance.
7. We don't care about school systems, as we don't have kids.
8. We aren't really into museums/live music/theater... sometimes I go on my own, so it would be nice to have a bit of that.
And these two are ideals: Close to water and better weather than VT. We spend a lot of summer time in lakes and rivers and we both like to fish. As for better weather, I mean milder winters (save for this winter, shout out to all you VTers) but not terribly humid summers.

Cities we have considered:
1. Pocatello, Idaho - my best friend lives here and I've visited quite a few times in many seasons. Really loved the city neighborhood and family vibe. Hits many points: moderate (skews more conservative), not too expensive, a good size, close to great outdoor stuff, and walkable. Weather is comparable and don't know about dog-friendly. Unfortunately not much water around.

Uh, thats it. We'd love some input. Our idea is to compile a list and then spend the next year or so visiting a few places. For what it's worth, we are very much planners so we won't be moving anywhere until we both have jobs.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Denver fits every single one of your parameters except that it's not close to water. Skews liberal but not overwhelmingly so, everybody has a dog & is into the outdoors, and winters are awesome.
posted by jabes at 3:02 PM on April 16, 2012

Oh, man. I was getting ready to suggest Anchorage, Alaska until I got to the part about better weather.

1. Not overwhelmingly liberal or conservative. Alaska as a whole is pretty darn conservative, but Anchorage has a strong progressive movement that seems to be growing.

2. Not terribly expensive. Anchorage is moderately expensive, but that's somewhat alleviated by the permanent fund dividend (PFD) that you get after a full calendar year of residency. Varies year to year, but approximately $1,000 per person. Real estate is mixed, but there are plenty of beaters to be found and if you did a really nice job cleaning one up, I imagine you could resell it at a profit because that niche is sadly lacking.

3. We are looking for a small-to-medium sized city.
The population of Anchorage is roughly 300,000. It has a smaller-town feel with larger-town amenities.

4. Close to great outdoor activities. ZOMG. In the summer, hiking, camping, kayaking, biking, orienteering, fishing, everything. In the winter, skiing, winter backpacking, ice climbing, everything. Anchorage is full of park lands and backs up to one of the largest state parks in the country. There are parks in the middle of the city that feel like the middle of nowhere.

5. Dog-friendly. Tons of dogs in Anchorage!

6. Walkable. I'd love if major stuff (a downtown area, or grocery stores, restaurants, hopefully a hospital for me) were within walking distance. Eh... you can have some of these things, but probably not all. The hospitals aren't in super walkable areas, but you could live in the very cute downtown and have an independent grocery store, bakeries, and lots of restaurants within walking distance. Public transit is ok, especially to the larger hospitals.

7. We don't care about school systems, as we don't have kids. n/a

8. We aren't really into museums/live music/theater... sometimes I go on my own, so it would be nice to have a bit of that.
Anchorage has a really nice cultural center with lots of different kinds of performances, plus the school and university productions, and some independent theater groups. Wonderful museum, a zoo, lots of nature centers.

And these two are ideals: Close to water
(yes!) and better weather than VT (eh... lots of snow and cold, but the skiing makes up for it. Summers are glorious).

Definitely look into it! The hospitals have programs that will pay relocation costs for nurses, and the VA hospital is brand new and shiny and always hiring. The construction industry is stronger in the summer than the winter, but there's a lot of growth and I'm sure there are opportunities. It would be a wonderful adventure to have.
posted by charmcityblues at 3:12 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I nominate Monterey, California.
posted by cairdeas at 4:13 PM on April 16, 2012

Is Boston too close to home - that is, are you looking to really branch out for a while, or will moving just out of state suffice? I'm also from Vermont (yay!) and lived in Boston for about 5 years. I found that about 80% from my home area who left the state had gone to Boston for various reasons. Surprisingly, it wasn't stifling at all because I think I ran into people twice in the entire time I lived there, but the option for getting together had we wanted to was always there.

Things I adored about Boston (god, I miss it):
1. An urban environment, butalso a lot of outdoor-activity availability in all flavors. Walking/running along the Charles, the harbor area, the Common all within the city proper, but easy access by car to Blue Hills for hiking, etc, and still with all of New England in driving distance for day trips or longer.
2. Amazing culture - restaurants, shows, ethnic neighborhoods, shopping, museums.
3. Ability to pop home almost at a moment's notice, but...
4.... the city was so different from where I'd grown up that I never felt I hadn't 'flown the coop.'

It seems to fit most or all of your criteria well. Oh, it's known for being relatively liberal, but not overwhelmingly so - I found that the university-based liberal atmosphere was present in most of my circles, but those are the circles I run in. I certainly wouldn't say it's as liberal an area as San Fran, Portland, etc.

That said, it is expensive, but you can get around this by living in strategic areas - Medford/Somerville, Jamaica Plain, or even further out in the suburbs (which don't feel as parochially 'suburb' as I tend to think of, say, midwestern suburbs), and I found the quality of life made the expense overwhelmingly worth it.
posted by AthenaPolias at 4:23 PM on April 16, 2012

Oh, and I should add that the winters are pretty mild by VT standards because of the city's proximity to the ocean. Personally, I enjoy a solid winter, but I really got plenty of that in Boston - I didn't really lack for snow, but we still had exponentially less than I was used to from growing up in the great white north.
posted by AthenaPolias at 4:27 PM on April 16, 2012

Well, if a Really Big Lake qualifies as "close to water"...and if "nicer weather than VT" could be taken to mean "nicer weather than Vermont in the SUMMER"...then I'd throw Duluth, MN into the mix.

1. Not overwhelmingly liberal or conservative. Duluth is both a college town (U of MN Duluth, St. Scholastica) and a town that is built on heavy industry (Ore Docks, the port). it's an interesting mix.

2. Not terribly expensive. I've perused houses in Duluth, and if you're interested in a fixer upper, you'll definitely have your pick. There's all sorts of interesting old houses in Duluth. Long ago, people with lots of money (from the Ore Docks, railroads, etc.) built some pretty awesome houses. Now, they're in need of fixing up and there's a lot out there for a good price.

3. We are looking for a small-to-medium sized city. Duluth's metro has about...I don't know, 100,000? But if you really want Big City, Minneapolis/St. Paul are 2 hours away. If you really want Wilderness, it's about two hours away. It's great.

4. Close to great outdoor activities. Sure, it's cold and snowy in the winter. But it sounds like you're into all sorts of outdoor activities...if you lived in Duluth, you'd get about six months of winter activities and six months of not-winter activities. Snowshoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, curling, skating, doing donuts on the ice, whatever: Duluthians know how to keep themselves entertained in the winter.

And in the summer: oh, the summers. Duluth isn't called the Air Conditioned City for nothing. Rarely too hot, nice breeze off the lake. Summers in northern Minnesota are divinity (except for the mosquitoes and blackflies, but it's as close to perfect as a place can get). Hiking, biking, backpacking, swimming - there's so much out there to do. It's great.

5. Dog-friendly. I have seen many dogs in Duluth. They all look happy. As for Dog Amenities, I am not sure. Lots of parks, I know that.

6. Walkable. I'd love if major stuff (a downtown area, or grocery stores, restaurants, hopefully a hospital for me) were within walking distance. There's many 'neighborhoods' in Duluth that meet this criteria. Downtown itself is kinda walkable, but the smaller neighborhoods might be more your style.

7. We don't care about school systems, as we don't have kids. In that case, as far as I know the schools in Duluth keep the kids off the street (and your lawn) well.

8. We aren't really into museums/live music/theater... sometimes I go on my own, so it would be nice to have a bit of that. There always seems to be something going on in Duluth.

And these two are ideals: Close to water (yes!) and better weather than VT (eh... lots of snow and cold, but the skiing makes up for it. Summers are glorious).

Like I said, the lake is a big body of water (to me, who has never lived on a coast). And the winters may be cold and snowy, but there's tons of stuff to do. And the summers? Divinity.
posted by Elly Vortex at 4:28 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

How big a change do you want? Have you considered other countries? Australia has a specific program for skilled migrants and both nurses and carpenters are in high demand here. You can pretty much pick your adventure in terms of your wish list, but Tasmania probably comes closest, given your proposed housing budget and the climate is probably not such a huge change for you. If you can stretch the housing budget (and relax the no humid summers), I would suggest Queensland as a huge change in environment, particularly if you are planning to return after several years. The Gold Coast is sizeable, politically moderate, has access to lots of water, lots of forest, has a very relaxed and 'outdoorsy' lifestyle, but still has many attributes of a bigger city. Queensland is sub-tropical, so you won't only have milder winters, you effectively won't have a winter at all - people that grew up here don't notice it, but this place literally has no seasons to speak of (something I miss, to be honest).

It;s probably a much bigger move than you were planning, but worth a thought.
posted by dg at 4:35 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Brattleboro, Vermont meets all of your criteria, except that it's kind of overwhelmingly liberal, but has its conservatives if you seek them out. Other than that, it's a small-sized town, not overly expensive, it has better weather than all of the rest of Vermont, has good outdoor activities, is very walkable and dog-friendly, has arts an culture if you want it, has the Connecticut River and West River waterfronts, and is just two hours from coastal waters and Fenway Park. What more could you want? Stay in Vermont, please! We need you!
posted by beagle at 4:37 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Detroit fits nearly all of your criteria. Come out midwest!
posted by Etrigan at 4:39 PM on April 16, 2012

This sounds a lot like Raleigh-Durham to me.
posted by judith at 4:45 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

How about Pittsburgh? The politics are oldschool working-class Democratic. Housing is dirt cheap, especially if you're looking for a fixer-upper-- the metro area is losing population so there are tons of cheap houses, but city neighborhoods in the East End are generally solid or reviving due to the universities and hospitals anchoring the area. You could buy a house in a bad or iffy neighborhood with just your savings, and in a decent one for not that much more. The grand old parks in the East End are great, and Frick Park especially has bigtime MTB & dog scenes. There's ton of mountain biking within driving distance as well. You can walk just about anywhere in the city with enough time, and there are tons of hospitals in the East End: Children's, West Penn, UPMC Shadyside, UPMC Presbyterian, and Magee-Women's. There's pretty solid cultural resources for the size of the town due to all the old robber baron money sloshing around in foundations.

You're not terribly close to lakes but people do kayak in the rivers, and it's not too long of a drive to what I hear is pretty epic whitewater kayaking on the Youghiogheny River and in West Virginia. The winters are mild but the summers can be humid.
posted by akgerber at 4:50 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by jgirl at 5:29 PM on April 16, 2012

I've never lived in Louisville, Kentucky, but I suggest you check it out.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:28 PM on April 16, 2012

I live in Vermont now. But I used to live in Raleigh-Durham. Except that it's fairly far from the ocean/larger lakes, it's got everything you want.

Also, what about Albany, NY? Or Madison, Wisconsin?
posted by slateyness at 8:18 PM on April 16, 2012

By the way, I've lived in in NYC, Chicago, Melbourne, Australia, Durham, NC., suburban CT, Ithaca, NY, Burlington, VT and Killington, VT and Killington and Durham have been my favorites. FWIW.
posted by slateyness at 8:20 PM on April 16, 2012

OK, I have a few suggestions.

Spokane, Washington. Lovely small city, not near water but you can drive up to some absolutely incredible areas in British Columbia with lakes.

Nashville, TN. Again, not near water but you're going to have a hard time finding a cheap place to buy a house that's also near the water. Nashville is a much nicer town than I expected it to be before I visited.

I suggest Rochester Minnesota over Duluth. Mayo Clinic's always hiring nurses, I would imagine, and it's typically named one of the best places to work in the country. But I don't think either one really fits your weather criterion.

Fort Myers, Florida is a really nice place to live with beautiful beaches, not exactly sure what housing costs but I know in general Florida got hit hard after the housing bubble and you could probably still work that to your advantage.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:31 PM on April 16, 2012

I was thinking Raleigh-Durham or NC more generally. Missoula, MT is supposed to be very nice but nowhere near water, and I think it's quite liberal. I've heard from a couple different (trusted) people that Cleveland, OH (or is it Columbus? I'm pretty sure it's Cleveland) is an awesome place. I'm skeptical, but it's worth looking into. Sacramento, CA isn't much of a city, but it's cheap, great location for active types, mix of liberal and conservative, and not TOO far from the ocean (a few hours).
posted by désoeuvrée at 8:39 PM on April 16, 2012

I think Raleigh Chapel Hill area and Charlottesville, Va. Also look at Richmond, Va.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:57 PM on April 16, 2012

Charlottesville is gorgeous and a great town, but it's not near water and it doesn't fit the housing price criteria - Yahoo Real Estate says the average home prices is $373K there
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:58 PM on April 16, 2012

Have you considered Portland, Maine? My best friends from Vermont moved there and love it. It might not be a different enough vibe from VT for you though.
posted by ke rose ne at 7:36 AM on April 17, 2012

Yep, Minnesota is where you ought to be. St. Cloud, maybe, or Rochester -- or up north is AWESOME if you care accommodate some wintry cold.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:10 PM on April 17, 2012

« Older What do you want out of a newborn class?   |   How can I stop dwelling on my actions that may... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.