I like to move it move it!
June 17, 2012 6:55 PM   Subscribe

After nearly six years, I've decided to pull up stakes and move out of Boston. Tell me how to get excited about taking this leap, and, well, where to go!

I've wanted to leave Boston for a while and while it feels like the right decision, I'm having a lot of trouble justifying it to my practical side. Currently unemployed, and I figure I may as well be unemployed in a cheaper city. I'm also kind of stuck in a rut and feel like I'm at the point where I've got to either commit to being here for good or move away. I'd like an adventure and setting up in a new city is pretty exciting! However, its also anxiety inducing.

My entire social network is here. I'm afraid I'll be totally alone and then possibly have to move again by the time I'm starting to make friends (I'm applying to graduate health professions programs at the moment and will *hopefully* matriculate next year.) I've done the move to a city where you know nobody thing before but I was 22 and it seemed a lot more acceptable then. I'm 28 now and it feels harder to justify floating around like this (to myself, to current and future friends.)

So: how do you deal with this type of fear? Where its a self-imposed decision that may turn out very poorly - how do you get yourself to be 100% on board? The obvious answer to my dilemna right now is: stay put, work finding a job/getting into school/etc. and *then* go. I've told myself this for the last few years and though I've tried to find jobs and programs in other regions, it hasn't worked. I feel like the timing will never be perfect, so I may as well do it now when I have no real obligations. But its frightening!

Second part of my question is: where do I go? I have pored over the other AskMe moving questions endlessly and think Seattle is my best bet, having been there once and loving it. BUT I'd appreciate new insights. Here's what I'm looking for:

- Natural beauty, activities outdoors
I'm in love with Boston during the summer. The beaches, free concerts (classical music outside? amazing!), the nearly perfect weather before the humidity sets in. The winters are rough for me, though I appreciate that its incredibly sunny here even if it is freezing. Somewhere a little more temperate would be great. I grew up in the southwest, so I can handle dry arid heat. Humidity + heat is more difficult. Having lived and dealt with SAD in Chicago, I'm afraid of what the gloomy winter skies would bring in Seattle.

- Welcoming to transplants
The Seattle freeze seems awful. I'd like to be able to make real connections...if this means anything, several of my close friends here in Boston are not actually from here. Most are from the midwest or have spent a significant amount of time there, and I guess I just click with those folks more than anyone else.

- Diverse
I'm South Indian. Friends joke that I'm whiter than they are and I frankly don't do anything all that Indian-y anyways but I do *not* like to stick out for my...er..brown-ness. Its a delicate balance of feeling like you're sticking out like a sore thumb (where everyone else is white - this happened a lot when I lived in SoCal) or lumped into a category and therefore passed over (this happens a lot in Cambridge, where there is a large Indian population. I wonder sometimes if I don't get approached by guys because they think I'm only into Indian guys. This happened less in other parts of the city. I'm pretty outgoing and I don't think this is all in my head.) So diverse to the point where my Indian-ness if a non-issue, I guess?

-Public Transit
I do drive my car in the city quite a bit even though Boston has wonderful public transit. I happen to not be near a T right now. I'd like to be close to transit options that are fast, efficient, and central (aka don't require 3 transfers to get to the heart of the city.) I do realize a lot of this would depend on my neighborhood, too.

Oh and a huge bonus would be proximity to a large body of water, preferably an ocean.

So, yes, that's a lot of querying in an AskMe, but I'd really appreciate any input because I'm currently vacillating between extreme butterflies-in-stomach excitement and incredible insomnia-inducing anxiety. I'm trying to meditate and deal with practicalities to get a little more even keeled about all of this but any insights from you all would be awesome!
posted by Sock Muppet Acct! to Human Relations (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
San Francisco?
posted by discopolo at 7:03 PM on June 17, 2012

I've done the move to a city where you know nobody thing before but I was 22 and it seemed a lot more acceptable then. I'm 28 now and it feels harder to justify floating around like this (to myself, to current and future friends.)

So: how do you deal with this type of fear? Where its a self-imposed decision that may turn out very poorly - how do you get yourself to be 100% on board?

Moving is one of the most easily changed decisions you can make. If it doesn't work out in your new town, you can always pick up and leave. You can focus on doing something you enjoy and living a happy life rather than feel obligated to "make it work."

And other cities are much more welcoming to newcomers than Boston is. I advocate DC for this-- everyone comes here from another part of the country and has to bootstrap a social life from nothing but a few college acquaintances a couple of hobby activities. I can't speak to Seattle, but DC is a great place for a young professional to seek her fortune.
posted by deanc at 7:05 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

To me, San Francisco has a lot of the same "feel" as Boston (it doesn't feel like a gigantic city to me, it has a very easily-seen "flavor") but much, much friendlier and the weather is certainly nicer (though foggy and a bit chilly much of the time).
posted by xingcat at 7:06 PM on June 17, 2012

I really should have added that cost is an issue. I know any major city will be expensive but I found San Francisco (I lived there for a few months) to be *insanely* expensive. $800-900 for a studio or 1-bed would be an ideal range. Thanks!
posted by Sock Muppet Acct! at 7:06 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

San Francisco is not cheap. Nothing in the SFBA is. If you want to check out the SFBA, consider Fairfield. It is pretty diverse, a smaller city midway between San Francisco and the state capital, and cheap-ish for Cali. I am white but grew up in a bicultural home. I tend to have a lot of foreign friends and often have tragic misunderstandings with other white Americans who mistakenly assume I am culturally like them just because I superficially resemble them. I liked Fairfield. So I think you might find it comfortable with regards to concerns about not wanting to be somewhere too white.

Don't get me wrong, I like SF as well, so I am not knocking it. Just saying it would not be a cheaper place to live.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 7:11 PM on June 17, 2012

Well, I live in Seattle, so obviously I think it's a good place to be.

It's less expensive than SF (as I'm sure you've seen when doing your research on Craigslist), and if you live in the Downtown Core, you can get by with bikes & public transit.

There's a metric tonne of water around Seattle (Lake Washington, Lake Union & The Puget Sound).

I have to say I don't buy the "Seattle Freeze" thing - I've never found people to be unwelcoming or anything of the sort.

As for the Indian thing - well, it's a tech city with lots (and lots and lots) of Indians, so I don't think you'll stand out even a little bit.

If you have more specific questions, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by dotgirl at 7:11 PM on June 17, 2012

You might want to consider Austin, Texas. I can't speak about public transport, but it's got a lot of the feel of Boston with diversity and cool. Yeah, it's Texas, but the cost of living is relatively low compared to Boston and it's got lots of really progressive people.
posted by Leezie at 7:13 PM on June 17, 2012

When I made up my list of potential cities, I had similar requirements as yours. My list boiled down to Boston and Madison, with Denver a distant third. Seattle was fourth but unlikely because of its distance from me at the time.

As things developed, I ended up in Seattle after all, and I love this town. The weather here is like an October in north-western Pennsylvania only year-round. I can look east or north and see snow-capped mountains, in June! I am disabled by heart disease, yet I could not ask for more from a public transit system. As for the Seattle Freeze, that seems to be only for the natives; this place has tons of transplants and transients, and do we ever love to talk. If you want to rent a room for six months, you can easily find one for $350 to $600 via craigslist, especially if you post your own ad looking for a place and your requirements.

I haven't yet ruled out Madison, but I will be sticking here in Seattle for at least two more years.
posted by Ardiril at 7:17 PM on June 17, 2012

As a transplant to DC (from SoCal) it hits all four of your main points. While not on the cheap side, I've found this place to have a lot to offer, and climate-wise I find the weather not to be as severe (winters) as in the Northeast.

As far as Seattle goes, I know of two who have lived there for many years (six and eight respectively) but ended up moving back to warmer climates due to the fact that 9 months of gloom really affected their mood and outlook. YMMV but the two individuals I know who have experienced this were not the kind of people who have trouble adapting (in general). If it is a concern to you now you can be sure that it will become an issue.

The diversity here is remarkable, unlike I have ever seen anywhere.
posted by scooterdog at 7:19 PM on June 17, 2012

Where its a self-imposed decision that may turn out very poorly - how do you get yourself to be 100% on board?

You can't get yourself to be 100% on board, but you can get yourself to recognize that there are many situations in life in which you can't have perfect information, and therefore, you can't make a perfect decision. A carefully considered educated guess, though, is most often better than a random choice.

Sometimes, it's not. But it is the best you've got, so if things go badly, you cannot beat yourself up over it, and in fact, should feel good for taking a smart risk.

The alternative is to never make a change unless you have perfect information about it. It's usually fairly easy to convince oneself that doing that is going to result in a very suboptimal life.
posted by ignignokt at 7:22 PM on June 17, 2012

Seattle is beautiful but if you had SAD in Chicago then I would be somewhat cautious about moving there. I lived there for a long time when I was growing up and I thought everyone was exaggerating about the constant grey but then I moved to a couple of different places in the country in relatively quick succession and was shocked to discover how much sunnier almost everywhere else was--and now I don't think I could ever live there again, which is a shame because it is a great city in many, many ways.
posted by pie_seven at 7:25 PM on June 17, 2012

In most of the largest cities you are going to have trouble finding one-bedroom apartments in the $800-$900 range, living in which would not make you actively miserable because of condition or location.

Have you considered a smaller city instead? You trade some of the benefits of a large city, but gain back in cost of living and commute time.

I grew up in Rochester, NY, and it's a nice place to live as a young professional transplant. There are plenty of parks and you're not far from the countryside/camping/skiing/wine country. There's a (lakeshore) beach. The summers are hot and moderately humid, the winters are not excessively cold. The snow is pretty, plentiful, and well-managed by the plows. There are several universities and plenty of educated professionals. There's also theater, one of the best music schools in the country, lots of cafes, a thriving arts scene, a world-class museum of photography, local music, and lots more. Although public transit options are kind of crap, nothing is very far away and many city neighborhoods are walkable.

What kind of work would you be looking for, and is that a factor in your decision?
posted by Nomyte at 7:26 PM on June 17, 2012

DC seems to be coming up a lot, I'll have to reconsider it. It definitely did not feel very different from Boston (the whole megapolis thing I guess) which is why I didn't really have it on my list, but I'll take another look!

As far as work, clinical research and/or phlebotomy, so a city with hospitals (sadly Boston really can't be beat as far as this goes) would be great. Thanks for the suggestions so far everyone!
posted by Sock Muppet Acct! at 7:34 PM on June 17, 2012

Oh, and to comment on the above suggestion of DC: if you can afford to live in the city itself, it should satisfy most of your criteria, unless you dislike the idea of practically everyone being a government employee. If you're not willing to live like a student, it will be outside your stated budget. Also, the heat and humidity at the height of the summer are remarkable. On the other hand, if you chose to live in a suburb of DC, getting to events in the city will be a hassle and an extra cost, you will face limited access to public transit and horrific motor traffic, and nearby social opportunities may be quite limited. It will really depend on where you might be located, with convenient, walkable neighborhoods carrying a significant cost of living premium.
posted by Nomyte at 7:39 PM on June 17, 2012

Depending on how much of an "adventure" you want to have, would you consider moving to another country as well? If you're under 30 you can apply for a working holiday visa for either Canada or Australia. Melbourne, Toronto and Vancouver satisfy many of your requirements; with an eye towards transitioning to a more permanent visa status if you're in a skilled occupation.

I can say, as far as advice on "making the transition" easier ... this bit from your post:
The obvious answer to my dilemna right now is: stay put, work finding a job/getting into school/etc. and *then* go.
makes it easier for you to -not- go. Sometimes you have to just make the plunge. This bt:
I feel like the timing will never be perfect, so I may as well do it now when I have no real obligations.
is true.

Also, I'd say from the point of view addressing the anxiety of losing your current social network, keep in mind that the Internet makes it easy to stay in touch with people regardless of where you are. I've lived in Boston for 15+ years and seen a few friends leave and come back, and usually there's a bit of adjustment as they return, but they're usually able to reintegrate without missing a beat. Some leave and don't come back, but they usually move to places that are interesting and so give us a reason to go out and visit them.

Leaving now doesn't mean leaving forever, nor does it mean ending what you have here.

Unless, you do go for the maximum adventure route and go to Australia. That place might as well be another planet as far as staying in touch with Stateside friends are concerned.
posted by bl1nk at 7:40 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

[DC] definitely did not feel very different from Boston (the whole megapolis thing I guess)

Boston, DC, and Seattle all have about the same population. You didn't say you were interested in a small city.
posted by deanc at 7:53 PM on June 17, 2012

fair point deanc, but I guess I meant that DC and Boston have a similar Eastern seaboard feel. In looking for something different I suppose I'm looking for a different kind of culture. Seattle is large but its definitely a lot more crunchy PNWish. Someone else suggested Austin, and that obviously feels different from the East as well. Sorry for not being more thorough in my original question but I'm thinking of these things as you guys are bringing them up (which is exactly what I need, so thank you!)
posted by Sock Muppet Acct! at 8:00 PM on June 17, 2012

I moved from Boston to Seattle. Come be my friend! The summer in Seattle is gorgeous. It is pretty danged white in a lot of the city though - I really don't think you being brown will be in any way remarked upon ever but you might feel a little bit tokenized now and again? I feel that way about being Jewish. It really depends on what part of town you set up shop in. There's plenty of diversity but it's still a bit unintentionally segregated.

Anyway no matter where you end up moving I think you should do it! Moving brings up all sorts of little challenges and overcoming them one at a time can teach you all sorts of important useful things and you can learn a lot about yourself. If you're feeling the need to leave Boston, and god knows I did, you should follow through with it.
posted by Mizu at 8:29 PM on June 17, 2012

Ogden, Utah. We have exactly what you're looking for. MeMail me if you want specific links.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:01 PM on June 17, 2012

Sacramento is cheap and diverse, and close to cool places. It's pretty lame though. But if you're currently applying to grad school, I don't see the point of moving now. Maybe I'm misunderstanding your situation, but if you hope to be starting grad school next year (by which I guess you mean the 2013-14 academic year?) then it doesn't make any sense to move now, unless you move to the place you're applying to school.
posted by désoeuvrée at 11:47 PM on June 17, 2012

If you don't like heat and humidity, then for the love of god do not move to DC. Also, DC does not have a large body of water nearby--attached to the city---like Boston or some of the west coast locations. And if you don't like winter in Boston (which I find to actually be fairly moderate and highly changeable---snowstorms, rainstorms, sun and cold, sun and mild), or the gloom of Seattle, then for the love of god DO NOT move to a place like Rochester NY or other similar Great Lakes cities. Those locations are COLDER than Boston in the winter (and Boston has much more sun) and just as gloomy and gray in winter as Seattle. I am surprised nobody has mentioned San Diego? I know it is expensive, but it seems like it would probably have many of the other attributes you are looking for...+ much nicer weather than San Francisco. I love San Francisco...but I really don't like SF weather.

And wherever you go, don't buy into negative stereotypes. As somebody who has moved around a lot, this has been an important lesson. If you go to a place looking to confirm a negative stereotype, then you will find it. If you go to Boston and look for unfriendly people, you will find them. If you go to Seattle and look for the "freeze" you will find it. If you go to LA and look for vapid self-absorbed a-holes, you will find them, etc. But if you go to a place optimistically and know that friendly people are everywhere, you will find that too.

Good Luck!
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:01 AM on June 18, 2012

Denver fits most of your criteria (famous for 300 days of sunshine a year, EVERYONE is from somewhere else, lots of nature, really low humidity, cost of living is extremely reasonable, economy seems better than in most places) but it's landlocked and pretty white. However, it skews young and educated, so people won't be like OMG BROWN PERSON when they see you. MeMail me if you have any questions!
posted by jabes at 6:20 AM on June 18, 2012

I decided to leave Boston because I couldn't handle how cold it was.... even though I grew up just outside of Boston.
I just had to do it. I was getting sick of it. Just like I was sick of Florida and HAD to move back to Boston.

I made some mistakes - but I'm fine now (except I don't really like where I live).

What happened: ended up moving to a town and was unemployed for 6 months. I lost about 30 pounds because I didn't have money for food. The jobs were very scarce - and I didn't have a car (didn't need one in Boston). Eventually I got a (very good) job in a city about an hour north. Had to share a car until I could buy one on my own. I don't fit in here and nothing really happens here.

So, my advice:

-make sure if you keep your car when you move.
-make sure there are jobs in the new city
-it helps if you moved to a city where you know at least a couple of people.
-estimate cost (rent, electric/oil/gas, etc)
-research neighborhoods, of course
-save money

I too, would recommend you look into Denver.

I've moved quite a few times on my own - and while I always knew at least one person in the new city - it hasn't really been scary. I just felt like it's something I needed to do.
You can always move if you don't like you're new surroundings.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:13 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Atlanta has decent transit, very cheap rent, great employment opportunities and a diverse community. We fail on the ocean, but we're not that far from the coast for weekend excursions. We have a big lake that can be fun.

We're sunny most of the time, temperate winters, although if it snows they shut the city down.

Another option would be Research Triangle, Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill. Diverse-ish population, decent job prospects, cheap rent.

I get itchy to move every decade and I'm closing in on 50!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:35 PM on June 18, 2012

What about Philly? Not sure if it's far enough away from Boston to feel like an exciting change for you, but it's a great place. There's pretty good public transit, a lot of stuff going on (free outdoor performances in the summer, a good arts scene in West and South Philly, for starters), and cost of living is less than in NYC/Boston/I'm guessing DC. It's a large city but it always feels neighborhoody and cozy to me, and I spend a lot of time there. (Granted, I'm from NYC, so you can take this with a grain of salt.) There are (as probably in every city) lots of ways to meet people--my boyfriend does a boardgame group, for instance, and there are CSAs, volunteer groups, arts groups galore. I don't know enough about them to advise you precisely, but there are a lot of hospitals about.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2012

I am originally from the Boston area and lived in the city for graduate school and about 3 years after graduate school. I now live in Saint Louis, Missouri. And, while it was a culture shock at first, there are some key advantages that might meet your needs.
1) Natural Beauty/Outdoor Activities: Forest Park, the confluence of Missouri/Mississippi Rivers, a emerald necklace of parks throughout the city, an outdoor sculpture park, etc.
2) Welcoming to transplants: While the county can be very closed, the city is actually filled with people from all over. All of the major cultural institutions have "young friends" groups that are filled with transplants.
3) Diverse - The city is quite diverse.
4) Public Transit - Well, ok, this is not so good, though the light rail can get you to a lot of the major places.
5) Cheap. I am paying $660, including a parking space and pet fees for 2 cats and pool access, for an apartment that would easily be $1500 in Boston with any extras. The Art Museum, the Zoo, the History Museum, and the Science Center are FREE. Not once a week, but every day. Saint Louis Art Museum is no MFA, but it is like a good wing of the MFA. The Zoo is amazing. Cultural events, in general, are much, much cheaper than in Boston, NYC, SF, DC, etc.
6) One you didn't mention: You will be a big fish in a small pond. My experience has been that St. Louis really allows me the opportunity to be a leader in my vocation and my avocations.

Also, there are great research hospitals.

Thanks my plug for my adopted city.
posted by hworth at 12:58 PM on June 18, 2012

Surprised no one has mentioned Portland, Oregon yet, if you are attracted to Seattle but worried about the freeze. I agree with replying poster above, though; I lived in Seattle for 2.5 years and found the city very welcoming. If you want a really welcoming city with a million things going for it and can reconsider your low-humidity requirement, you might consider the subject of my first film, New Orleans.
posted by michaeldunaway at 4:58 AM on June 20, 2012

I can speak to the fear. I just moved from NY to SF in May and I was really nervous about it. It was a decision that I wrestled with for years. I was afraid to lose my social network, afraid to be on the other coast (my family lives on the east coast, but not in NY), and afraid of making The Wrong Decision.

There really is no perfect time or 100% conviction. What made me take the leap was really understanding that the worst that could happen is that I move back.

So far, so good. I'm really happy I moved.
posted by vivzan at 11:16 AM on June 21, 2012

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