There's no place like home...
September 30, 2012 8:13 PM   Subscribe

How did you decide where to live? How did you find the perfect place for you?

I've just about finished my Ph.D. and conceivably could wind up anywhere in the country. I don't have any strong connections to a particular area, but I'm not sure I see myself staying in Kansas City forever (110 degrees is too hot!). I know I'd prefer a liberal area, and mild summers and winters, but that leaves a lot of options.

If it wasn't work that brought you to your current home, what helped you in your decision making process? Did you just pack up and go? Vacation first?
posted by gilsonal to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I got a job, then moved for it.

Unless you already have a job that is remote-workable, or you're truly confident that you could actually do your job (and, more importantly, find someone willing to pay you for doing your job) anywhere in the country, I'd concentrate on that first.

It sucks to fall in love with a place, move there, and then struggle to find employment and/or end up taking some sort of shitty job outside your field, or with poor upward mobility, because you're not ready to drop everything and move when you get an offer that's suitable. If you really are in love with a particular place, that's awesome and you should do what makes you happy, but be aware that there's potentially a huge career cost in most fields to limiting yourself only to the jobs available in one city. (I'm not saying you shouldn't factor the location into the attractiveness of various offers, though.)

As for the actual mechanics of moving ... once I actually landed the job, I flew down and stayed in a hotel for a few days, snagged a crummy Craigslist apartment based on it offering a short commute, then flew back the next weekend and drove my car (and stuff) down. That was that. If you don't have a house to sell or tons of stuff to move, it's not that much harder than move to/from student housing that you've presumably done a bunch of times before, only the distance might be longer.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:33 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm in my current location (Providence, RI) due to school, but when I went on a tour here about 18 months before moving here, I just had that "Whoa, I feel like I fit in here." feeling. I'd really like to stay where I am post-graduation, or nearby.

Maybe this goes without saying, but factors for me include these (for better or worse here, not all of these are [or can be, realistically] on the "pro" side):
- weather, which you already mentioned... which rules out a good portion of the country if you want mild summers AND winters
- population (which often affects other factors like concert venues, museums, etc. which may or may not be important to you)
- area of the country (A city in the Pacific northwest is not going to have the same "vibe"/culture as one in Ohio or Colorado)
- job market for your field
- proximity to family (if that's important to you)
- cost of living
- public transport and/or walkability
- visual attractive-ness
- proximity to other cities

All that being said, I don't know if I would have had that "clicking" in my brain that this would be a good place for me by just looking at it on paper vs. visiting it. If you can swing the expense of visiting, I'd narrow it down to a few places and try and just poke around a bit where you're interested in moving.
posted by jorlyfish at 8:39 PM on September 30, 2012

I asked metafilter. I'm not kidding, at all. I typed up my requirements as specific as I could get and we've been in the Hudson Valley area of NY State for over a year and never want to leave. Seriously, we love it here. Score one for metafilter.

So be a little more specific. What kind of weather do you want? Do you like cities or the country? Is walkability important? Mild winters? Etc.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:43 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you going for tenure track jobs?
posted by k8t at 8:44 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everyone I know who's been through the humanities PhD process has moved wherever they needed to in order to get a job. I don't know a single person who has had the luxury of choosing between even two places. Similarly, they have mostly all ended up in random small college towns in the midwest or south, so if this describes you, well, look around because it'll mostly be more of the same, even if you end up in Kansas or Wisconsin or Arkansas.

On the off chance that you are in a less crowded specialization or some kind of super genius, yes, both times I've moved cross-country (one of which I'm in the middle of now), I've traveled to the place first to check it out. That said, in both situations I didn't know I was auditioning the city until I decided to move there for other reasons, later (years later in the case of my current move).

In terms of the mechanics of the move I'm in the middle of right now. In June I gave up my apartment and got rid of all my furniture and most other things. Now that my move date is in sight, I'm starting to think more seriously about what I love enough to ship to the opposite coast, and exactly how everything is getting there.

Word of advice: when you have a bunch of delicate or otherwise difficult to ship items, don't just assume "oh, I'll carry this on the plane". I now have about four largeish items that must be carried on the plane with me, none of which really pack well. I'm sure it'll all work out, but it's going to be interesting when I get to California with a week's worth of clothes and toiletries, my laptop, a ukulele, a record player, and a few pieces of priceless and irreplaceable handmade pottery.
posted by Sara C. at 8:48 PM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

I got a job and moved for it.

However, Austin was a target of mine when previous jobs fell apart because I know what I want in a city: Mild/no winter, lots of things to do, reasonable COL, a fair number of friends, and seriously, no snow, so my job hunt slanted heavily towards Austin when my last job fell through.

I'd been here once before on business and enjoyed it. It just felt right. And we were passing through on one of our moves between hither and yon and I jokingly said, "Look, we've got all our stuff here, we like it here why don't we say fuck it and just stop right here?" We didn't, because I was joking, and we'd only been there one night, but I often felt like we should've stayed. But last night, the wife and I were walking around downtown and it was kind of rainy and gross and there were a lot of hobos out and drunk people out and all I could think was "I love this place." Unlike downtown Denver where even on a bright, clear summer day, I'd say "This isn't bad."

I dunno, I think you know. I lived in Denver briefly and it never felt like a fit especially once the snow hit. I enjoyed San Francisco enough I could see doing it again if I have the opportunity and make enough. I lived in rural Alabama for a while and knew when we were driving past actual farm fields that it wasn't going to work. Seattle felt okay the first time I walked off the plane, green and lovely but "okay" not "Why don't we just stop right here?"

I don't know if it's a forever home, in the parlance, but we've both been enjoying it here and have no active plans to leave. There's a couple other places I'd like to live before I die, but no rush. We really enjoyed Charleston, for example, but I'm not sure if that was Charleston being a great place or "we've been living in Alabama for 7 months and finally made it to a real city, huzzah!", so I'd investigate further before I made plans in that direction.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:07 PM on September 30, 2012

I'm (almost) a clinical psychologist. I plan on working as a therapist, no interest in tenure. I would like to work in a hospital, preferably a VA. I'm working on specializing in treatment of PTSD. I wouldn't say my options are wide open, but more so than if I were hoping to gain tenure. I'm painfully liberal and feel particularly strongly about marriage equality, so I have considered going to states that have passed laws allowing gay marriage, in the hopes that the overall climate might be less hostile than my current red state.

If I could afford to be picky, summers under a hundred degrees and as little snow as possible would be nice. I enjoyed East Lansing and Ann Arbor, so a college community might be a good fit. I felt oddly at home in Salt Lake City, even though it doesn't fit many of my ideal list points. I also really liked the vacations I've spent near the Appalachian mountains.

I definitely did not enjoy my trip to New York City. I'm not a fan of super urban areas or extremely rural. Right now I'm in a suburb that allows easy access to both, which I find to be ideal. I'd love a walkable neighborhood but right now it is outside my price range. I love trees and gardening and greenery, which was part of my love for East Lansing. Too much concrete is stifling in my opinion.

My brother plans on leaving Michigan soon, and my mother has already stated she plans to retire near me, so that gives me flexibility with regards to family ties. I was definitely raised a mid-westerner, so I'm not sure how I feel about the east or west coast, but I wouldn't rule anything out either. I wish I had enough free time and money to travel and check out the country.
posted by gilsonal at 9:50 PM on September 30, 2012

Also I should note, this is more of a curiosity sort of question, I am not really looking for a place to move to now. I have found that for internship and postdoc, being willing to move anywhere in the US has worked well for me, and will probably serve me well early in my career as well.

I've always wondered what people find in the places they truly come to love, if it isn't necessity that brings them there.
posted by gilsonal at 9:52 PM on September 30, 2012

I vacationed in California before I had any hope of ever living here. I loved it because its outdoorsy in all kinds of ways (beach, mountains, desert, forest, lakes) yet still urban so there's all the comforts of civilisation. The weather suits me absolutely perfectly - sunny year round but never too hot. For what I consider to be a generally far-too-right country, California is pleasantly liberal. I said "it would be fun to live there for a couple of years, but after a while I think the politics would drive me insane, and I would miss the culture (humor, TV etc) of home". Thirteen years ago I was lucky enough to be offered a job here, so I moved out, and I'm still here. The politics do drive me insane, and I do miss some of my home country's culture, but the internet sorts that out.
posted by Joh at 10:00 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I moved to the west coast for the hedonists and hippies; and the landscape was so stunning it made me cry. Canada's population is mostly one-dimensional in space -- a line rather than a grid -- so that gave only one real option.

There's not enough snow, but I haven't been disappointed by much else here.
posted by ead at 10:25 PM on September 30, 2012

I think it's near impossible to tell if you'll like living somewhere until you actually do for at least 2 years, which is about enough to discover just how it may or may not fit in with your tastes and needs. Some of that may be down to my personal experience: I was lucky enough to have a choice of three places to live in after I got my PhD. I picked the one that I thought would work best (Vancouver), but but it has not turned out that way. This does not mean that it is a terrible place, more that it did not suit me in the way I thought it would.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:55 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

My philosophy of moving is that it's always temporary. It takes considerable pressure off if the question is 'Where should I live next?' and not 'Where should I live for the rest of my life?'

Naturally there will eventually be a time where there is no next place, but I haven't come to it yet.
posted by Xany at 1:17 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've lived in the same place my entire life-- went to school here, grew up here, etc. I'm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it seems to be the experience of most people here that while you can leave, the state tends to draw people back-- people miss it when they're gone.

I've been in love with NM, and Albuquerque specifically, for a long time and for a variety of reasons. It's pretty inexpensive, we have great food (New Mexican food as well as a ton of great ethnic foods from a variety of places), it's beautiful, it doesn't rain much, stuff like that. It's also close to my family and my SO lives here.

There's also an attitude that you get here that I haven't seen in a lot of other places. It's slower-paced; the speed that people walk at in places like the NE sort of freaks me out-- and it's friendly without being cloying (small talk with strangers is a regular thing, for better or for worse). We're a very jeans-and-t-shirt town; people dress up to go out on occasion but you'll see people going in jeans to the theatre as much as in more formal dress-up clothes, and I can think of maybe one bar or restaurant in town with a dress code (and that place is full of douchebags). I love dressing up but hate being forced to do it, so I like the flexibility offered by that.

There's another aspect of it, about being in love with a place, and I don't really know how to categorize it. I think it's a lot like falling for a person-- there's lots of great qualities that you can name, but there's something about the gestalt that makes them perfect, at least for you. I could wax poetic about how great Albuquerque is for hours.

I'm not sure if that answers your question, since mine was a decision to stay, not to go, but it's love of the place that's kept me in ABQ all these years, and I'm planning to stay as long as I can.
posted by NoraReed at 2:08 AM on October 1, 2012

I "found" my place more or less by chance (I live in Brighton on the South coast of England). I came here for a weekend on a trip to London (didn't really know anything about it except yay, beach!). I liked it, so I ended up studying here. And then I fell in love with it and moved back here after I was finished.

So I guess it was "vacation first" for me. Obviously I've been to other places since that I liked a lot and could imagine moving to. I might not, but it's good to know the option is always there - so I agree with Xany, it helps to not think "this is forever!" to take the pressure off. (Admittedly, moving is much easier as a single than with a family for instance.)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:47 AM on October 1, 2012

I have to laugh. I'm in Atlanta. No one chooses to move here, we all got transferred.

Atlanta isn't a terrible place to live though, and although I'm liberal, and most of the state is conservative, there are really cool pockets of liberalism here.

I'm not fond of the south, but it's a good food town, we have Macys and Husbunny and I have good jobs with good companies.

I've made my peace with it. We bought a house at the height of the bubble and if we're lucky, by the time we pay the mortagage off, it will be worth what we paid for it.

Husbunny has his interests here, we've made friends, and I guess it will do.

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I think I'd be hard pressed to fix on any one place to settle. But I'm a wanderer and I'll always have that urge to get up and move to a new place.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:19 AM on October 1, 2012

The country is just so huge... it's really helpful to have *some* criterion to narrow it down. Knowing that you'd like to be near, but not in, an urban area will help, as well, of course, places that have an appropriate VA (or related) facility. Some people say that they have to have ocean, or mountains, or whatever, but I think there are fun things just about everywhere. Honestly, I don't think that very many people pick the area first -- rather, life or circumstance brings them to a variety of areas, either to live or to visit, and they find out what they like that way and plan accordingly when options allow.

I moved to my current location for work, but when I wanted a new job, I found that I no longer wanted a new city, so place became the constraint on my job selection, rather than the other way around. Your criteria will change with time and life circumstances, too, so there's really not much point trying to figure out the ideal end state in advance.

If you're feeling a little footloose at moment, it could be a good time to try a totally different part of the country -- the mid-Atlantic, say (not too hot nor too snowy), or northern California -- where you can get to know a new region while building your professional experience. In another 3-5 years you'll have a much better sense of what institution(s) might be a fit, as well as whether the new region (even if some other subsection of it) fits you culturally as well as logistically.
posted by acm at 7:22 AM on October 1, 2012

I lived in California previously. I returned earlier this year, in part for the climate, in part because my life just seems to work better in California in ways that can be hard to explain. I am not sure what town/neighborhood/specific area within Cali will be my final answer but I am pretty confident I don't want to leave the state.

To kind of answer your how and why part:
I was a military wife who lived a number of different places. I very much loved Manhattan Kansas when I was there except I was allergic to something and sick all the time. The climate in Southern California is better for my health. My health issues are serious enough that living in a place which makes that part of my life work better is a major decision influencing factor.

I developed a list of criteria over the years based on first hand experience of what worked for me but that didn't really bring me back to California. My dad grew up in The Great Depression and I just have this strong objection to the high housing prices out here. I keep desperately wanting to believe that somewhere is some ideal place for me where things are also cheap. I am having a hard time accepting that California is The Answer for me. But I am not finding a better answer, so I think this is it, my neurotic objections not withstanding.
posted by Michele in California at 8:28 AM on October 1, 2012

I moved several times for jobs - first to Nashville, TN, then to Dallas, TX and finally to San Diego. I agreed to move to all of them without seeing them in advance. I was more of a "Call the movers and lets go now" person and a scouting trip person.

It turned out that I was really happy in all three places and I think there's a mindset to being happy wherever you are.
posted by 26.2 at 8:32 AM on October 1, 2012

My suggestion would be to be careful what you wish for. I also wanted a liberal place, a university town, with trees and culture and access to countryside. I made a list of criteria, got online, and also checked out books from the library (if I remember correctly, "Best art towns" or something similar was useful). I drove to several places to check them out on a long road trip. I found a place that met all my criteria and moved there -- and grew to dislike it intensely.

Overwhelming liberalness got very, very old. There was no room for different opinions and a frustrating absence of critical thinking. In many ways it was as stifling as living in a conservative place. I traveled a lot and developed different perspectives and grew increasingly uncomfortable with the local smugness.

I ended up leaving the US and am much happier in a medium-sized city in a "developing" country, where after two years I'm still learning something new every day and having my preconceptions destroyed. If I had stayed in the US, I would have checked out Houston and other big, diverse cities where I could experience a wide range of cultures and opinions, but I grew up in a big city and am used to them.

(If you're wondering, the place I abandoned was Bloomington, Indiana, where I lived for 11 years. I know that many people love Bloomington and will be happy to defend it.)
posted by ceiba at 8:45 AM on October 1, 2012

I'm in a slightly different boat, but on the same river as you. :-) I'm considering a move to a city where I know people, and am sort-of-dating someone. Since I refuse to move cities for a boy, and especially for a casual boy, there's a lot more that the city needs to do for me. But it is feeling more like My New Home every day because:

*I'm visiting often and making sure that I get a fair amount of time to navigate it on my own. This has so far revealed that it just kind of makes sense to me. I have a good sense of direction there; I like its various transit systems, between my brain and my phone I tend not to get lost.

*Each visit I try to establish a "touchstone," or a place that I'll plan on coming back to. Some of these places I've really started to miss when I'm at home!

*Abstractly, I'm aware that it offers up multiple professional opportunities; some in my exact field, some in slightly tangential fields. It feels professionally welcoming, basically.

So in short, visit, visit, visit. But visit with a purpose; try to put yourself in the frame of mind of someone who lives there. Go to a grocery store, run some standard errands, do some daily-life stuff and get a feel. Go in different seasons. However you'd plan to travel once there (car? bike? mass transit?), travel that way when you're there.

Eventually though you just have to take a deep breath and yip-a-dang!
posted by like_a_friend at 12:01 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved to New Orleans after college because I had two friends there and didn't want to stay in Michigan, either. Four years later, our merry band has convinced 3 other friends to move here and live a gracious life. For me, having friends was the main draw--I didn't have a career or much experience living outside the Midwest, and having a network in place (especially in such a network-y town) eased the transition. I had also never visited before I moved.

My priorities have changed in the last few years, and other moves will likely have more to do with work than with pleasure. I know I'll be paying a lot more attention to the market for my field when I move again (it's pretty lousy here). Even now, the climate and size aren't really to my liking (I miss having four seasons, and everyone knows everyone here), but the quality of fun and slow pace of living are worth it. So I guess it depends on what your priorities are at a given point in your life--job, climate, lifestlye, significant other.

If you ever feel like just saying fuck it, though, and abandoning all practicality, you should definitely move to New Orleans--there's no other place like it.
posted by Penny Magellan at 6:20 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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