Where can we both thrive?
February 8, 2014 4:14 PM   Subscribe

My sweetie and I live where we're both finishing grad school, and are having a hard time figuring out where we could move in ~6 months that we would both be happy and employed. He works in applied statistics, I'm a forest ecologist. Wall o' text inside.

We've been together about eight months, we're mid-30s, we love each other, we get on like peas and carrots, we'd like to shack up somewhere that isn't here once we graduate. Neither of us want kids. We both have substantial savings to support a move + some time job-hunting. Both of us have moved somewhere we didn't really want to be for an SO, and we're breaking up if we can't find a mutually beneficial city. This sucks.

I'm going to be a bit vague to preserve some semblance of anonymity, memail me if you want more detail.

He currently has a job for a small company - he works from home, but it's not clear if they'd let him move away. He has a specialized skill set (hint: see his preferred cities below), which means it would both be hard for them to replace him and he has limited options to find other equally-good jobs. He will probably consistently make way more money than I will. He doesn't love the city we're in, but he's fine with staying here for the job. He's been unemployed long-term in the past, and it was really hard on him. He's also been checking out PhD programs, and that plays into places he could live. He likes football, watching sports generally, movies, and downhill skiing.

I'm getting an MS in biology, and am looking at environmental consulting and government jobs. I'd probably also be happy as a lab tech. I have a background as an admin assistant and would be fine with doing that for a bit while I looked for jobs in my field. I lived in Portland, OR for about eight years and want to move back. I have close friends there. I like the climate, love the forests, like hiking and xc skiing and the beer scene. I get around via bike and transit, although I'm not against buying a car if I need to.

We're also just having trouble with how to handle this. Do we pick a city first? Should he feel out his job re: moving (he's a bit concerned about rocking the boat)?

Some places we've talked about:

Here: He keeps his job. I probably pick up teaching gigs at the uni, find a government job in time. I'm pretty sure I'd start to resent living here - it's a small town, recreation opportunities are limited, the local culture is conservative. Because it's a university town, there's a lot of flux and a lot of the businesses are focused on the undergraduates. He doesn't love the location, but likes having an interesting, somewhat stable job. Also, football.

PDX, OR: great for me, as above. I would take a subpar job to live here. He's concerned he couldn't find a job (only possible employers we've IDed are the sports teams), no grad program for him, and there's no football in town.

Seattle, WA: I get to live in the PNW - forests, hiking, jobs. Close to my friends. There's a PhD program that would work for him. Pro football / pro sports. He might be able to find a job in the startup scene.

Las Vegas, NV: Great for him. Jobs galore, grad program, likes the city. His current company might go for having someone physically located in NV. I've never been there. I hate the desert. I don't think the job opportunities are great for me there.

Reno, NV: Possible compromise? I can have forests + jobs, he can be in Nevada. Skiing and hiking. Close to Bay Area.

Vancouver, BC: His company currently has an office there, but it might be closing. I get to live in PNW, forests, there are labs in my interest area there, Canada sounds fun! Logistically more complicated since we're both US citizens.

United Kingdom: Dark horse, again with the logistical problems. I've lived in the UK and liked it a lot. I'm interested in a European-style PhD, there are large companies he could work for (London and a smaller town). Moderate climate, enjoyable culture, opportunity to travel in Europe.

Ideas? Where are we missing? Are our assumptions about these places wrong?
posted by momus_window to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You didn't mention what your job prospects are in Las Vegas, or anywhere close to there. If it was someone I was truly in love with and they had limited job options, I would go where they were, if it were at all feasible.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:19 PM on February 8, 2014

On Vancouver: "Logistically more complicated since we're both US citizens."

Not really. If his company has an office there and he can get a letter from them saying they're transferring him up there, he can likely get a NAFTA visa to live and work in Canada ("work ... in a job that uses specialized knowledge."). If you qualify as a professional (see the same link), you would also qualify. According to friends who have done this, applying for and receiving the visa and work permit is often as simple as showing up at the border with the relevant documents.

If it's find a city or break up, then your text reads like we'll be seeing you in the 206 area code fairly soon. (You both sound awesome, please don't bail to the suburbs.)
posted by fireoyster at 4:25 PM on February 8, 2014

Since he's the higher earner why doesn't he start the job search maybe focus on the PNW and see what he can find. I think that going where the best job is should be the plan.
posted by saradarlin at 4:31 PM on February 8, 2014

Based on your description of your likes/dislikes, I don't think you'd be happy in Vegas. At all. I've previously made similar compromises against my better instincts and regretted it (in my case, moving to northern Virginia) and it was pretty much a disaster and a huge drain on our relationship. I think visiting a few of these places might help give you clarity about whether they're up your alley at all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:36 PM on February 8, 2014

Some random possibly non sequitor thoughts:

If this were me, I would take a multi-pronged approach. I would both pick a city in which you would both be willing to work and look for jobs there as well as look for jobs that interest each of you and see if the other can then find something acceptable or agree to live there. I would hold off a little bit about asking present company if he can move until you have a better idea of your options if they say no or take it the wrong way.

You also seem more willing to compromise job wise in the short term and since he will likely be making more jack than you, consider letting him focus on finding a job in a location that suits you both and if he finds it, you can move, take an interim job while looking for one that suits your skill set and desires.

I am not sure if you are open to other weather patterns besides the northwest one, but I think there would be several locations that would support both someone with a statistical background working in or supporting the gaming industry and someone interested in forestry in the northeast corridor. NY just agreed to expand its gaming, Connecticut has several gaming reservations, there is always Atlantic City which has great hiking and beaches and I am sure there are more. As for football, college football, the NE does not do it like the SEC or the Rebels, but there are some decent teams (Rutgers near AC) and there are some good pro teams with great tradition including the tailgating and pre/post game rah rah partying.

Tahoe also sounds like it might suit you both.

As for Vegas, if you don't appreciate the desert, do not move there. It is also, from my friends who moved there told me, somewhat of a transient population. The growth it had last decade brought many new people to town to try it, and many have moved. They have a core group of friends they like a lot, but they also say that the neighborhood is not very neighborly because houses are regularly turning over. Folks being transferred in and out. The people are all friendly, but you don't find too many neighborhoods where families have lived for years on the same street and all know each other and their kids and their kid's kids, etc.

Also, if your SO is doing all sorts of statistical analysis on the gaming industry, I think that skill set translates into several other areas including and especially trading. If it is something that interests him or he would consider, he could look for hedge funds and banks in the Pacific NW. My guess is there are folks in Seattle that manage and trade money. Certainly SF!

As for working for one of the sports teams, that can be a great job. My neighbor's son who got an MBA a few years ago currently works for USA basketball out of Boulder doing statistical analysis on hundreds of teams and prospects. He really loves it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:50 PM on February 8, 2014

Reno is not "close to the Bay Area," sorry. I mean, is Washington DC "close to" NYC? Google says 3:30 drive time, but my experience is that it takes far longer, plus the mountain passes sometimes require chains, plus it's a very different world culturally.

If you're interested in the Tahoe area, there might be a place where you could find whatever attracts him to Nevada so much as well as some good forestry jobs, but those places are likely to be small towns without good Ph.D. programs.

Sacramento or Davis might qualify as "close to" the Bay Area, and then you could look at working for state environmental agencies, while he looks into UC Davis. I'm having a bit of trouble guessing what his specialty is, so I'm not positive that Sacto or Davis would work for that, but I will say that there is at least one casino in nearby Solano County.

If he can find work at Seattle (tech?) start-ups, this brings me to my basic answer to every "where should I move" question: the Bay Area. It seems like it could work for you guys: a lot of tech startups, lots of environmental organizations and regulatory agencies, a climate that is neither desert nor PNW rain, a few casinos, several major sports teams, easy car-free living, and multiple major universities.

One last option to throw in the mix is Colorado -- Denver, and the university towns of Boulder and Fort Collins. Proximity to skiing, forests and government agencies relating to such, and fairly diversified economies.
posted by salvia at 4:54 PM on February 8, 2014

Seattle is the obvious choice.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 6:16 PM on February 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Reno is not even remotely close the bay area, but why isn't the actual bay area an option? Between silicon valley and the abundance of nature it seems like you would both have options there.
posted by bradbane at 8:27 PM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know it's much smaller than your other choices but you should consider Juneau, AK. I know that there are lots of opportunities for people looking for work in both your specialties. The economy is good, life in Juneau is full of fun things to do, it's a hiker and kayaker's paradise, and the arts abound for such a small place. There are bad things.... restaurants charge too much for what they dole out, it rains a LOT, and it's not as cool sounding as Portland. Having lived here for over 12 years, I can tell you it's a great lifestyle. It's my adopted hometown and I am fiercely in love with it.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:30 PM on February 8, 2014

Would he be content with college football? He can support the Ducks or Beavers in PDX.
posted by brujita at 8:33 PM on February 8, 2014

PS: There are appr 4-6 groomed XC skiing courses in Juneau and a wonderful downhill ski area owned by the city. There is a brewery in Juneau and the beer scene here is great. State and Fed work, especially for biology degrees and statisticians. While the salary may not be as high as in other metro areas, the life is worth it.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:36 PM on February 8, 2014

Come to Seattle! Good biking, loads of biotech companies, and lots of tech companies looking for mathy people. Not to mention the Douglas firs.
posted by Joe Chip at 10:21 PM on February 8, 2014

Job wise: have you thought about Boston or DC?
posted by oceano at 12:55 AM on February 9, 2014

Start a long range, low key job search now and starting visiting these cities. Both of you. Also, why isn't the Bay Area on your list?
posted by J. Wilson at 7:07 AM on February 9, 2014

Visas for the UK have gotten substantially harder to get in recent years, due to lovely (ha) conservative politics and fears about immigrants stealing jobs. I wouldn't bank on this option working out.

Seattle is fantastic and a good fit for both those kinds of work. Also beautiful and fun with lots of different cultural stuff to do. I loved it and moved away only because of my husband.
posted by shattersock at 11:19 AM on February 9, 2014

Go visit Vegas before deciding, since you've never been. I lived there for a while, thinking I would haaaate the desert, (my thing is I hate being land-locked-- I love the sea and I like green) but I actually really liked it. It was different to how I imagined the desert-- kinda red and pretty and mountainy (by way comparison, AZ's and CA's scrub-like desert parts, I really didn't like however). The suburb-y areas were quite nice, and it was a lot more pleasant than I thought. Also I loved the strip. In the end, it was my favourite state -- but I never visited the green states I wanted to like OR or WA, and in an ideal world I would have wanted to live there (but then I hate the rain, so...)

I'm weird though, It was the middle of summer and yet somehow I could stomach the 100F heat in NV every day, though. It's because I tend to really like dry heat.

Plan a trip, look at suburbs there and see. Do you want this move to be permanent? In which case it's probably a bad idea (I don't think I could live in Vegas forever) but for 5 or so years, for the sake of money and establishing ones self, I totally could.

Reno might be a good compromise. You could visit both and get a good idea. (I hear Reno can be boring though).

Definitely look into what kind of weather is important to you, though. You don't seem to specify where you are now, but if you're somewhere really moderate, moving north may be a bit of a shock. I love the green of Seattle and Portland and such, but it rains a LOT there, and is cold a lot. I hear it has humid spots sometimes. Extreme cold and humidity tends to depress me, so, it's a compromise between pretty green things and freezing my butt off.
posted by Dimes at 10:47 PM on February 9, 2014

What I'd do is this: as your criteria are more in the realm of amenities and his is more in the realm of employment, I'd say for you to give him a list of areas you'd be happy living in. He then does due diligence and tries to find employment in any of those areas. Whichever area pops for him to find a job in, you move.

I'd also put in a drop-dead date for either you mutually move to Seattle (as the negatives seem to be smaller than anywhere else) or call it if he hasn't found a new position. Otherwise, you run into the inertia issue where you're hanging on miserable just waiting for the brass ring to pop for him.
posted by skittlekicks at 12:13 PM on February 10, 2014

I want to mark all of the Seattle-favoring options best, but I'm biased. :) Y'all are right that we need to visit, but that doesn't sync up well with both of us trying to get out of grad school, so...

We talked about it some more and are going to stay here for a while (~year) to buy some more time to look for jobs / see where his company is heading. I'm taking the Bay Area, Denver, and Juneau recs under advisement.

posted by momus_window at 1:26 PM on February 10, 2014

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