Should I move?
August 23, 2014 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Should I move from the small city where I work to the bigger and more exciting nearby city when my lease is up in two months?

I am a woman in my mid-twenties. About ten months ago, I moved for work to Small City. I’ve never lived in this part of the country before. My job is located in Small City, however most of my colleagues live in Big City, which is about 40 minutes away. Now I’m considering whether I should move to Big City as well.

Relevant information:
-I really love my job, and have no interest in quitting or in moving to another office.
-The only way to commute from Big City to Small City is by car. A commuter train exists, but I need to have access to a car during the day for my job. Right now I leave my car at home and walk to work; if I moved I would need to commute by driving.

Cons of moving:
-The expense. The cost of living is higher in Big City, and I really dislike living with roommates, so I would end up paying more for a smaller place. Also I would have to pay for parking near my work, and gas for commuting.
-I feel like I only just moved here, and don’t really want to uproot myself again. The thought of hunting for apartments and moving all my stuff is exhausting.
-Also I love my apartment here. It is a truly great apartment, which I could never afford in Big City.
-I only learned to drive a year ago, and am not a very confident driver. Also sometimes I experience back pain when I drive too much-- don’t know if this is because of the seats in my car or because I am too tense when driving
-The commute would take more time out of my day. It’s a 40 minute drive, but is often longer due to traffic. Right now it takes me between 5 and 10 minutes to walk home.
-I feel a sentimental attachment to living in the community I work in.
-There are things I like about Small City. It has some nice art galleries and restaurants, and I feel like it is just on the edge of becoming trendy at some point within the next decade. However, right now it is kind of run-down. ButI think that if I tried harder I could learn to really appreciate Small City.
-I am a pretty solitary person and spend most of my evenings reading or watching movies, activities which I can do equally well in either city.

Pros of moving:
-I have not had that much success making friends here. My one good friend in the area lives in Big City. My colleagues, who I’m pretty friendly with, also mostly live in Big City. When I look for activities, or meetup groups, or clubs that I might be interested in, they are almost all in the area of Big City.
-I like Big City much more than Small City. Big City has more interesting shops, more fun neighborhoods, more theater, better restaurants, more parks, more cultural diversity, more things to do. I have lived in cities like Big City all my life, until recently.
-It is a bit difficult getting from Small City to Big City to do things on the weekends. The commuter train runs only once every two hours, and stops at 11 pm. I can drive, but then I have to find parking, and also I can’t drink alcohol. If I take the train I have to plan out my day carefully, and leave by 11. I do find both these limitations to be annoying.
-Contradicting one of my points above, I like the idea of having some physical separation between my work and my personal life. My work is very demanding, both mentally and emotionally, and it’s hard to stop thinking about it when I go home. Also, sometimes I avoid doing things in Small City out of fear that I will run into clients.
-I often feel that there are fun things in Big City that I’m not doing because I don’t even know about them-- it would be easier to just do things if I lived there, I would not always have to plan everything out.

So, I’m divided. Honestly, I’m leaning more towards not moving, but that may just be my tendency to go with the status quo. Let me know what you think.
posted by Henrietta Stackpole to Society & Culture (21 answers total)
A 40 minute commute in traffic is no joke. I wouldn't do it based on that alone. I have been sort of toying with the idea of a similar thing and ended up sitting in the rush hour traffic between the two cities last night by chance, which put the idea right out of my head. You should try driving it a few times when traffic is at its worst to find out if you are the kind of person who could deal with that sort of thing every day. I could not.
posted by something something at 7:18 AM on August 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

a 40+ minute commute is 2+ hours out of your day, 10+ hours a week of sitting in a car. I'd stay in small city and head into the big city on weekends to check it out more.
posted by TheAdamist at 7:22 AM on August 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ugh, yeah, having a job that you can walk to is awesome, and commuting 40 minutes is... Not awesome. Is there any kind of public transportation option, or do your coworkers carpool? That would make it better. But still... As much as I like living in cities, that's a huge chunk of time out of your day.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:27 AM on August 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'd search for an apartment in Small City that is closer to Big City before I'd make the leap and the commute.
posted by sm1tten at 7:44 AM on August 23, 2014

It is a bit difficult getting from Small City to Big City to do things on the weekends. The commuter train runs only once every two hours, and stops at 11 pm. I can drive, but then I have to find parking, and also I can’t drink alcohol.

Is it feasible, money-wise, to book a cheapish hotel (or look for AirBNB rentals) in Big City over a weekend once or twice a month? That gives you a bit more leeway to do things on a more leisurely basis without feeling like you're imposing on friends. Not the same as living there, but more than day-trips.

Contradicting one of my points above, I like the idea of having some physical separation between my work and my personal life.

That, I understand. The commute is a burden, but it's also an opportunity to decompress. But that raises the broader question of what Small City actually has to offer you beyond a job and a nice place to sleep. Your colleagues have already made that call: it's too small for them to feel comfortable. (Have you talked to them about whether they've tried living in Small City, or did they decide that it wasn't an option?)
posted by holgate at 7:51 AM on August 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have always found maintaining a clear separation between work and play was very important to me, it meant that work didn't spill over into evenings and weekends. Another con of moving is increased running costs and wear and tear on the car.

Apropos the back pain thing, get someone knowledgeable to critique your driving position but some cars just have a poor driving position. Assuming your seats are height adjustable it ought to be possible to fit it to your needs quite closely.
posted by epo at 7:59 AM on August 23, 2014

Best answer: I think big city life is overrated. Getting to the city may be a little more tedious on the weekends, sure, but getting to work from the city on a daily basis is going to become soul-wrenching after a while. If you could easily take a train I might not say that (since you could read, journal, zone out with your headphones on, etc). Sitting in a car for that long just sucks. I love knowing that as soon as work is out, home isn't far away. I don't think putting physical distance between your job and your home is going to help you draw a boundary between the two, either - mostly because a long commute doesn't strike me as a very positive "ritual". You can find other rituals and activities to help you with creating those boundaries, and for less cost. (I would go into more detail about said rituals, but will save it since it's technically off topic).

You sound similar to me. I'm a home body who is more likely to read and watch movies than go out every night; I also live in a small city that is a satellite of a major city and used to daydream about moving into the city limits for good. But you know what? Small cities are a more unique experience. The one I live in has really come into its own over the last ten years and it has as much spirit and energy as a big city, without as much bullshit. If your small town is on the verge of being trendy, watching and participating in that happening can be a lot of fun. I can always drive to the big city when I want a change of pace, but there is a lot to do right here if I'm willing to look for it and get involved. Yoga studios, farmer's markets, community art classes, new antique and junk shops to explore, you get the picture.

Plus, all that money and time you save on not commuting can be invested in so many other things - vacation travel to other countries, new hobbies, making your apartment in the small city into more of a 'nest' to enjoy.

Also: "I have lived in cities like Big City all my life, until recently." THAT. You've already had the experience of Big City. I think that's all the reason, right there, to give Small City a chance.
posted by nightrecordings at 7:59 AM on August 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Two weeks ago, due to particular life circumstances, I was able to rid myself of a dreadful morning and afternoon commute. It has already made an enormous change in my life, in my happiness, in my energy levels. Just FYI.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:12 AM on August 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

"Live where you play." The best thing about living in a city and commuting to work in the suburbs was that at the end of an exhausting week at work, if I wanted to go out and do something, only the most minimal of effort was required, because I was already there.

If you already had a pre-existing community and social circle in Small City, I would recommend you stay. If you want to cultivate a social life and a community of friends, move to Big City.
posted by deanc at 8:13 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

What kind of climate do you live in? And what kind of areas would you be driving through every day?

I have a 30-50 minute commute each way but I live in a warm climate in which the worst driving weather is an occasional thunder storm; traffic is always light except for in the late afternoon when I drive through a couple of miles of downtown to get to my house. If you live in a cold snowy/icy climate commuting can be a nightmare!

My work is in a rural/suburban area and I would not have any social life if I lived there. Instead I live in the city. My commute is not through endless suburbs but rather through a large wildlife refuge, woods, and rural areas- this makes a big difference, I think. I also have a big chunk of time off in the summer because I work in education

Is there anywhere halfway between small city and big city that appeals to you? If you lived in big city could you leave your car at work and take the train every day? Are their neighborhoods in big city that don't require a car? Just realized I'm not logged in as me, mareli.
posted by rudd135 at 8:40 AM on August 23, 2014

Live in the small city with all its advantages. Go to the big city to do fun and interesting things on weekend. Save money on fuel and traffic will be less that way around..
posted by wwax at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Being able to get your home, your job, and your social life in the same place is pretty awesome. Since you have a great home and great job in one place, I'd focus on getting a social life going there.

Ten months isn't a long time to not have made friends, and since you say Small City, not 30-Person-Hamlet, I'll guess that not every potential activity is in Big City. You only need to find one or two social anchors in Small City, then people are introducing you to their friends, your calendar is as full as you want, and you realize you haven't bothered with a weekend in Big City in months.

I've done the daily hour commute (soul-sucking, despite carpooling), the living in Small City and going to Big City on weekends (disappointing, because of the nagging "If only I lived here..." feeling), and the short-commute, friends-nearby, great-home life. The third one is the best.
posted by orangejenny at 9:29 AM on August 23, 2014

I know someone who works for the same organization as I in [quite possibly the same small city] who lived in [quite possibly the same big city] for many, perhaps all, of the reasons you describe when he first moved here. He liked it and still goes there regularly but he was, I have the impression, tremendously relieved when he moved to the small city earlier this summer, mostly because of the lack of commute (especially), the much better apartment, and the cost of living. He lasted about a year there, and was commuting via commuter rail. (In this particular big city, it is really impractical and inadvisable to have a car I'd say, though people certainly do.)

Also, if it really is [quite possibly the same big city] you are talking about, I would say that it can actually be much harder to meet new people there than in the relevant small city, for various reasons. The fact is, it is hard to meet people at all once you get out of your university orbit, and this is a pretty normal experience to have in one's mid-20s. Many people seem to take at least a year to settle into a new place, I know it took me at least that long into my small city.
posted by advil at 9:31 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

A 40 minute commute has considerable costs in gas. I'd spend that money on a hotel or airbnb in Big City on weekends where the 11pm/no drinking is a pain, and call it even. That 1.5 hours back in your day of not commuting makes a huge difference as well.
posted by cgg at 10:06 AM on August 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Long car commutes can be soul-destroying, especially when there's a lot of traffic. I'd give it at least another year in Small City and see if you can make some friends and get out a bit more.

Right now, the folks you know in Big City are your colleagues, so becoming better friends with them won't help with the work-home divide.

If you are looking for separation between work and home: how about some kind of ritual - stopping by a coffee shop or bar for a drink, stopping at the grocery store, walking through a specific park that takes a few more minutes - that helps create a mental divide where you don't have as much of a physical divide?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:11 AM on August 23, 2014

Pretty much all the studies I've seen said that the shorter your commute is, the better. You're going to be spending four nights a week going home and reading and maybe three a week partying in the city. I say stay. Especially if you are a newbie driver because that's gonna freak you out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:28 AM on August 23, 2014

There's no way I'd give up a walking commute for a car commute. Like others, I totally recommend that you just mentally budget some of what you're saving on rent and gas for a Weekend Big City Fund. I get it, it feels absurd to spend money on a hotel 40min from your house, but if that's what will allow you to have your fun but still maintain your good quality of life, oh, it's so worth it.
posted by ktkt at 2:39 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stay for now. Renew your lease. Make overnight forays into Big City every so often to see what it's like.

What I discovered is that Big City is good on paper, but it's a lot more expensive and everything is kind of a hassle. If you're not socializing every night it may not be worth it to move there. Hell, parking in big city is its own nightmare.

If you like your job and you can walk there and your rent is reasonable, why give that up for an idea that may not be right for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:40 PM on August 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I second Ruthless Bunny's advice to try before you buy. See if that commute is worth it.
posted by learnsome at 8:07 PM on August 23, 2014

The cost of a taxi or two between big city and small town in the weekends is going to end up no more expensive than the extra costs of gas, parking, higher rent and your therapy bills from dealing with all the hassle of that commute.

And honestly, if it's too difficult for you to get into big city in the weekends, it's too difficult to do a daily commute between the two. Stay where you are for now. You can always reevaluate next time your lease is up.
posted by lollusc at 8:08 PM on August 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, thank you for all this great advice! I marked a few as best answer, but found every answer helpful, especially seeing the many people who advised against a car commute. I'm pretty sure now that I'll stay where I am for another year and try hard to find friends here-- I can always move later if it doesn't work out.
posted by Henrietta Stackpole at 7:25 AM on August 31, 2014

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