Should I move to Humboldt County to work?
June 29, 2016 12:22 PM   Subscribe

I want to move to Humboldt to work in the healthcare field. Has anyone else worked or lived in Humboldt? How is it? Do you like it? Was it the right decision?

I'm attracted to the Redwoods and beautiful beaches but have found very negative postings about the area online in terms of it having marijuana, drugs, and being in the middle of nowhere.

I am an extroverted-introvert with a dog and think while I'll miss living in a big city (Los Angeles), I would really enjoy the serenity of nature. I could make new friends, spend more time reading books, drawing, watching TV, and hiking. How easy is it to meet people in Humboldt?

I am female, early 30s. Having a hard time deciding if I should move.
posted by LadyAerin to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Go for an extended visit!

(I was born there, and spent half my childhood in McKinleyville, which was idyllic, but haven't been back in ages except passing through, and can't really speak to grown-up conditions and concerns now-a-days, sorry, and really the only way to find out if the place is right for you is to go there and check it out.)
posted by notyou at 12:37 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Follow Lost Coast Outpost for a while and see whether the coverage helps you get a feel for the place.

There's a university in Humboldt, so plenty of activity typical to college towns, if that's a concern. The country up there is breathtakingly gorgeous. Read some news, visit for a while, see how it "feels" to you.
posted by sobell at 12:59 PM on June 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

I went to college at Humboldt State and thus lived in Arcata for four years. Disclaimer that my advice is potentially a bit dated, though I'm also trying to base this on friends who stayed in the area or have visited recently.

* Small town feel. This is something that has really never been replicated anywhere else I've ever lived, the whole, "go the the grocery store, run into no less than 5 close friends every time" experience
* Proximity to nature. If you enjoy hiking, spending time in the forest, the beach, camping, etc. you are in the ideal location
* Local culture . Based on friends who have visited recently this is something that seems to have stayed strong throughout the years. Lots of great local bars, restaurants, coffee shops that aren't affiliated with a national chain (I still long for this place with great frequency)
* In terms of just physical beauty, one of the prettiest places I've ever lived, with its forest surroundings

* Isolation. Keep in mind that something as simple as seeing a major league baseball game or a concert featuring an A-list performer is going to be an overnight trip away, which can get old depending on how important this kind of thing is to you
* This may not even register as a negative depending on your personality type, but the people I went to school with who really didn't dig it were people who really liked to dress up, took fashion seriously, etc., and didn't like the laid back t-shirt and jeans culture of the area
*Job Market. Sounds like you have a good job offer in place, which is great, however, keep in mind this is a small community that simply doesn't have a booming economy. My sister, another HSU graduate, tried to live in the area for a few years following graduation but ending up moving back to the Bay Area due to frustration with the low pay and lack of jobs in the region. Lots of people seem to work beneath their education level and earning potential up here.

I can't really speak to the ease of making friends as a non-college student, since I never experienced that, however, due to being in a college town there are a lot of cultural events that take place in the area, so certainly ample opportunity to meet people.

Another thing to keep in mind is that where you live will make a huge difference in your experience. Eureka, at least when I was up there, was very much a more conservative, logging town, Arcata was the hippy-dippy college community, McKinleyville more of the bedroom community.
posted by The Gooch at 1:04 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

have found very negative postings about the area online in terms of it having marijuana, drugs, and being in the middle of nowhere.

It's all true! And yet, depending on who you are that is either a positive or a negative. I had friends who used to live there and loved it. It's got the same sorts of issues and any place with good weather and a lot of hippies, you'll have a decent amount of sort of marginal people around who eke out an existence being societal fringe dwellers. Some people react very negatively to that, some are looking for that sort of thing. I'm not much of a pot smoker (though not against it) and did find that a lot of the people I hung out with smoked a decent amount. Not a thing for me but might be for you? I found people really relaxed and friendly and into general outdoorsy stuff in a nice mellow way. And yes, it was a schlep to get somewhere else if they didn't have what you wanted, so bear that in mind. I thought it was one of the most beautiful parts of the country I've ever been to.
posted by jessamyn at 1:45 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have several family members who are medical professionals working in Humboldt County. If you like, I can put you in touch with them; just me mail me.
posted by carmicha at 1:54 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went to Humboldt State also (though I graduated a while ago, back in 2006) and left for many of The Gooch's con reasons. It is such a beautiful amazing place, but if you are young and used to having all sorts of things at your disposal, it will be a hard place to adjust to. There is a wonderful small-town feel without tons of republicans, there are a ton of natural food stores and hippie things all over, the natural beauty is I think, the best in california. Besides yosemite of course.

A big con for me was being so isolated and in the middle of nowhere. Also there are A LOT of transients everywhere which means you are in a small town of about 20,000 with homeless people everywhere on the streets. Also there is a lot of meth, not necessarily in Arcata, but in all of the surrounding towns. It has the same problems of southern oregon, all these small towns used to be logging towns but that industry is dying so there is a lot of poverty and people who are abusing drugs. It is pretty depressing to be honest.

I think that if you are somewhat of an introvert, like being out in nature a lot, and don't mind a small town, it will be a fabulous place. if you love the action of a larger city you will probably feel stifled.
posted by ruhroh at 2:19 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I went to college there and lived there for two years afterward. If you think your job is stable and that you will have the savings to move for a different job, move there. If you think your job might not be stable, be aware that there are very few jobs in Humboldt County and you might be trapped until you can get the funds together to leave, which is what happened to me.

I lived in Arcata 2002-2008, and worked in Eureka 2006-2008. I haven't been back since I moved. My friend who has been back in the last three years says the college has expanded and there are more people year-round, but that the job market is horrible and both rent prices and crime are way up.

Humboldt County pros:
--Beautiful, easy access to gorgeous places like Redwood Forest, Patrick's Point, Crescent City, the Ashland OR Shakespeare Fest
--Comfortable climate if you're OK never being too hot, don't mind rain
--HSU gets a lot of great performances and cultural events regularly
--Good public library system, if small; better if you have access to the HSU library
--Long summer evenings-- sunset is like 9:45 some nights!
--Good restaurants and farmer's markets
--Public transit exists and is reasonably well-run
--Power outages can be kind of fun if you are prepared
--Kinetic Sculpture Race!
--Toni's #1 truck stop!!!!!
--Outdoor hottubs!!!!
--It's nice to be disconnected from a lot of big-city problems like too many people, noise, etc.
--WinCo Foods bulk bins!!!!!
--Samoa Cookhouse!!!
--Stars at night
--Great bike culture
--Lots of people who like to make their own fun, so you can easily find someone bored with small-town life who wants to help you learn to weave a basket or whatever

Humboldt County cons:
--There is one data cable serving the county and it regularly gets knocked out by weather, fire, cows knocking it over, etc. This makes the internet, cell phones, banking, credit cards, etc. just not work until it gets fixed, sometimes for a week or more.
--Extreme winter weather, sometimes knocking out both transportation (all planes grounded, all highways flooded or washed out, port too choppy for ships, all buses cancelled, no mail service) and power for a week or more. I have taken a final exam by flashlight and been sent home from work due to extended power outages, which sucks if you're hourly. If you work in a hospital, you probably have a generator, though.
--Poor availability of high-speed internet. You can get it if you're in the catchment of the major towns and go with the cable company, but you may be facing the real possibility of having to live with dial-up if you're outside of Eureka metro or the HSU area.
--Local airport (Arcata/Bluelake) sucks-- small (there are two gates!), originally built for training military pilots to land in fog, so often fogged out (they will usually pay for a bus ticket if you get stuck at SFO due to fog...the bus trip is 6 to 8 hours) connecting flights never go on sale so add $300-500 to every airfare you find from SFO.
--Public transit exists, but is very limited. If you work full time or nights, you probably need a car to live. There may be no transit service on weekends depending on where you live.
--Few large retailers, you probably won't get whatever album/book you want on the day it's out unless you have Amazon Prime.
--The flipside of late sunsets in the summer is early sunsets in the winter, sometimes as early as 4PM.
--No museums that I would visit a second time.
--It can be unsafe or uncomfortable if you're not white. McKinleyville is also know as "McKlanleyville." My PoC friends got significantly worse service than I did outside of Arcata.
--When I lived there, the Planned Parenthood sliding-scale gyno exam waiting list was longer than three years. Things may have changed since the ACA, but be aware that you may not have access to more than one doctor, more than one optometrist, etc just because of the remoteness of the area.
--There are major earthquake faults right there, and a tsunami wiped out most of Crescent City in the 60's, so you have to be prepared for something like that happening.
--There is limited or no GLBTetc community outside of the university community, and very little nightlife in general, if that's important to you.
--Small town dating is really hard due to lack of options.
--Like all rural small towns, there is a meth problem.
--Hard to make friends if you don't smoke pot.
--Remember not to go off the path in the forest. You might run into someone camping or an illegal pot farm. If you do, put your hands up and back away slowly back to the path, then turn around and never look back.

I would move back if I were retired and had a stable income and a stable housing situation. I would not move there now because I'd like to try dating and I don't want a car.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:55 PM on June 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

I should clarify that there is one data cable and either just one or just a couple of cell towers. A Verizon rep laughed at me once when I asked if I could get service.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:16 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I moved from San Pedro to Eureka in the early 1990's. After twenty years I moved Portland.

I loved Humboldt and miss the weather, the beaches, and the rivers. I don't miss the isolation. It can be cutoff in the winter time due to climate related road closures. I stopped flying in and out of Arcata due to the unreliability and cost. The air service really sucks.

You are in the medical field so you might be able to find a primary care Dr. But the medical care has really changed for the worse in the last five years. Many Dr.'s retiring or moving. St joes has taken over in Eureka and Fortuna so no Birth control for women or vasectomies for men. That really irks me. Almost no mental health care for anyone.

Lots of fun things to do all year long. Great place for dogs. Rents can be high and gas is ridiculously high. Very few good restaurants.

I would move back in a heartbeat if it wasn't so isolated and if I didn't require better healthcare.
posted by cairnoflore at 4:41 PM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I liked living there, many years ago. It's definitely the middle of nowhere.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:22 AM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Gosh, thanks for the all the answers and giving me a better idea. It sounds like I'll really love living there but also will hate it at the same time for being in the middle of nowhere and missing the good food in LA. I kinda of wanted to try out living in Humboldt while I was young and single. Then again I might end up old and single living there... Anyways... I passed up the possible opportunity for now. Will visit the place myself. Do not want to rush.

Thanks everyone for the responses. Liked the historical bit on the healthcare scene. The reality of the pot and the meth. The scoop on the different towns. Sucks on the data/telecommunications. (Those are important for my introvert activities!) Nice reality on the dating. Scared me a bit. Checked out my options on OKC and they turned out limited, which corresponds. *panic*

Ah...alas...beautiful place, great for dogs, safe for my profession, but middle of nowhere...can't have it all huh?
posted by LadyAerin at 11:48 PM on July 2, 2016

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