Get me out of the Mid-Atlantic
January 13, 2017 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm done with where I live. So very done for so very long. Fingers crossed I'll have the funds to make a real move sometime this spring/summer. I have a dear friend who is also planning on leaving the area.

We were contemplating moving together (though probably living separately) to a whole new place. We know where we probably don't want to move, which is a start, but we still need to narrow our choices.

Problem is, W's top choice is the Carolinas, and I'm looking at Seattle/the Pacific Northwest.

In the past, I've always moved because of work or schooling, so the choice was somewhat predetermined. Now, I'm at the point of asking for suggestions on both a place to move, and/or some pointers on how to make that decision.

My requirements: large-ish city (I've lived in NYC and Boston; probably don't want to go back to either). I have to have art and music and theater and poetry readings and cafes to write in. Access to green space. A good job market. Good mental health resources. Educated, progressive/liberal folks to talk to. A diverse and traveled population would be great.

Weather isn't really a factor for me. Nor is distance from the little family I have left who are all roughly where I am now.

The real must for me is to live in a progressive/Liberal area. I live in a red area of a somewhat blue state, and I'm done. I need to be around my people.

I also want a really big change, geographically.

Public transit would be nice, but I have a reliable car, so it isn't necessary.

I am willing to live outside a city in a satellite town/suburb if I have to.

I do not want: A small liberal enclave in an otherwise conservative state.

Friend's requirements: Good job market. Warmer weather than Mid-Atlantic, for health reasons (arthritis, back). Friendly people.Ability to get into green space. Reasonable housing expenses in the area. She likes music and lectures and getting out of the house. She is part Native American and would like to find a community of same. Good schools, because she plans to adopt.

More than a few pagan and poly folks would be nice. Public transit nice but not a deal breaker.

The politics of the area aren't too important to her but she knows it is to me and is okay with that being part of the decision.

We are able to talk and compromise pretty well, and would be visiting the finalists before making a decision.

We are both straight women and would like to get out there and date, but neither one of us is looking to get married, specifically.

Aside from any specific recommendations, what other factors than those I listed should we be looking at? If nothing else, a sort of organized approach to research and the decision making process would be great.
posted by Archipelago to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It might be helpful to get a sense of what kind of employment market you're both seeking, and what kind of cost-of-living ballpark you could afford--like, is someplace as horrendously expensive as San Francisco proper ineligible, or is it fair game?
posted by TwoStride at 4:37 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like your PNW idea, except I prefer my T-town Tacoma to Seattle itself. Olympia is nice, too. Seattle is getting expensive, though not SF-class expensive yet.

Another thought is maybe Albuquerque? Northern NM seems pretty blue, though the state as a whole seems like it could go either way lately.
posted by ctmf at 4:51 PM on January 13, 2017

Denver or environs.
posted by freezer cake at 4:55 PM on January 13, 2017

I think the PNW is pretty ideal for you two. Maybe not Seattle proper because of housing costs, though there are still reasonable areas depending on your budget. Not super-diverse, but a sizable and active Native community that seems welcoming to non-NW tribal folks (from my outsider's perspective) and is very politically active if your friend is into that.
posted by lunasol at 5:34 PM on January 13, 2017

Seconding that Tacoma may suit your needs and budget. Maybe also Philly still?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:43 PM on January 13, 2017

You want the PNW. I know people who have many of the same interests, and that's why they live in Oregon or Washington.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:28 PM on January 13, 2017

If you want the PacNW and you want a major U.S. city, you are considering Seattle and Portland. Both very expensive with an ongoing housing shortage. Seattle is more expensive than Portland. You might love it here, you might not, but either way I think it's important to know what you're getting yourself into financially and logistically.

I live in Portland. I put up a Craigslist ad offering a small room in my 950 square foot house in a relatively convenient but not devastatingly trendy area at what seemed to me to be the outrageously overinflated price of $750/month plus $150 in utilities (a bit less than half my mortgage, to be fair). I got 100 responses in 3 days. My data is obviously a bit out of date, but I haven't seen any evidence that the housing shortage has abated. YMMV.

Seattle seems to have a fair amount of tech jobs but I can't speak to the number of applicants per job. In Portland, tech jobs seem a bit harder to come by. I work major construction as a plumber and I never have trouble getting work in Portland. Anecdotally: Two my white collar friends have been laid off while I've been in Portland. They both had a really hard time finding work and took jobs below their desired pay level, outside of their area of interest, and below their skill level after a six-month-ish period of unemployment.
posted by cnidaria at 10:03 PM on January 13, 2017

The Pacific Northwest (not Seattle anymore, sigh) really does fit the bill for both of you, except your friend's weather requirements. We don't have the sweeping rain storms that hit the Carolinas, in fact the Seattle area has less rain than New York City, nor the Winter Blizzards of the Atlantic states. But it is DAMP west of the Cascades, and it is CHILLY in the winter (and a lot in the spring and a lot in the fall, too, actually). People wear warm clothes all the time, and there are hot springs and spas even in small towns, and power is cheap so you can keep your house really warm .... but it's not arthritis friendly. (Did I mention lots of alternative healing modes?)

If you can, visit in the winter. Summer days can be so long and so gorgeous it'll be hard to be reasonable about the pro/con thing.
posted by kestralwing at 10:04 PM on January 13, 2017

To clarify: If you or your friend is a construction worker I can recommend Portland more enthusiastically. There is a strong community of tradeswomen here, union wages are good, and work is abundant.

The Portland schools, however, are not the greatest. And we're facing a catastrophic earthquake for which we are completely unprepared that might happen tomorrow -- or in 50 years. Or 100. Who knows! And the city has been shut down for three days and counting because of snow... Today was the Portland Public Schools' 8th snow day of the year.

I'd sum up Portland as the sort of place where people have wild beautiful gardens in their front yard. Only they also, from time to time, let their pumpkins grow from their wild garden out onto the sidewalk, which prevents folks with walkers and wheelchairs from using the sidewalk. (Or, for a more timely example, people build a village of beautiful snow people in their yard but don't shovel the sidewalk and instead allow it to turn into an icy deathtrap. I've been wearing icetrekkers this week.)
posted by cnidaria at 10:21 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Re: employment - I have a background in journalism/writing and ESL tutoring. Friend has a recent MA in Conflict Resolution/mediation and a background in conservation education as well.

San Francisco is wildly out of our price range.

I'm fine with being in the area around a city, instead of the city itself, as long as it is reasonably easy to get there.

The weather in the PNW could be a deal breaker for my friend; I realize I said that I don't want to be in blue city surrounded by a red state, but maybe I should look into that to give us more choices. I don't want to railroad my friend into the PNW. It wouldn't hurt to look at other options. Suggestions?
posted by Archipelago at 7:25 AM on January 14, 2017

I currently live in the Mid-Atlantic and like you I'm done with it. My wife and I are thinking about the Raleigh area - low cost of living, warmer than the DC area, it is a blue enclave in a red state, but the Raleigh - Durham area is a pretty big enclave. 3 hours to the beach - 3 hours to the mountains is nice too.
posted by COD at 7:52 AM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Consider Nashville. Still a pretty red state, but very blue city with a thriving arts and restaurant culture, not too expensive, and a decent job market. More and more lefties moving there each year. Close enough for a weekend trip to the smokies, which are beautiful.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:19 AM on January 14, 2017

There's also New Orleans, although you probably want to take a hard look at the schools and employment markets in your industry first. But it's warm weather and coastline, very progressive city, lots of culture, big change from the mid-atlantic region.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:27 AM on January 14, 2017

I'd suggest the Santa Fe/Taos area, then. Very artsy, and NM has been looking purple these days.... You'll have winters there, but I imagine they'd be sunnier than in NC, maybe?
posted by TwoStride at 8:32 AM on January 14, 2017

Journalism, mediation, conservation ed -- FWIW, these are going to be high-competition jobs in Portland unless you're willing to make do on $10/hr (which would be tough in this housing market). I'd get a job before moving. Can't speak with as much knowledge on Seattle but I suspect it's similar. My friends who had trouble getting jobs were (1) a person with a master's degree in user interface design (ended up using their Ivy League admin experience to get a hospital admin job at $40k when they were looking for an $80k job) and programming (took 6 months and found a job in coding for advertising that they weren't interested in but needed to pay the bills).

Also, re-reading your question, it sounds like the cold and damp winter months in the PacNW could be problematic health-wise.

Sorry to be such a downer! I feel compelled to offer another option as a counterbalance. Have you done any research into the Southwest -- more liberal enclaves in Arizona, New Mexico, maybe Austin or San Antonio, Texas? I can't offer any personal experience with those places other than a few progressive friends who've lived there and enjoyed them.

Chattanooga, TN is supposed to be getting more liberal and artsy these days as well, but I had a real hard time living there (6 years ago) and left. YMMV.

What about Louisville, KY? I've heard good things about it.

I get the impression you're looking for larger cities than most of the ones I've mentioned that are also liberal and warmer than the mid-Atlantic -- the only big cities that come to mind that meet any of your criteria are Atlanta, Nashville, San Antonio, New Orleans...

When considering moving to a new place, I have investigated:
- The outlook in my job market (salary, job availability, diversity of options, etc.)
- The housing market (How much does it cost to buy a home? How much competition is there for homes of a given price? What quality of home do you get for that price? Are there are any natural disaster considerations -- earthquakes, flooding, tornadoes, water shortages -- that need to be taken into account in the home construction or the life of the community?)
- The rental market (For me, the question is, will I be able to find a temporary place to rent while I shop for a home? And will I be able to be reasonably choosy about finding good tenants/housemates for my home?)
- The dating pool, if you're single and interested in that sort of thing
- Community organizations, clubs/hobbies you're interested in, availability of ways to make new friends
- Traffic -- how bad is congestion? Can I easily get to the pretty nature that is 30 miles away or will it take me 2 hours?

Hope some of that helps!
posted by cnidaria at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2017

I have to say, you may be running into the "red area" in a blue state thing by living outside cities and/or in the suburbs. While this is cheaper generally, it is also a quick way to end up surrounded by people who don't share your values, and end up feeling isolated from "your people" and your interests in art, culture, diverse community, etc. This is true pretty much everywhere, including liberal bastions like Boston and New York. My advice to you in balancing your budget with your desire for a progressive community is to be looking at living within city limits of a less expensive city, as it is my experience that even cities with somewhat conservative reputations have poly/pagan/anarchist/younameit communities within the inner city, if they are large enough population-wise.
posted by likeatoaster at 12:15 PM on January 14, 2017

Asheville, NC may be worth a look.
posted by mark7570 at 5:25 PM on January 14, 2017

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