Help me find my dream place(s) to live in the world!
May 30, 2019 7:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm not moving, but I like to dream about doing so! Help me see if my dream location has any roots in reality by helping me find a place to move! Both inside or outside the US considered. No answer is too crazy! I will seriously consider all responses.

I don't plan on moving anytime soon, but I have a strong itch to do so once I'm in a better financial position. However, I suspect what I consider ideal doesn't even exist in the United States. I'm open to moving abroad (and possibly even learning a 4th language to help), but fears about how I might be treated as a black person and anxiety over gaining citizenship should I want to stay there permanently (as I wouldn't do this type of move before having a location independent/online business) push me away from the idea. So really, I have no idea where I should look.

Here are what I would like to find:

-Sidewalks. I would like to be able to walk to things like the market, restaurants, and the post office. Also, this is my only form of exercise.

-Trees and green spaces. The sound of trees rustling in the wind is one of the best things ever, and seeing green just walking around is calming. Something maybe like Brookline, MA, or Ann Arbour, MI?

-Not rural. I don't want to be in the middle of nowhere. Nice for vacations and getaways, but if I have to drive to get everywhere I might go mad.

-No giant cities or their immediately surrounding neighborhoods. I mean NYC, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, Washington D.C. type places. The population, when factoring in the greater metropolitan population, is far too big and overwhelming. Too much noise and stress. Too expensive. I pay $1400 for a studio where I am now! Ugh! Also I have mostly only lived in big cities, so I don't know what a more manageable population would be. Maybe less than 500,000?

-Not too hot or short summers. Ideally this place doesn't get above 75F, but I'll deal if the summers are very short. I like the cold, though. Cold I can do. At the very least the place should be cold or cool longer than it is hot, but this point is flexible.

-Population tends to be liberal. As in, people who believe in climate change, equality, etc.

-Public transportation. Buses are enough

-Bonus round: Some place I could buy or build a tiny house in the most remote part of one of the place's neighborhood and still enjoy most of the above. (I did say this was a dream...)

And here's some facts about me:
-no kids, not now, not ever
-no family, either
-would not be moving until I had my own online business, so jobs are of no concern

As I said, I'm aware this probably doesn't exist, but it's nice to dream. However my dislike for being stared at, worry over citizenship requirements (I don't have programming skills or a degree in anything "useful"), and all sorts of other random mental blocks will likely keep me rooted to where I am for quite some time.
posted by adelaide to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I nominate Brattleboro, VT, Williamstown, MA, Great Barrington, MA, Northampton MA. Unless you consider those kinds of places too rural, they check all your boxes, including "less than 500,000" except that all of them are really "less than 50,000." But they are all very vibrant, very walkable/bikable, very liberal, very cultural communities. They have occasional heat waves but certainly average 70-75 in July and August. If you want it cooler and a bit more population, check out Burlington VT.
posted by beagle at 8:03 AM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

You mentioned Ann Arbor (which is spelled Arbor, by the way.)
It ticks ALL your boxes, with these two exceptions:
75 degree summers. While Michigan is certainly not tropical, 75-degree summers exist only in San Francisco, the Pacific Northwest, and some parts of upper Canada. Not here.
Cost of living in AA is about what you might expect in a university town, which is high-ish.

I laughed heartily at this line:
"I like the cold, though. Cold I can do. At the very least the place should be cold or cool longer than it is hot..."
Oh, honey, Michigan is for you.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:03 AM on May 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

Consider the East Coast of Canada -- Halifax, Fredricton, St. John's, Saint John, etc. The average summer weather is much cooler on the coast than in similar cities in central Canada.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:09 AM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Berkeley, CA hits a lot of your criteria. It doesn‘t have a giant city feel to me, nor is it suburban (oakland is a bit more city-like, many of the other bay area cities feel suburban). You can walk everywhere in Berkeley (if you can afford the right area). If you like walking in neighborhoods, it’s pretty much perfect. Abundant flowers year round, slight hills, great views. It’s like paradise. There are, sadly, the usual racists of the liberal persuasion but Trump voters are extremely rare and kept in check.

Ann Arbor is somewhat greener as far as big trees go, and more chill than the East Bay, but the summers are absolutely horrible.
posted by The Toad at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

posted by Segundus at 8:18 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

This sounds like Wellington, New Zealand.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:23 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

You shall live in Portland, Maine.
posted by heavenknows at 8:23 AM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Other than the summer issue, Madison, WI isn't a bad contender either, though I cannot speak directly to the black experience and that is something you'd want to read up on here. We're getting into 75ish days now, will have a couple months in the eighties, and then it's (probably) right back into the cold times. $1400/mo would literally get you a house here, for example my neighbor's which is a pleasant 30 minute walk along a lake to the middle of downtown. Actually purchasing a house is expensive currently, but if you're willing to bus in from the far ends of town it's not at all impossible.
posted by teremala at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

My home in upstate NY ticks just about all of those boxes; 2 miles to a small city; on a busline; lots of stuff within a half-mile walk. I'm currently working with the town on plans for an 800sf small house on the second lot of my property. It is very white however; the region is diverse but the town is not, and I don't know how that affects my black neighbors' experiences.
posted by metasarah at 8:43 AM on May 30, 2019

I may have missed something, but this sounds like a job for Bruges, Belgium.
posted by kellyblah at 9:11 AM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

kellyblah: "I may have missed something, but this sounds like a job for Bruges, Belgium."

Or possibly other smaller cities in the Low Countries -- I think of Nijmegen, Leiden, Ghent, etc. In general that part of the world is the sweet spot for "not rural" but simultaneously "no giant cities." Also green, cool, and walkable.
posted by crazy with stars at 9:17 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Burlington, VT for all the same reasons as beagle said.
posted by danceswithlight at 9:21 AM on May 30, 2019

I came here to say Halifax, Nova Scotia. It's near the ocean, very liberal/hipster/artsy, summers are not too hot and the people are extremely nice. There is also a historically black neighborhood called Africville ( which felt the effects of racism in the early 20th century when the community was displaced but there seems to be a lot of awareness about it now).
It's a small , manageable city that still has enough going on culturally to make it interesting ( there are at least 2 universities and a fancy art school there).
posted by winterportage at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Buffalo might be a little bigger than you'd like, but it's not giant by any means, and feels smaller than it is.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:41 AM on May 30, 2019

Charlottesville, VA. It comes close to failing the heat requirement and the rural requirement, but it’s a pretty busy/sophisticated town even though it’s surrounded by (gorgeous) rural areas.
posted by sallybrown at 9:56 AM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing Halifax, NS. Canada isn't as good as it's reputation in terms of everyone living in glorious harmony - the white people in charge have pulled some real shady sh!t - but the people of colour I know who have offered an opinion tell me that it compares favourably to the US on this count. We just put a black woman from Halifax on our $10 bill, if that counts for anything?
Canada is also not the easiest to immigrate to, but if you're looking to move to the Atlantic provinces you could have an easier time. There are special fast-track programs for people who want to move here as it's way less popular than the big cities and I know you said you were looking to move once you have a business in place but presumably there is some Canadian equivalent of the TN visa, which is relatively uncomplicated, and all you need is a job offer for one of the 60 jobs that is covered by NAFTA... I worked in the US for a few years as a "technical publications writer".
To compare, Ireland is a beautiful & temperate country but when I have travelled there with my brown husband he is ... noticeable. And noticed. Not necessarily in a negative, overtly racist way but it's SO MANY white people.
posted by dotparker at 10:31 AM on May 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Stamford, Connecticut.
posted by slateyness at 10:55 AM on May 30, 2019

I recently visited Providence and I think it fits these criteria pretty well.
posted by pinochiette at 12:26 PM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ithaca, NY. Small but very diverse in every kind of way. Walkable and somewhat affordable. Lots of culture. Cold in winter, nice in summer.
posted by mareli at 12:31 PM on May 30, 2019

Although it's lovely, if $1400/month for a studio is too rich for your blood I don't think Berkeley is for you, alas.

Possibly a smaller city in the PNW, like Eugene, OR or Bend, OR? They sound to me like they meet your criteria. I have never been to either so other posters feel free to point out if Eugene is actually covered in bees or something.
posted by phoenixy at 1:45 PM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

(Yeah, sorry, we paid $1600 for a (lovely) one bedroom in Berkeley, and that was 10 years, take that off your list unless you win the lottery).
posted by The Toad at 2:21 PM on May 30, 2019

Housing is expensive and hard to find, and it might be a little warm in late summer for you, but Martha's Vineyard checks many of your boxes and can be a wonderful place to live.
posted by vrakatar at 3:10 PM on May 30, 2019

Minneapolis! Many neighborhoods are eminently walkable, lots of green space, long winters, liberal urban population but not too big of a city, and good public transit.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:47 PM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just to add on the being stared at point - at least in Belgium there is a sizeable African population so you would not be unusual as a black lady.
posted by EatMyHat at 12:31 AM on May 31, 2019

Just a side note that Rachel Cargle recently spoke in Bend and got a lot of backlash (OR can be pretty racist)...deserves some further research.

You might try parts of N IL - on the Metra line but not really part of Chicago. Sycamore, St Charles, Batavia are all really cute.

Will nth upstate NY and VT/Mass.

Hobart, Tasmania. Or Launceston.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:33 AM on May 31, 2019

Check out Medellin, Colombia.
posted by gteffertz at 1:58 PM on May 31, 2019

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