Where should I start over (in life)?
August 1, 2006 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Where should I start over (in life)?

I am just coming out of a long term relationship. I don't have very many friends (and the ones I do are scattered around the country). I've spent the past y years moving around quite a bit, so I don't have a support system in any one particular area. So I am pretty much figuring out how to start over from scratch, with almost no support system and no real direction. My family have all moved away from the city and state in which I grew up (Miami, FL), so "moving back home" isn't an option, either. I don't have many friends, but the few I do have are all married, settled into their lives and scattered around the country. I didn't put down any roots in the area where I lived for the past 3 years (the whole boyfriend-is-my-life thing, I'm ashamed to admit), so staying in that area isn't an option (not to mention the fact that it is dull, near-rural with cow pastures as far as the eye can see).

If you were in your early 30's and feeling sort of unanchored, where would you go to start over? I am looking for a place that does have interesting culture and nightlife, something more affordable than LA or NY and a place where it would be easy to meet new people as an early 30's transplant. I prefer city to suburba, but I guess I wouldn't really mind if I lived in an interesting suburban area with lots going on. My dream area is somewhere with good public transportation (I realize that almost every area in the country has public transportation, but it isn't really used as a preferred mode of transport in most places) and/or plenty of things in walking distance so I could walk to coffee shops, bars, etc. My dream city is actually London, however, since I am a US citizen, that isn't even an option (not to mention cost of living).

Some options are NOVA/DC area or Phoenix. The Northern Virginia area is where my mother now lives. However, I have never heard great things about the area. People are constantly saying that it is a transient area, hard to meet people, etc. I don't know if this is reality or not (for the record, it is where I am staying at the moment while I figure out my next move). My sister lives in Phoenix and likes it. I don't know if it is the place for me or not, I really don't know much about it.

I like interesting cities like Portland, OR and Asheville, NC, but I'm not sure either cities are ideal to live in. I must admit, one of the main reasons I am hesitant about Portland is due to all the discouraging responses I've read here on AskMe about moving to portland. Asheville, while I love it, seems like a better place to visit than live.

Some specifics: early 30's, single, female. I don't really have much of an established career. I used to have a career in market research, but I haven't done much with it in the past 5 years. I presently have a fledgling business, but working for yourself is a bit isolating so I am afraid I will have to give that up for a 9-5 in order to fit into a new area. If that is the case, I will need to move to an area where I will be able to find a job (another fear about portland). For fun, I like yoga, shopping, museums, bookstores, nightlife . . . that sort of thing. I like some outdoorsy/adventure/nature type activities, but not on a daily basis.

I am not a "joiner" or an outgoing person, but I realize that new friends aren't going to fall from the sky. Thus, my new location would have to have lots of opportunities for me to meet other people in their 30s, as opposed to plenty of opportunities for new college grads, people in their early-mid 20s to meet other people. Additionally, in this area, early 30's and single needs to be the norm. So, Salt Lake City is out (not that it was ever an option to begin with, I am not LDS). For the past 3 years, I lived in lancaster where people get married and start having famlies either right out of high school or right out of college. Nothing wrong with it, but it will makes it hard to meet other like-minded friends/dates. Finally, I neither belong to nor plan to join a religious organization, so I won't be meeting people through church/temple/mosque.

Ok, so now you have all the specifics, where should I start over from scratch. Also, I am feeling a bit like an alien, in my thirties with few friends, no support system and totally not "established," so if you have experienced this as well, anecdotes are welcome.
posted by necessitas to Human Relations (47 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Find Your Spot? Not your only resource by any means, but perhaps some place to get started.

If you're worried about cost-of-living, stay far, far away from Northern Virginia and DC.
posted by Anonymous at 7:47 AM on August 1, 2006

I say call up a headhunter or job recruiter and move where the best job offer comes from.
posted by Sara Anne at 7:47 AM on August 1, 2006

I think the only answer is where you can get a job that you like, and that pays well and will move your career ahead.

Really, *any* city has people that you want to get to know in it. I'm living in College Station, TX right now -- 2 hours from anywhere really interesting, yet there are nice people, things to get involved with (playing darts at a bar is my only current one, but I'm planning on starting a kickball league once it's no longer triple digits outside.) and fun to be had.

I moved from Portland, OR ... and the city has it's fans and not-fans. I'm a not-fan ... I moved here six months ago, and everything about my life has improved since I left. I drink a lot less, my allergies aren't as bad, I'm not in pain all the time from an old injury that hurts when it rains, I'm not suffering from sun-deprivation-depression, etc. etc. etc. I do miss my friends from there, but that's what AIM and cheap plane tickets are for... for those that have chosen to stay in touch that is, which is one of the ways you can tell who your friends really are.

Find a job you're comfortable with in a place that's comfortable and start to build a life. *WHERE* isn't as much of an issue as your comfort is ... and that you actually get out and *do* it.
posted by SpecialK at 7:49 AM on August 1, 2006

Seattle is filled with people in their 30s, many of whom moved there from somewhere else. The weather is nice (as long as dreary winter skies don't bother you), the music scene is still vibrant, and if you like the outdoors it is hard to beat.
posted by caddis at 7:53 AM on August 1, 2006

SpecialK makes a great point--wherever you go, you will find A) people who are happy living there and find cool things to do, and B) people who sit around and whine about the place. Hang with group A and life is good.

Some cities that looked like fun to me include Portsmouth, NH and Portland, ME, Boston, Spokane, WA (an outdoor paradise!), Bellingham, WA (a little Portland), and Santa Fe, NM. But there are so many places to be happy.
posted by LarryC at 7:58 AM on August 1, 2006

In my experience, DC's probably not going to be a good fit. It seemed filled with fresh-faced 20-somethings just out of college, looking to work there for two years and then move on to fancy jobs elsewhere. It was a joke that you always had to recruit a new batch of friends every congressional election.

But I really didn't like living there for a variety of reasons, so my sense of each individual fault may be a bit exaggerated.

I would say, in a gross overgeneralization, that I've felt that the 30-somethings on the West Coast tend to act more like the 20-somethings on the East Coast, in that single still-finding-themselves people in their 30s are more the norm in the West. My main experience is in Boston, which is reasonably conservative in many ways so maybe that's not as true of other Eastern cities, but one of the first things I noticed on moving to San Francisco was just how young all the 30- and 40-year-old looked and acted.
posted by occhiblu at 7:59 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh, and while in Portland I met a lot of great people through meetin.org ... a good choice for city to move to might be a city that has an active branch. It was aimed much more at thirties and fourties than it was at twentysomethings, and I'm a twentysomething ... but I met a couple of *great* friends through there.
posted by SpecialK at 8:00 AM on August 1, 2006

The Northern Virginia area is where my mother now lives. However, I have never heard great things about the area. People are constantly saying that it is a transient area, hard to meet people, etc.

See, I always felt it was the opposite -- most of the people living here, aren't from here, so they all need to meet people too. Yes, obviously you have the whole politics thing, and you'll almost never be able to avoid it/people in it (and it's those people I look at as taking a job here for a few years and then leaving). But over all, I think people here are relatively outgoing and open to new people.

Of course, I'm comparing it to Philly, which is (in my opinion) a very very insular city. So maybe my perspective's off.
posted by inigo2 at 8:06 AM on August 1, 2006

Come to Chicago--it meets your list perfectly. Need things to do, try Highlife Adventures or any number of volunteer opportunities. Also seems to be an active MeFi gathering every few months. Chicago is built around neighborhoods, each with its own distinct vibe and set of things to do. I moved here 7 years ago from Indianapolis, was pretty much a hermit and now, I have friends and go out frequently. I love it here.
posted by gsh at 8:06 AM on August 1, 2006

Ranked one of the best places to live in America is Charlottesville, VA

I highly recommend it.
posted by 4ster at 8:12 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm 30ish, single and live in DC -- a few points -- it is very expensive both in the city and out in the suburbs. There aren't that many job opportunities if you don't want to be doing something government or tech/telecom related, and it is pretty hard to meet people if you don't have an outgoing personality (I don't either...but I joined a book club, met some friends through work, already knew a few people and met their friends, so I have a good group of friends -- but its taken me about a year and half to get there). That said, you can have a lot of fun here - its very diverse, there's a lot of culture, and the public transportation (in DC and Arlington anyway) can get you anywhere.

Might I suggest Chicago? That's where I want to end up in the long term...lots of fun, lots of singles in their 30s, very affordable. If you can handle the extreme weather, that's my vote!
posted by echo0720 at 8:12 AM on August 1, 2006

If you can handle the cold, Chicago seems to fit most of your requirements. The summers here are great, and the winters really do suck.

However, dating wouldn't be hard at all. There are a lot of people in your age range that are not married and lead the same sort of lifestyle. If you can do your work from a pc, there is a large assortment of coffee shops with internet access to hang out in.

Lots of museums, galleries, restaurants, nightlife, etc to keep you occupied as well.
posted by ninjew at 8:19 AM on August 1, 2006

Seattle! Seattle!
posted by myeviltwin at 8:21 AM on August 1, 2006

Have you considered going native and moving to someplace like Ely, MN. It's a vibrant place with more activities than you can shake a stick at, a strong tourist trade with a living downtown business area to re-establish your S.B., fishing, hunting, canoeing, etc.

Screw these urban wastelands - find yourself again.
posted by unixrat at 8:25 AM on August 1, 2006

I agree with what the others are saying about choosing a city, but since you mentioned Phoenix specifically, I'll throw in my two-cents:

Phoenix has no viable public transportation and nothing is in walking distance. That being said, I like Phoenix and I'm moving back this week after being gone for three years. But I was born there and all my family and friends are still there, so I'm pretty biased. It seems like the job market is pretty good, at least from my perspective, but I don't know how sustainable it is. I fear hard economic times in Phoenix if the real estate market stops growing or, even worse, declines--it has been one of the "bubble" cities over the last few years. It's a big city, so there will be nightlife and culture, but there may or may not be something the matches your taste. But Phoenix does have a lot of transplants, so that may help in your case.
posted by mullacc at 8:25 AM on August 1, 2006

I love me some Santa Fe but would have to warn anyone that a) it's not a cheap place and b) a lot of the population is seasonal, particularly the more interesting people. You also have to have a high tolerance for other people's wackiness. There is a brand of crazy that only sunny places like Santa Fe attract, though having grown up in Miami, you might be used to that. That said the restaurants are great and you might find yourself in a coffee shop sitting next to Lex Luthor (the old one, not the new one). There's little public transport but apart from the ever-expanding south side off Cerrillos Road, everything is walkable, and bicycles are well-tolerated.

What about Tallahassee, Florida? Has the cultural benefits that come with being a college town, but skews slightly older being the seat of state government.
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:39 AM on August 1, 2006

Seattle seconded! Walking, night life, yoga and bookstores ;)
posted by Sijeka at 8:49 AM on August 1, 2006

another vote for Chicago, if you can handle the weather extremes (long, cold winter; long, hot summer). It's unbelievably friendly for such a big city, and fits all your other requirements to a T. I've been in L.A. about 6 years now and I definitely feel settled in here, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss Chicago almost every day.

And i'm seconding the warning against Sante Fe. It's a great place to visit (my parents have lived there about 15 years) but I would never, ever, EVER want to live there. (I spent the summer after grad school before I moved to Chicago there, actually, and it drove me nuts.) It's a lovely town, but expensive and eventually kind of boring. (And, aside from boutiques and art galleries, the shopping is second-rate.)
posted by scody at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2006

i second seattle.. or recommend Austin, Texas. Austin is a very culturally rich area, full of bookstores, museums, interesting shops, lots of hiking, canoing and other outdoor sports (and the area is beautiful!) lots of yoga and self enriching programs, has a thriving nightlife scene, is the live music capitol, theres always some sort of outdoor festival going on along with the large number of venues. yes it is a college town but i found that although there is alot of a younger 20ish crowd there was more of an established community of a 30ish crowd. there is also a good bus system that is incredibly cheap. Compared to other cities in the US its much more affordable, the one down though is that yes it gets very hot in the summer, but none of those PA snow storms either.

There are also alot of different programs for meeting people in Austin, including the Meetin previously mentioned.

good luck in your venture, but again, wherever you go just put yourself out there and you will find friends.
posted by trishthedish at 9:21 AM on August 1, 2006

Boston and Cambridge, Mass. have mucho opportunities for "yoga, shopping, museums, bookstores, nightlife ... that sort of thing." Vibrant cities with excellent public transportation. Beaches and mountains close by, too.

Portland, ME, and Portsmouth NH, are OK but not as happening as Boston. They're small cities, with some nightlife, a museum or two each, sites of historical significance, and lots of restaurants. Also near beaches, islands, ocean.

If you decide on NoVA, try to live in Alexandria or some place with a little charm, and close to DC, or you will spend your life driving or on transit. My sister lives in Falls Church and works in DC (on the VA. side), and she spends hours on buses and Metro every day. And driving on Route 66 sucks.

Richmond, VA has a plethora of museums for a city its size, and some nightlife.

San Francisco offers a lot of everything, but of course it's very expensive. And crowded. And most people seem to drive rather than take public transit there.

With many cities and towns, the em>neighbourhood you choose to live in is key. Particularly in DC, Baltimore, Boston, NYC, San Francisco.

Have fun!
posted by mmw at 9:25 AM on August 1, 2006

What about Tallahassee, Florida? Has the cultural benefits that come with being a college town, but skews slightly older being the seat of state government.

Tallahassee is a great place to be a married couple with kids looking for reasonable cultural activites and low cost of living, but this kid was so glad to get out of there. I have friends that still live there, and their existance seems to be mostly hanging out at houses and bars, smoking weed and drinking heavily. Granted that is the existance of most 20-somethings everywhere, but at least most places don't have GIANT ROACHES.

I've never lived in Chicago but if I were in your shoes that would be exactly where I would go. It is such a cool yet reasonable town. And you can totally get used to the winters. Well, I found it much easier to get used to extremely cold (Wisconsin) winters than extremely rainy (Seattle) winters, anyway.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:32 AM on August 1, 2006

Tallahassee is a great place to be a married couple with kids looking for reasonable cultural activites and low cost of living, but this kid was so glad to get out of there.

Dunno, I think Tally is great if you like live indie music (which I do) and offbeat strange activities (can't remember the name of the catalog, but the book of community classes and events that came out every year was great). Then again, I am a "joiner" type.
posted by methylsalicylate at 9:47 AM on August 1, 2006

It can be disorienting moving to a new place if you don't know anybody. I've definitely gone through jobless/friendless/hating-where-I-am periods in my life; the good news is, things usually turn around. The biggest factor in my life, in terms of whether I've been happy or not, has always been me. Sounds like you're open to new possibilities, though, a fresh start. Maybe Phoenix, since your sister lives there? Maybe you could stay with her while you get settled, find a place, a job? I don't know if money's an issue, but having a place to stay while you find a job, as well as the emotional support, could be a great help. Of course, it totally depends how comfortable you'd feel staying with your sister and whether Phoenix is where you'd like to be. Maybe you could visit for a while first? Are there any other cities where you have that friend/family connection? In any case, seems like it could be an exciting new time; I'm a long-time hermit myself who's finally, at the age of forty, reaching out more and having a lot of fun in the process. All the best to you. And, if I may, don't rule out NYC. With roommate(s), it's not as expensive as you might think, and it's, of course, an amazing place with endless career, friendship, and cultural opportunities.
posted by pips at 10:17 AM on August 1, 2006

Laugh if you must, but Birmingham, AL ain't so bad. We're undergoing a major revitalization of our once-decrepit downtown, and lofts and restaurants are springing up all over. Cost-of-living is lower than the national average, as are homre prices and property tax. With no kids, you won't need to worry about our underfunded and crumbling public schools. We've got great food (no really, we've got truly great food) a local music scene that goes from jazz to punk to hip-hop to country, and all sorts of entertainment options. Grotty little rock club? Check. Hiking, camping, fishing, and mountain-biking? Check. Golf, oh, hella check.

Don't be fooled by assesments of Birmingham that are twenty or thirty years out of date. We have a film festival. A thriving gay and lesbian community. Great hospitals. We've even got an atheist pothead running for governor! Hooray!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:31 AM on August 1, 2006

There's a lot to recommend Atlanta to a person in your situation, not least that you'll probably be visiting its airport on the way to some of the other destinations suggested here, if you choose them instead. Cost of living is low, lots of educational institutions, state capital, lots of differentiated neighborhoods and surrounding suburban communities, good hospitals, reasonably cosmopolitan. Downsides are traffic, August heat, lots of pollen, poor air quality due to traffic, crime rate is not the lowest.
posted by paulsc at 11:17 AM on August 1, 2006

I know this is probably stressful and scary, but I think there is something wonderful about being able to move wherever you want, no strings attached! Best of luck.

That said, I hear great things about life in Austin, Savannah, and Chicago (if you can stand the cold, and the big city). They're all affordable. Philly is also pretty affordable, and I found people there quite friendly, for all the insularity (definitely true). I'm a Bostonian, but I can't really recommend it - super expensive, and in my experience, people tend to have their established group of friends. But people new to the city could correct me on that. As for DC, I absolutely loved it (3 yrs there). I found people very friendly, and compared to Boston (at least), I found it affordable. It isn't, mostly for housing cost reasons, but it's better than some other otherwise great options.

San Francisco - I'd do a trial run with SF. It's easy to think you would absolutely love it (I thought that), but if you try it for a couple weeks - visit someone? - you might find you don't like it after all. Or you might love it. It's just that it is quite unique, and that can be a good fit or a bad fit.

I think that Find Your Spot site may be rigged. Bizarre, anyway. At least, several of my friends did it, and the results were absurd.
posted by Amizu at 11:39 AM on August 1, 2006

Come to London! You'll love it - it is as good as the hype.

Moreover this, right now, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you don't do it now, let's be honest, you never will. Employment is at record highs so you'll find work, public transport is the norm - even if intermittently poor, everybody takes it.

What's the worst that happens, you have a few great years and go home having not made a pension contribution for a few years - you'll find work that will keep your head above water here.
posted by dmt at 11:56 AM on August 1, 2006

I certainly LOVED San Francisco throughout my 30s. It is a great point of consternation that I might have to leave. If you're willing to just buck up that you'll not be buying house (unless you've got a $250K a year job, then you're good to go) and you'll be here to enjoy the city for what it has to offer, I would completely recommend San Francisco.

That said, I'm 41 now, and San Francisco and I are having relationship problems. She's awfully high maintenance, and I'm kind of low drama high pragmatic. I want to stay, but it's simply the case that I'm not gonna work as hard as I have to work to stay here.

That said, Chicago will probalby be the destination for my wife and I next year sometime. It's still a city, but significantly more affordable than San Francisco. Mass transit is in place in Chicago. Chicago is beautiful and a great city (despite its pathetic dearth of microbreweries - time to start my own!) and if I had a second recommendation for you, that would be it.

Although, in my heart of hearts, I would have loved to have spent a year in New York. :) Oh well, hey, I got San Francisco for seven, so it's a little difficult to complain.
posted by smallerdemon at 12:11 PM on August 1, 2006

I recommend Austin, TX (if you can take the heat and lack of public transport) and DC (if you can take the politics and cost of living). I currently live in Baltimore and am planning on moving to DC after I graduate in May and was born and raised in Texas. Both cities have a great live music/culture/art scene with a relatively laid back and friendly vibe. In DC, I especially like that most people aren't from the area; it allows for a certain freshness that you don't find in a lot of places.
posted by youcancallmeal at 12:16 PM on August 1, 2006

Baltimore! It's really hot and humid right now, but otherwise seems to fit the bill. Plus you have access to NoVA and DC, just without the crazy expense.
posted by electroboy at 12:16 PM on August 1, 2006

Stay far, FAR away from Minnesota. It can be very hard to make friends there, and there are some *unique* issues with living there. Feel free to email me if you would like a detailed list of reasons why moving there is a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad decision.

As a constructive suggestion, what about Denver? The weather is amazing, the people are (unlike other parts of CO) very liberal, the cost of living is reasonable, there is fantastic outdoor recreation not too far away and it seems like most everyone is a transplant. Plus, being in the middle of the country and having a decent airport makes it fairly convenient for when you need to leave.
posted by Sheppagus at 12:33 PM on August 1, 2006

I know I'm something of a Johnny one-note on this topic, but Oakland is still the best place I've ever lived: it has all the benefits of San Francisco easily accessible, without the drawbacks (sky-high rent, miserable weather, tourists everywhere, widespread insufferability) AND it's a vibrant city in its own right.

I think that Find Your Spot site may be rigged.

Did anyone else find Little Rock at the top of a list of well-known "major metropolitan areas"? Is there a cool cultural scene in Little Rock I know nothing about?
posted by kittyprecious at 12:34 PM on August 1, 2006

There was a Willamette Week article similar to the Seattle Freeze one but about Portland. Growing up in Portland and having struggled with social anxiety, I find it hard to believe that the rest of the world makes friends so easily. Go fig.

The theory is that we have so many great, beautiful outdoorsy stimuli that we're preoccupied enough already. Portland needs more alternative mode commuters, though, so come on over. For what it's worth, the bicycle scene here is really friendly and accessible.

Methinks the secret is to find your subculture, glom on to it relentlessly, and proactively create friendships. That is to say, stalk your way to friendship! If Portland works for you in every other way, then go for it and plan on working a little harder to build your social network. The economy is still dicey. It really depends on the type of job you're looking for. Finding a job before committing to a move would be a good idea.
posted by Skwirl at 12:41 PM on August 1, 2006

Hi there,

Firstly - I can totally relate to your situation (girlfriend was my life thing, too). We split up, thankfully amicably but I had the same dilemma - suddenly I was floating free. My one regret - I didn't realise that the world was my oyster. Why limit yourself to the USA? You say London, England is your ideal - well I live just outside London and it's true what you 'Merkins say - England is really small. You could investigate an artsy University town with serious history - Cambridge or Oxford where some of the University colleges are 800 years old, or Stratford-Upon-Avon - the birthplace of Shakespeare and still be no more than 90 minutes by train from the centre of London. All have good, professional communities, plenty of art spaces and great public transportation (well, maybe not so much Stratford on that last point).

Seriously hope you make the very most of you opportunity - good luck in whatever you do!

PS - for further inspiration
posted by mooders at 12:46 PM on August 1, 2006

I found the article laughable. She was whining about making a friend after just one month! I'd be golden if I could have done that when I lived in Chicago! (to be fair, I was stuck on the South Side - friends further north love it, and visiting them years later, I can see why).

Moving somewhere -- anywhere -- is not only stressful, but it forces you to rebuild your social networks from nearly scratch. In my opinion, anywhere you go, it will take you about two years to get something even remotely like what you had (when you were actually trying ). The first year is all about settling in, and figuring out how the city you live works, and how to get around, where to eat, where to shop. The second year is all about reaching out and making more lasting connections.

I'm partial to Boston myself, but honestly, I'd say that any reasonably sized cosmopolitan city with public transit would work for you, as long as you found a job you liked and made it a point to get yourself involved in activities you enjoy (that bring you into contact with people) as soon as you got comfortable.
posted by canine epigram at 12:54 PM on August 1, 2006

Chicago's a good fit for you if you are white and not internationally-oriented, whereas Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and DC are all quite diverse, friendly and comfortable places to live. My major complaint about Chicago (I grew up there) is that it's just filled with the same old Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota transplants who drink for fun.

But you should be able to get a job in market research pretty quickly out there because there are tons of companies located there.

I thought that movie The Breakup pretty accurately depicted Chicago, so if you're anything like those characters you might fit in pretty well. I grew up there so I was lucky to have friends already in the area, but trying to meet people there who were interesting was pretty close to impossible. It's got a real small-town mentality.
posted by onepapertiger at 1:21 PM on August 1, 2006

onepapertiger has a point about Chicago being white. It's extrememly noticeable after living in San Francisco. I mean SF is white, but there's a LOT of people from elsewhere. I can't say I've gone a day in public without hearing more than two languages.

re Chicago being a repository for beer swilling fratboys, well... possibly, but there are interesting people there, I know some of them. :) They're just hidden from what I can tell (although yeah, definitely higher proportion of the white-frat types, which I'll be stealthily avoiding if I move there).
posted by smallerdemon at 1:35 PM on August 1, 2006

Oakland is still the best place I've ever lived: it has all the benefits of San Francisco easily accessible, without the drawbacks (sky-high rent, miserable weather, tourists everywhere, widespread insufferability)

:) Having come from Alabama, I love the weather in San Francisco.
posted by smallerdemon at 1:40 PM on August 1, 2006

Chicago, Lincoln Park area.
I moved their in my late twenties. Lived right across the street from the zoo. Love it. Best time of my life. Lots of people in the area, lots of things to do in walking area. University near by. Public transportation to anywhere you want.

Ah... those were the days.
posted by bleucube at 1:44 PM on August 1, 2006

Chicago! Chicago!

But not Lincoln Park because you can't afford it and it actually does conform to onepapertiger's stereotype for homogeneity. I just read an article that Rogers Park, a far northside neighborhood, is the most diverse in the city and it's very cheap to live there. You're a 45 minute train ride from the loop, but that's not so bad once you get used to it.

If you move here, I'll meet you out for coffee. There - you already have one friend!
posted by jennyb at 3:46 PM on August 1, 2006

Oh, I haven't noticed such a high percentage of beer swilling frat boys, at least not more than anywhere else I've lived (DE, CA, CO, GA, NC and now IL). They are around, but they are easy to avoid if you know what bars not to go to. I would say that more people in Chicago seem down to earth than in other cities that I'm familiar with - maybe that's snobby code for "overweight and underdressed" but whatever. Works for me.
posted by jennyb at 3:49 PM on August 1, 2006

I was talking about Lincoln Park/Lakeview, etc. But those are the prettiest and most fun places in the city, in my opinion. I don't know how jennyb feels about this, but I think Rogers Park is cheap but it's also fairly sketchy. Parts of Evanston near Northwestern are nice, but you're hard pressed to find a really fun and cool part of the city that not rife with the intellectually challenged types.
posted by onepapertiger at 5:17 PM on August 1, 2006

Wow, I can't believe you're leaving Lancaster just when Ephrata got a Sonic. :)
posted by MegoSteve at 6:50 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

NoVa is absolutely horrible for the situation you describe. Email me if you want a full-on rant. I used to live there. Me, and everyone cool I know, long ago moved away. With disdain and a sense of escape. You'll drive everywhere, and that's only the beginning of why it's horrible.

You're much more on the right track with the big cities (NYC, Seattle, Chicago, SF... God, even LA would be better than NoVa) or the cool towns (Asheville, Tucson, Boulder, Burlington VT, Portland Maine). Then, you can decide on the basis of climate and culture (eg, Seattle is way more whitebread than Chicago). I do think Portland is good, if you can handle the fog. (Housing is still affordable.)

Phoenix would be absolutely horrible. If you're going to put up with heat in a big city, pick Albuquerque. Higher elevation (cooler temperatures), better downtown. You'll still drive absolutely everywhere. Or pick Tucson, very affordable, but more of a mecca for "cool" people than Phoenix. Or pick Flagstaff -- less hot, more bikeable, but more expensive.
posted by beatrice at 8:24 PM on August 1, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you for all the responses, they were all very helpful.

All of the Chicago suggestions are very interesting. I had never considered living there, though I visited once and had a great time (in freezing February, no less). I am not really into the whole beer swilling frat boy thing, though I am sure the city has more than that. I am concerned that the city will be similar to Philly in mentality. I hate Philly.

I have considered Austin, I lived there for a year, though I don't have great memories (albeit ones that time will probably erase, they are just sad ex-related memories - we lived there for a year before moving to Lancaster).

I've visited Seattle and I did like it. But it is very expensive and the traffic is so bad (out to the more reasonably priced suburbs). The main problem with Seattle is this strange loneliness about the city that I can neither put my finger on nor articulate.

Birmingham is out of the question. While I'm sure it has changed a lot over the years, I had my fill of Alabama at the University of Alabama in the early 90's. I just can't picture Birmingham as this vibrant city. I know I am probably wrong, but back it the day . . .

I think I am going to have to pass on Tallahassee, Ely, MN and Santa Fe. I appreciate the recommendations, though.

San Francisco is a great city, I always wanted to live there. But the cost of living is so high; I just don't know how anyone (other than internet zillionaires) makes it.

I've never considered living in New England, but I will research the suggestions. I really know nothing about New England except, of course, lobster. Mmmm . . . lobster.

SpecialK, thank you for the link to meetin.org. I had never heard of it and it looks like a promising method to meet some new people.

DMT and Mooders, if you can think of creative ways for an American to live and work in England, I'd be there tomorrow.

As for Phoenix, I think the fact that the only redeeming quality I can associate with it is the fact that my sister lives there probably renders it a poor choice. Though the cost of living is relatively low there and there is a large amount of transplants (who love it there), I don't know. Kind of reminds me of everything I hated about Miami (all the suburbs with planned communities). I've never looked into Tucson, but I will do some research. I don't think I'll pick Flagstaff, though. I love it there (my sister went to NAU and I visited several times). However, I have the same fears about Flagstaff that I do about Asheville: great place to visit, but not the most practical place to live (unless you are a retiree).

Finally, thanks for the input - good and bad - about the DC area. It opened my eyes to some of the better qualities I was missing/unaware of and confirmed a lot of the negative aspects, as well.

For anyone who keeps an eye on this post, I will make a follow-up post once I have done the research and picked out a new place.

If anyone has additional thoughts/suggestions, I will still check this thread and/or feel free to email me.

Thanks again.

Btw, I also think that find your spot is rigged. I have used it many times in the past. Just for fun, I played around with every variable possible. I still got the same results. In the same order!
posted by necessitas at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2006

I really know nothing about New England

It is the hub of the universe, my man, the hub of the universe.
posted by LarryC at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2006

This may be an unusual recommendation, but Cleveland, Ohio is a great, very livable city. It has a mixture of cultural attractions, outdoorsy stuff, ethnic diversity, and beautiful, affordable housing. Great orchestra, art museum, universities with cultural activies like Case and Oberlin; a beautiful and huge Metropark system; close to Lake Erie. It doesn't have great public transit, but it also does not have traffic jams. We live in DC now, but are considering moving back there some time soon.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:29 AM on August 3, 2006

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