somewhere other than the hot & muggy mid atlantic.
July 15, 2007 6:44 AM   Subscribe

RelocationFilter: Where are there progressive, under-the-radar & off-the-beaten path places to live in CA (or other places worldwide near water) that don't cost arms/legs/90% of waking life to afford living?

Apologies for the vagueness of the question - we're having trouble putting our finger on what we want. My partner and I currently live in central NC, in a pocket of highly educated and tolerant population, with good arts & music scenes. The problem? Mainly, unbearable heat & humidity in the summers, and largely conservative [unimaginative] govt leaders both at state and federal levels.

Workwise, we have extensive experience & skills in CAD and veterinary medical equipment management, so we can pretty much find work anywhere.

We've both been to parts of CA and loved it, especially northern. But we're also open to other countries, not just US. We love to be outside, especially with our dogs, & would love a garden (even if container in an urban setting).

What about Sweden? or Switzerland? Someplace that isn't completely paved and commercialized?!
posted by yoga to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You could try somewhere like Ukiah - small but progressive, home to small intentional communities. Its a few hours drive north of San Francisco but with much cheaper land prices.

My favorite hot springs is there (not the one mentioned in that article) it has decent culture for a town its size, and there's a large Mahayana Buddhist community nearby as well as a funky little town called Willitts.
posted by vacapinta at 6:56 AM on July 15, 2007

Sweden is very very cold for six months of the year. Switzerland is, you know, land locked. So you'd have to give up your "near water" criteria.
posted by handee at 7:14 AM on July 15, 2007

Costa Rica might be an option, although the heat might still be an issue.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:51 AM on July 15, 2007

Switzerland is, you know, land locked.

Yes, but Lake Geneva is very nice - unless you really need ocean and not a big lake. Lausanne is wonderful. But immigrating into Switzerland can take decades. I'm not sure how difficult it is for an American to get a work permit.
posted by nazca at 7:52 AM on July 15, 2007

If you won't be commuting you could live in parts of coastal San Mateo, Santa Cruz or Monterey county.

Houses in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France are pretty inexpensive and there are many cultural experiences to be had. The local seat of culture, Montpéllier, is vibrant and fun. The weather can be hot (it isn't this year but last year it was getting to almost 40C) in the summer, and there are occasional freezes - in the Narbonnais these are about as frequent as freezes in, say, Palo Alto.
posted by jet_silver at 8:05 AM on July 15, 2007

I like the Ukiah suggestion. It might be hard finding a job, but if you go there, or even up as far north as Eureka, the costs are definitely going to be lower than anywhere south of about Point Reyes. You can try craiglistto see what apartment costs are like.

The problem with "off the beaten path that don't cost an arm and a leg" is going to be getting work yourselves. (Arm and a leg are relative.) Oakland costs a lot of money because there are a lot of jobs here. Thats why some people commute from back and forth from folsom everyday!
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 8:29 AM on July 15, 2007

Check out Sebastopol in Northern California. Very progressive, lots of nature. Humboldt County is similar. Humboldt is much cheaper than Sebastopol.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:45 AM on July 15, 2007

Thanks for all the suggestions, people! We had poked around on Craigslist, but to an outsider not familiar with the area on a daily basis, it's hard to read the culture. I shall peruse.
posted by yoga at 8:56 AM on July 15, 2007

Europe offers a host of regions that might fit your requirements. Much of the Atlantic coastal fringe of the continent from Norway, Scotland and Ireland down through France to Spain and Portugal has places which could fit the bill for example - they will give you something of the coolness and ruggedness of Northern California - particularly in parts of Southern Spain and Southern Italy. And of course there are more sheltered and warmer places all the way round the Mediterranean - some of them will be reminiscent of old Southern California. Should you seriously be looking at somewhere over here you would really need to ask yourself:
1. Are we willing to live in a country that may be more expensive than the USA? In some ways all of the above countries are.
2. Are you willing to live somewhere that has cold winters?
3. Are you willing to go through all the rigmarole of emigrating and looking for a local job -visas, language, etc.

As somebody living in Scotland but married to a Californian and with a sister in law in NC - jet-silver's recommendation would also be near the top of my European list.
posted by rongorongo at 9:27 AM on July 15, 2007

Seconding Willits, also check out Fort Bragg (though housing prices have gone up quickly so it might be out of bounds now). There are a bunch of little towns like Elk along the Mendocino Coast, but looking at the Fort Bragg market will show you other places. However, they're probably at least as expensive and further away from the cultural activities. I think the last cheap land prices in coastal Mendo County are out toward Comptche, but the climate there (all of 15 minutes inland) is much hotter and drier. Then there's the Anderson Valley / Boonville area, about which I don't hear much good (and occasionally a little bad, but who knows how good those sources were).
posted by salvia at 9:59 AM on July 15, 2007

Australia, however good luck getting a visa there to live permanently. Or if you do, let me know how you did it.
posted by whoaali at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2007

Here's another vote for Humbolt Co. / Eureka / Arcata (especially Arcata). Great people, progressive politics, Arcata was home to one of the first recycling facilities in the country and also built a very cool natural sewage purification system). There's a college there also so there's a good educated class in town and young students around. The cities are sandwiched between the ocean and redwood forests. It's heaven!
posted by jkl345 at 10:04 AM on July 15, 2007

Arcata is another N. Cal progressive town, right on the coast so much cooler than Ukiah. If you don't know, the average temp here seems to increase by a degree by every mile you are away from the ocean, so in midusmmer while Arcata may be 70 Ukiah may be around 90.

Arcata being close to Eureka there might be more jobs than Ukiah, and Arcata has the Humboldt branch of California State U.

Personally I'd prefer to live in Costa Rica (in Brazilito for choice), but there's really not much well-paying work there.
posted by anadem at 10:11 AM on July 15, 2007

(ie ditto jkl345 -- should have previewed)
posted by anadem at 10:12 AM on July 15, 2007

Nova Scotia might work well for you. Halifax has a great cultural scene, but there is tons of beautiful wilderness (as well as the Atlantic Ocean) very close to the city. And it is all very liberal compared to NC.
posted by sueinnyc at 10:26 AM on July 15, 2007

What about Croatia? And it's ok for winter to be cold - it's the humidity that kills us.
posted by yoga at 12:50 PM on July 15, 2007

Croatia seems to be everybody's new favorite place, and with good reason. I was only there for a couple of weeks, but I'd definitely consider it. There doesn't seem to be a ton of activity on these forums, though hopefully that would give you a better idea.

Good luck!
posted by liverbisque at 1:25 PM on July 15, 2007

The Maritimes in general (NB, NS, PEI) would probably be OK for you. I'm from NB myself and found that the Bay of Fundy was a great moderator of temperatures... Not too cold in the winters and not too warm in the summers.
posted by aedra at 1:59 PM on July 15, 2007

Australia would work for you. For reasonably sized areas where you should be able to get work try:

Geelong and the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Wollongong and Newcastle, New South Wales
South Eastern Queensland (particularly the Sunshine Coast)
Adelaide, South Australia
posted by sien at 4:31 PM on July 15, 2007

Oh - and those areas are mentioned because the housing will be cheaper there.
posted by sien at 4:32 PM on July 15, 2007

We live in western Minnesota.

Our house -- four bedrooms, two baths, on 2/3 of an acre, needed minor updating and a little electrical work but nothing big -- cost $43,000.

There's a really neat town near us wherein I saw the most magnificent house, some Victorian monstrosity with 7 bedrooms on a huge corner lot that's been completely restored inside and out, for $142,000. That town (elbow lake) is about an hour away from Fargo, ND and the big university town of Moorhead, MN. The town is right on a big lake. In fact, there's a good reason Minnesota is called the land of 10,000 lakes. There are lakes EVERYWHERE. Pretty much every town has a lake all of its own.

The people here are very live-and-let-live. They don't want to interfere in your life, even if they disagree with you. They're also very practical people and the neighbors are actually neighborly. People where I live leave their doors unlocked and leave their keys in their cars, outside, overnight. We once saw a restaurant owner disappear to the kitchen, leaving a bank deposit envelope with over $2000 on the counter unattended.

If kids are in your present or your future, it's also worth noting that infant daycare is $103/month in my town (at a daycare center primarily attended by college professors' kids, so you know it's reasonably educationally sound). Expenses are low here generally. Your insurance premium will be low. Our property taxes are less than $400/year. Even if you got a huge house, unless you demanded a new construction McMansion (those cost the same everywhere) it'd be hard to get a mortgage payment of more than $1000/month.

It's cold in the winter. But a lot of people here don't even bother with air conditioning all year round, our summers are awesome.

You can also vote for Al Franken for Senate if you move soon! Act now!
posted by InnocentBystander at 5:32 PM on July 15, 2007

Sebastopol is ridiculously expensive, mostly full of trust fund types and it's pretty hot there (plus Sonoma Co might be the least dog friendly place in the world.) Ukiah is similarly hot and spendy and I'd hardly call it progressive.
posted by fshgrl at 11:10 PM on July 15, 2007

South Africa. Hundreds of miles of still-wild beaches. More affordable property than 1st-world nations. Yes, there are drawbacks (as with everywhere else).
posted by Goofyy at 3:28 AM on July 16, 2007

There's a reason that there's more affordable property in South Africa than 1st-world nations. If you're from the US originally, I strongly advise a visit or two to somewhere before you decide to up and move there.

I was born and raised around Sacramento, and I still like the city (although I live in NYC now, and am moving to South Africa next month). You have the urban benefits with lots of nice suburban areas to pick from, especially as you move up towards the hills, further from town - Folsom, Granite Bay, Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City, etc.. All nice little towns, fairly temperate climate, and fairly progressive as far as local politics go. Also the further you get from the city, the more affordable it will be to have a nice size plot for the dogs to run around on.

The great thing about Norcal is that its all built around an outdoor lifestyle, you can't really live there and not be a part of it - its in the cultural bloodstream. I've never really lived anywhere that had the outdoorsy thing going on as well as Norcal does.

You have lots of other cool little towns suggested already (Ukiah, Monterey, Arcada, etc.), but the thing about them is their proximity to the benefits of the large city. San Fran's a great town but you can't exactly zip into downtown from Monterey like you can into Sacramento from the lower foothills.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:47 AM on July 16, 2007

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