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If you’re thinking about moving to a new city

If you’re thinking about moving to a new city

When we decided to move to San Diego, a few people were surprised that we would move to a new city for “no real reason” – no job, friends, family or clear-cut opportunity would be waiting for us there. We were essentially moving for the city itself. There are some intrinsic challenges that come with this. The truth is we have a weaker connection to our new city: without a workplace, family or a group of tight-knit friends tying us here, it can be challenging to feel “at home” here.

North Park, San Diego

But we also made the decision to move very, very intentionally. Although there were certainly points during my time in New York City where I thought I’d stay there forever–particularly after I fell in love with a New Yorker–I never really intended to become a full-blown New Yorker. The weather alone was a huge issue, but once you factored in real estate prices, cost of living and overall quality of life: I knew I didn’t want to live there forever. To some extent, growing up in California, traveling extensively and living in places like the French Riviera and Melbourne also had a lot to do with it: for all of the wonderful things New York possessed, I knew there were far more livable places out there. And thus: we decided to move. Before we pulled the trigger, though, we did a sort of “grand tour” of several cities that were under consideration:  PortlandAustinOakland and San Diego. All of our visits were designed to see how we would like living in those places, and I think it helped a lot in figuring out where would be the best fit for us. If you’re thinking about moving cities, a few things to keep in mind:

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Figure out your non-negotiables

I love figuring out non-negotiables for every big-life-decision-making situation: dating, apartment hunting, travel itinerary setting. It essentially forces you to reevaluate the situation and decide what’s most important to you, and to prioritize those things–instead of letting yourself get sidetracked by minor dislikes that won’t have a huge effect in the long run. It also helps you narrow down your options! Our non-negotiables were better weather, more affordable housing and an established or emerging tech scene. One thing that was a challenge was that my husband and I have different opinions on what constitutes good weather: David loves cooler temperatures and overcast skies, while I’m all about blue skies and sunshine. To that end, he loved Portland a lot more than I did: I knew I’d have a tough time with the constant grayness! That said, agreeing on three things that were important to us made it a lot easier to decide on what cities were worth visiting and have logical discussions about each places’ pros and cons.House off 23rd Avenue in Portland, Oregon

Stay in a neighborhood and type of house you’d want to live in

Even when I’m traveling for fun, I usually prefer to stay in neighborhoods with a little more local flair. But for this round of trips, we really tried to stay in Airbnbs in the neighborhoods we’d be most likely to live in. It can also be helpful to try and find an Airbnb in the type of residence that you’d be most likely to live in: a full-service high-rise apartment building versus a cottage with a yard. It can be helpful to see a place at all times of day–do the normally laid-back streets get rowdy at night? Is the park full of screaming kids during lunch hour? Bringing Gertie along for the trips really helped in this regard: keeping her on a normal walking schedule (aka one first thing in the morning and one right before bed) ensured that we saw the neighborhood at the times we’d be most likely to interact with it.

Texas State Capitol in Austin

Don’t rent a car

Now that we’re living in San Diego, I’m super glad we have a car: it’s definitely a city that’s easier to navigate with one of our own. That said, when we spent the weekend here, we relied on Lyfts and our own two feet. Taking a car share service was helpful in two regards: we got a sense of how expensive slash how far it is to travel between places and neighborhoods, and we were able to pepper our driver with questions about what it’s like to live here. And we honestly walked SO much that trip (I remember it for being my first 29K-step day!). We got a really good sense of what neighborhoods felt like on the ground (gritty, charming, etc.), and we also were able to experience so many more places more organically. We popped into a cute cafe, a kava bar, a brewery–being able to get a sense of what was actually right outside our door versus relying on Instagram and Yelp for suggestions made us feel a lot more comfortable in how many options there were. Bonus: not having to worry about parking, navigating or having an extra cocktail made the whole trip a lot more fun!

Brothers and Sisters Flower Shop in Oakland, California

Limit the “touristy” stuff you do

Granted, the cities we were considering aren’t super “touristy” spots: most of them are better known for their food scenes, cool bars and laid-back lifestyles than iconic buildings or must-see attractions. That said, we focused on creating a more everyday type of itinerary than packing it to the brim with stuff to do. We didn’t visit the San Diego Zoo until we moved here, and although we took a walk along the beach, we didn’t spend all day lying out. We walked to Balboa Park and sussed out the Gert-friendly restaurant options in San Diego, we had friends tour us around the farmers market in Portland and we even showed up to a pug meetup in Austin. We always tried to see a variety of neighborhoods and have lots of honest conversations with locals so that we knew whether we were in love with the city as a whole, as an idea or just a particular neighborhood.

Cute houses in Lower Hills, Oakland, California

Don’t be afraid to check out the real estate options

Moving back to Northern California felt like our most likely scenario for a long time: it made the most sense with my job, and it’d be a lot closer to my family and friends in the Bay Area and Sacramento. When we visited, our friends who lived there gave us the most awesome tour of Lake Merritt and surrounds: we were pretty sold on moving there. And then we spent a day checking out some real estate: we went to several open houses and leasing offices, and realized that it was going to be just as expensive (if not more), super competitive and extremely difficult to rent with a dog.

What would be your three non-negotiables in moving to a new city? What did you consider on a recent move? 

  • Becca

    I actually just moved from Seattle to Detroit in July and made the decision rather quickly! I had been in Seattle for 13 years and was just kind of tired of it, plus cost of living was super high there and the culture wasn’t my favorite, so my top 3 non-negotiables were: Cost of living, vibrant art scene, international airport. I had a few cities on my “possible” list, but in the end, I only visited Detroit and my gut just felt spot-on here. I’m two months in and never been happier. 🙂 Sometimes, taking the risks are completely worth it! Thanks for sharing your experience with the big move!