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Relocation: choose where to live

Image by Denise Jans on Unsplash.

Many years ago I got a graduate degree when I was living in Philadelphia. I fell in love with the city. I knew I’d end up here someday…and 12 years ago, I moved here for the third and final time. I won’t leave till I am carried out of here, feet first.

While I was in grad school, I befriended a classmate named Jane. She had a much better head for business than I did and I suspect her grades were higher, too. She went on to become a vice president in a major insurance company, at a time when few women held senior roles.

Jane hated Philadelphia. She had rather graphic ways of describing her experience. Putting it politely, she felt tortured.  She was from New England and couldn’t wait to get back there.

Several years later, I had gotten a PhD and was teaching at a university nearby. I visited her several times.

She was single (like me), living in a small town in New England. She loved her house and her town. I never told her, but I hated it. I felt smothered.

All those polite New Englanders? No, thank you. I didn’t feel at home there, ever.

I think of this story when I am asked, “Can you recommend a place for me to move?”

Yes, I wrote a book on moving. Many people have found it helpful.

The book is not about “best places to live” and frankly I don’t trust those lists. As soon as I hear, “You have to drive,” I know that place will never be Number 1 for me…and it’ll be more like “never” if I have to drive in heavy rain or snow. Who cares if it’s the “best place to do something?”

But that’s me. What do you feel strongly about? Maybe you love driving and don’t want to live in a city, where car ownership is mostly impractical.

Weather matters.

When I interviewed a clinical psychologist for my book on moving, I expected her to talk about personalities, our “inner child” and emotions. Instead, she said, “Consider the weather.” She knew, better than most, that some people get depressed in the rain. It’s a real thing.

So here’s how I suggest you review places to live.

1 – Make a list of “must-haves” and “non-negotiables.”

Nothing is too trivial. I met someone who stepped off a plane, took one look around, and said, “There is no ocean! There are no bagels! I’m outta here.” And he was.

What do you need to be happy? What would you like to do that you can’t do now?

If you’re single or gay…you’ll have special questions. You’ll need to do extra research if you’re part of an ethnic or religious group and you want to be sure you’ll be accepted.

2 – Start researching online.

Go online and get lists of cities. “Best places to live if you like to hike.” “Best places for cats.”
I lived in New Mexico after finding a book, “Best art towns in the southwest.”

Look up newspapers from the places you’d like to visit. In my book I have exercises for this research.

Or talk to everyone you know and get ideas of what they like. Then dig deeper.

Look for Facebook groups for (a) the locations you’re considering and (b) affinity groups. If you’re single, ask a group targeting singles, “Where do you live? Is it single-friendly? Where have you lived? What would you NOT recommend, and why?”

Even more important, ask people about their activities. Are they doing things you want to do? I’ve known people who loved playing in adult sports leagues. Others wanted to take classes in acting or art. Still others wanted to attend indie films in live theatres.


(a)Don’t make assumptions! While living in New Mexico, I had a gay male friend in Los Angeles. We would talk on the phone periodically. He was surprised to learn that we had a large, active gay community in this small town. Who would have guessed?

Of course, surprises also go in the other direction. I lived in a city where newcomers were distinctly unwelcome. The local newspapers even wrote about it. The city had a reputation for being extremely open-minded. Many newcomers were surprised to find themselves feeling snubbed and uncomfortable.

(b) Small towns seem cheaper but give you fewer choices about everything, from medical services to recreation. You may not have public transportation or taxis.

(c) You may find you enjoy doing something you couldn’t do before, such as hiking or skiing. Your new town may have a resource not available elsewhere. In my small town in New Mexico, a group gathered for coffee every afternoon. Everyone was welcome.

And you may find you don’t like the new options. I met someone who’d volunteered in animal rescue, then assumed she would do that in her new home. She said, “I couldn’t agree with the way they ran their rescue group. I had to stop.”

3 – Listen to your intuition.

I have a book on using intuition to make decisions – very reasonably priced on Amazon.

It’s not woo-woo. If you find yourself drawn to a place, pay attention.

I once knew an educated lawyer who consulted a psychic every time she moved. She swore she got directed to the best places for her growth. Totally up to you.

Finally, narrow down your search to 2 or 3 choices and go visit them, if at all possible. If you can’t visit, be ready to move again in a few months or a few years.

I once had a client who was considering an attractive offer from a city in California. He was excited and eager to accept.

I urged him to visit in person. Reluctantly, he bought a plane ticket…and was very glad afterwards.

It turned out that his new company’s office was located in a pricey area.

“The closest place we could afford, on the new salary, would require an hour’s commute each way,” he said “I drove in that traffic. It was a nightmare.”

With a sigh, he turned down the offer.

BOTTOM LINE: Nobody can help you choose a place to live, anymore than a matchmaker can point to a potential mate for you. Yes, in both cases it happens occasionally but it’s rare.

Some people will indeed be happy anywhere they go; I had a friend like that, who drove me crazy. He could live anywhere! Alas, most of us can’t. Don’t skimp on the research.