Where Would You Live?

Imagine you could live anywhere in the U.S. Let’s say a magic wand waved over you, and now you’re untethered: not your job, not your kids’ schools, nothing is holding you to wherever you are right now. Where would you choose to live?

Full-timers like us are asked that question all the time (Mark My Words and Writer McWriterson asked me just last week). I can tell you that, from my very small sample of friends on the road, full-timers who’ve lived all over the place have different criteria than your typical retire-in-Florida folks.

Melanie would want to have all four seasons, or so she says right now; she likes so many things about everywhere she goes that next month she might say something different. For a while, she was looking into putting a tiny house on land in the desert. By the way, she and Doug have just sold their sometimes-homebase and are embarking on 100% travel as of this weekend. With their tent/trailer! They’re so excited.

Shana likes to be where the cultural climate is open-minded, and that’s her one defining factor. Right there. Can’t blame her. Her update is that she and Marcus have moved from roaming around Southern California in Black Betty back to the fifth-wheel they were in when we met them, in order to sell it. I’m harassing them to post here soon.

Okay, to my point: Where do people choose to live? You’ve got three couples here (including Tracy and me) who have been everywhere and choose not to settle down. It boils down to: the more you know, the harder the decision.

Here’s what I’ve learned first-hand so far.

The Pacific Coast

I used to think, as an East Coaster, I was a big fan of the beach. I do love the sandy dunes of the Carolinas, how they lead gently to the Atlantic. Turns out that’s all small potatoes compared to the dramatic coastal cliffs of California and Oregon.

Seriously, I know there’s life in the ocean wherever you go (for right now), but the tidal pools of the Pacific Coast put so much of that life on display. All you have to do is walk around the edge of the water at low tide, and you get direct views of ocean life in action. Right there at your feet! No scuba needed, no TV documentaries.

And the landscapes of the west coast! In some California spots, mountains lead right to the ocean. Right to the ocean.

The California coast really is all that.

The rub is that everyone else agrees, and the cost of living is outrageous.

College Towns

Okay, let’s skip the idea of beach living for right now. There are other attractions in our country. I happen to like funky college towns with their cultural stuff going on, good grocery stores, great bars.

I lived in Missoula, Montana, for a couple of years for grad school, and when Tracy and I took the trailer there, Missoula was more populated, but amazingly still funky. Here’s Tracy learning how to fix our bikes at the non-profit cycling center.

Outside the town, you’ve got the gorgeous mountains and rivers that make Missoula famous now.

But there’s its rub. Is Missoula still weird enough to qualify as weirder than Austin, a place that became homogenized thanks to its weirdness fame? (Also problematic for Missoula: cold and far from the coast.)

Now, Madison, Wisconsin is a similarly funky college town.  

But also cold in the winter and land-locked.

Gulf Coast

What I’m looking for is an eclectic small town on or near the coast that’s affordable and has a few progressive thinkers in it.

There’s Carrabelle, Florida, home to the world’s smallest police station, as well as a bottle house and a beach bar—where guitar and mando players will chat you up on your birthday. (Man was that one nice day.)

I’m told, though, that by now everyone knows about Carrabelle. Of course.

But there are small coastal towns near it. In fact, a couple we met at that Airstream park in Tennessee spends their winters in one of these towns on the Texas coast and invited us to visit when we were on the Gulf Coast last. And as we driving through, I forgot!

I’m thinking, though, that if random people we meet declare some place to be a hidden gem, it no longer is hidden. Plus, if you want grocery stores with more in them than Old El Paso taco kits; if you want folks who get their news from places other than talk shows; if you’d like to go to a restaurant within a two-hour drive, you need to be in an urban place. Which, hmm.

Other issues to consider: a friend who’s lived on an island off the coast of Georgia says mosquitos have driven her inland. Seriously. That and close-minded people.

More to consider: Houston is good for medical care. North Carolina has great music these days. The Midwest is friendly toward retirees. New Orleans has a uniquely rich culture.

For me, though, what it might come to is friends and family; that’s what I’ve missed the most on the road.

The small town of Frederick, Maryland, about an hour north of Washington, D.C., has a great little downtown with restaurants and bars and a lovely botanical canal down the center. It’s also where I worked for a decade, so I have peeps there.

Richmond, Virgina, has an area called the Fan that’s bigger than Frederick and even more ecclectic. Plus it’s sort of my hometown.

Now, don’t get me wrong: we have travel plans for all of next year and no plans to settle down after that. But, for whenever it is we do pick a place, how telling if it were not one of the amazing places we’ve discovered—but instead a familiar hometown? Dare I quote Dorothy on this topic?

P.s.: I’m having knee surgery on 1/22 in Houston. I’m not excited about the multiple 8-hr travel days involved, but I trust this surgeon. THANK YOU to everyone who reached out to me with your knee stories and your knowledge of the world of surgery.

13 thoughts to “Where Would You Live?”

  1. Thank you for tackling this topic! Clearly, you have given it much thought. I absolutely love the Oregon coast for all the reasons you describe. I just have no desire to live there forever. Funky college town vibes are apparently my thing, as we also really like Fort Collins, CO – where my daughter just moved last year.

  2. Being able to choose where you live is such a luxury but I can see it could be overwhelming! I’ve lived in a few places now but either because I was taken there as a kid or moved for a purpose. I can’t imagine trying to choose a place based on a visit or two though, visiting is such a different experience than actually having to make a life there, which we discovered when we moved to Sydney. But some people do manage to fall (and stay!) in love with the new place they find and move to so it certainly can be done. I never did fall in love with Sydney though. Great holiday spot, mostly enjoyed my 5 years but not my thing. Maybe Melbourne though…🤔😉 A known place with established friends would carry considerable weight in decision making.

    1. You live in such a beautiful place that I can’t imagine you even thinking about moving. Unless your neighbors are still partiers? Still, that would be worth it for all the places you can go in a day trip. And your yard!

  3. I love this post for so many reasons, but the most important is that you shared so many amazing places that I bookmarked them for future travel! Also, one of my dear friends grew up in Frederick, Maryland. That made me laugh out loud. This kind of coincidence makes me very happy. 💕

  4. This is a great post and really got me thinking. While I love to travel and do envy you the constantly changing scenery and adventure, I’ve got to have a home base to do it from. And to be honest I’ve already found my perfect spot. Maine has the change of seasons, a to die for coast, fresh seafood, quirky people, a liberal political stance (at least in the southern half) and a massive craft beer economy.
    I’m home.