Where Should I Live?

Our lease is up in September. And I’m not sure we’ll decide to stay in New York.

We might stay. We might stay because we haven’t yet had enough of our New York experience. There’s more to learn, more to do, more to absorb. Jordan adores living here. The romance of the Village is unparalelled, as are Russ and Daughters‘ lox and bagel sandwiches.

But.

It’s EXPENSIVE. Am I the first person to observe that?? I’m not sure. And it’s not that we can’t afford it. It’s that I’m not sure I want to work as hard as I need to work, to make what it costs to live the way we want to live here.

And even if we do very well financially… real estate in New York sucks. It just does. We pay a LOT for our Brooklyn apartment, and it took us months of searching to find it; it meets our needs (enough space for two work-at-homers, quiet, great subway access), but does it feel like “home”? No. It is not a homey space. I’m an artist. I want paint on my walls. I want a HOME. This feels like a rental space in an apartment building. ‘Cause that’s what it is.

(I’m not saying apartments can’t feel like home, by the way – just that this modern, stainless steel, stamped out of the factory apartment does not. But in New York, the alternative — the charming apartment in a brownstone, for example — is often riddled with problems: you can hear your neighbor sneeze, you have roaches, etc. etc. The trade-offs are tough, tougher than I think they are in other cities.)

It’s just an awful lot of work to live here. Summer is unbearable (see my ode to the Subway Sauna), and winter is so dreary… the joy of New York, for me, is walking around, getting lost in neighborhoods, but the number of days where the weather is conducive to such exploring is awfully low.

Also: I get tired of the hype. There’s a way in which it’s exhausting to live somewhere that’s so obsessed with talking about how great it is. Give it a rest! It’s a city. If it’s great, we’ll experience it as such. We don’t need the constant pep rally / sales pitch. There’s a difference between loving where you live, and the desperate need to convince everyone (yourself included) that where you live is the Best Place On Earth.

It makes sense, though. If you do what it takes to live in New York, then you’ve got to justify it to yourself somehow. Otherwise you might feel like you’re living in a loony bin.

Ok. It sounds like I hate New York. And I don’t. Here’s what I love, other than the walking, and the Village, and the Russ and Daughters: The plethora of vegetarian food options. The plethora of delicious food options, period. The fact that I’ve gone to events here like a screening of the classic film Blow Up in an abandoned warehouse in Greenpoint, with everyone in 60s mod getup, or a Poetry Brothel in a speakeasy hidden in an alley in the Lower East Side. The people I’ve met here, and the characters I’ve encountered (or just observed).

But I’ve been fantasizing. Fantasizing about a lower cost of living. Somewhere we can have a small house, or a big apartment, and really make it OURS. More temperate weather. Maybe (if I dare to dream), maybe, somewhere by the ocean… or at least somewhere where I can really enjoy nature, especially water. An active creative community would be great, including a local improv scene…

So I ask you, dear reader: Where is this place I’m describing? Austin comes to mind… what do you think? Where should I live?

Photo above by Flickr user purplemattfish

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17 thoughts on “Where Should I Live?

  1. I'm hearing absolutely fabulous things about Portland, Oregon. There, you can rent a four-bed house for a ridiculously low price. I'm not sure what the property prices for prospective buyers are like but all I know is that you get a ton for your buck out there.If it were me? I'd be all over Boston like dip on a chip.

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  2. Raleigh is great. Durham is great. Chapel Hill is expensive but nowhere near as expensive as NYC. Carrboro is an artist's paradise. Plus we have comedy clubs in Carrboro and Raleigh and both are teaching companies. Also plenty of yoga in the area. Just sayin!

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  3. You summed up exactly how I felt when I lived there. I was so tired of everyone jacking off over how great the city was. There is the city, and everything else is a wasteland! To some degree, this is true. 😉 But it gets tiring. I loved my neighborhood, but my apt had roaches. I loved the city, but I hated feeling stuck without a car if I wanted to leave. I felt that I would have to make a tremendous sum of money to live the way I wanted to live. I didn't mind the weather so much. There are lots of trade-offs to living in the city. You can live somewhere else cheaper and visit, but it isn't the same. I don't think you need to live in an interesting place to have an interesting life, but place does make a difference. Austin sounds like a great adventure. San Francisco? Europe is where I'd like to live, but oh my what a drastic change.

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  4. I totally have to agree with Brianne – Chapel Hill/Carrboro is awesome! Andrew and I lived there in 2003 and we plan on moving back to make it our permanent home some day. Also, we're working on a campaign to move all of our friends down there. So, you should come!

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  5. I may be biased, but I think Chicago is a fantastically liveable city. Neighborhoods, good food, active improv scene. The weather can be harsh, I do admit that, but we have Lake Michigan on our doorsteps, gorgeous even in shades of gray.

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  6. Oh yeah – Chicago. What an awesome place! I agree with Marsha. However, I think the weather might be too harsh for you, Amanda…

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  7. Everyone, I love this… keep it coming! I actually want to follow up with several of you and hear more about why you love Carrboro / Chicago / etc… maybe we could do a little series here on the blog of "Why I Love Where I Live." I'll be in touch on Twitter!

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  8. Ugh, I wrote a long comment with my thoughts, then I didn't type in the "I'm not a spammer" code. In brief: – I know it won't happen now, but I'd always like you both in DC- Portland & Seattle = great. The rain would probably bring you down. Jordan would like the weather. There is almost no improv scene (as reported from other improv friends.) This means you could create one, if you want. There is a lot of great community theater in Portland. It's high quality because I don't think there are many regional theaters out there. You wouldn't make money, but you'd get to do some acting.- Austin – awesome city, lots of art, theater, music. There is improv out there. It's affordable & cool. However, be prepared for an inferno in summer and a moderately less hot winter. There are places to cool off, but you ought to be prepared. If you seriously consider it, I'll hook you up with my friend, Sarah, who went there for grad school. She loved it but can give you her least favorite things, too.Now I will type in the code & post!

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  9. Oh, such a familiar conversation. I'm past it, but I remember when I was in the thick of it many years ago. I think you have lots of great suggestions here already. Boston, Portland, etc. But here's the thing to think about – and my apologies if this is utterly obvious – what do you want your life to look like in a few years? Are there kids in the mix? Is it going to be just the two of you and children of the four-legged variety only? The fact is, you're mobile now – visit lots of places. Give yourself a generous window of time to look around. And if at all possible, don't just go for a weekend. Go several times. On the off season, when no one's there – to see how the culture and supermarkets hold up. Because hey, that'll be your life if you live there, right? On the one hand, I have no romance about what a big decision this is. On the other, totally envy you – because I can say that this is one tunnel I have gone through to the light, and it was a great experience, full of hope and exploration and possibility. May you find your home. And be happy with the people you love. That is my wish for you. 🙂

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  10. I'd head to Berlin. Amazing arts scene; phenomenal nightlife and music; very close to lots of interesting places; incredibly affordable. Also the Berliners are the most welcoming and open-minded folk in the world.London at the moment has probably the most thriving improv and comedy scene on the planet. Rent's still expensive, but we've got green spaces aplenty, all the museums and galleries are free, and it's not prohibitively pricey if you know where to go. Buenos Aires is also worth a look – amazing food and wine, fantastic nightlife, really cheap rent, and incredible weather.

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  11. If weather is a factor I recommend being cautious about Portland, spring and summer are great but the grayness of winter can take it's toll. I do think you would enjoy the short drive from Portland to seaside/cannon beach. Vist the Pacific Northwest in the winter perhaps?I do think the west is the right direction for you though.

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  12. Hi Amanda,I am one of those people who absolutely loves NYC, though it took a while for me to realize that this really is home for me. This my third time living here. Every city has its issues, and no place is perfect. It took me a while to figure out how to live and work here and maintain peace in my life. Now that I found that balance, I can appreciate all that it has to offer. It's still a frustrating place from time-to-time though overall, I do find it to be the most exciting city in the world, at least for me. After taking in the sights at almost every major city in the US, nothing beats the energy and opportunity of this place. I don't know if you and Jordan would ever find this appealing, but I've always been intrigued by New Orleans. I'm going there for the first time over Easter weekend – it's one of the few cities in the US I haven't been to and I can't wait to check it out! Though still dealing with reconstruction, I don't know a single person who has ever visited and not loved it for the art, performance, food, music, history, varied culture, warm community, and close proximity to water (a good and a bad thing for that city, obviously). Might be worth a look…

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  13. Austin is great, though 1) I'm not sure what their improv community is like, other than growing 2) summers are hotter than NYC, but probably less humid (which really does make a difference) 3) is about as stuck on itself as NYC is; okay, maybe not as much, but still likes to toot its own horn. Other than that, go for it: I like having a growing collection of friends in Austin. Makes it easier to argue for us to move there! ;)Other thoughts: Santa Fe (not sure of improv scene, but lots of art and I'm certain lots of yoga); LA – improv, performance, music, film, art, yoga, beach, not too hot in the summers, never cold in winter. Also, re: Seattle – they DO have an improv scene out there; not huge, but probably comparable to DC's. Jet City improv is the mothership; GOGA used to have a group out there, too.

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  14. Letty – thanks for all this! All good food for thought. LA has definitely crossed our minds at various points. Not sure about car culture or distance from east coast, but California has certainly been calling our names for a long time now…in many ways Austin would be the way to meet a lot of our criteria without going as far as CA. Also feeling wary about re-building in yet another improv community. Lots of factors to balance….

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