Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Topic of the Day: Has the Pandemic Made You Reconsider Where You Live?

I received a different kind of email the other day from a reader who asked some questions that may be on the minds of others these days. She wrote:

Hope you’re well. I read your “Why I’m ‘Living in Fear‘” post and was sorry to hear about how you’re feeling and hope you’re coping as best you can. A lot of people are struggling for different reasons, and I think it’s great you had the courage as well as the literary talent to explain your own situation.

So I don’t know if you care to comment on this aspect (or even if it fits within the range of things you care to discuss on your blog), but I’d be curious / interested in knowing your take, as a New Yorker, on the future of New York (as discussed in recent viral essays here and here), and whether the current situation has brought your family to consider moving, or has that not been a thought?

Coming from Montreal, which has nothing to do with NY, we are seeing this “city vs. countryside” debate pop up as well. Just curious to hear your thoughts – on the future of NY, on your own thoughts about staying or moving, about how working from home (as a working from home expert) is here to stay or not – if ever you were so inclined to share them.

Aw, the ol’ “should I move or not?” question that I know for sure a lot of New Yorkers are asking themselves, and that I bet a lot of people around the country (and elsewhere!) are asking as well. If you’ve spent any time in NYC this summer, you have no doubt seen tons of moving vans clogging the city streets. If you’re a resident, there’s a good chance you know at least a few people who have already made the move out of the city since the pandemic began – to suburbs, to other states – and countless others entertaining the debate about whether or not to follow suit. My own family is among the latter. The question to leave New York and raise our kids somewhere else isn’t a new one for us, but it’s one we thought we’d answered when we bought our place three years ago and decided to put down even deeper roots. And now, like so many others, here we are wondering whether this is really the best place to raise our kids given the current situation.

First, I should say that I don’t think NYC is going anywhere. New York City is the best city in the world and in a decade that is still going to be the case. I hope in a decade it will be even better than it’s ever been. But the truth is, it’s going to get worse before that happens. We see it already – empty store fronts up and down the main thoroughfare in our neighborhood, going-out-of-business announcements from a few others, the aforementioned moving vans all over the place, an uptick in crime, and a huge spike in unemployment and food insecurity. (Thankfully, a moratorium on evictions has delayed a homelessness crisis of epic proportions, but what happens when that’s lifted? And what happens to landlords who count on rental income to pay their bills?) There’s even garbage overflowing out of every public garbage can every weekend because severe budget cuts mean less garbage collection. And don’t even get me started on the school situation. It’s bad and likely getting worse because of huge budget cuts and the high probability that people who can afford to do so will move their kids (and financial contributions and tax revenue) to private schools or out to the suburbs (it’s already started). Honestly, under these circumstances, who wouldn’t consider leaving, given the choice? And, yet, I/we don’t have a clear answer for ourselves.

It’s a complicated decision and one I imagine people everywhere are grappling with: Do you uproot the life you’ve cultivated for yourself and your family in one place and start over somewhere else, hoping the benefits will outweigh what you give up? And, if so, where do you move? How can you be sure that the challenges you’re moving to avoid won’t happen where you end up, especially since the pandemic is reaching into every community and the economic downfall will likely leave few places unaffected? What if you regret the move? What if your kids hate you for moving? What if they hate you more for staying? I really don’t know the right answer for ourselves, let alone anyone else. We do have two plans though. Plan A is we stay put, for now, and see what things look like by next summer when we expect (hope!) the immediate future of post-pandemic NYC will be much clearer. At that point we may decide to go with Plan B, which is to move. We have a location picked out that ticks a lot of boxes on the list of what we desire in a locale. We feel pretty good about Plan B, which is a relief. We think we could be pretty happy with Plan B. As happy as we’ve been here, where we are, in the greatest city in the world where we have close friends, a strong community, family not too far away? I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that we won’t do anything, we won’t make any kind of move, until after the election in November. Honestly, if Trump wins, we will seriously consider a third option, Plan C: get the fuck out of this country. And I’m serious about that. But I don’t want to turn this into a political rant and discuss all the ways I fear Trump’s authoritarian government will obliterate any shred of democracy we have enjoyed in the US and any chance we might have had to become the nation so many of us dream we have the potential to become, and how terrified I am of a country where Trump’s values and those of his followers become the guiding principles. So, let’s move on.

Yes, things are going to get worse for New York City before they get better. Whether the downturn lasts a year or two and then NYC comes roaring back, or whether it lasts through the whole next decade, I don’t know. A year or two I could handle, but a whole decade would eat most of the rest of my kids’ childhood, and I don’t want that.

When things do come back, I feel confident it will be a renaissance for the ages. There’s a very literal energy in the rocks of Manhattan that will always create an attraction, will always pull people from elsewhere, and will always, always stir the creation of new things, new ideas, new plots and plans and discoveries. The rocks of Manhattan aren’t going anywhere, and neither is the energy they generate. New artists and makers and creators and thinkers will replace those who leave, either by choice or by lack of one. Am I here to stay forever? I just don’t know. We’ll see what the next year brings. New York, though, isn’t going anywhere.

You asked about working from home – whether I think that’s here to stay, and I think it probably is to some degree. People are learning what I’ve known for 15 years (the amount of time I’ve earned a living working from my living room): You can actually be more productive outside the distractions of a shared office space than inside. Maybe that’s not true for everyone, and maybe it’s not true 100% of the time. But I would not be surprised if we see an enormous increase in working from home, at least on a part-time basis, as a long-term, post-pandemic change in public behavior. The benefits are great, as less time commuting means: a better work/life balance; big savings on office space rentals; savings on business travel; less burden on our transportation infrastructure; and more opportunity for working parents to be engaged in their children’s schools (volunteering for an hour is a lot easier when your home office is a 10-minute walk away and you can use your lunch break!). There are drawbacks, too – most of which could be addressed with at least some face-to-face time among colleagues in a shared work environment on a part-time basis. But, yeah, working from home is here to stay, and I, personally, think that’s great.

And, yes, I’m sure that when the pandemic ends and the working-from-home stays, even more people will leave big urban environments that they were formerly tied to because of the location of their jobs, and with them will go their tax revenue and financial contribution to these cities’ economies. But choosing to live in a place like New York City isn’t always a rational decision anyway. There will be people who have the choice to leave – to go where the cost of living is much cheaper, where they can get a house with a yard, and where they can send their kids to schools that always have hand soap in the bathroom—-and a lot of those people will choose the much less rational option. And it goes back to those rocks in Manhattan and the pull they have to people who are attracted to that energy and want to be close to it.

Anyway, I feel like I’m rambling a bit, but hopefully I’ve addressed your questions and given others another lens to view their own circumstances through as they maybe consider/reconsider similar questions for themselves. Who else is reconsidering where they currently live because of the pandemic and what you assume will be its long-term effects? How are you thinking about this issue? Do you think you lean more rational or more emotional when you think about whether and where to move?

58 comments… add one
  • ArtsyGirl September 3, 2020, 8:25 am

    I live in a “flyover” state but in a city with a population of just about 2 million people. I am lucky enough to own my house and have a large backyard (7/10 acre) in an established neighborhood with groceries stores and restaurants nearby. My house is large enough to have 2 dedicated offices so my husband and I can both be on zoom calls or the phone without hearing each other. While there are times I miss living in a larger urban center (I went to University of Chicago), having the extra space in my house as well as the large yard has made the new reality a lot less painful than for some of my friends that live in the cities and who spent most of their time outside their apartments going to restaurants/seeing plays/attending art openings/etc. My and my husband’s parents and two of our siblings also live in our city so we have our support network nearby.

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  • Bittergaymark September 3, 2020, 9:07 am

    Yes. Although its also made me reconsider living. But that’s a whole other dreary story.

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  • shoegal88 September 3, 2020, 9:18 am

    So timely! We were actually part of the wave that left NYC – we broke our lease and moved out to Park City, Utah. The company I work for is exploring permanent work-from-home setups, so it’s possible we could stay here indefinitely (although, we’re also considering other mountain towns that are slightly bigger). It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made (so much hiking here!), although I’ve been a bit homesick for NYC lately.

    Re: leaving the country – my husband is from New Zealand, so we’re also seriously considering moving there, at least until US leadership becomes less insane/incompetent.

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    • Helen September 3, 2020, 12:52 pm

      I would go to New Zealand in a heartbeat!

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      • shoegal88 September 3, 2020, 3:13 pm

        Right!? I’m so tempted. When/if we have kids, they’ll also be citizens, and I like the idea of them having a strong link to the country.

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    Miss MJ September 3, 2020, 9:44 am

    I hear you on Plan C in the event Trump wins in November. Working from home in Barbados sounds pretty appealing.

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    • ktfran September 3, 2020, 9:53 am

      I keep looking at real estate in the Azores. You know. Just in case.

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    • CanadaGoose September 7, 2020, 1:28 pm

      Barbados actually has an incentive going now where anyone who can work remotely and is making a decent salary can go live there for a year to boost their economy. It’s a great place to live and has a connected expat community.

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    MaterialsGirl September 3, 2020, 9:54 am

    This is the same decision we’re in (and hopefully making if the sellers ever come to their senses). We’re committing to stay in Chicago… in a near-downtown neighborhood for the long term. It’s going to be complete garbage for at least 5 (?) years.. but, we’re in it for the long haul since the commute time to work is so good, the schools are still decent and the immediate block is safe and a good place to raise kids. Plus, moving to the suburbs would require getting in bidding wars and overpaying for property. While it’s more expensive to buy in the city, we’re definitely not competing with anyone. And who knows, in 18-20 years when my kids are in college or whatever, they’ll have a little grit in their teeth and not be awe-struck by city life and all it’s dirt and glory.

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  • Carrotstick21 September 3, 2020, 10:14 am

    I am considering moving closer to family. I was in NYC for almost 20 years, then moved to the Hudson Valley as a commuter. I am so done with the commute, and working from home has been great. Now I’d like a cheaper cost of living and to be near people I like, so considering a move to Vermont/New Hampshire. But I can’t do that until I understand the tax implications of working across state lines. My company is not willing to set up a business entity/payroll in states where they are not already present, which means I’d have to give up my current job, as they are not in VT or NH. I have no idea how any of this works for the people running off to Barbados. Typically after 183 days (in US) or even less (international) tax issues become A Thing for the business if your workers are not where you are. Really hoping we will address this overall now that working from home is a new norm, but given that we are currently being guided by a narcissistic reality TV host and con man, I’m not brimming with confidence that we will be right on top of innovative taxation law for our new ways of working.

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      Pheebers September 3, 2020, 11:00 am

      As someone who does this for a living, I can tell you that while there are indeed some costs associated with adding a state to payroll, they’re mostly being poops. By the way, NH is particularly easy for an out of state employee. You may be able to make a case for it as it would cost them very little in effort and $.

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      Kate B. September 3, 2020, 11:43 am

      My company has three employees who work out of state, so it can be done.

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    Kate B. September 3, 2020, 10:19 am

    Here in SF people are leaving in droves and rents are plummeting. Bad news for landlords, but good new for those of us who love this city and currently can’t afford to live here. I was born in SF, I love the city and would love to move back.

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  • Helen September 3, 2020, 11:00 am

    I’m in the sticks, which currently has tons of advantages. I have a large fenced in backyard for the kids, tons of places to hike, explore, kayak, and shoot the hooch while distant from others. Blue Ridge & The Great Smoky Mountains are close, and so are several beaches. My state is friendly to homeschoolers, which I’m doing for the time being. The glaring disadvantage is this is Trump country. Pandemic deniers everywhere. 10mins ago the Comcast guy tried to enter my house with his nose hanging out of his subpar mask. Oh hell no. The nurse who drew my blood the other day treated me to an anti mask rant. My immediate family are all here so we’re not likely to move. My husband’s job allows us to live anywhere in the southeast, but the attitudes are the same throughout. I have a bad feeling we’re in for at least 4 more years of Trump. By fraud or the electoral college. I can’t think much about it without spiraling to a dark place.

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  • ktfran September 3, 2020, 11:15 am

    Re: Working from home. Prior to the pandemic, my company work from home policy was on a case by case basis and had to be worked through with your manager and likely their manager. But I work for a global company that had 80k people, now 55k because we sold off one of the divisions late last year.

    Pre-pandemic, my manager, in another state, consistently worked from home and went into the office when needed. I chose to go into the office every day.

    Pandemic, I finally have a good set up from home to work and when I’m really busy, it’s nice to not have to deal with the commute.

    After pandemic, I think our company will go to a hybrid model. Many people will choose to work from home, but we’ll still have office locations, although maybe smaller to save on real estate. I’ll likely go in for meetings, etc., but mostly work from home. I have noticed that some of our better collaboration happens in-person because we have things taped to walls, we’re drawing on white boards. We can move things around and mark things up together. You have people’s full attention. So I’d go in for those types of meetings. Relationship building is important and I feel like sometimes that’s easier when you can get together.

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    Copa September 3, 2020, 11:47 am

    The pandemic did change my plans for moving in with my boyfriend. We’d just decided I’d move into his current condo when my lease was up in the spring when everything started closing down, and I got freaked out by the idea of movers in my space so I signed a short-term lease for my unit. This was in March and back then I thought things would feel more normal by end of summer. By June, we realized this would be a longer-term situation, so we sold his place and will be moving into a new one that offers us more space in a couple weeks. It also has a private outdoor rooftop, so we’ll have outdoor space that we can use weather permitting. It won’t be the same as having a house with a yard in the suburbs, but we both like the city and would ideally like to be here for the long-term. I also don’t think my company will ever go fully remote, nor would I want that for myself full-time, and our new place will offer me a convenient commute.

    Generally speaking, I think I’m somewhat cavalier about big moves. We moved a lot growing up and every couple years I still get the itch to blow my life up and move somewhere new. I think I could make myself at home in a LOT of places at this point, though have zero desire to ever live anywhere rural. As far as leaving the country goes, I have dual citizenship with Mexico and have thought many times about moving there, even pre-Trump.

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  • anonymousse September 3, 2020, 12:03 pm

    I never thought I’d end up in the suburbs. I grew up in rural VT, went to school and lived in Boston for six years and then moved out west to Oregon and then Seattle, Washington. There are a few more moves thrown in there but now I live in the suburbs outside of Philly.

    At first this rental was supposed to be temporary until we found a better house but I actually really like it. We’re in a pretty diverse neighborhood with a pool and a new playground. There’s a creek a short walk away where we look for turtles and fish. Most of my kid’s friends live here, so we have “quaranteamed” and they still see friends and socialize outdoors. Target is ten minutes away and there are lots of grocery stores nearby. Quarantine has been rocky, but I know we have it relatively easy compared to most.

    I don’t particularly want to move again, but I do miss the west and the space out there. We are very settled here, though. And it’s sometimes nice to be closer to family. One of our friends just bought a house in WA state and his views are amazing, the house is crazy nice and that’s when more rural destinations with more affordable homes seem very attractive.

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  • Kate September 3, 2020, 12:09 pm

    I will stay put. Yes, I wish we had outdoor space, but the Cambridge market is strong and it’s a good place to be, lots of restaurants and shops in walking distance, lots of trees, etc.

    My parents own a house in Italy, but I couldn’t realistically go live there. I don’t have citizenship, and we are banned from traveling to Europe anyway, aren’t we? I figure I’ll have to just white-knuckle it and live in horror for 4 more years. I genuinely think Biden will win, but there’s so much shady shit going on… 538’s model shows Trump wins in 30% of scenarios.

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    • Kate September 3, 2020, 1:09 pm

      Also, does it really help the US if all the liberals with some money go live in other countries? We are US citizens and I feel like we kind of have a responsibility to stay and try to make things better. I suppose one could give up their citizenship entirely, but if unwilling to do that, isn’t there an obligation to do what we can? The majority here aren’t Trumpers and reject what Trumpers stand for. I understand the motivation for wanting to just leave the whole dumpster fire to the fools who voted for him, but fuck, my family on both sides has been here 300 years or more. I don’t want to abandon the place and what it was meant to be.

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      • ktfran September 3, 2020, 1:39 pm

        We won’t really leave. I do look at real estate in the Azores. But that is for when we are ready to buys a second home somewhere, which will likely be somewhere other than the U.S.

      • Betty September 3, 2020, 1:54 pm

        My husband and I had been looking into New Zealand before the pandemic, things are on hold right now, but we are still exploring it. My family has been in the U.S. for four hundred years, but I want my daughter to grow up in a world where she is not as limited by her gender.

      • Kate September 3, 2020, 2:02 pm

        I get that, Betty, and I don’t have kids. I understand the attraction of New Zealand, but I wonder how many Americans they’re going to allow in and become permanent residents or citizens.

        I don’t love the idea of people leaving when things are bad and coming back when they’re good. I feel like, either leave permanently or stay and try to do the right thing and protect weaker people.

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        Dear Wendy September 3, 2020, 3:20 pm

        I feel a responsibility like you’re talking about to NYC, and that’s part of the struggle with deciding whether to go or stay. I want to be part of the recovery, to contribute to the effort with our time, energy, money, and presence. But if that recovery takes the rest of our kids’ childhood? That’s a very hard thing to contemplate.

        I feel much less committed to the country outside nyc and I couldn’t really say why exactly. It may be in part bc I grew up outside the country and have less emotional connection to it than some. But that wouldn’t explain the whole reason.

      • Kate September 3, 2020, 4:02 pm

        @Wendy, I had a lot of shit drilled into my brain about the US and had my ass dragged to every civil war battlefield and such.

      • Miss MJ September 3, 2020, 7:21 pm

        Honestly, I think if Trump wins in November, there won’t be anything left for liberals to fight for or even do. It’s not that it won’t be worth fighting for, but it won’t be possible to win. And that’s something I think people (not be necessarily you, but people in general) haven’t really understood yet. If we don’t win in November, we lost our last shot.

        If Trump wins, he’s going full on dictator. Trump has shown he doesn’t care about legality, the Constitution, social norms, anything. Republicans won’t stop him. The Supreme Court won’t stop him or even pretend to after the election.

        I fully expect him and Barr to shut down media outlets, start rounding up enemies – real or perceived – and prosecute them for…well, whatever. He will abuse the military, DOJ, police, martial law, the courts and whatever else he has to to get his way. None of them have really stood up to him yet and I don’t have faith they will. He will destroy Social Security, erase the safety net, and gleefully let the poor, the elderly and Black and brown people die. He will render public education meaningless . He will erase women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and civil rights and make all but (rich) straight white men second class citizens. He will destroy even the idea of post-WWII liberal order. He will destroy the environment. He will exacerbate Covid and god knows what other diseases will follow. And his courts will rubber stamp it all. (I’m a lawyer and I’m seeing the results of his nominees first hand, and, well, some of them are really, really scarily bad, you guys.) No one will be able to stop him.

        And sure, he will tank the economy and ruin the country but the 1% don’t care about anything but the stock market and they’ll invest elsewhere. They literally do no care if this country is destroyed. It matters not. They have no concept of “in this together.”

        So, I am working with my dollars and time to defeat Trump. But, yeah, I’m considering leaving if he wins.

      • ktfran September 3, 2020, 9:23 pm

        @missmj. I hear you. I see you. Right now, I’m too afraid to think about what will happen if Trump wins again. I know everything you say will happen. It’s truly that bad.

        I don’t have much time, but I’m still trying to figure out how to best support the election. I live in a state that will vote Biden. Thank god. And I will vote early and vote Biden. So instead of working the polls here, I need to support swing states. I need to figure how to best do so.

      • Kate September 4, 2020, 5:12 am

        I know he’ll try to do all that, and I know how bad it will be, but I also don’t think this will be “the end.” America could still put this period behind us. Maybe not if there’s a mass exodus of intelligent people with votes, though. I don’t know. Maybe it will get so bad we’ll need to go to Canada if they’ll have us. You do see the same tendencies happening around the world.

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        Dear Wendy September 4, 2020, 5:57 am

        I had a boyfriend years ago whose family left Iran during their revolution, in 1979. He had extended family and family friends – all highly educated and mostly wealthy – who landed in different places all over the world. He called it a “brain drain” – all these people with so many resources leaving their home country at once. The same will probably happen here, too, if trump is re-elected.

      • ktfran September 4, 2020, 9:38 am

        So this morning I read Krugman’s OpEd in the NYTs about Trump’s invisible anarchists. Coincidentally, my very republican aunt texted me this morning and asked if antifa was here.

        So that’s what we’re dealing with people.

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    Bittergaymark September 3, 2020, 1:39 pm

    Honestly, Kate? FUCK the U.S.

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    • Kate September 3, 2020, 1:44 pm

      Yeah! Fuck the poor! Fuck the minorities! Fuck everyone!

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        Bittergaymark September 3, 2020, 2:07 pm

        A surprising number of both voted for Trump. But the US has been a lost cause since year 2,000.

    • Kate September 3, 2020, 2:10 pm

      I don’t think it’s a lost cause when the majority don’t approve of Trump and don’t vote for him. The Republican Party is a lost cause though.

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        Bittergaymark September 3, 2020, 2:20 pm

        Eh, I disagree. It’s a lost cause. People are in DEEP denial. November will really rattle and shock most everybody here, I suspect.

        To quote Madonna: “You’ll wake up. One day… but it’ll be too late.”

      • Kate September 3, 2020, 2:40 pm

        We’re just experiencing racist backlash right now for having a Black man in office. We need legislation to push this shit back down and make it not ok. That can be done.

        Regardless of what you think Obama accomplished, my life was way way better in 2009-15 than now.

    • Kate September 3, 2020, 2:26 pm

      We were a failed state in the 1860s with the civil war. We’re probably a failed state now, but that doesn’t mean lost cause. Deeply flawed, yes.

      Don’t forget we had a Black President after 2000.

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        Bittergaymark September 3, 2020, 2:34 pm

        Yes. But the fact that he was unable to accomplish much of anything due to the Republicunts proved to me then that America was a lost cause.

  • mickxel September 3, 2020, 2:51 pm

    It’s already made me totally change where I live. We bought a house in large part because I was getting pretty desperate to have a dog and in large part because we didn’t want to spend the next 18 months in a garden level apartment. My house is in a major city and I LOVE it – if anything, the pandemic has made me realize the importance of community and being involved in the place you live.

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  • Kali September 3, 2020, 3:19 pm

    We live in our dream home in a small town outside Seattle. We love it here. The dog loves it here. My partner works for Microsoft and had great flexibility to work from home which is a huge boon considering my ongoing chemo status. We’re also close to one of the leading cancer treatment centers in the country. Neither of us wants to live in a country that have orange Donnie a second term. Every time we talk about moving (Ireland is a possibility due to work), we have to factor in my medical care. In the meantime, the grocery store delivers and I have lots of books to read and projects to keep me busy. We love the Pacific Northwest and really don’t ever want to leave. I’m hoping the election doesn’t change that opinion.

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  • Ashley September 3, 2020, 7:58 pm

    I worked from home full time even before the pandemic, and I feel a little guilty in that my life has changed little since all this began. I second being more productive at home. Honestly, I think the people who hate work from home are mostly the people who liked roaming the office talking and looking busy rather than doing any actual work. With the WFH situation we could theoretically look out in the suburbs, but we’ve decided to stay inside the loop in Houston. There is still an energy I like about city life thats worth a smaller yard to me.

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    • MaggieB September 4, 2020, 11:48 am

      That’s an uncharitable assumption to make about people’s preferred working style, as much as it would be to say that people who prefer WFH are poor collaborators who lack interpersonal skills, or they’re trying to be able to slack off out of sight so they can get away with it (neither of which I think are true).

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      • Ashley September 5, 2020, 11:18 am

        Ooh did I strike a nerve? Are you the person going to the keurig very hour?

    • ktfran September 5, 2020, 6:14 pm

      I don’t know @ashley. I think you threw the first stone . Why must it be either/or?

      You could have simply stated that you enjoy working from home instead of being a dick and disparaging those who enjoy going into the office. Then when someone pointed out that they could equally say negative things about you or people who work from home, you double down.

      What was the point of going negative? Truly.

      Said from someone who will go the hybrid model once things open up so I have no skin in the game either way. I’m adaptable like that.

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      • Kate September 5, 2020, 6:21 pm

        I think the people who love wfh aren’t able to form effective working relationships with their co-workers, or they bought a McMansion 90 mins from the office.

  • CanadianCat September 3, 2020, 10:01 pm

    I love this topic of yours as I am sure a lot of people are facing similar situations…
    I am lucky because I live in a small city on the East Coast of Canada, in a province which has a smaller population than most US cities… We have had less than 200 total cases since beggining (within the whole province), so my sense of security is satisfied here, for the most part.
    I did consider moving to another province (where all my family lives and where I am not allowed to visit unless I self isolate for weeks on my return.. that part has been hard, but moving there would bring me closer to familyz but also closer to soo many cases, so staying put for now…
    My work has been fantastic about teleworking. Each employee in my team were given the option of teleworking/adapting schedules to reduced hours, taking weeks off to figure some stuff (with kods unable to attend daycare, etc.) I’ve mostly worked from home and while I do miss social interaction, I feel safee doing things at home for now.
    My son is starting school next week, which I am expecting to be a unpleasant experience… We’ll see when we get there at least.

    But, just to put it out there: Rural eastern Canada has a lot to offer in terms of having a decent house and plot for a good price, smaller schools, low pollution.. 😉

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  • Lw September 4, 2020, 6:57 am

    Wow, thanks Wendy for answering my email and others for sharing their own points of view. We bought are own house (5plex actually) a year ago in Montreal, and with a lot of people realising that they could work from home and home could be anywhere, we see a couple of people moving out of the city.

    I thought that jobs was the main reason people lived in the city (to shorten their commute!!), but my boyfriend (who grew up in the suburbs) told me about the ‘warm rocks’ aspects too – that it’s a different lifestyle – walking everywhere, bigger sense of community, more diversity in terms of food / culture and ameneties.

    I was born and raised in the city, but did feel the pull of nature this year (hiking and being outdoors), after switching from 100% office to 100% WFH. I don’t think I would WFH on the long-term though – I enjoy the social / communual aspect of work (and chose to study in psychology to have that aspect in my job and not be on a screen most of my day). I have a lot of friends / family who although they can consult their therapist through zoom, went back to in person as soon as it was safeish to do so.

    So for me, I lost more than I gained with WFH, and I see it’s the opposite for some of my colleagues – very interested in seeing how this will pane out and how workplaces will reconciliate those desires and create a workplace inclusive for all.

    Finally, my sympathies to all of you in the states right now – following the election closely, but won’t be as affected by the outcome – hopefully Biden does win. (And that’s what’s crazy – not many people seem to be rooting for Biden per say – it seems more about not reelecting Trump – so the Democrat party screwed themselves a little on that one too).

    Our leader seems nice on the outside, but is still a corrupt politician – scandals of corruption and supporting / heavily subsidizing the oil industry, even when it makes no commercial sense. That being said, at least he’s a feminist…

    Fingers crossed for all of you (that Trump is OBLITERATED at the next election) and hopefully you will find a satisfying answer to your own question Wendy (solid plans seem in place)

    /end of rant 🙂

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  • Fyodor September 4, 2020, 7:10 am

    I know for me, I am definitely not happy living in the city (Philly) right now and wish I had private outdoor space for guests, the ability to go on walks without a mask, and to not be next to an apartment building where they have COVID parties. It also seems absurd to be paying a city mortgage when I could be living the same life in the middle of nowhere.

    I did like living in the city pre-pandemic but it’s costly, both in terms of money and in terms of the job demands necessary to live the kind of life we’ve had in a somewhat expensive city. Having given up that life for six months, I wonder whether it’s worth the costs and whether we’d be better of living some place cheaper where I could have a less demanding job.

    In terms of long term, part of the issue is that I have a hard time seeing what comes next. Nine more months of this seems like so long.

    Let’s imagine say a 80th percentile outcome. Trump loses and whines about it but otherwise we have a smooth transition of power. We have more COVID and more isolation over the winter but otherwise things don’t completely fall apart. We see some moderate improvement in outcomes and treatment but COVID remains very dangerous and prevalent. One or two of the vaccine candidates ends up being safe and effective and we have enough vaccine to start mass vaccinations in February* By April or May most people have gotten their two doses and their antibodies have kicked in and herd immunity has basically driven down prevalence of this. All of this is, is maybe not a best case scenario but depends on most things that could go wrong going right.

    What happens then? In April do people just snap back to their old lives after a year of isolation and 300,000 people dead? Do the restaurants just reopen and parties restart? Do people just go back to their offices? What will my family do? Will we just start living our old lives again? Will we just go back to our old city living? It just seems so hard to visualize what comes next.

    *We hear a lot of speculation about whether a vaccine will be approved by November that kind of ignores how far away we are from having enough doses for the most of the country and how long it will take to distribute two doses that must be spread out to 300 million people.

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    • Helen September 4, 2020, 9:30 am

      My prediction: Trump announces that the vaccine is ready the night before the election, but says he can’t distribute it if he’s not president. He’ll hold the vaccine hostage somehow.

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        Bittergaymark September 4, 2020, 11:49 am

        The whole vaccine thing is fantasy malarky. There will be no vaccine. Its all a bunch of delusional nonsense.

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        Bittergaymark September 4, 2020, 11:57 am

        At least as far as happing in the next few months.

      • Helen September 4, 2020, 12:25 pm

        I agree BGM. Americans won’t be getting vaccinated till next spring at the very earliest. Trump will be 100% lying when he claims to have the cure, but only if he wins a second term

      • Fyodor September 4, 2020, 2:24 pm

        It’s not only or even primarily Trump. There’s just a lot of sloppy conflation in the media between when a vaccine might theoretically be approved and when we will have enough of it .

        And I don’t think that anyone is going to care if a vaccine is approved but they can’t get it.

      • Vathena September 5, 2020, 10:21 pm

        @Fyodor, grain of salt, but I work at NIH (nothing covid-related)! In the various virtual townhalls, Dr. Francis Collins, head of NIH, mentioned that a number of the vaccines that make it to the later stages of clinical trials will simultaneously go into production so that they’re ready to deploy ASAP if the trials are successful. He said that obviously this means that a lot of product could be thrown away, but that hopefully the safe/effective candidates would be ready to go, in large numbers. We’ll see.

        I’ll get the vaccine as long as Collins and Fauci say it’s safe! I don’t trust anyone else…

      • Fyodor September 6, 2020, 7:55 am

        @vathena, the estimates I am going from are based on them already doing that. If all of the front runner vaccines (Moderna , AZ, Novavax, Pfizer, ) work and all of them meet their most aggressive production estimates we’ll have enough for about half the country (300m doses/2 doses per person) by January. If some of them don’t work or have production delays it will probably be March or April . And then you need to actually get everyone vaccinated with two doses spread apart by a month.

        That being said I am not an expert on this type of stuff so if you are aware of anything suggesting earlier mass availability I would be thrilled to be wrong.

    • anonymousse September 4, 2020, 11:31 am

      Isn’t it just incredible how he’s gaslit so many? We have the fatality count equivalent to a 9/11 every two days, but the Trump supporters don’t give a shit. It’s amazing. It just blows my mind how full of shit they are.

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    • Fyodor September 6, 2020, 8:28 am

      @Vathena I’m going in part from this article about vaccine production timelines as well as the public production commitments from each of the early candidates (AZ, Novavax, Pfizer, Modena)


      “The scenarios, which assume that the two vaccines will demonstrate sufficient safety and effectiveness for an emergency authorization from the F.D.A. by the end of October, noted that Vaccine A, which seems to match Pfizer’s, would have about two million doses ready within this time frame, and that Vaccine B, whose description matches Moderna’s, would have about one million doses ready, with tens of millions of doses of each vaccine ready by the end of the year.”

      So say each of them get 40 million doses by the end of the year, that’s enough for about 40 million people (2 per person) by the end of the year.

      And these are best case scenarios where everything works. Just assuming minor hiccups with efficacy or mass production we knock everything back a few months. No one has ever mass-produced an ,RNA vaccine like the ones Moderna and Pfizer are offering. And then there’s the logistics of mass-deployment.

      I’m not being cynical here. Getting the whole country vaccinated by next summer would be a historic and incredible achievement, unlike anything that has been ever done before. And there is good reason to think that it might happen! It’s really great news. But people seem to have this sense that it’s going to happen by the fall or early winter that is not grounded in any of the publicly available information.

      Once again, this isn’t my field of expertise, so if you have contrary info that I’m not aware of, I would be delighted to find out I’m mistaken.

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    Kicia September 4, 2020, 11:55 am

    I started full time telework last fall and decided to make the move from Northern VA back to NJ. My house now has much more outdoor space than my old house so I got pretty lucky that I already had a comfy work from home set up before everything went down.
    I’m in a small city on the Delaware River that’s always been a popular spot for New Yorkers to buy weekend homes. This summer, the real estate market has really picked up and houses are moving fast. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the buyers are people from NYC or Philly moving here full time.

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  • Elizabeth M Stebner September 8, 2020, 3:30 pm

    Great response, well thought-out and you’ve clearly considered all the possibilities…of which there are many.

    I would consider myself one of those native New Yorkers that — almost snobbily, I’ll admit — have always scoffed at the idea of living anywhere but the city. (And for the record when I say city in my case I mean Queens, or for that matter, any of the 5 boroughs – I was born here and definitely consider them all part of the city, even if Manhattan and Brooklyn are cooler).

    Having always been a die-hard NYer, at age 32 I am considering leaving for the first time ever in the next few years, though I think life factors will very likely keep me here. My parents are aging and my dad is sickly, so I would feel guilty leaving. My husband has lost both of his parents and is an only child, so there is absolutely nothing keeping him in NY. This makes a decision extra tough, but even the fact that I’m ENTERTAINING the possibility of living outside NYC is significant to me. We’ve been saving up to buy an apartment in NYC, which in the areas we are looking is about $500K (yikes). Now with the ability to WFH the question becomes… is this really the best choice?

    And I have to mention that the pandemic has brought a strange new housing situation into my life – something I didn’t see coming, and one that is both a blessing and a burden. My aunt died from COVID in March, leaving behind 2 houses, one of which was left to my sister and me. It’s a cute Catskills cottage home that has been in the family for 50 years now, and without getting into all the details…we just don’t know what to do with it.

    In some ways it seems like the best possible time to inherit a country home. We’ve been driving up there periodically, swimming in the creek, going kayaking. In other ways, it’s been a tremendous amount of work to clean and try to maintain, and due to my aunt’s death, of course, very complicated mentally.

    I am a newlywed (1 year next week!) and my husband and I have been saving rather feverishly for our first city apartment. Now the question is: do we rush into buying property when we could co-own a country house with my family, and just commit to living in our mediocre rent-stabilized apartment?

    When I tell people I inherited this house, everyone thinks I’m crazy for being stressed or undecided. But the reality is, I never owned any property before this and now I suddenly have an old house that was never touched, and needs substantial repairs. Not to mention a mice problem. (Also, there’s the complication of co-owning with my sister, while married, which I won’t get totally into..) On the other hand, the mortgage is totally paid and there’s a beautiful wooded property and a super cute town nearby, so the potential is totally there.

    I am really confused on what to do. I feel like time is going to be the best indicator for all of these decisions, but I also want to consult with a real estate attorney and a financial advisor to help me make a more educated choice.

    I have a job where I can totally WFH for the most part (producer) and my husband has a job where it’s impossible for him to WFH (HVAC technician). So that will play into the decision of course, as well.

    In conclusion, it’s immensely confusing. I have no idea what to do. My brain keeps getting pulled in different directions. So for now, I’m taking it one day at a time and we’ll see where it goes.

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