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Where to move?

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  • #870249 Reply

    After living in Europe for 7 years, my partner and I (both Americans) are considering moving back to the US. The problem is deciding *where* to go…and committing to leaving our Euro lifestyle. Disclaimer: this got super long!

    Our city has many advantages we love:
    – Good work/life balance
    – We can be in a huge lush park in 5 minutes walking or in the center of town in ten minutes walking from our place; easy work commutes
    – Lots of paid vacation, good health care, other great benefits
    – Can save about $2000 a month combined
    – We have invested significant time/effort in learning the language & culture, making friends, establishing hobbies, etc.
    – Train lines and bike trails throughout the country for weekend trips (and no need to own a car!)
    – Easy travel to many other European countries
    – We basically have a great lifestyle overall

    But there are also some significant disadvantages:
    – 16+ hours of travel and significant expense to see family
    – Our parents are getting older and we’re missing out on time with them that we’ll never get back
    – We still are a long way off being actually fluent in the language which really limits our integration into the culture in some ways
    – My partner is pretty sure he wants a career change and the two main industries for English speakers (tech and teaching) are no longer good fits for him
    – We’re very limited in our options to save for retirement due to US tax laws for citizens living abroad
    – Buying a house is a lot harder here, and that’s something we’d like to do within the next few years

    So… we’ve been discussing it a lot and we’re leaning towards leaving at the end of 2020, even though I’m so scared to lose our European lifestyle. The other wrinkle is that my family is on the east coast and his is on the west coast. But we are considering a few cities that are close to at least one of our families (if not parents then at least aunts/uncles). We are looking for somewhere that has a similar lifestyle (most important: close to nature but walkable downtown, affordable housing).

    So we are considering:
    – Providence, RI
    – Manchester, NH
    – Portland, ME
    – Sacramento, CA
    – Portland, OR
    – Chicago, IL

    Does anyone have recommendations on these cities? Ones you’d recommend (or not recommend)?! Are we crazy to think we can even settle in the US and make it work financially? Thanks in advance for any advice!

    #870278 Reply

    So I lived in Manchester NH until I was 11. I loved it, as a kid. You can get a big house for a nice price. We lived in a nice, safe neighborhood and I rode my bike everywhere. Lots of parks. They’ve revamped the downtown area and there are lots of restaurants.

    However, you do NOT want to commute from Manchester to Boston. It’s horrific. Just don’t. There are some jobs up there, but not a ton. My parents worked for a big computer company in nearby Merrimack, and those offices are now part of Fidelity Investments (where I work now in Boston, actually). I’m not sure what other companies are up there.

    Also, there are some rough parts of town. And the school system wasn’t great.

    Providence could be a better bet. Fidelity is there too. And there’s a train to Boston. Manchester doesn’t have that rail service.

    #870279 Reply

    I live in New England but don’t know a lot about Portland ME. I know it’s lovely, but again not sure what jobs are up there, and the commute to Boston would suck. There’s some train service but I think it’s more for tourists than a real commuter rail.

    #870281 Reply

    Thanks Kate! Yeah, we are looking to ideally find work and housing in the same city. I’ve been car free for 7 years, there’s no way I’m going back into it with winter commuting into Boston.

    #870282 Reply

    You should check out Atlanta. Mild winters. Close to the Blue Ridge mountains and beaches. Live inside the perimeter for city life. Outside the perimeter for suburban. Biggest city in the south….but its definitely still the south. I’ve lived here for 30 years and love it (mostly)

    #870284 Reply

    I guess the thing is, if you want to be car-free, you need to be living very close in to Boston, on public transportation, and that is expensive. I have done it, but definitely not in a HOUSE, you know… it’d be a smaller condo.

    It may be possible in Providence, I’m not sure. I would say NOT in Manchester or Portland.

    #870290 Reply

    I’ve lived in the Chicago area my whole life. I live in the suburbs, but my sister lived in actual Chicago for years. You can get by without a car fairly easily. My sister and her husband had one car, but they rarely drove it. They were also able to afford a nice condo on the north side when she was either working part time or a stay at home mother, and his job was average. It’s a city of around 3 million, so the job opportunities are of a decent range. Plus, it’s a hub airport so flights to either coast are typically easier to get, direct, and cheaper. You can get to O’Hare using the L’s blue line. There is also tons to do here. There are a lot of upsides of living here. I’d say the biggest downside is the taxes especially given the fact Trump took away some of our biggest tax cuts.

    #870293 Reply

    I’ve been in Chicago for about 5 years now. I love it.

    Compared to other major U.S. cities, I think Chicago seems relatively affordable. If you want to be in or near the city core, it can be pretty pricey, but there are neighborhoods where housing is more affordable. I live in Lincoln Park, and I’m near a huge park and have easy access to my running and biking trails along the lake. I also have easy access to transportation and can get downtown within about 30 minutes. I’ve never felt like I need a car here (and don’t have one), but my neighborhood is within a couple miles of the city center — it’s a pricier/nicer area, but everything I need is a short walk away. If you’re looking to buy a house, there are certainly areas more affordable than mine, but one of the ‘catches’ of this city, in my opinion, is that if you’re in a more affordable neighborhood, it skews way more residential and/or farther from transit, and everyday errands get harder without a car. A nice condo would be more realistic than a house for the average person for the kind of area I’m in in Chicago. We also have a bomb-ass restaurant scene out here.

    Not sure if you’re open to the suburbs at all, but Chicago has some nice ones. The city is easily accessible by commuter rail, and some suburbs like Oak Park and Evanston are more like small cities with their own little downtown areas. I don’t think the suburbs would be manageable without a car, though.

    My least favorite part of living here are the long, grey, f’ing cold winters, but think the city does a pretty okay job of managing them (e.g., we have heat lamps at transit stops and I’m always surprised by how fast major roads are cleared after major snow comes our way).

    I’m not familiar with the other cities you are considering, but for whatever it’s worth, I’d pick the west coast in a second if I could up and move anywhere.

    #870297 Reply

    I lived in Providence for a summer in college…20 years ago, so grain of salt but…I loved it. We lived on the hill not far from Brown/RISD and the neighborhood was lovely. I am pretty sure it would even be lovely for non-college students! I’m not sure how the public trans is within the city, but I remember being able to walk almost everywhere we needed to go. I’ve been jonesing to take my husband and daughter to Waterfire (on Saturdays in the summer, they light fires in braziers in the middle of the river downtown – there’s music and street performers, it’s a lot of fun). The beaches are an easy drive from the city and Boston-Logan would be close by if you needed cross-country or cheaper flights.

    I think Portland, OR might not be as affordable as some of the other cities you’ve listed, especially if you want to be near the downtown core. Plus I admit I’m a little scared of Portland ever since that New Yorker article about how the west coast is overdue for a massive, devastating earthquake. Yikes.

    #870298 Reply

    Is there a way you could visit some of the top contenders? I definitely think you’d probably want a car in the New England cities you’re thinking of. Portland, OR you can do without, but with all the beautiful and amazing places to visit that are pretty close by, I would want a car in Portland. I would choose the upper west coast if I could live anywhere.

    #870300 Reply

    My sister lives outside of Providence, and it’s really nice but neighborhoods are kind of small and cool places seem to be far apart. They don’t seem to have robust public transport. They don’t have a lot of industry/HQs so the job market is a little tough, but as Kate said, Boston is a 1 hour train ride away. Because it’s near so many universities there is relatively cheap housing within walking distance of groceries, bars, restaurants.

    Chicago, neighborhoods in the city proper are pricier than those on the outskirts and when you look at the Chicago map (they refer to the whole area as “Chicagoland” for a reason) it’s huge. But they have the El so you have a much easier time to get to different places across the city.

    I’ve been reconsidering a move to Atlanta myself – there are a few areas where you can do without a car and for the same rent, I can get a much bigger place (with free parking, in unit laundry and on-site gym). Atlanta has a lot of HQs so lots of jobs and like Chicago, it’s a major airport hub.

    Also check out Madison WI – very funky. Very cold, but ME is just as cold!

    #870301 Reply

    I’ve lived in Chicago for almost 12 years now. I LOVE it. I sold my car six months after moving here and have never looked back. If you’re really serious about NOT owning a car, the only two super walkable/public transit cities I can think of are Chicago and NYC. IDK, maybe Boston, Portland, OR or San Francisco? Anyone else please tell me if I’m wrong.

    I live about a mile and half west of the City Center, right on the edge of West Town and the West Loop. My condo is pretty big, comparatively, and the husband and I got it for a really good price three years ago. Before I met the husband, I lived in the Lakeview neighborhood. There, I was about a 1/2 mile closer to grocery stores, but even now, I walk to and from every Sunday, rain or shine or snow or ice. I also agree with @Copa in that the city does a really good job of clearing streets after a snow. I think only once I was like, WTF, why aren’t they cleared yet? And that was last year.

    Speaking of the husband, his parents live in the south suburbs. He did own a car and would drive out there every Sunday to bowl with his dad. The car finally pooped out and was too expensive to fix. He did the math and it’s easier/cheaper to take Uber on Sunday’s than to own a new car / pay for City stickers / pay for insurance. I’d say about 4 times a year, we’ll use a Zipcar (car rental).

    I also like that we have two airports, Amtrak and Metra for trips. Saturday, the husband and I took Amtrak to Milwaukee for the day so we could watch his college basketball game, so easy! I use the L and the bus regularly for work and weekends around the city.

    There is plenty of green space here and there are lots of nearby places to go hiking or on trails. My sister got married at a beautiful forest preserve about an hour via Metra north of the city. Starved Rock is also a really popular, close place to hike, etc.

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