As some of you may know, I have serious geographic commitment issues. One of my favorite hobbies is to daydream about/research different places I could live, usually when I should be focusing on something else. Except for a four year stint in Colombia and Panama (and three years in Fredericksburg for college and a short, three-month period in Charlottesville for no reason in particular), I’ve lived in the D.C area my entire life and part of me thinks it’s time to pack up and experience life somewhere else in the U.S, at least for a while. OK, so rereading that sentence I guess I have technically spent over seven years of my life outside the D.C area, but it still feels very familiar.
Don’t get me wrong — I like the D.C area: It’s green and lush, the job market is great, diversity is off the charts…but I don’t know; D.C is a place for highly driven, ambitious career people types with clear career paths/career goals. And me? I’m more of an observer. I like to, you know, daydream about a nomadic, experience-rich existence where I get to understand and feel life in many different places. I’ve had a lot of jobs but the best job I ever had was as a pouring girl at a Virginia winery in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills. For about two years, I spent my weekends describing Virginia wines and pairings with eager, enthusiastic visitors. The pay was abysmal ($8/hr) but I loved it. This winery, like most wineries, was situated far down this winding country gravel road surrounded by farms, vineyards and mountains and everyone who came to visit really, really wanted to be there. They even pretended that the wines we produced were tasty and special…I always felt they were watery and slightly off, but this was beside the point. The point is, that there is something very cozy and I don’t know, even magical, about serving wine to happy people in a beautiful, relaxing setting. It was a very fulfilling, inspiring experience.
The only problem with my dream of a nomadic existence is, of course, money. In my ideal life, I would spend the next five years of my life moving from one town/city to another, working fulfilling but low stress jobs, maybe at a hotel, tourism outlet or winery. I would expend most of my energies observing, interacting, writing and you know, taking it easy and enjoying life. I would have a nice little sun room or a favorite café where I’d do my writing and within a few years, I’d be making enough to work full-time as a writer.
So today I decided to do some concrete numbers research. How much money would I need to survive in another city or place? And could I make that kind of money doing the kind of jobs I want to do? Obviously, if I were to move somewhere new it would have to be somewhere with a significantly lower cost of living. New York, San Francisco and Boston probably aren’t in my near future. It would also have to be somewhere physically beautiful, with plenty of parks and access to hiking and biking trails, since hiking/biking is my second favorite thing to do besides daydreaming about places. Lastly, I could really use some mountains, though I’d settle for hills. Overly flat places make me uncomfortable. So I took a look at a map of the U.S and picked some random places to find out how much money I’d have to earn to maintain my same standard of living in other places, and this is what I learned:
In Boise, ID, I can expect to maintain my current lifestyle earning $36,000
Bozeman, MT: $39,000
Tulsa, OK: $33,000 (really, I have no interest in moving to Tulsa, I was just curious)
Columbus OH (why not?), $33,000
Chattanooga, TN: (I know nothing about this place, but I like the name), $35,000
Austin, TX: (seems a little too in vogue and overdone these days), $35,000
Madison, WI: (way too cold, but I was curious) $40, 900
Cheyenne, WY: (seems pretty boring and desolate, but something about being out in the middle of nowhere appeals to me) $36,500
Sacramento, CA : $43,677 (too expensive)
Little Rock, AR: $37,916 (I thought it would be cheaper)
Baton Rouge: $35,000
Portland, ME $42,381 (too expensive to merit a move)
Jackson, MS (probably too humid and Republican but pretty cheap!) $34,000
Des Moines, IA: $34,000
Athens, GA: $33,000
So there you go. I could make it big in life in Boise, ID with $36,000 a year. Well, maybe not big, but I could make it. Of course, the only problem isn’t really money. The bigger problem is me. I guess part of me feels like my job should be challenging and official, and there’s the whole not wanting to disappoint people aspect of it. As the oldest kid in my family, I think I’m naturally a rule-follower, so part of me feels that if I were to just get up and leave one day, I’d be breaking some unspoken rule of this whole responsible adult thing. Because really, technically speaking, after securing a few freelance gigs and maybe finding a job somewhere else, I could drive off in my little Honda Civic, if I really wanted to. We’ll see. Does anyone know of any other cool/interesting/worthwhile places worth daydreaming about moving to? Would be kind of cool to take my little, moderately trafficked blog on the road some day.
Categories: Me, Me, Me