Where should I live?

I am a lifelong Chicagoan and I cannot take many more polar vortexes. I am ready to move someplace without winter. Or, as a compromise, with the kind of winter where everything shuts down and one is not expected to risk one’s life and health to haul one’s ass into one’s job regardless of how cold it is or how bad the roads are.

The problem is, I don’t think a place that fits all my criteria exists. So I have to compromise.
Also, I would have to convince Boyfriend. (Note, we have been together for 15 years, living together for 13, the fact that we’re not legally married is equal parts laziness, thumbing nose at societal expectations, and fear of owing a shitload of tax. So he does factor into my decision, strongly.)

My criteria:

  1. As stated above: no winter. I like heat. LOVE heat, actually. Hot summers do not bother me.

  2. Blue state. Some have asked me on the other forum whether I’d be willing to live in a blue city in a red state. Answer: maaaaaaybe. It helps that I’m at the age where, probably in a few years, abortion being made illegal on the state level will not affect me personally. Still not jazzed about living in a state that’s not for reproductive rights, as a bare minimum.

  3. Low to medium COL - at minimum, lower COL than Chicago. This knocks out California.

  4. Do not need a car. I think this is going to be the hardest criteria to meet, and realistically, I’ll probably have to get a car again when we move, which to be honest I HATE the idea of. I can probably amend “can live easily without car, without issue” to “can get some places such as grocery store and job without car, am not totally fucked if car breaks down.” Because I have been in that situation - living somewhere with zero public transport, no one to call for help, car dead on side of road, unable to get to job. Though, that was long before Uber and Lyft existed.
    (Note: I am not coordinated enough to bike.)

Neither of us have family anywhere that we would want to live. We have random friends scattered throughout the country but no strong support system anywhere. So that’s not a factor.

What’s funny is that the one place that really makes my heart sing and feel excited about living there one day is New Orleans - which meets only the “no real winter” criteria and also has hurricanes. So there are probably some emotional factors involved here that have nothing to do with the above list.

OK. What’cha got?

Will you be relying on employer based health insurance or not? This affects the choices too.

If you are still in the window of caring about abortion on a personal level, you are likely nowhere close to the window of Medicare as an option. :slight_smile:

Oh, this is interesting. Louisiana is of course a very red state, but NoLA is a blue city; I loved New Orleans but I didn’t find it the easiest place to be without a car. That being said, I commuted on a tallbike when I lived there, so, uh, it’s definitely possible. I was living there right before and right after Katrina, so it’s been a hot minute. I do go back for public health conferences a few times in the past few years though. The public transit is actually pretty passable and really quite good in certain places, but many neighborhoods are grocery deserts so you have to plan around that as far as placement. Cost of living is middling.

I mean, hurricanes, as someone from a tornado part of the country - at least you get a few days’ vs a few hours’ notice when hurricanes are a-coming!

@FIFoFum, yes, too young for Medicare. That’s a good point, though; I may be looking at a career change because my field is mostly here and on the East Coast. So a state with expanded Medicaid, or that at minimum is not hostile to the ACA, is a good idea in case I have to take a job without health insurance to get on my feet and start money coming in.

@anomalily, I have heard that the rents in NOLA are getting jacked up and are approaching what I’m paying here. I’ve been a few times and I know there’s the streetcar, and buses (we took one from our hotel in the quarter to City Park and it wasn’t awful) but they seemed limited and probably don’t run all night or anything.

Chicago proper, fortunately, almost never gets tornadoes. Must be all the tall buildings or possibly proximity to lakefront? I’ve not had to worry about tornadoes since I was out in the suburbs many years ago. I went to college downstate, though, and tornadoes were a thing there. And terrifying.

  1. I can’t remember – what are your feelings on humidity?

  2. What else about blue states is attractive to you, besides reproductive rights? Are workplace discrimination protections important? What about at-will employment?

If it’s just cultural stuff, then you can absolutely get that in a blue city in a red state. If there are state-wide factors that are more important to you, it’ll be harder in a blue city/red state situation.

  1. I’ve found using Sperling’s Best Places to be useful as a way of comparing COL. It’s not perfect by any means, but at least has some sort of metric.

  2. It sounds like groceries and job are the things you most want access to via foot or transit – is that correct? Is there anything else that would be really, really important for you to have foot or transit access to?

Great questions, @diapasoun

  1. Meh. Not my favorite thing, but we get it here too. I vastly prefer it to below zero/snow/wintry mix/wind chills.

  2. You know, I wrote about just that in my journal a while ago but I’m too lazy to scroll back and find it. Reproductive rights. LGBT rights. Progressive leaders who care about people. Social safety net. Less racism - that’s a hard one; I mean, I’m in a very blue city in a blue state and it’s not like there isn’t racism. Maybe I mean, like, less overt racism? Like, not a state where the Klan is still a thing or you can be at dinner and your FIL busts out the n-word repeatedly like it’s nothing - is that too much to ask?

And part of it is just a sense of being around like minded people. Like, as an example: Probably a year or so ago, I was in line at the library that’s a few blocks from where I live. There was a young guy in front of me in line, with a Trump-Pence button on his backpack. After spending a moment looking for, and failing to find, the “Fuck” before their names, or the red circle with a line through it, it hit me - HOLY SHIT THERE IS A TRUMP SUPPORTER RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. It was remarkable to me because… this just does not happen here. My neighborhood in particular is so blue that sharing the same airspace as a Trumper was shocking to me.

Or like, if I’m ever somewhere that clearly isn’t LGBT-friendly and my mouth ends up hanging open because “wait, how is that even in question?!? … Oh, right, red state/city.” Because that’s not my experience at home.

One could argue that we need diverse viewpoints and to not just live in our liberal bubble among only those who share our views. I would’ve agreed with that during other Republican administrations. Not this one. This administration is too dangerous, and the stakes too high, for me to try and find common ground with people who really hardcore believe that women and LGBT folks and POC and disabled people do not deserve rights (or even if they say they don’t believe that, they’re voting for the guy who does, so as far as I’m concerned, same difference.)

Not being treated like a goddamned freak/Satan worshipper/witch for being goth and having purple hair is an added bonus, haha. Though even here that happens now and then. Usually when I am vending.

  1. Thanks, I’ll check it out.

  2. Errands in general - like a pet store and a Target or CVS or similar. Airport. (Ugh, that’s another thing I’d have to get used to, probably not living near an airline hub. THAT will be an adjustment.) Living near restaurants and shops and bars would be nice - my brain kind of goes WHAAAAAT at the thought of having to forgo drinking because I have to drive home - but, like, our friends in STL have that. Even though it’s near impossible to live without a car there. They live near this major street that is a whole strip of nightlife and restaurants and small musical venues and a park. At minimum I’d need something like that, rather than being trapped in some subdivision without even sidewalks that you literally cannot leave without driving. Walkable neighborhood in otherwise car-centric city.


I have many of the same requirements as you, which is why I’m so interested in this! I travel a lot and don’t drive, and used to work in transportation policy so I have lots of thoughts about carfree access!

Well, yea, I think you might’ve asked for a city that doesn’t exist if you want transit access to an airport, walkable, no winters, liberal state, and low COL. Even in decently walkable cities, they certainly don’t have Chicago-like access to an airport w/o a car. NoLa has buses, but you have to transfer like 5 times to get out…

In the US at least, you might want to figure out how to weight your quadrangle of priorities in order of importance, what feels good and most important to you. Portland isn’t low COL anymore (RIP my years of sub-$300 rent); nor is Seattle. Nowhere in California is cheap and walkable. All of the Northeast is out, most of the midwest for weather. Most of the southern US has red states + bad transit.

Any chance your work experience, health, and/or family origin might enable an out-of-US place? Because there’s a lot of options that fit your requirements outside the US. Leeds; Zagreb; Athens, Riga…

Maybe you can rank your requirements? Like what’s most important? For example, Miami comes to mind but being 100% car-less might be hard, it’s super diverse and liberal with no winter, but it’s in a conservative state and it’s not super cheap. Santa Fe would have similar compromises, and Phoenix. I like Atlanta too, Galveston is nice, Orlando, Nashville is surprisingly diverse but you’d need a car (cheap though) but conservative state. I feel like a lot of the most diverse (and liberal) southern cities are in conservative states (like I mentioned, Austin).

I think you might struggle to find a truly blue state. Most ‘blue’ states actually have dense population centers that vote liberal, and less populated (but often larger swaths) of land that vote conservative.

I grew up in WA, and it’s my most natural example. West of the Cascade mountains it’s very liberal. Google, Amazon, socialism. Cross the mountains to the eastward, and it’s Trump Country. Farms, worried sheep, meth.

Large portions of LCOL states and cities are also going to be Trump Country. Where there is poverty and low opportunity, there is Trump.

I think this map of the 2018 House results, with results by county shows the WA divide pretty clearly.

New Mexico looks promising, tho!


Yep. This. My thought on the “state without the Klan” thing. Like… Portland would be considered a liberal utopia by most people. But Oregon actually was the seat of a massive neonazi resurgence in the 80s/90s. Skin heads are still a thing in the state, especially out east. I dunno. :frowning: sorry dude.


And our state was literally founded on excluding african-americans, banned by law. Our second-largest city, seen as a liberal utopia by many outsiders, has a town center statue of the founder of the KKK. So…yea. Not to mention the Proud Boys issues we’re having now in Portland.

Nevada is also trending blue and has Medicaid expansion. I don’t know the public transit situation too well in Reno and Vegas, but a quick Google shows multiple options in LV.

Tucson comes to mind but I don’t know how easily you can get around without a car. It’s a quirky blue city in a red (but sometimes leaning purple) state…so your vote would matter! You would DEFINITELY need a car in Phoenix and it leans more red than Tucson.

Parts of California can be expensive but I wouldn’t say every part is higher COL than Chicago. The cheaper the COL, the more likely you’ll be in a red part of the state, but something like Sacramento might be good to explore.

Do you need a place that has a thriving economy so you and BF will both be able to find jobs? If so, I think Santa Fe and Tucson might be a little harder whereas Austin/Phoenix will be higher COL but have more job options.

I also think it would awesome to live in New Orleans for a few years!

I think I figured out how to quote on this forum, finally?

Oh yeah, I know what I want doesn’t exist. Just listing some stuff that will be hard to get used to.

If I had to rank, it would be:

  1. No winter. If I do not get this, there is zero point in moving. Other than these horrific winters, I really do love Chicago and would not be considering leaving if not for the horrific winters. Honestly? I’d love to be a snowbird. But maintaining two residences is laughably out of our reach.
  2. Blue state (or more realistically, blue city; more on that below)
  3. Can function without a car - again, this does not necessarily have to mean “can do everything with no car”, I would settle for “I am in a walkable neighborhood, do not have a horrifyingly long car commute to work, and am not completely fucked when my car breaks down.”
  4. Low-medium COL. I know it is not MMM to put this last on the list - but, I mean, if low COL were really that important to me then right now I’d be living in a more rural suburb where my rent would be way cheaper. It pains me to admit that I’m willing to pay more for a location I really like - is that bad?

Sadly, no. I looked into this when Trump was elected. I don’t even qualify to emigrate to Canada. (which - winter, so, no, haha.) Boyfriend is adamant that we not ever live in a non-English-speaking country. Truthfully, he doesn’t even want to visit them; the language barrier stressed him out a LOT when we were in Paris, and he took French in high school and knew more than me!

I like the southwest a lot - have been to Phoenix/Tucson but not to NM and I loved both (also have a friend who recently moved to Phoenix and she loves it, actually just bought a house after being barely able to afford rent in Chicago). I really hate Florida, which is a pity because my company has an Orlando office. I’ve been there a bunch of times, and I can’t put my finger on what I dislike, exactly, I guess it just felt really… suburban and stepford to me? I felt out of place. Atlanta - meh. I’m actually SUPER allergic to Atlanta. Like, literally. Something grows there that makes me super itchy all the time. I did not have that experience in other deep South states during pollen season - but, hmm, that’s a consideration too, southern humid states are going to have more pollen and mold and I could end up really snotty all the time. Healthwise I’d probably be better off in the southwest.

This is an excellent point. I live in a blue state, Illinois. If I drive maybe about 45 minutes west of Chicago, I can get to Wheaton, IL, which is HARDCORE evangelical conservative Christian. I worked there for a while when I was very young and let’s just say I did not fit there. The aforementioned FIL who spews the n-word every 10 minutes and so does everyone he knows, and Boyfriend’s high school yearbook features pix of kids (not him) dressed up in blackface, I am not even kidding? That’s Illinois. Far downstate Illinois, but regardless, the same state that contains my ultra liberal bubble where I about fall over in shock when I see someone wearing a Trump button!

I did not know that NM was that blue! Huh.

Haha, well, yeah, ideally. I haven’t quite thought through how in hell to get jobs. Boyfriend is an admin so his skillset is pretty broad. My industry is here, Austin, Orlando, and the East Coast, and I’ll be honest, the job openings are VERY rare. It’s a total accident of timing that I am even in this job right now. I MIGHT be able to do an internal transfer? I don’t like FL, though, and I hear the manager in Austin is terrible. Maybe I could keep my manager though, that’s pretty common here, for your boss to not be in the same office.

But realistically, I’m likely looking at a career change. I kiddingly told Boyfriend that we should become bartenders, move to New Orleans and/or some beachfront town on the ocean somewhere, and go tend bar for a while. He pointed out this would involve me dealing with people, likely drunk people. And I went, “EWWWWW, right, yuck!” haha.

I dream of living in New Orleans. I really don’t know why, but, like, I was looking at parade coverage recently and I was literally tearing up, wishing I was there. I have no connections there. I’ve visited twice. But there’s a strong pull, for some reason.

Perhaps a better bet is making where you are now suit your needs better? Have you considered that? It sounds like you’re both lifelong from the area, and I think that can make it harder to start over somewhere new, especially if it’s very different.

Could you do things to eliminate some of the negatives of the cold? Maybe a car would make it easier, or having a bigger place so you have room for a sauna (from what I remember Chicago is a really residential/suburban city so I’m picturing a small house vs. an apartment). Maybe more trips to warm places in the winter?

I love New Orleans too :slight_smile: but the job market is pretty challenging in our fields. Such good food though, omg.

More trips to warm places in winter are definitely in our plans. We’re going to Los Angeles in a few weeks. Aiming for Hawaii in a year - total bucket list item, I’m worried about affording it but it’s been a dream of mine for literally decades. It’s really hard for Boyfriend to get time off of work, though, his boss is an ass about approving vacation time even if it’s not busy, because they laid off Boyfriend’s backup so Boss has to fill in any time Boyfriend is off. And doesn’t want to. I may end up doing some travel alone in the future. That hurts my heart, but I’m tired of his boss dictating when I can travel.

From experience: a car only makes things a TINY bit easier, and actually brings a whole new set of problems. (Having to dig it out or scrape ice, battery dies in cold, some jackass rearends you because they didn’t notice the roads are dangerous, parking becomes a hassle because spots are buried in snow, snowplow completely covers car in snow to the point that you can’t even tell which vaguely car-shaped lump is yours).

Really, the big negative of the cold for me is that I cannot be outside without being in extreme discomfort. Also, too-short growing season. Staying inside and sitting in a sauna doesn’t really fix either of those things. I’m just not built for this and I am starting to accept that. I hate snow. I have always hated snow. I remember as a kid crying at recess because they made us go outside in the snow. Why not get away from it, then, rather than continuing to put up with it?

A small house is totally out of my reach financially unless I move to a very outlying suburb, which, no thank you. If I’m going to move somewhere red that requires a car, it’s going to be one where snow does not happen.

Oh, and I’m lifelong Chicagoan but Boyfriend is not; he grew up near St. Louis. Honestly, I don’t care much about that part. Everyone I know has fled Chicago, over the past decade or so. We actually have very little local support because everyone has left, and we are constantly in the loop of trying to make new friends/we make some new friends/OOPS, new friends are fleeing to somewhere with better weather. It’s happened so many times I don’t even blink any more - “oh, OK, there goes another one, time to start over.” And it’s starting to make me wonder, wait, why are WE still here?

Maybe you should try an extended trip to New Orleans–stay in, or close to, a residential area and see if actually being there still makes your heart sing. If there’s no place that can actually be perfect, look for the place that makes you happy even though it isn’t perfect.

This strikes me as something important – it’s clear that you highly value garden time, and if it was easier to get it throughout the year, the butt-in-seat problems of working might be easier for you handle. When you live somewhere cold and snowy, the summer days become extraordinarily precious – missing out on sunshine feels like a death sentence, especially if you’re a plant caretaker. When you live somewhere warm and sunny, it’s nothing like that.

Luckily, this is not MMM. :smile: And no, it’s not bad to pay more for a location you really like. You prioritize what matters to you, not what matters to someone else (especially not Internet Pete, who would probably be one of the first to tell you not to prioritize Internet Pete’s preferences over your own).


Ohhhhh, I would love to; I agree that vacationing somewhere doesn’t give a real picture of what it’s like to live there. I wish we could do a test run of many of the places that sound like possibilities!

But neither of us has enough vacation time to do this. Stupid jobs. {kicks dirt morosely}

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I could not possibly have phrased this better.