Moving Back to The West

Although Erica and I love New York City — all the culture, diversity, energy, and constant renewal — I think we’ve always thought somewhere in the back of our minds that we would probably move back West at some point. Interestingly, as it turns out that, “the West” isn’t actually one place. It’s a huge swath of land covering by most accounts a third of the U.S., made up of a complex milieu of micro-climates and sub-cultures, and we realized that if we did ever move it wasn’t going to be to “the West”, but to one small patch of community and opportunity in that vast landscape. Suddenly the existential weight of the rest of our lives came crashing down on our shoulders.

But, undaunted I set about solving the problem the best way I know how — with lists (and lists of lists) — beginning with the priorities that really matter to us: a community that is mindful and supportive, a culture that promotes expression of new ideas, abundant access to the wonders of nature, and schools that we would feel happy sending our as yet unhatched children to for most of their formative years. While it felt great to formalize our priorities in a list, it wasn’t until we realized that we would like to live within ~30 minutes of a university — both for the cultural and professional benefits — that places in “the West” actually became countable in number. Also broadly guided by access to a technology economy to run my engineering company and the fact that we have family in both Montana and California, we realized that what we really needed was some on-the-ground experience to meet people, walk in parks, go see art, shop at grocery stores and generally check out the scene.

Since my mom was having her 70th birthday party in Nevada City, CA, we decided to turn a July vacation into a 3-week road trip. Guided by our university criteria on this short trip, we considered a number of places like Chico, Davis, Sacramento, San Francisco and the South Bay, but ultimately decided to focus on a handful of places that seemed like a potential cultural fit combined with a community we could imagine wrapping our arms around and making own. After a great deal of online research and strolling through different towns on google street view, the shortlist included:

  • Santa Cruz area (+hills)
  • East Bay area (Berkeley/Oakland/Walnut Creek/680)
  • Santa Rosa area (including Petaluma, Sebastopol, etc)
  • Reno, Nevada (a dark horse suggestion by my Mom)

We’ve since completed this first exploration of the wild and untamed West, and now we’re sifting through our experiences and pictures to reflect on and share the many wonders we’ve seen in the posts that follow. While it was certainly a great road trip, filled with so many amazing experiences, we surely missed more than we saw and this won’t be the last time we’ll be hitting the road. We consider this seed-stage research into a future possible Western migration pattern of ourselves (think multiple year timeline), so if you have any suggestions for places to explore on our future adventures, please comment here or put them in our Suggestion Box!

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