Leaving the Bay Area
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Leaving the Bay Area
While we love Berkeley - the amazing history of this town,
the intellectual community of UC Berkeley, the used
bookstores, Amoeba:), the wonderful restaurants, the
progressive politics, Monterey Market and Berkeley
Bowl:)...as parents, we are finding that continuing to live
here is becoming one compromise after another. We are artsy
high school educators without the kind of income to ever be
homeowners - at least, homeowners in a neighborhood in which
we would like to raise our children.
While we have lived most of our adult lives in or near major
metropolitan areas - the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago,
NYC, DC - we are finding it more challenging to do so as
parents. For various reasons, the local public schools are
not such a good fit for our two elementary-age children (no
disrespect intended for those whose children are in BUSD
schools; they just aren't working for our kids). We can't
afford to buy a home in a neighborhood in which we would
like to raise our family, nor can we afford expensive
We should mention that one of us grew up in a typical
well-off suburban town with excellent public schools, safe
neighborhoods, and... rampant consumerism, conservative
politics, next to no diversity, and no intellectual life. No
used bookstores, no sense of history as a town, no real
downtown, no old, historic homes. Very little was walkable.
Even if we could afford to move to a wealthy suburban town
for the schools and the safe neighborhood, we don't want
that kind of environment, either.
Which brings us to this question - are there any true
college towns left in the United States? A college town in
which... there was a college, natch, with the kind of
intellectual environment that a good college would have
(cafes, bookstores, an international and diverse community
of faculty, staff, and students). The kind of progressive
environment one might expect in a college town. An arts
community of some kind either associated with the campus or
existing independently (artists, musicians, dancers, theatre
groups, as well as art spaces like Zellerbach, the PFA, the
Julia Morgan Theatre, the Berkeley Rep, Jazzschool, etc.). A
food co-op (maybe not the Bowl, but something along those
lines...). A walkable, historic downtown (not a strip
mall...). Older homes (not just tract housing). REALLY good
public schools. Safe, tree-lined streets where kids could
grow up much like we did, riding their bikes down the street
to a friend's house instead of waiting to be brought to a
''playdate.'' A good variety of restaurants (okay, probably
not the Cheeseboard or Cha Am, but not just Applebee's,
please). A town where someday we could afford a fixer-upper
in a decent neighborhood.
Are we dreaming? Davis is one college town that does come to
mind, and we are going to revisit Davis soon and consider
the possibilities there. But the cost of living in
California, and the way things are looking with our current
(and future) budget issues, makes the thought of leaving the
state look more attractive, especially as the funding of
public education in California is looking more and more
dismal. Davis is also part of the greater Bay Area, and as
such, is not going to be especially affordable, either...
Any suggestions, BPN-ers? Any overlooked college towns of
the type described above? We may not be able to move right
away, given the economy, but when things look better, we
would like to know that there might be a place out there
where we would not have to be working so very hard to
survive. We love the Bay Area, but we just can't afford it
too much longer...and certain compromises we accepted as
part of living here in Berkeley just aren't working anymore
now that we have children...
Thanks in advance!
Looking for the ''perfect'' college town...
A few towns come to mind, although this info may be
Burlington, Vermont. Burlington has grown, but there are
still a lot of smaller towns around the area w/ great
neighborhoods, cheaper to live, friendly, artsy, etc.
And what could be more gorgeous then being in New England?
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, and local towns...much the
same as above.
Middlebury College in MIddlebury Vermont. Smaller town
then Burlington, but still quaint, cheaper to live than
Bay Area, great people.
If you are really looking for a brand new adventure, I
highly recommend the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
You can't find a friendlier community then teh Fbx folks.
Because the winters are so harsh, and summers so
wonderful people really seek each other out and there is
always a lot going on. Fairbanks has a musical theater
group, opera group, shakespeare group, many many chorus's,
instrumental groups (The univ. has a FABULOUS and very
active music dept.) Two of the best Thai restaurants I've
ever eaten at (and I've eaten at a LOT) are in Fbx.
BEST coffee shop ever...Alaska Coffee Roasting Co. where
you never know which friend you'll run into.
If I were going to leave the Bay Area I'd go to Fairbanks.
(My brother lives there, lots of friends adn my alma
mater)..I go back every summer for a music festival).
I dont' know all teh public schools in Fbx, but I do know
Pearl Creek and a few others are excellent schools. West
Valley High also is a great school.
Hope this helps.
Have fun checking out places.
Try Decatur GA. It isn't exactly a college town, although many are affiliated with
Emory, GA Tech or CDC. Liberal politics, lots of family fun, organic grocery, nice
yoga studio, independent book stores and restaurants, sort-of diverse, great
beloved schools, on the edge of bigger city with airport that you can get
anywhere in the world. It gets hot, there are lots of mosquitos and it is far away
westerner in the south
You did not mention your ''weather'' tolerance. If you don't
mind rain/overcast, check out PORTLAND. Went for a visit
over the summer and within 24hrs., I was ready to move there
(if we didn't already have a mortgage here). Home prices
are a bargain compared to NorCal, but unemployment is high.
Very artsy city. Powell's Books is similar to Moe's but
much larger. Excellent food to be found. Supportive of
arts. One visit and it will be obvious why it consistently
ranks as one of the best places to live. Reminds me of
Berkeley without all the crazies, tho not as rich in diversity.
Another place with great weather, if you are not in a hurry
to buy, is MENLO PARK, adjacent to Stanford U. Decent
rentals to be found around downtown Menlo Park. Cute town.
Good friends of ours relocated to Corvallis, Oregon from
Oakland over 10 years ago. It's a college town ( Oregon
State )and I know they've been very happy with the public
We visited friends in Northampton (Smith) and Amherst, MA (UMass) a couple
of years ago and loved both towns. I think they would fit many of your criteria
for great college towns. I recall that real estate there was much more
affordable than it is here, though still not dirt cheap. I've also heard great
things about Ithaca, NY (Cornell) from progressive, intellectual friends who put
in some time there.
Best of luck with your decision! I often feel the pull of life in a town like the
one you describe myself ...
You didn't say how far away you are interested in moving,
but my recommendation is Northampton, Massachusetts!
There are five liberal arts colleges in the area, plus
several community colleges. I went to college in
Northampton (''Noho'') and lived there post-college for a
number of years, and although it's been five or six years
since I lived there, I think it has all the things you are
looking for. Thriving arts scene, beautiful historic/
artsy-funky downtown, awesome restaurants, safe tree-lined
streets. Generally left-wing. Great public schools. It's
not totally cheap but much more affordable than the Bay
Area. Oh, now I am getting nostalgic. How I miss Herrell's
ice cream... the beautiful bike trail over the Connecticut
River... the Greenfield co-op grocery store... the autumn
leaves on the rolling hills of forest... the fabulous used
bookstores... Yeah, Northampton's a wonderful place!
- Missing Massachusetts (just a wee bit)
I grew up in a real college town, Iowa City, home to the
University of Iowa. I've been away for 15 years, so some
things have changed, but it's still a great place. The
university is right in the middle of downtown, so there's a
lot of interplay between the university and the city. The
downtown area has a large pedestrian mall, and lots of local
shops and restaurants. Because of the students, there are a
LOT of bars downtown, and it can get crazy down there on
weekend nights, but it's pretty family friendly during the
day/evening. There's a large play structure, and there's
often outdoor music events in the summer. There are a few
live music venues, and there are usually art/theater events
coming through town.
The neighborhoods surrounding downtown have lots of
beautiful, old houses. Some of the neighborhoods have been
taken over by students, but I think there's some good family
neighborhoods around too. There's been a lot of new
development as the population has grown, but that's on the
edges of town, so the center of town has a more historic
feel to it. The public schools in Iowa are some of the best
in the nation, so you'd have no worries there. The cost of
living is high for Iowa, but soooooo much cheaper than here.
The one downside is that it's not very diverse. There's some
diversity, due to the college, and it's better than when I
was a kid, but it's still pretty lily-white. I sense some
racial tension there between IC natives and folks who have
relocated there from urban areas (mostly Chicago).
Politically, it's very liberal; definitely the most liberal
city in Iowa by a long shot.
If it's so great, why did I leave? I grew up and went to
college there, and needed a change. I like going back to
visit, but we find ourselves a little bored when we're
there. Like any smaller city, there ARE things to do, but
you have to look harder for them than you do in a place like
the Bay Area.
A move to a place like IC would be a BIG change from the Bay
Area, but maybe that's what you're looking for. Other
similar college towns you might consider are Madison,
Boulder (not cheap though), Charlottesville, Durham/Chapel
Hill, and Asheville. All good places. Good luck!
Ann Arbor is your answer! It has an historic downtown,
great restaurants, cafes, street musicians, used
bookstores and record shops, a safe, small town feel while
still very cosmopolitan, with many international students
and much diversity (especially for the midwest), a
terrific food co-op, a world famous deli (Zingerman's),
good public schools, a great university with speakers,
concerts, art fairs--pretty much everything you could ask
for. Plus, it is much more affordable than here. Sure, the
weather isn't as good, but the autumn is beautiful, there
is an abundance of trees, rivers and lakes all around,
forests, and lots of nice people. The houses are beautiful
in many of the neighborhoods, with old brick and tree-
lined streets. It is really a lovely place. I have never
been to Ithaca but I have heard the same things about that
city as well. Good luck!
Missing Ann Arbor
What about Ithaca, NY?
Ann Arbor, Michigan. You get a good dose of all the things you're looking for
plus actual seasons. Yes, it's pretty cold in the winter
U of M alum
If you aren't too sensitive to grey weather (almost all
year), and love the snow, Ithaca might suit you. It's
pretty far from everywhere else, though, so you would almost
certainly need a job right there. We spent a year there 10
years ago, with our then 5- and 9-year old. Outstanding
public shcools. A moderate amount of diversity, though
nothing like the Bay area; Cornell Univ. and Ithaca College;
a pleasant, walkable downtown and still has small
independent toy and book shops; in-town older homes, some,
but not all with sidewalks, as well as more suburban
out-lying areas (with newer homes, malls, movie theaters,
etc.); a small but real airport 10 minutes from downtown
(served by major airlines, but small planes); absolutely
gorgeous nature areas - lakes, hills, gorges, etc.; a lovely
children's museum (ScienCenter); campus art museum; a
variety of reasonably good cafes and restaurants, including
Moosewood (we loved ''Just a Taste,'' a tapas place). Oh, and
yes, a pretty big food coop http://www.greenstar.coop/, and
a lively (seasonal) farmer's market
We liked Ithaca a lot and considered staying, but my
husband's mood was really sensitive to the grey weather (and
locals said it was a relatively sunny year!); don't
underestimate that. Also, it is a small town (around 30,000)
in the middle of nowhere. It's just 4 hours drive to NY,
but an hour of that is reaching a freeway. If you visit,
don't miss the Cornell Dairy for great ice cream!
Check out http://www.downtownithaca.com/ and
Take a look at Iowa City, IA, location of Univ of Iowa. It
has many of the things you mention you enjoy about
Berkeley though on a somewhat smaller scale. Diversity,
liberal tendancies, excellent group of ethnic restaurants,
a wonderful downtown area with many indepentant shops, an
excellent school system, lots of AFFORDABLE and high
quality music/art events etc. In general, EXTREMELY
affordable compared to California, allowing you to live in
a better way for much much less. I lived there prior to
moving to Berkeley and the town is really a gem. The
weather is worth the major cost advantage (from food to
housing) in my opinion. Winters are long but certainly not
as severe as some areas of the US.
Amherst, MA is a fun litle college town, not far from
Northampton (another one) and an hour from Boston.
Beautiful scenery, snow, heat, nice liberal folks,
bookstores, etc etc. Not horrifically far from the coast.
Or Bloomington, Indiana, if you can handle the near-south
and mostly flat landscapes & somewhat less-liberal people.
They have a lovely twangy accent there. Property is
cheaper - one can get a huge house for the price of a teeny
one here. Good luck!
You didn't mention how you feel about cold weather - but Ann
Arbor is a great college town! It feels a bit like a cleaner
and friendlier Berkeley. It has lots of beautiful,
affordable historic houses, tree-lined streets, a real sense
of community and a nice, little downtown with many good
restaurants. It is a pretty liberal town with a lot of
diversity since the University is right there. And there
are many activities and events on campus for people in the
Good luck with your search!
Fan of A2
my parents liked flagstaff. also alburquerque
How about State College, Pennsylvania?
I would suggest Amherst, MA if cold weather doesn't scare
you. There are 4 colleges and 1 university in the area
(Amherst, Smith, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke College, and
UMass Amherst), so plenty of good college town vibe. It's
in the western part of the state (about 1 1/2 hours from
Boston), and has a nice small town/rural feel. My best
friend from high school lives there now and really likes
it. Good luck!
I love Davis and we want to move there when we retire. I
grew up in Berkeley but my parents moved there when I went
to college. When my mother was sick and dying we went to
Davis every weekend for months and we started loving the
town. We got used to the warm summers and would take
evening walks in the Arboretum which you can reach from a
little mall with several restaurants and The Gap Store.
The people are so friendly and we are still close with our
mom's neighbors. It is flat and easy to ride a bike
everywhere. The farmer's market is wonderful and a real
community event. The Mondavi Center has most of the events
that come to Zellerbach. The town is safe and the schools
are fantastic. There is a Spanish immersion program and the
neighbor's grand daughter attended and she was fluent in
Spanish. It is much less expensive to get housing repairs
done and all the people we worked with were fantastic when
we repaired my mom's home. People are progressive, open
minded and generous. We have never felt so comfortable and
welcome. I do not like the fog in the winters; we live in
Oakland in an area with no fog and we like that better than
Davis. Other than that and a few restaurants we would miss
I think we will be much happier in Davis.
Iowa City,Madison, Ann Arbor, and Boulder come to mind. I've been in all of
those cities, but have spent extended amounts of time in Iowa City and Ann
Arbor. They are all wonderful cities for families, excellent public schools,
cultural activities, food, etc.
I'm from the east coast and went to college in Amherst,
Massachusetts. That area, to me, is ideal, and I continue
to kick myself on a daily basis for not having gone back
there before starting a family and becoming more or less
permanantly settled here. Wikipedia it as well as another
good neighbor city, Northampton, for basic info. There is
much under the Points of Interest sections, particularly
for Northampton, which may be of appeal to you. The area
is safe, lots of hiking and outdoor opportunities, open
space, nice historic downtowns, decent schools, etc. Other
places you can look up for more neat things in the area
include Amherst Cinema and Pleasant Street Theatre, the
Robert Frost Trail/Amathyst Brook Conservation area, the
Hitchcock Center for the Environment.. I could go on and
on but think I will stop bumming myself out : ) haha.
Best of luck to you!
I used to live in Claremont, Calif., and I have so many
happy memories from there. Great food, great culture, you
can drive up to Mount Baldy if you want to get away ...
Since it is in the Inland Empire it does get hot and smoggy
in the late summer, but otherwise it's a fantastic place.
Happy Oakland mama
You might want to consider moving to Oakland. There are a few nice neighborhoods
with great schools (e.g. Redwood Heights, Glenview, Oakmoore) where nicely priced
fixer-uppers can still be found. That way you won't have to give up all you love
Love the Bay Area
I transplanted FROM Berkeley to Amherst, MA and I agree with the other
posters who recommended the Pioneer Valley! We moved here for jobs but we
have 2 little kids (1 and 3) and I don't think we could have chosen any
better. There is plenty to do with kids: large park in Northampton with a
steam train and sprinkler park; the Eric Carle Picture Book Art Museum;
UMass events; etc. It's funky like Berkeley - no mayor, all decisions are
made by town meetings (giving it the slogan ''Amherst: Where only the 'h' is
The schools in the area are fantastic and also liberal. Amherst High has
made national news for their theatrical production of Vagina Monologues.
And this year there is a cross-dressed Taming of the Shrew. The schools are
also very competitive because of University course options, design-your-own
courses, and other interactions with the town and gown.
If you haven't grown up with winter, it's an adjustment but loads of fun
Think: skiing and sledding. If there's a good overnight snow, schools and
colleges are closed and many people slowly migrate to town coffee shops on
skis and snowshoes. It's ridiculously quaint at times.
Of course we're a short drive to much more: 2 hrs to Boston, 3 hrs to NYC, 1
hr to the Berkshire Mountains, 2 hrs to Dartmouth, 3 hrs to Cape Cod, 2.5
hrs to Maine.
Drop me a line if you want any specific details.
We moved across the country to pursue a career opportunity for my
husband. We wanted to buy a home, which was not an option in
Oakland. In retrospect, I had all I ever wanted & needed in life
before our move. I miss our rented home, close friends & family,
neighbors & the Oakland/ Berkeley area terribly. I miss the
cafes, the parks, the liberal culture, the diversity, the
weather… Perhaps the emptiness that I feel is spiritual, perhaps
it is some sort of post-partum depression (our 2nd was born just
before our move)? I acknowledge that I wrapped what I did & where
I lived into my identity, & I don’t want to define myself based
on what I do or where I live anymore. I am sick of returning to
the same subjects over & over… I hate our new home, our mortgage,
& our new suburban east coast life. We have not made connections
in our neighborhood, where people do not pick up after their
dogs, & leave cigarette butts & trash on the ground at the park.
Our town is filled with cookie cutter developments, new luxury
condos, tall skinny townhomes & Mcmansions. Our town lacks
recycle containers & dog parks. I feel alone in using cloth
diapers, picking up other people’s trash, creating a balance
between home & part-time work, & hating the barriers in our new
community created by class, race, & language. WHAT I HATE MOST IS
THAT WE CHOSE THIS FOR OURSELVES. I feel that we were
materialistic in wanting to own a home so badly, & that we gave
up too much for it. In surrounding ourselves with folks who have
more, who seem less conscious of their effects on the
environment, & less prone to volunteerism I feel that I have less
“good” influences, & will slowly fall prey to human tendencies to
want more & care less about the consequences. I feel it happening
already, & don’t know how to stop it. We came here with a plan to
return if we were not happy, but it doesn’t seem as possible in
reality as it did in theory. I feel trapped. To ask my husband to
leave his dream job would leave him as unhappy as I have been,
plus we’d suffer a huge financial set-back. The solution seems to
be a change in attitude, but it is easier said than done. Do I
need to admit my weaknesses & see a therapist? Are there ways to
transform this deep anger, longing & sadness?
If you are going to stay on the East Coast, I'd explore other
neighborhoods. My family is on the East Coast, in ''good''
neighborhoods, some of which have a lot in common with Berkeley, some of
which sound like your neighborhood. You may have moved too far out in
the suburbs to find people that you have much in common with. For
example, in the New York area there are lots of interesting
neighborhoods in Brooklyn and if you'd like a more suburban feel there's
the Montclair/Maplewood/South Orange area.
If you are definitely stuck in your current house, I'd check out the
library and see if they have something like the ''baby bounce''
here, and book groups. You could also look for places where you can do
the things you enjoyed here -- i.e. the Y, or a place to take classes.
I moved here from New York and hated it for about a year and a half, but
now can't imagine moving city kid
I've lived in a diversity of cultures as an adult (Berkeley, District of
Columbia, Netherlands, Jacksonville, FL and soon, Park City, Utah)
After each move, I found that it generally took
2 1/2 to 3 -years of living in a community -- regardless of how
much I liked the place -- for me to really feel like part of it.
Whenever I make a move, I ask my friends and aquaintences for the
numbers of anyone they have ever met who is living in the area to which
I am moving. I call them when I arrive. I take them to lunch, or ask
their advice on schools, neighborhoods, hair salons, volunteer
opportunities, etc. I contact the local affiliate of every group of
which I am a member. I go to their meetings. I find someplace to
volunteer. I take a class. I join a church. Somewhere along the way,
I find someone who I sort of like and I find something that I like to
do. The ball gets rolling and before I know it, there I am happy and
part of the community.
Give it some time. Don't mourn for the Bay Area so much. Its a great
place, but Oakland cannot possibly have as much grass as you are trying
to make green. And, it really does have as much dog poop along the
street as anywhere -can live anywhere and like it
Oh, sweet lady!
Your post describes my life 2 years ago. 3 weeks after my second was
born, we moved out of state for what turned out to be about 8 months of
post-partum depression, physically painful loneliness, staggering guilt
about the attention I suddenly could not shower on my 2 year old, and
all these emotions of mine (and factors at his work) led to my husband
and me living like polite acquaintances.
What turned my perspective and helped me start to breathe again and not
live with knots in my stomach was when, after 6 months, I joined a
parent support group (''Parents Again'' was the name of the class at a
non-profit parent support
organization) for parents with a new baby and at least one older child.
2 hours a week of empathy, sharing, structured parent education from the
coordinator, and beginning friendships led to one very close and fast
friendship for the next 6 months, before we found the financial means
and job opportunity to move back to the Bay Area.
So... have a old friend or trusted relative visit to help you explore
your new community with fresh, positive eyes. Join a parent support
group. Join a mom's stroller exercise group or join the Y to get
exercise to change your outlook. And make sure the sunshine can get
into your house (open blinds, install a skylight, etc.) . New moms need
sunshine when cooped up with children who nap many hours. I sure did!
Get outside and walk in any woods you can , kick some fall leaves, find
out what tourists would love to see in your new hometown. Kids are
often free at many museums. Go explore!... with your new friends from
the Y or from the parent group!
it does get better
You asked if there is some way to transform your anger about the
unconsciousness and unconscionable materialism of your new east coast
community-- well, the answer is a resounding ''YES!''
Get involved-- or better, be a leader-- and get to work with your local
synagogue/church/temple, city recreation department/planning council,
schools, etc. and lead by example, teaching one by one, to wake up,
smell the coffee, pick up the garbage and raise consciousness about
enviromental/class/race issues in your community. WAKE THEM UP, for
You'll find a way to get the ball of creativity rolling-- hold a
Community Clean Up day and get your local county board of Realtors to
sponsor it-- it benefits real estate sales to have a clean community.
Heck, have local businesses sponsor it.
Get groups to go into local schools and churches and remind the kids
that they need to ''clean their rooms'' at the end of the day, and
remind all those good Christians in America that their god told them to
be good stewards of the earth, so let's start now, already!
Marin Mover and Shaker
Get over yourself! What's with the ''crunchier-than-thou''
attitude? Turn your ego-centric focus outward, start doing volunteer
work: read to hospital kids; visit elderly shut- ins; ''adopt'' a
portion of a road to keep clean - you'll start to meet like-minded
folks, some of whom JUST MIGHT be as perfectly PC as you seem to think
yourself to be... and (mildly in your defense) know that when you move,
it *is* HUGHLY stressfull, as everything in your new life is
NEW-NEW-NEW-NEW- NEW all the time, and intensifies feelings of
strangeness and isolation. You are not the only cool, PC, hip, caring,
green person on the east coast! I moved (last Dec) from my ''perfect
life/community'' in NY (''suburban east coast life''???), here to
Oakland, and also have felt ''lost'' much of the time, but it gets
better. And yes, the stress of 2 enormous life events (new baby +
moving) can be a BIG part of your sadness (duh!) Try ''pulling a Mother
Theresa'' for a while, you'll feel better.
East-Coaster Learning to speak ''Bi-Coastal'' (& liking it)
A mild suggestion:
It may take energy, but you could try to transform your east coast
suburban hell, bit by bit, into something more like what you miss about
the Bay Area. For example, start a recycling program for that poor,
blighted suburban nightmare. Take it to the city council if you have to;
nothing can really stop a good idea, and I am sure that you are not the
only one there with a conscience and a soul and a desire to improve the
living environment. Be proud of your cloth diapers!
I know a woman in New Mexico who hated the 4wheeling offroaders that
tore up the fragile bosque environment. She was very discouraged, but
decided to work against it and said she would quit at the first sign of
confrontation or anger. Well, almost magically, nothing ever stopped her
and she passed a ban on offroading - all by herself!
The point is that we are all doomed if what we love about the Bay stays
only in the Bay. It's a big world, and there are a lot of improvements
to be made. So maybe it would be easier on you if you looked around at
all the things that you hate in your new home and told yourself: ''well,
that's another thing we'll have to work on.''
Idealistic, maybe. Difficult, probably. But maybe that's why you're out
there! And at least you don't have to worry about money, what with your
husband's new salary - we're out here in Berkeley, with a new baby, and
short of winning the lottery, can't possibly afford a home in this
Good luck, stay sane, don't give in to the meaningless materialism.
I pick up litter in N.Berkeley too!
Although you believe your husband is in his dream job and doesn't share
the same feelings you have about you move, I really would strongly
encourage you to talk to him about how you feel. If it's uncomfortable
for you, you could always start slowly by talking about various aspects
you miss (special places for you both, friends you had here, a certain
way people thought/behaved) and see how he responds to that.
He may actually have some of the same feelings you do, and even if he
doesn't, it may help to be able to talk to someone who understands all
the things that you left behind. He may surprise you I hope you find
peace where you are
I could have written your post myself! We recently moved to the East
Coast as well for many of the same reasons you state. My husband was
offered his dream job in Connecticut and we got caught up in the dream
of raising our children in a safer, more wholesome New England. With a
baby and a toddler at the time, the Bay Area could feel so overwhelming.
I felt like we would never own a home in a nice enough neighborhood to
allow our children to go to a decent public school. The end result was
that we bought one of the McMansions you spoke of because it was cheaper
than the tiny house we sold in the Bay Area. We now live in a community
with AMAZING public schools and a strong sense of community. Definitely
the village mentality. The down side is that there is no diversity be it
socially, economically, racially. Once this reality set in, I was
devastated. I felt like I had sold my soul for a dream home.
Rattling around this humongous house I began missing my friends, the
food, the sights and sounds of the Bay Area. I was miserable. Then, some
friends from California came to visit.
They marveled at our new environment. They commented on the friendly
people, the natural beauty, the charm of our new town.
It made us see it in a whole new light. They also told us that if we
always had one foot in Connecticut and one foot in California, we would
never be happy in either place. To some degree I think we may have
romanticized the reality of living in CA. My husband and I talked very
candidly when they left about our decision to move here. We decided to
take the next 2 years and make the most of this experience. I have
joined a Newcomers group and met other transplants. That helped me meet
other like minded people. Long term, it is our intent to return to the
Bay Area. We realize that there will have to be some sacrifices made by
both of us, but feel strongly that that is ultimately where we belong.
My advice to you is this: make the most of your experience while it is
happening, realize that the Bay Area will always be there for you, and
talk to your husband about what you want in the future.
If you would like to chat, I would love to commisserate with you!
As someone who has moved three times before her kids were 12, I
understand exactly the homesickness you're feeling. It's hard to move
and doubly hard when you're the one dealing with the kids and your
partner has a dream job. What's helped me during these moves is seeking
out like-minded people. No, you won't find as many of the Berkeley-types
as you will in the Bay Area, but they are out there. How have I found
them? Sought out a movie theater that offers morning showings that
parents can attend with kids. Checked out the local YMCA, community
center, and farmer's markets for family activities. Gone to a coffee
shop, struck up a conversation with the woman behind the counter (a
homesick transplant from Minneapolis), and now we have coffee together
once a week. Going to a local food bank and volunteering (my kids are a
little older so I can take them with me but if you have access to a
sitter, volunteering is a great way to meet people.) Just finding 1
person that you like and meeting them once a week for a picnic in a park
goes a long way toward making you feel connected. And if you really hate
where you live, start making plans to go ''home.'' Tell your partner he
can have his dream job for 2 years, and then you'll move per your
agreement. But you might find that a place begins to feel more like home
once you and your children meet others like yourselves. Sending you good
wishes and you can email me if you like. (Email and BPN saved me when I
first moved with twin babies!) firstname.lastname@example.org Ann Spivack
We left the bay area when we had kids because I wanted to be home with
our kids, and we knew we could never afford a home here. After 3 years
in search of the perfect place, much depression and therapy, we are
back. We're still renting and are broke, but it feels great to be back
and we have no doubts about being here. The bay area is a hard hard
place to leave, and there's no other place like it.
If you really can't come back, go in search of likeminded people; at la
leche league groups, whole foods stores, libraries, etc or through
websites like www.mothering.com. There are probably many similar minded
people but it may take some work to find them. I'd also recommend
meditation, which may help with sitting with what is going on in your
life in a gentle and non-judgemental way. It may also be a good way to
meet other people if there is a meditation centre near you happy to be
Okay, this is going to be a bit of a ''tough love'' approach, so please
don't take offense. You really need to just get over yourself. I know
that sounds mean, but I'm serious. I've lived in a lot of different
parts of the country over the years. I'm in San Francisco now and I love
it, but soon we will have to move (don't know where yet) for MY dream
job. Yes, this is the most culturally diverse area I've ever lived in
and the food is fantastic. I love my urban neighborhood and all the
things there are to do. But...
One thing I've noticed about the people that live here is an intense
pride in the area, which is good, that translates into an tendancy to
look down one everybody else in the country, which is bad. People don't
even want to give other areas a chance to be cool. And frankly, people
in some parts of the country (i.e. the
Northwest) really dislike people from the Bay Area because all they talk
about is how much everything sucks compared to what you can get in the
I would suggest taking the time to really explore your new town.
If you've already alienated your current neighbors, then start chatting
with shopkeepers and waitstaff. Find out what they think is cool. Every
city has punk rockers, hippies, a music scene, recent immigrants, and
artists. You just have to find them. Go find the cool neighborhoods and
when you've found a good one, sell your house and move. Writing off the
entire rest of the country, or even the entire East Coast, based on your
experience in one suburban area is ridiculous. I lived in North Carolina
for a few years and I can assure you that they have a left wing
eco-hippie community that would rival that of even Berkeley's. In fact,
I found them more interesting because since they were in a red state
they had real issues to fight that went well beyond requiring fair-trade
coffee in every cafe within city limits.
Your new community is very lucky to have you and probably REALLY needs
you. Perhaps you could find a small group of folks who are like-minded
and action oriented. Doing something tangible may haelp snap you out of
your doldrums and help you feel like the valued member of you community
that you will likely soon become.
Start small so you can feel that sense of accomplishment sooner.
Some action-ariented organizations you could try to find chapters for
in your local area are the League of Women Voters (lots of great women
and a few great men doing good and thoughtful local work - and more),
the Audubon Society (lots of folks who love birds a other nature stuff),
the Isaac Walton League (sp?) (lots of folks who love taking care of
rivers and creeks). Perhaps there is a science teacher or garden
teacher at your kids school who would like help with a small school site
project? Perhaps there is a local park that you can help ''beautify''.
Perhps there is a local public/neighborhood vegetabel patch? Pick
something small and have a great time.
You can make such a HUGE difference by taking your seeds from the East
Bay, and sowing them in your new home.
As a recent transplant to the Bay Area (3 years), please please please know that
despite the stereotypes that sadly persist and are perpetuated by west coast
media and general ignorance about the rest of the country, progressive thinkers,
thoughtful people, cool communities, and conscious folk exist outside of
They do! If you look for them, you will find them - and if you release some
judgment, they may just find you.
Get involved, and give thanks for the blessings you have in your life. How fun
that your husband was hired for his dream job, you own a home, can play in warm
rain with your children, and soon enough skip through autumn leaves! That sounds
mighty blissful to me!
I agree wholeheartedly with the poster who said that you should try your
best to let it go and focus on the positives of your new area.
I had this issue when I moved to Berkeley years ago. I felt that most
people I met, while nice and well-meaning, were just too serious, p.c.
and tv-eschewing for me to really connect with. When it became apparent
that we were settling here, I made a conscious effort to lose the
attitude. When I became more accepting I started making friends with
funnier folks with whom I can obsess about Project Runway. I still have
moments of sadness when no one besides me gets my husband's jokes at
parties, but what are you going to do.
Also, I would just give it time. The two coasts really are so different
in vibe--it's totally normal to experience major culture shock before
you find your tribe.
Best of luck!
Like many others (judging from all the ''moving to ... '' posts on
the BPN) my husband and I are thinking about whether we should
leave the Bay Area. We were both raised here and have lived here
most of our lives. But though we love it, we're growing
increasingly weary of the astronomical cost of living and the
stress that making our ''monthly nut'' puts on our family. We own a
modest home that we have a lot of equity in now, and the idea of
''getting out of dodge'' and moving somewhere less expensive has a
great deal of appeal. The problem is, we don't know *where* to
go. We don't have family anywhere (other than here) that we'd
consider living, and don't have the money to travel willy nilly
to see what appeals. So I'd love to ask BPN members who've lived
and/or visited places they've loved, ''Where would you live if you
couldn't be here?''
We're looking for a vibrant small city or cool college town
anywhere in the USA or Canada (my husband has dual citizenship,
courtesy of his Canadian mother) that:
* Is significantly less expensive than the Bay Area
* Isn't suburban tract-house hell; a place that has nice in-town
neighborhoods filled with vintage (teens, '20s, '30s) homes on
* Has a cultural life -- concerts, readings, community events,
writers, artists, weirdos, etc.
* Has a decent economy; I freelance from home, but my husband
would need to find a job (his background is in retail management)
* Has a good public school system (through high school)
* Is somewhat politically and socially progressive; we know that
the redneck and ''Red State'' factor will be an issue pretty much
anywhere we go, but we need to be somewhere we could find a
community of like-minded friends
* Isn't 100 in the shade or 0 degrees three-quarters of the year
Are we dreaming? Some of the places that sound promising, but
that we've never actually *been* to include Eureka, CA; Portland,
Ashland, or Eugene, OR; Amherst or Northampton, MA; Chapel Hill,
SC; and Denver or Boulder, CO. Any other places we should add to the
Thanks so much for any and all input!
I think there will be trade-offs wherever else you move to--that is why the
BA is so popular (and, therefore, expensive).
That being said, I'd encourage you to consider Minneapolis. I have not
lived there, but some friends are moving there this summer. They bought
a GORGEOUS Arts & Crafts, 4 bedroom home on a big lot, for $260,000.
Minneapolis is well known for a terrific theater and arts scent, is
supposed to be a very progressive city, with an excellent standard of
living. Also, Minnesota is supposed to be quite beautiful.
The trade-off is that it does get very cold in winter.
Trying to stick-it-out in the Bay Area
Hi, your post strikes a very familiar note with us! We have
been planning to move away from the Bay Area for several years,
but have been trying to find a place similar to what you're
asking for. We visited the Eureka area and were very
disappointed. We visited Eugene, OR and liked it, but we
actually liked Corvallis, OR much better and have plans to move
there in Spring 2007. The town is really nice, large enough to
offer most any service you could want, and is close enough to
Eugene (35 minutes) or Portland (about 90 minutes) if you need
a bigger city. Corvallis seems to have a better economic
outlook than other parts of Oregon, and appears to be growing
rapidly. There are many charming, tree-lined neighborhoods,
and the schools are rated as some of the very best in the
country. Oregon State University is in Corvallis also, which
helps add a lot to the town. You can check out real estate at
www.midvalleyrex.com and find out visitors/relocation info at
www.visitcorvallis.com. As for Ashland, my parents live in
nearby Grants Pass, and while Ashland itself is cute, it is
very small and pretty expensive and trendy (think like Carmel
of Oregon). It gets very hot in the summer, and the nearest
large town is Medford, which I can't think of anything positive
about it. Lots of rednecks and strip malls. Good luck in your
We're actually planning to move to the Vancouver BC area, if
getting a Visa will work out (it can take forever). N. Vancouver
and the Sunshine Coast (Gibsons), which is supposed to have less
rain, seems like an incredible place, lots of culture, art, kid
friendly, Green party, great people, etc. Just Google their
website. Houses are cheap, bigger and much better quality
compared to the Bay Area, especially when you take the
conversion to the Canadian dollar into account after selling
Plan B for us, if that doesn't work out might be Corvalis, OR.
It's a University town with Berkeley ''mentality''. Also not that
far from the shore and Portland. Houses there are also cheap and
big (decent 2 story for about $300,000 or less. More rain of
course but I'm actually tired of the long dry seasons here. I've
lived in the Bay Area for 25 years.
I recommend East Aurora, NY. It has what you're looking for as
far as the history (birthplace of Millard Fillmore, the Roycroft
Arts & Crafts movement, and hometown to the headquarters of
Fisher Price, but no factories, only a toy museum, shop, and the
''brains'' of the company).
Tree-lined, front-porchy streets with old, pretty houses, a Main
Street complete with an incredible, huge, family-owned 5 & 10--(a
new Wal-Mart was just nixed by the townspeople) excellent school
system. You won't find the open-mindedness you'll find here,
ANYWHERE else. But the people are nice, friendly, and very
neighborly from my experience. The kind of place where you watch
out for each other's kids, everyone decorates at Halloween, etc.
The closest big city is Buffalo (1/2 hour) (not great, but does
offer some cultural opportunities), but it's also close to
Canada, Lake Ontario, Niagra Falls, and Toronto (2 1/2 hours).
Compared to here, cheap, cheap, cheap. For the price of a small
home here, you could buy the biggest, fanciest house in town
there (like 5 bed, 4 bath, pool, acreage...)
The countryside is farm-like, wooded, hilly, and beautiful. East
Aurora does get snow, but misses the ''lake effect'' that Buffalo
gets, with the numerous feet of snow. The town is
well-maintained with snow-plows and such too. My parents live
there; let me know if you want more info.
check out Burlington, Vermont, housing may be unaffordable
(maybe-not sure, I wasn't looking at real estate there) but it
is a great town!
It seems what would be most beneficial for you is a college
town in one of the ''flyover'' states. I believe some of the
towns you mentioned have also see significant price increases
I lived in Columbus, OH for 8 years, and really liked it. Ohio
State is there, and there are a number of close-in communities
and suburbs that are progressive. There is a large gay
community there, and the University has tons to offer. It is
also a huge retail mecca (Les Wexner, who owns The Limited and
other stores, is based in Columbus, and lots of retail stores
are tested out there).
You get all 4 seasons, some snow, but not enough that you need
a snow blower. The worst part is the humidity. If you have
lived in the Bay Area your whole life, you REALLY need to test
out the humidity factor before moving away from the Western
US. Some people actually like it, but most hate it!
And remember, Ohio was almost a Blue State!!
Good luck with your search!
Sitting on Serious Equity Myself!
My husband and I are trapped in the Bay Area rat race. He works
too many hours at a job he doesn't like just so we can afford a
cramped house for us and our two young kids. Before we had
kids, we thought it was worth it. We love the Bay Area, but now
that we have kids, the compromises that we must make to live
here are just too much. And -- frankly -- the traffic and
congestion are really getting to us. When we think about what
we really want for our family, this isn't it. We have this idea
that there is another way to live -- in which the community is
family friendly and affordable and welcoming and broad-minded.
I'd love to live in a modest and affordable home on a tree-lined
street where my children could walk to a neighborhood school
that I am proud of. I'd like work and shops to be either a walk
or a short drive away. To me, this sounds like a small town or
a small city, but I'm at a loss as to where it is. Do any of
you have ideas about where to go to afford a good honest life in
a place that doesn't break your bank?
Your description immediately brought to mind the village where my
parents live, East Aurora, New York. It is exactly as you
describe. It's about 30 minutes from Buffalo, with a population
of about 6,000. They get all 4 seasons, but miss the heavy snow
that Buffalo gets. Excellent schools, no ''bad parts of town'', a
children's museum, a famous, wonderful , old fashioned 5 & 10,
the Fisher Price headquarters, with toy museum & shop (but no
factory). Tree lined streets, with pretty, well-kept, older
homes, most of which have a front porch. VERY neighborly feel.
I would be happy to tell you more...oh, the real clincher (which
makes ME want to move there...) the typical home there is in the
$100,000-$200,000 range. You can basically get your dream home
for less than $300,000. You can email me to get more info, and I
can connect you with my parents if you want a first-hand account.
My sister moved from Hawaii to Durham NC because she and her husband
checked out many places all over the country and felt the quality of life, from
the climate to the cost of living was the best they could find for themselves.
They've been there a few years now and are very happy with their choice.
Just thought I'd share that. They don't have school aged kids anymore, so
they probably had more freedom to not base their decision on the quality of
schools. That I don't know about the Raleigh/Durham area.
Boy, will your message strike chords. There are lots and lots of
places in this enormous country that will more or less fit the
bill you describe. You don't say whether it's important to you
to stay on the coast (or a coast) or whether you have to have a
particular kind of weather or vegetation or... But I can offer
some guidelines. If you can handle intense weather, the college
towns and small cities of the Midwest will certainly fit your
description. Even when they're located in fairly conservative
states, they tend to be islands of liberal thinking and cultural
activity. There's Madison, Wisconsin and Columbus, Ohio and
Lawrence, Kansas, and Iowa City and smaller places like Oberlin
and Xenia (Antioch College) in Ohio and Ithaca (Cornell
University) in New York and Boulder, Colorado (U of CO) and
Columbia, Missouri (U of MO, Stephens College).
All of these places (and many, many others) have the tree-lined
streets, dearth of serious congestion, reasonably-priced housing,
sense of community, etc. you describe. Good luck with your
search -- a lot of us are thinking along the same lines...
missing the Midwest
We have friends that just moved to Beaverton, Oregon which is
close to Portland. They sold their house in El Cerrito for the
low $400,000's and were able to buy a really great house (and a
new car and one person can take a year off to be home with
kids)...in a great neighborhood. The kids walk to school and can
play in the streets with the other neighbor kids.
Let me know if your'e interested and I can give you their e-mail
I don't know about stores and such, but they are SOOOO happy
this page was last updated: Jul 22, 2012
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