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Leaving the Bay Area

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Housing, Neighborhoods, & Moving > Leaving the Bay Area


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Moving 2-3hrs outside the Bay Area

June 2013

Hello, I have recently become a single mother and am looking to the leave the expensive Bay Area! I've been a stay at home mom and I'm also making a small living writing books. What I'm looking for is to stay within 2-3 hours of the Berkeley. I need something cheaper (!!) and would love something with warmer temps and a great community and schools for my 2 small children. Speaking of other fantasies: I would love a vegetarian friendly area, close to the ocean, and houses with large yards Any suggestions or leads would be GREATLY appreciated. Thank you so much for your time and thoughts! Seeking New Life


Crockett! On the water (Carquinez Straits), cute houses reasonably priced, awesome pool and community center, lots of artists in residence. And about an hour from Berkeley. Crockett is a gem! former Crocketteer
Have you checked out Sebastopol? It's a wonderful little town and only an hour from the Bay Area, close to the Russian River and not too far from the ocean. I think it meets all of your criteria. Not too sure about housing costs but I'm sure it's cheaper than Berkeley. There's a great sense of community, some cultural diversity, safe neighborhoods, Farmers Markets, good schools,open spaces, vineyards, apple orchards, festivals for every season, beautiful old farm houses... the list goes on. I have family that live there and it's really a lovely place. I'd move there if I could
I have a single mom friend who moved to Sonora and is very happy there. Her DD is in a Waldorf based schools which seems wonderful from her FB postings. DD does violin/fiddle and theater. They eat from farmer's markets and local stores getting grassfed meats and organic foods. Her DD has a cow diary allergy and they get goat butter/cheese easily. Not close to the ocean but in the foothills, easy drive to Yosemite and mountain lakes. friend to Sonora
The quaint town of Fair Oaks (outside of Sacramento, next to Folsom) might be a place you'd really like. We lived there for a few years and LOVED it. There's no beach nearby, but there's Folsom Lake (with a 'beachy' feel, the Sacramento River flows through the town (with safe bike trails everywhere) and you'd be close to the Yuba River, an hours drive to snow in the winter, there's a salmon hatchery/festival every year, wonderful small zoo in Folsom, and a yearly rodeo nearby-lots for kids/families to do. It's a gorgeous little 'hippyish' town with roosters/chickens that roam around the downtown and there's even a fantastic vegetarian cafe. The houses are on huge lots and you're surrounded by oak woodlands and wildlife. It's about an hour and a half to the Bay Area and 10 minutes to Sacramento. It does get very hot in the summer (which was hard for me) but the autumn/winter were particularly stunning with the fall colors all around. The people were INCREDIBLY friendly and welcoming (which was a bit of a culture shock initially for a Bay Arean) lisa

Relocating to a great college town - which one?

Dec 2009

Hello all, 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 private schools.

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... anonymous...


A few towns come to mind, although this info may be outdated. 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. June


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 from California. westerner in the south
Hi: 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. -Anon.
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 schools. Go Beavers
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 ... Leah
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! Betsy


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? anon
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 http://www.visitithaca.com/ R.K.


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. missingiowa
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! Cass Duggan


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 community. Good luck with your search! Fan of A2
my parents liked flagstaff. also alburquerque anon
How about State College, Pennsylvania? Jay
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! Relocated Northeasterner
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. Judy
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. anon
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! anon
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 about Berkeley... 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 silent).

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. rebecca


Homesick and regretful we left the Bay Area

Sept 2006

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? Lost


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 Pete's sake!

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 wonderful area.

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
Hi there, 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! myers


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!) anns@batnet.com 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 back
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 Bay Area.

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. Nomad


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. YOU GO!


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 California. 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! anon


Where would you live if you couldn't afford the Bay Area?

June 2005

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 tree-lined streets * 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 list? Thanks so much for any and all input! Anonymous


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.

Good luck! 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 search! Gayle
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 here..

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. anon


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. heidi
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 in housing.

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!


Trapped in the Bay Area rat race - where to live?

Nov 2003

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? Homesick


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. Heidi
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. Good luck. Irene
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 address. I don't know about stores and such, but they are SOOOO happy there. Good luck. June
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