Last updated on March 19th, 2019 at 09:28 am
After planning the big move for quite some time, Ann and I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Boulder, Colorado. Since we consciously made this change to simplify our way of life, I figured this might be of interest to others who share our ideals.
For years, we had been living on an old houseboat berthed in Oyster Point. I had a small sailboat I enjoyed sailing around; it was a pleasant way to live, but over the span of a few years some of the downsides were becoming difficult. Our home was tiny (about 200 square feet), and a little short on creature-comforts. We didn’t have hot water, our stove was a single electric burner, and heat was a problem in the winter since the insulation was poor and the windows were drafty. We could have improved all these things, but we didn’t plan to remain on the houseboat indefinitely. We wanted to buy a home together.
With the recent downturn in real estate prices, we knew the time was approaching for us to buy if we are going to. The thing is, the SF Bay Area is pretty expensive—the median home price in San Francisco was over $750,000! Sure, we could buy something very small there (I used to own a 307-square-foot condo which was fairly affordable for that location). But if we were to continue to compromise our housing comfort, we would have to see huge advantages elsewhere in life. It made sense when we were both working full-time; the variety of jobs and salaries available made it clearly worthwhile to live there. But now? Not so much… We decided to make a change.
It’s unusual to have a blank slate, with the entire world to consider as a possible place to call home. It’s a freedom we gained through following the Financial Integrity program for many years. This left us daydreaming, thinking about what we wanted in our new community. Most important to us were the ability to walk and bike everywhere we wanted to go, a nearby university to give the area a progressive and contemplative atmosphere, well-protected large natural spaces to explore and enjoy, more pronounced seasonal weather changes, and a reasonable compromise between the advantages of urban culture and rural wilderness.
We researched a wide variety of options from La Paz, Mexico to Asheville, North Carolina. We visited a few cities, and settled upon Boulder. I cheated a little, because I used to live here and missed it ever since. We openly discussed the downsides, including the lack of diversity, high price of housing (though still half that of San Francisco), more expensive groceries (and less variety), lack of the excellent city college we were used to, and the general way in which people in Boulder can seem a little sheltered relative to the urbanites of San Francisco.
With our destination chosen, we embarked upon The Big Move. I was able to combine an apartment-hunting trip with another excursion, enabling me to go to our new city in January to find a place to live. We worked together to choose a place, and then regrouped to pack up our lives. We gave away most of what we owned, which enabled us to move relatively cheaply and simply. The toughest part was about 1,200 miles in a small car with a loudly meowing cat in a snowstorm…
In the process of moving, I took the opportunity to change a few things in my life. I eliminated my cell phone, replacing it with a Skype phone number which I can only access with an Internet connection. My phone bills dropped from nearly $80 per month to $60 per year. I was able to easily make this change because my new friends won’t have known me to be always available before now, and because the culture in Colorado is more accepting of people without cell phones.
Another major change was replacing my car with a bicycle. Since I use a bike for all my transportation needs I no longer pay for car insurance, registration, gasoline, repairs, parking, tolls, and so on. Instead, I’m outside more of each day, getting exercise and watching the Canadian geese and blue herons migrate through. With a second-hand bike trailer, I’m able to haul a lot of stuff when needed. Yes, I’m outside sometimes when I’d rather not be (riding in a blizzard is a little tough), but on average I enjoy it immensely. Again, because my new friends will have always known me as a cyclist and not a driver, it was easiest for me to make this change at move-time.
Ann and I hadn’t moved to a new area in quite a long time, and having gone through it again now, we remember how disruptive it is. We both feel like we’ve had a major setback in life for doing this. It will be years before we rebuild the level of friendships we cherished in the Bay Area. We’re social people who deeply need friends around us who know us well. However, that will all come in time. But this time, we plan to stay in one place indefinitely, plants roots here, and a garden too!