If You Had A Magic Wand
Unlike many of my friends I have no immediate family to consider when it comes to thinking about where to live. No elderly parents, no children. I was married for a long time, but that’s many years ago. So while no obligations has a sense of freedom attached to it, it’s also quite daunting in the choices it presents. If I had a magic wand and money were no object I’d live on a few acres with a few friends, each of us in our own houses.
The Covid pandemic gave me a gift and that gift was time for reflection . Gone were the daily work routines and socializing. For the first few months there was a paralyzing quality to being home. I went from the bedroom to the sofa. Meals killed some time. It was too cold to be outside much and I didn’t have cable TV. So what I could do was think and reflect. Mostly I thought about my life- when and where I was happiest and where I languished.
What were the circumstances in my life that made the largest contribution to that happiness? What were the worst? Of course as we age, our needs and wants change. As does our ability to earn money. In your youth if you lost money you had time to recoup. In your sixties it’s a different story. God bless social security and Medicare but it’s not enough. Unfortunately Covid trashed our business and personal lives financially in ways not expected. And never having worked for a company with a pension, the buck stopped there. Savings drained and business stopped.
I came to some conclusions about my life while the pandemic forced this "early retirement".
First, I enjoy working. I feel best when I'm engaged and productive. I don't play golf or tennis, and I used to ride horses a lot, but for health reasons I cannot do that any more .In fact horses are how I made a majority of my friends in my 20's-40's. We used to board horses on our property, so it was like having a built in social life. That was good for me since I'm a bit shy and it takes me time to nurture new friendships.
So some kind of productive work in my life, part time now instead of full time is important. I plan to continue making chocolate, or offer my workshops and tastings in some form. But there may also be work out there I haven’t considered yet to unfold.
Amenities. I pondered on the amenities that for me made a place nice to live. They boiled down to a Foodie culture- farmers markets , farm to table dining experiences, and accessibility to clean organic food. Access to the arts- fine art and craft, live music, Indie films, museums or theatre. An independent bookstore. A creative community with racial diversity. A local library. I'm not a huge shopper but when I'm feeling the need for some retail therapy I want to shop in fun, quality stores like an Ikea or World Market , or a boutique clothing store , museum gift shop or art gallery. And , I have an addiction to plant nurseries/garden centers. I don't even need to be buying plants, just entering a greenhouse or perusing rows of trees and shrubs is a comfort like no other. I was a master gardener in Hawaii so gardening, especially growing flowers is most rewarding.
I enjoyed being in a relationship with someone. Its more motivating to cook and eat meals, or do activities with someone else, however I'm not interested to try dating and that seems to be a wild card thats not easy to fulfill. Perhaps my standards are too high. Friends are important. Finding your “ tribe “ of like minded souls and value systems. I have wonderful friends, but they are scattered in many states. Either I moved or they moved, usually for a work opportunity. I am seeking community.
Climate is another issue that greatly affects my mental health. I was raised in New Jersey, a cold climate with muggy summers. I lived many years in New Mexico- cold, dry, hot, high altitude. I lived at sea level in Hawaii, both rainy side and dry side of the islands. I've decided I like a slight altitude (unless ocean living were an affordable option-its not) I like heat, even if it slows me down in it's peak.I need sunshine, but I like some weather- rain, thunderstorms. But not more than about 30-40" a year. I prefer mild winters. Snow is pretty in the mountains-I'll visit thank you. Reasonable humidity is fine with me, since leaving NM the bloody noses, flaking skin , allergies and wrinkles have subsided. I never had those issues in Hawaii.
I am not into any sports but some good dog walking trails and landscaped parks or botanical gardens and a place for a swim -pool, river or lake is very satisfying. In the past I used to fish and that's something, along with canoeing, I could easily enjoy again. So access to water of some kind is also at the top of the list.
A town with education always makes it interesting. A small community college with adult classes or a small university brings a mix of age groups and ideas into your sphere. I lean more liberal than conservative .
To achieve this checklist a city size of about 50- 75,000 usually fits the bill. And I can be within a max 1/2 hour radius of that. I like to live somewhat rural with easy access to city - like amenities.
There is a great website Best Places, where you can type in any town or city and it gives you its stats- employment, cost of living, climate, crime rates, political leanings, education, race demographics etc. It's a very useful tool, once you have an idea what you are looking for. I have eliminated places due to too much rain, too high crime, or too conservative in thinking. Of course the tipping point is always affordability.I left Hawaii because affording it became more and more difficult and compromising.
What about you? Join the conversation. If you had a magic wand, where would you live? Have you thought about your lifestyle, affordability and community? How do you find your “tribe”?