Things are getting very meta here at Margaret Vandergriff, the Moving Coach!
I’m gearing up for a move! And I’m inviting you to join me as I put the Find Your Happy Place system I created into action, so you can see for yourself how it’s helping me navigate my search and identify my best places to move.
In my previous post, I highlighted the most important characteristics of my ideal place. I used these characteristics to define my ideal place profile, guide my online research, and zero in on my top 3 best places to move.
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It’s nearly impossible to find a place that identically matches your ideal place profile. However, you’ll discover in this post that the Find Your Happy Place tools and resources I developed make it possible to get pretty darn close!
Before I reveal which 3 cities rose to the top of my list of best places to move and why, let’s take a quick look at how they ended up on my short list.
Getting to the short list
First, several of the characteristics of my ideal place profile – no tornadoes, moderate year-round weather, close to the ocean, and legalized recreational marijuana – made it easy to pinpoint one area of the country:
The West Coast.
I further narrowed down the field of possibilities after taking into consideration cost of living. My ideal place has a “reasonable” cost of living. I define reasonable as a city where we can buy a modest house near the center for under $250,000.
California is beautiful and I have family there, but the cost of living is nuts!
Ruling out California left Oregon and Washington the last two states standing. I whittled down our prospects even more by factoring in ideal city size (200,000-350,000), slow, steady growth rate (about 1% year), and proximity to San Francisco.
So, are you ready to find out which are my best cities to move and why? Then let’s dive in!
#1 – Eugene, Oregon
Eugene is in a prime location. The city is 61 miles to the beach, is next to loads of national forests, and is closest to San Francisco of the top choices. The weather is moderate but it rains a lot (46 inches) and snows (5 inches). Which is not ideal, but there’s going to be some trade-off!
Eugene is a smallish city of 170,000 that has grown by 9.5% since 2010. This is just a tiny bit faster than our ideal growth rate. The cost of living is a little on the high side, but with houses selling at $2.03 per square foot we should be able to find a modest house in the city within our price range.
Eugene offers a huge variety of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants, farmer’s markets, historic and independent movie theaters, music venues, yarn stores, comic book stores, and independent book stores. Our four-legged family is also in luck, since Eugene has both cat and rabbit veterinary specialists.
On paper, Eugene is the clear front-runner of the pack. But the only way to know for sure if it’s a great match is to experience it first-hand. If we’re not sure Eugene is the best fit after our scouting visit, we’ll turn our attention to the city that ranked #2 on our best places to move list.
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#2 – Salem, Oregon
Located 65 miles north of Eugene, Salem shares many similar characteristics, including distance to the beach (56 miles), proximity to national forests, and weather (40 inches of rain and 6 inches of snow).
Salem and Eugene are even the same size. The down-side is that Salem is growing at a much faster pace than Eugene. Since 2010, Salem’s population has grown by 12% – the same rate as Portland, Oregon. The cost of living is slightly lower in Salem though, with houses selling at $1.91 per square foot.
Salem has a wide array of farmer’s markets and vegetarian restaurants. But its selection of movie theaters, music venues, yarn stores, and comic book and independent book stores is not as extensive. The city gets major points, however, for having a mobile cat veterinarian in addition to vets who specialize in rabbit care.
#3 – Vancouver, Washington
Vancouver, Washington is located 55 miles north of Salem just over the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. The city sits 86 miles from a beach and is close to a ton of state and national forests. Vancouver gets a lot of rain (43 inches) like the other two cities, but it doesn’t get as much snow (2 inches).
Vancouver is only slightly larger than Salem and Eugene with 180,000 people. The growth rate in Vancouver has been even with Eugene (9.5% since 2010) but this could easily change given its proximity to Portland.
Of the three cities, Vancouver has the highest cost of living, with houses selling at $2.13 per square foot. The city has a ton of vegetarian restaurants and farmer’s markets; one historic movie theater; a modest selection of yarn, comic book and independent book stores, and cat and bunny veterinarians.
Besides concerns about growth, Vancouver sits only 50 miles away from Mount St. Helens. There’s something about living in the shadow of an active volcano (it last erupted in 2008) that doesn’t sit quite right. I understand this is irrational, especially since lava could spew for 500 miles if it erupted big-time, but still…
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Follow along with me here at The Good Life Move blog and on Facebook and see the Find Your Happy Place system in action as we scout out our top-ranked cities and decide which one best supports the life we want.