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Are you thinking of moving from the Bay Area to Austin? In my last post, I talked about the pros and cons of moving from California to Texas. In this post, I want to drill down a little further and share some of the realities of living in Austin that I wish I had known before we made the move.
For context, we’re about 4 months into our COVID 19 quarantine, so my situation is colored by the impacts of current events. We moved here last fall and focused on getting the house unpacked while working full time jobs and managing part-time businesses, so we didn’t spend much time getting to know the area or the people in it.
Then the holidays hit, and we were here alone. This was the first holy crap moment we had that gave us our first tinge of mover’s regret …
Moving to a new city is lonely
This experience is compounded when you work from home and don’t have kids, so you really have no reason to leave the house. Like, at all.
Fortunately, my husband and I are both introverted, so we don’t require a lot of social time, but we need some! I found it challenging to meet people here, especially since we live in the suburbs where there’s less of a transient culture. Now, compound this with a pandemic and suddenly, life becomes very socially isolating.
It’s true that we would still need to socially isolate if we were living in CA, but at least we would have friends nearby. There is something to be said for having people you know and love close by when there is a heightened risk of getting very sick.
So our first holiday season here was less than memorable, but we were grateful for a few visits from friends here and there.
By January, we were ready for some warm sunshine, so we booked a trip to the Caribbean – somewhere my husband had not yet seen since we mostly vacation in Cabo. We were really excited to try something new, but that brought us to the next issue we had not considered before we moved….
Austin Airport doesn’t fly direct to a lot of places
Now, we don’t travel much for work anymore, so we didn’t think this would be a big deal. However, we assumed our favorite vacation destinations (pretty much any tropical beach) would only be one flight away. Not so.
For our trip to Punta Cana, our only option was to fly through Florida or drive to Dallas (a 5+ hour drive) and fly direct. We ended up choosing the Dallas option because we wanted to avoid an 11 hour flight time (crazy!). That required an extra night in a hotel near Dallas airport on the outbound flight, and a long drive home on our return. Not ideal.
In retrospect, we should have factored in our love of quick and frequent trips to the beach. From the Bay Area, Cabo is only a 3-hour flight (5 total hours door-to-beach) and it’s even less from LA (where we used to live). Now, it’s a full day of travel to sip a cocktail with my feet in the sand.
First world problem, I know, but we value our beach time very much.
This brings me to the next thing I wish we had known before moving to Austin from the Bay Area….
There’s very few destinations within driving distance of Austin
Now, if you’re a Texan, you may not love what I’m about to say, but please understand that California is an insanely beautiful place where you can snow and water ski on the same day. The mountains, the oceans, the vineyards and the amazing coastal cities are all pretty accessible within a reasonable drive.
Now that everyone is hesitant to get on a plane, you can imagine how nice it is to have everything you could possibly want within a 5-hour drive.
Here in the city of Austin, there are a lot of great places to visit, from lakes to parks and great restaurants. But if you want to get away for the weekend, well, that’s a problem.
We’ve done a few road trips outside of Austin since moving here, and there’s pretty much nothing to see within a 5-hour radius of the city (unless you want to go to another city, which we don’t).
Texas does have a cute little wine country, but it’s nothing like Napa or Sonoma in terms of both beauty and quality of wine.
Sorry – but that’s the truth.
Austin is a little blue island in an ocean of red
Depending on your political values, this may not be an issue for you, but if you’re a liberal person who is looking at Austin because of the like-minded views, then you’re going to love it here. However, beware that the further out of the city you go, the less liberals you’ll find.
I won’t say much about this because republican or democrat is neither here nor there to me as long as you are a good person (and Texans are really good people).
However, right now in the US, the practice of wearing masks has become more of a political statement than a prophylactic. As a result, Texas, and more specifically Austin, has the fastest growing rate of infections at the time that I”m writing this. Not great.
Do I regret moving from the Bay Area to Austin?
Nope. I’m incredibly grateful to be riding out the ongoing craziness of 2020 right here in Texas. This move has put us in a great financial position to weather any economic storms and given us a pool to enjoy the endless hours of Shelter in Place.
There are also plenty of takeout options from the many amazing restaurants that are fighting to stay afloat. We have access to great medical resources (should we need it) and an abundance of caring people.
However, what I wish I had spent more time thinking about was how hard it would be to meet new people given that we work from home. I also didn’t realize how much I value having access to amazing places like Sonoma, the beach or Yosemite. California is a self-contained wonderland of seasons, activities and natural beauty.
Texas just doesn’t have that.
So is Austin officially home?
No, probably not. My husband and I are both in agreement that while this is a great adventure, longer term it’s not for us. It’s not Texas – it’s us. We miss our friends and the proximity to places we love.
But here’s the rub.
We’re not California F.I.R.E.
By that I mean, we’re not financially independent with the option to retire early as California residents. We would have to work at least another 5 years if we wanted to achieve the same quality of life as retirees in the Bay Area (maybe even longer). It’s just so expensive to live there.
Another issue is that longer term, many of our friends will move from the Bay Area for the same reason, so we will all eventually retire elsewhere.
So do we go back, to enjoy the California lifestyle at least for a few years? That’s not something that’s clear to us yet. There are also other factors to consider with regard to our businesses, but I wanted to focus this post on lifestyle only.
It’s a conundrum for sure, but for now, we’ll enjoy what we love about Austin – beautiful hill country, great food, nice people and plenty of space to social distance.
Stay safe, ya’ll (<- ps, this is my new favorite word).