Why do you live where you live?

13 July 2012 20:40 

A bit off topic today, but something I think about quite a bit.

For answers I’ve started with what others have done, and why.

My sister C- lived for many years in Richmond, Virginia. She studied at the Medical College of Virginia first for pharmacy then for dentistry. Richmond is a lovely, small city and a college town, not far from Washington, D.C. However, when my mother got older, C- moved from Richmond to be closer to our mother. C- bought a house in Maugansville, Maryland, near Hagerstown. She still lives there even though our mother died in 2003. Soon after moving to Maugansville  C- met a lovely, fantastic person, J-. J-‘s two kids are in an excellent school system, and J- and C- are committed to staying in the area until they graduate from high school.

After my brother’s two boys graduated from high school in the Washington D.C. area,  K- began a deliberate search for a community that was consistent with how he wanted to live: progressive, with emphasis on a local and sustainable economy. He drove several thousand miles, as far west as Iowa, exploring and looking for the right place. He finally ended up in Floyd, Virginia. He hit it out of the park on this one. Floyd is small, progressive (yes, even in Virginia),  has good restaurants and a great music scene. K- has an exceptionally good arrangement in that he continues to work for his high tech company (out of Rockville, Maryland).

My extended family are all in Texas. Texans don’t leave Texas.

Some friends have interesting stories.

B- and MJ are from the mid-Atlantic region.  They lived outside Washington, D.C. for a while, but that wasn’t really for them. Both were accomplished sailors, and wanted to be closer to the water. After a lot of looking and hard work, they found and fixed up a lovely home on a creek off the Chesapeake Bay. While where they live is tranquil, they are close enough to D.C. and Baltimore for B- to continue his successful real estate work.

Like me D- is an Army brat (he moved a bunch growing up). After graduating from Lafayette,  he also headed West, but in his case Alaska.  D- and wife #1 headed to Fairbanks. She had a job with the Army Corps of Engineers, he had a lot of energy and ambitions. Since then D-‘s worked mostly in natural resource extraction, which kept him out in the colonies:  Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, and various other remote locations. Now with he’s in Sheridan, Wyoming, where his latest work took him.

I studied in Germany with ML-. After graduation she moved to what was then West Berlin, then just Berlin.  She’s an accomplished musician, and Berlin’s edginess, arts, and music scene appealed to her. She’s been a full time musician and high tech geek in Berlin for many years now.

D- and Jy- were born and raised in the Bay Area. Jy-‘s family vacationed regularly in New Hampshire, on a lovely lake located in the middle of the state. Soon after they met, Jy- took D- back East to visit. D- was sure there was no way in hell he would last two weeks by some lake with her family. He was quite wrong – he loved it. About five years after they got married, Jy- and D- sold their Bay Area home and moved to New Hampshire.  They love it where they are, and have carved out a wholesome lifestyle for themselves and their three children.

M- and K-  are a Renaissance couple. A few years ago they left the Bay Area for Florida. Both work in high tech, but have a variety of interests. M- has been at one time a chef, photographer, and a computer programmer. K- is equally catholic in her interests and abilities. They chose Florida for its warm weather and cheap land, where in addition to their high tech work they are starting their own sustainable farm.

All of the above were mostly moves of choice. While in Silicon Valley I met people who moved because they had no choice. H- is from Viet Nam. He left with some, but not all of his family, on a boat when things fell apart there in the early 1970’s. He eventually landed in the mid-West of the United States. Later he moved to California, graduated from San Jose State,  and got into high tech.  Family that he did not bring over he now visits and supports in Viet Nam.

T- lived in Phenom Penh when the Khmer Rouge took over. Her father being an academic, they were forcibly relocated to the country. The 1975 invasion of Cambodia by communist Viet Nam gave T- and her family a chance to escape Cambodia via Thailand. With sponsorship they first moved to Stockton, then eventually to the Bay Area, where they stayed since.

I was born in Kansas (Ft. Leavenworth, the army base, not the prison)  and lived there until I was two. My family then moved to Texas then Washington before moving to northern Virginia, all before I was five. Before I graduated from high school we moved four more times. My university years were spent in Vermont (three moves) and Germany. I spent twenty five years in California, the longest I have lived in one state. While in California I lived in Fremont, Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Campbell, San Jose, Redwood City, and Belmont.  In addition I’ve spent a good bit of time in West Virginia, Delaware, Wyoming, and Alaska.

The longest I’ve lived in one place was 6108 Vernon Terrace  in Alexandria – six years. That was during junior high and high school.

Finally, over the past eighteen months it’s been the year of four M’s:

  • Montreal – where we lived for part of 2010-2011.
  • Metheun, Massachusetts – where we stored all our possessions at a Public Storage facility.
  • Maugansville, Maryland – my legal residence.
  • Marseille – where we now live.

At the end of July we will leave Marseille. We are spending August in Berlin. In September we are moving to La Garde, a small town located between Toulon and Hyeres. It’s a nice quiet town, and we’re looking forward to the change.

We moved to Marseille because we  were looking for a cheap, different sort of place to live.  Here our lives are more focused on doing rather than having, since we don’t have a lot. But I think a lot about where to live long term, especially for our kids.

You live someplace because you were born there.  There are jobs or the job sends you there. The cost of living is reasonable. Your family is nearby. You need asylum.  Because of the culture or arts. Because of the lack of of people. Because what you want to do is happening there. Or some combination of all these.

Addendum: you move to where the baguettes are damn good.

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  1. I like the anonymity of your blog. I know D and Jy. I’m impressed with your brother’s investigation of where to live. Sounds like Floyd is a really cool spot. Wish we’d done a bit more of that as Franklin, NH is trying to improve but …

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