Ten years ago last March was the date when I began life-in-exile from San Francisco. To the amazement of everyone I ever met in the Bay Area I made the decision to leave the nicest city in the US to go live in what some consider to be one of the worst cities in the US, Baltimore. It wasn’t a hard decision though, I was absolutely fed up with being a renter in San Francisco, meanwhile Baltimore had a thousands of affordable homes just sitting there. Despite having some tremendous work opportunities in San Francisco (I had a great career in tech) it all added up to nothing as far as I was concerned if I couldn’t own my own home.
A Path to Happiness
From day one I felt good about Baltimore. Yes it got a little cramped at my sister’s house while I looked for a home, but it still felt good. Suddenly I could do all these things I couldn’t do in San Francisco, like barbecue, and gardening. It was quieter, more laid back, everything became a lot easier. I was a lot less stressed out. The trade off though was I had to drive everywhere, and the restaurants, everything food related is much less in Baltimore than it is in SF. But the peacefulness was golden and for the first time in years I had nothing to complain about.
House hunting in a market like Baltimore’s was interesting, especially after a housing bubble burst. Many of us knew there was a bubble and I was waiting patiently for a deal while real estate agents and sellers were becoming angrier by the week. Eventually I found a house, a foreclosure, that came on the market because the previous owner, a real estate/rental company, overpaid for it. They overpaid for it and since it was investment property I guess the numbers didn’t work and it was foreclosed. So I got a deal.
Love Those Small Cities
Once in a while I would connect with a friend who moved to some place like Providence RI or Pittsburg and they all LOVED their smaller city. People I met here in Baltimore would echo the same things. “It’s so easy here.” “I have so much more now.” “Only one of us has to work, and I get to stay home with the kids.” It’s “the land of easy living” my neighbor says. Me and these friends, we joined the affordability club, and I wonder why I ever put up with the crap I put up with in San Francisco?
Ironically when I moved here, the people I met were aghast that I’d leave San Francisco. My own neighbors, when introduced, would reflexively blurt out “Why?!!!” I don’t know why ‘home ownership’ didn’t register with them as a valid answer. So let me elaborate, why the heck would anyone want to leave San Francisco? Here’s why. Dog shit everywhere. Human shit everywhere. It doesn’t rain for months, there are a LOT of homeless, and that crap builds up. Discarded needles all over the place. You literally can’t walk barefoot anywhere, not even in a grassy park. Forget open toed shoes.
You might ask, if your neighborhood was so shitty, why didn’t you just move? Well that’s the other thing about San Francisco, you can’t just switch apartments, it’s impossible. Besides I was lucky enough to have a great apartment in a great location with my own garage. It’s was just unfortunate that the Mission district was gross. Frustrating really. It was also unfortunate that the old lady in the apartment below me was getting beaten up by her caretaker. I could hear it. It was unfortunate that I was still living like a college student in too many ways. And my finances were in an unfortunate state because there was nothing I could control in that area. Nothing. It was like my life was at the whim of all this shit and there was nothing I could do about it. So that’s why I left. March 1st 2008 was the first day I quit renting and I won’t ever go back.
East Coast Technology Companies Suck
I was going to write a paragraph here about being a UX professional in the DC area. Scratch all that it just sucks. Maybe it’s just DC? ... but it sucks trying to be a UX pro here. People. Don’t. Get. It. Like the food, California is way ahead.
- Slowing down
- Being with my dad
- Cooking great meals
- Buying a house
- Doing DIY work
- Economic sustainability
In places like San Francisco, NY and Washington DC you can so easily be just-a-resource for somebody else. There is a current that pulls you away from spending time on yourself. Living in Baltimore has helped me understand the economy of time, and now I spend it better.
One of my goals after becoming a home owner, was to have an edible yard. Doomsday prepping aside, I like the idea of “sustainability” and also, being able to walk out my door to pick my food. As it turns out, gardening is a lot more work than I anticipated, especially when you buy a foreclosure that used to be a rental. I got “The Yard of Neglect”, so I skipped the gym membership and bought some tools. I now have a mini orchard with an assortment of trees, bushes and vines. My friends in SF like to run marathons. For me it’s major yard projects. It’s empowering and also a form of therapy. But now that I’ve obtained these goals, what’s next? Perhaps a tiny house, she-shed art studio? Or that make your own moonshine idea?
My point is expensive places are exhausting. The tediousness of constantly "competing" for everything gets really old. It's pointless. Happiness is more valuable than the opportunity to get a lucky role at some tech company.