Friday, March 24, 2006

The Dream of Relocation

The Dream of Relocation

Why would I give up a prosperous job position, proximity to my good friends, and a wonderful Craftsman house that is appreciating rapidly as it nears its hundredth birthday?


Moving to Seattle a dozen years ago was a good decision, but I underestimated my need for sunlight. I did not realize how much the Southern CA sun had to do with my energy and sense of well-being.


There are also the financial costs of staying. Four years ago, I viewed my second house as large for my needs, but a great investment. Having spent the prior five years remodeling my first house, I shopped long and hard to find a house that some else had already fixed. Historical charm, a warm and well-connected neighborhood, and a short commute. It was affordable, given the blessings of steady work, and good pay.


But, it turns out that even a house with recent updates takes a fair amount of work. Three floors and a yard are a lot for a single man with a full-time job. The job competes for time, and you can't throttle it back. You have mortgage payments twice the national average. They become your reason for being. Pressured by expenses, upkeep, and the demands of a career, other dreams go into a permanent holding pattern. Perhaps I would be better off in a two-bedroom townhouse, I thought. New construction, a lawn service, and lower payments sounded tempting. Don't get me wrong — I recognize that most of the world struggles with dire problems. I know that I am fortunate. However, time poverty becomes real, and can hollow out a lifetime. The voluntary simplicity and creative pursuits that I had yearned for were not going to happen in Seattle. When I got the idea to relocate, I first thought of San Francisco. I had visited for Java One last July. I found the temperate city by the bay to be full of beautiful people, and a booming tech sector with venture capital oozing out of every seam. Maybe I would pitch a business idea, and harness some of that capital. Then, after some research I discovered that the townhome in San Francisco would probably have a mortgage just as steep as the Seattle house.


So much for the complaining! You tuned in to hear the dream. I read Life 2.0 by Rich Karlgaard. His thesis, in a nutshell, is that the sophistication gap between urban and rural American is closing. He documents a trend wherein people with high-powered careers leave the giant metropoles and then live life on a grander scale in smaller cities. Options open up. Maybe one partner in a couple can stay at home. An entrepreneurial venture is much cheaper where salaries and square footage are reasonable.


I also read industry news feeds such as Alarm:clock, and listened to hours of podcasts, particularly from Venture capital was finding its way to small cities, incubators where the burn rates are lower. I found that not only was venture capital heating up, but there was a strong new trend: bootstrapping. Some entrepreneurs, instead of wrestling with VC agendas and exit strategies, were going it alone at very low cost. The successful bootstrapper typically chooses a small city or university town, opens shop in a private home, and uses free open-source technologies to support the product. They experience low turnover, because people are typically rooted in the community, and there are fewer competing employers.

The Dream

After some weeks, this fresh information began to gel into a dream. It goes like this:
  1. Sell the Seattle house.
  2. Get a job in another city.
  3. Buy a smaller, lower maintenance home in a market with a lower median house cost. Pay cash for it.
  4. Use the resulting surplus time and income to pursue ambitions besides work and remodeling:
    • Write more
    • Volunteer more time
    • Spend time with family
    • Start a business
    • Travel
    • Earn another degree
    • Enjoy hiking, sun, dating
When I consider these possibilities, I feel like I can breathe again. That's why I'm committed, and why I am going on record: I will do this. What is your relocation dream?


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