I can move anywhere! Where should I move that's affordable and full of nature?

August 10 2018 | bijouxandbits
I can move anywhere! Where should I move that's affordable and full of nature?
Push pin map from Map Republic
Any advice or resources for choosing a place to live for another Californian being priced out of her area? I’ve been going through a divorce and living with my parents temporarily while saving money to get back on my feet. I have no children and no special job holding me down, so the possibilities are endless for starting over again.

I feel like I’m ready for a change of scenery, and anyway could barely afford to live on my own in my hometown (the Bay Area) or where I spent my entire adult life and lived with my ex-husband (LA). I keep trying to find this magical place to make my home and I’m not sure it exists.

I need a place with an affordable cost of living, and I’d really prefer a place that has lots of trees and hiking options, and isn’t filled with Trump supporters. Does such a place exist?

I can’t really afford to take a road trip to explore, but I obviously do want to visit my potential new home before moving, so narrowing down my options is necessary. Any advice would be appreciated!

This is a question I think about a lot. I love where I live in Chicago. It's got amazing culture, mostly Democrats (albeit surrounded by an otherwise red state), but the weather is not my cup of tea. I'm pretty much stuck for the time being, but that doesn't stop me from daydreaming A LOT about where I'd move where the weather is finer. And now you have that chance to go anywhere you want!

I can see why you'd need advice. There are hundreds of amazing cities in the U.S. and elsewhere that would take you into its arms with love. I just don't know where they all are. I took it to our readers over at Facebook since they always come through with amazing advice and I knew this question in particular would spark some interest.

Unfortunately, they recommended… well, everywhere. There's no one right answer here, but there's tons of food for thought. Mull it over and definitely give us a follow-up on where you end up. I know we'd all be interested.

The Midwest

Minneapolis, MN. Progressive, artistic, an amazing city parks system, and access to some of the best hiking in the midwest. Also: very close to Canada! If we weren't tied to the Bay Area through work, friends, and jobs, I would be moving there tomorrow. – Elka

I moved to Minneapolis-Saint Paul 14 years ago for these reasons and have never looked back. Bonus: the job market up here is booming right now and it is a hub for Delta so you can fly almost anywhere non-stop. And don't let the winters scare you — they can be brutal but MSP has a ton of activity options. – Dawn

I second Minnesota. A co-worker just moved from LA to Minneapolis for almost the same reasons and is very happy with her choice.

Also, we have all the trees and hiking plus more, and a similar liberal/conservative distribution like California. – Jennifer

Western Montana! Inexpensive housing and beautiful mountains. Not everyone is a Trump supporters. – Kim

I can’t meet all of your qualifications, but if you’re brave enough to venture into the Midwest, we have an incredibly low cost of living and lots of wilderness to explore. It’s true, you can’t avoid the Trump supporters here, but you’d be surprised by the diversity of ideas you’ll find in the cities and college towns here. Plus you could actively vote against Trump supporters on their home turf! – Jana

Michigan! Find any shoreline and stay there! – Lindsey

Pacific Northwest

Former socal resident here. After both my husband and I got laid off from our jobs, knowing we'd be unable to purchase equity in any land or homes in SoCal, we began to job hunt outside of California.

We ended up in Washington, just outside of the Seattle area. While it's not entirely free of Trump supporters, it's got beautiful hiking and camping areas. After a year and some change, we saved up for a down payment on a house and bought a home. We love it here.

I'm of the opinion you'll never find a place that doesn't have folks with differing opinions, political or otherwise… but we're good here. And I'm not going to let those who espouse hate keep me from enjoying it. – Michelle

Parts of Oregon. Outside of Bend maybe or in the Willamette Valley. – Miranda

Several friends who have moved from the Bay Area to Portland and nearby areas in Oregon are recommending that to me. – Trystan

And one vote against Portland in particular:

I live in Portland, Or. Ten years ago the mass gentrification started and people were forced out of their homes mainly for financial reasons, and then a new flux of people moved here, mainly from California. What was once a beautiful city is now an overpacked sardine can, and the prices on rent are so outrageous people are being forced to move, and the amount of homeless people has quadrupled since four years ago, and while we have resources to help it just isn't enough.

I take busses and light rail to work everyday, and the shifts I work used to mean that transit was not overcrowded, not anymore! This place is crowded all the time, and rush hour never stops.

As strange as this sounds I wish more people would move to red states that are planning on moving, if enough people moved to these places it might help the voter outcome. – Sarah

The Southeast

First, I'd suggest maybe getting a cheap RV and traveling. Second, we always welcome more folks in Asheville, NC, but bring your own job, as we don't have a lot to spread around. – Annie

Asheville, NC or thereabouts. Asheville specifically has probably an even mix of 45ers vs not, though the surrounding areas are pretty red heavy. – Nikole

Roanoke, VA if you don’t want to deal with Northern winters but still want some seasons. In the city is blue. – Samantha

We have AMAZING hiking in Arkansas. Look up the Buffalo River area. Also, just look up hiking in Arkansas. We lived in San Jose for a very long time. We could no longer afford to live there and we were sick of having to spend half the day we had planned on hiking on getting the hell OUT of the Bay Area to do so. We now live in NW Arkansas and it's absolutely NOT what you think. Research our area and I think you'll be VERY pleasantly surprised. Not to mention our art scene is OUT OF THIS WORLD! Check out Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. – Lori

Northeast & New England

Vermont! Burlington, VT has as close to a city feel as you'll get in VT, but still feels like a small town. Progressive with great hiking all around! – Meghan

Western Massachusetts! – April

Ithaca, NY! It's AMAZING! – Risa

Oh, Canada and elsewhere!

"Lots of trees and hiking options, and isn’t filled with Trump supporters." sounds strangely like Canada to me!

But, I know moving out of the country isn't exactly affordable either, so I'd second Vermont. – Ive

Yeah, I was going to say this sounds like coastal BC or parts of Alberta's rockies! – Kiran

Do you have to stay in the US? Why not consider moving to a new country? Canada has been mentioned, but there’s also Western Europe: fantastic quality of life, good healthcare, and definitely very few Trump supporters. Bonus: pretty much every European country has amazing scenery. – Lou

  1. I'm actually really surprised not to have heard from any Pennsylvanians! Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and The Lehigh Valley (Allentown and it's environs) are very Blue. The state as a whole tends blue, generally, though you'll still find a lot of red in the rural middle.
    PA Has a lot of forest and farmland, and while the state is landlocked, New Jersey is just next door, so the Atlantic isn't that far away! Eastern PA is close to Philadelphia, New York City, and DC, and has easy access to New England and the Southeast.

    6 agree
  2. I recommend Kentucky to anyone. The state tends to go red, but Lexington and Louisville are pretty solidly blue. There are definitely some loud-mouthed bigots in our state, but there are also lots of people who are just gonna keep it to themselves thank you very much, now would you like a top-up on your iced tea?
    We're a good mix of absolutely everything. We're located between northern and southern climates, so we have distinct seasons that are gorgeous. Hiking, wineries, breweries, boating/fishing, metro areas, bourbon, horse farms, you-pick orchards, shopping and absolute wilderness are always within a 2-hour drive pretty much no matter where you are in the state. There are a lot of gun nuts here, but Lexington was rated as one of the top three safest metro cities in the US. We've got The Ark Encounter and Big Bone Lick (the birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology). Our state economy used to rest on tobacco and coal, but it's slowly moving towards hemp and agritourism. Everything is a balance here, and I love that.

  3. Anothe vote for Western Massachusetts! Anywhere in the Pioneer Valley is beautiful, and cheaper than the city.
    But really, any hub of a large college or University. Not one in a big city though. College towns tend to be more liberal, and if it's not a city either, it'll be more affordable too (but big enough to have opportunities and plenty of housing)

    1 agrees
  4. The Driftless Region of Wisconsin (Madison, Viroqua, etc) is incredibly progressive and a pioneer in the organic food movement. Lots of people move to the area from Boulder, St Paul / Minneapolis, Santa Cruz, Ashland OR, and Milwaukee.

    I've also heard Wilmington NC is an odd progressive bubble.

    1 agrees
  5. Vermont! Vermont! We just moved from southeast Massachusetts to central Vermont and it's delightful. Progressive, very small-town-ish (even in the capitol of Montpelier), gorgeous mountains, great food. (Can you tell I'm in love?)

    2 agree
  6. I second Ithaca, NY! That's where I live and it's wonderful. I don't know about affordable, though – that 's pretty relative!

    1 agrees
    • Yay Ithacans! It's one of the few REPEATEDLY socialist-leaning cities in America 🙂 If you live right outside of it (Trumansburg/Lansing/Danby) you can find affordable stuff.

  7. Luckily, what you’re describing happens to fit where I live almost 100%! Look at the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia – from Winchester down toward Charlottesville. The Blue Ridge mountains are, to this day, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever woken up to. There’s a reason John Denver sang about out here. The more rural areas tend to lean Trump, but if you’re in a town like Winchester, Harrisonburg, or Charlottesville, it’s a good mix of political leanings, and it’s quickly becoming more blue. We have tons of hiking, from the Blue Ridge Parkway that starts in Front Royal, to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia. NOVA is pretty pricey, but I don’t think it’s California-levels, and most of us just commute into from the Valley anyways – lots of government workers here. There’s quite a few universities here (JMU, UVA, Shenandoah, Bridgewater, EMU, and Shepherd), so there’s always something to do, plus it’s close enough to go to DC for concerts, etc easily. If you have any questions about the area, I’m happy to answer 🙂 I’m a native and I keep saying I’m going to move away – but I can never bring myself to!

  8. I know Kelowna, BC is one of the less affordable cities in Canada, but I'm really interested in it anyway – can someone tell me how accessible is hiking/nature and how does it rate progressive-wise?

    1 agrees
    • A few of our friends live there! Seems to be a good job market, they all have had no problems grabbing good jobs out there. It's not super cheap but it's sooo close to mountains, hiking, Shuswap Lakes, and there's wineries and breweries all over the place. Not too far from major hubs and definitely relaxed place to be. One of the best locations for weather in Canada.

  9. I’ll put in a plug for St. Louis! Incredibly affordable, tooons of parks and trails, a growing outdoor rec culture, wildly blue (but in a red state) and fascinating to no end. Hit me up for more info! Emmalouklues at gmail.

    • I’d personally recommend a SoCal person NOT move to St. Louis. It certainly is affordable compared to California! But… As many wonderful people as I met there, I found it provincial, racist in almost every area of the city, and with a strange superiority complex (“our artists/music/architecture/fashion are better than those in other places, but nobody else recognizes that”). I found it to be quite red-minded, with a lot less blue than its actual voting trends suggest. It’s not a very diverse city in my experience. And if one more person asks me where I went to high school…!

      There are certainly cool spots, lots of history, and public outdoor spaces (all the big museums and the zoo are free), and the City Muesum is absolutely one of the coolest art installations I’ve ever experienced, but I personally could not leave soon enough. Living in SoCal now for the last 10 years, I think the mindset shift to go to STL might just be too difficult. Just my two cents having lived in both. Everyone’s different of course!

      1 agrees
  10. Flagstaff, AZ. Surrounded by forest at over 7000 feet in elevation, with the highest mountain range in the state. It’s a college town, so fairly liberal, and has a quaint, busy old downtown. It has a mix of suburban, rural, city and industrial areas and cost of living is reasonable in many places.

    It’s about a two hour drive from Phoenix and on average about 40 degrees cooler at any given time. It has snow most winters, but nothing crazy. We live in Phx but love vacationing there in the summer.

    2 agree
  11. I was seriously confused for a moment there when I read the heading. I thought "Oh wow, what kind of rare combination of citizenships does this person have to allow them to live anywhere they want? Also, money is no object? That is pretty awesome. Also, Norway!".

    Then I was a bit disappointed when I realised we're not talking about that kind of scenario at all. I think it's too early in the day for me. 😀

    Really, where I would start would be my climate preferences. Hate/love hot/cold/humid weather? If you have those kinds of preferences, those are essential to take into consideration and will help you narrow down your choices considerably. I myself moved from a subtropical to a subarctic climate this year, and I'm so much happier for it because I'm just not a hot weather person.

    That said, Norway does have the things you're looking for: trees and nature everywhere (which naturally comes with hiking opportunities, and people will talk your ears off about the best hiking trails and spots for camping), it's affordable (and income inequality is low), and I believe there is one single Norwegian Trump supporter. There's a YouTube video about him; you can probably find it if you google it. 😀

    In any case, I wish you all the best!!

    6 agree
  12. WNY. We have plenty of hiking and most of the area is blue. There are some tRump supporters but you'll find them anywhere. I have taken my kids on some of the light hiking trails but haven't hit the harder ones since they are only 6. Go a little more south or east then Buffalo if you want to live in the midst of the hiking. Another bonus just a hop, skip, and a jump from Toronto in Canada.

    1 agrees
  13. Maine! Portland is becoming a little pricey for housing as it becomes more popular (one of the top craft brewery cities in the country and Bon Appetit magazine just named it the top foodie city), but the surrounding areas are generally affordable, and of course there's TONS of nature up here! The southern part of the state is pretty liberal (don't forget we were the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote!).

    • Actually, you AND Maryland were the first states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. You both voted for it on the same date. (Sorry, I'm a Marylander who voted for it. But we're happy to share the title with you. 🙂 )

  14. If you're into hiking, Colorado is amazing. Before you shout about the expense, if you look at the smaller towns on the western slope, the price drops drastically. I'll grant you, many of these towns are red, but nearly all of them have small-but-growing enclaves of blue pride, and it's worth considering that if blue people keep congregating in the cities, we're always going to lose on state and even national elections, where seats go by counties.

  15. You don't mention your race or ethnicity or if you any religious affiliations so that makes it harder to answer this question with complete accuracy. Alot of people of toutting certain areas as "blue" or "progressive" but alot of these places are notorious for their racism and bigotry. I would try Georgia or the Atlanta area. Due to the COL challenges, avoid NYC, DC and yes Philly. Smaller cities tend to be more affordable but Trump supporters are everywhere. Have you considered the Mid-Atlantic Maryland (not near DC), Delaware, cheaper COL but more Trump supporters. Good luck whatever you choose, it can take a couple of tries to find the right fit just remember no place is perfect depending on who you are.

    2 agree
    • DC has a cheaper COL than NYC & SoCal, but not "cheap" by any mindset. In fact, I'm moving out of the DC area next month, even though it's been my home for 18 years & I (mostly) love it here, and one of the factors is, indeed, COL. (Although it's a mixed bag for me. I'm disabled and rely on social services, and where I'm moving to the housing is WAAAAY cheaper, but there's far less social services, so it kinda evens out in some ways.)

      If you want a Mid-Atlantic climate (hot, *humid* summers, cold winters with some snow (a few good blizzards a year usu., but not like Michigan levels)), trees & hiking, and a bit cheaper COL (but still isn't far from cities), consider Frederick MD. It's has the beautiful Catoctin mountains as a backdrop & it's the 2nd biggest city in MD. It goes pretty Blue these days and is somewhat up-and-coming, despite its former reputation as "Fredneck" by Washingtonians. It has a beautiful, revitalized (gentrified? dunno), historic downtown area with lots of lovely old buildings & neat shops & restaurants. It's at the end of the I-270 tech corridor, and has a commuter rail train on weekdays to DC (about an hour's trip via rail or driving). It's also about an hour from Baltimore, MD.

  16. I live in Allentown, PA (Lehigh Valley). Lots and lots of hiking – the Appalachian Trail is nearby, there are a lot of accessible state parks, and the Delaware Water Gap is nearby. Affordable hiking in striking distance of NYC and Philly when you want to be in a city. Housing costs are very reasonable, especially compared to CA. Much of rural PA is very red; the urban LV (Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton) are quite blue and there's an active Progressive community. Religiously, there's a sizable Jewish community and active Muslim and Hindu organizations that I know of as well as the Quakers, Moravians, Mennonites, Unitarians and the usual flavors of Christianity. We have three well-known colleges (Muhlenberg, Lehigh, and Lafayette) as well as several smaller private and sizable public colleges.

    1 agrees
    • I've visited Bethlehem PA (the next city over from Allentown) about 1x a year for the past 2+ decades (either Christmastime, Musikfest, or both) and it's a lovely cool little town with a wonderful historic past. Due to immigration from the 1900s to work in the (now defunct) steel mills, it's also surprisingly multi-cultural for a small PA town, esp. South Bethlehem. Add to this the presence of tourists + multiple colleges/universities means more diverse restaurants, religious presence, etc.

      If I ever wanted to settle down somewhere more small town and less city, but still a little cosmopolitan (and about an hour's drive from a major city), I would certainly consider there in a heartbeat.

      1 agrees
  17. I really appreciate that you're looking for a place with a compatible political culture. There are, of course, liberals and conservatives everywhere, but in my small, conservative state we have a big problem with lots of people from big liberal states like California coming in and changing our political climate, often trying to institute laws and regulations such as they are used to but which are incompatible with our local culture and way of life, as well as driving up our local cost of living. It goes a lot farther than whether you support Trump or not. We welcome people who want to come live here and appreciate our abundant natural beauty and let us keep living how we want, but so many people who move here seem to lack this basic consideration. Some seem to even think it's a moral triumph to vote us out of our own way of life in our own state. We have such a small population compared to big states like California that if just a couple percent of California's population moved here they would quickly outnumber the rest of us.

    So I'm glad you're looking to avoid contributing to this problem and you're not looking to move into a place where you distain the people who are already there. And I hope you're also looking to avoid transforming wherever you do move into a copy of the place you're trying to escape. You might have the means to relocate again, but a lot of people do have roots of various types, include jobs, land, and family, and can't so easily just get up and move if they start to get priced out of the area they've been living in their whole lives.

    Best of luck on your quest.

    3 agree
    • If "voting you out of your own way of life" means "voting to support minorities, women, and the poor" then I'm gonna have to go with: tough titties.

      3 agree
      • Nope. I support women, minorities, and the poor, not what I’m talking about.

        More like putting up legal barriers to people doing their own car maintenance, building and maintaining their own homes, choosing whether or not they want to be part of a union. Line drying their own clothes, collecting rainwater, growing a garden in their own yard. Laws that make it illegal to go target shooting with friends and family, or people trying to force shooting ranges out of business when they’ve been there much longer than any of the homes within hearing distance. Laws that make it harder to get hunting and fishing permits that have nothing to do with maintaining healthy populations. Barriers to homeschooling and other intrusions into family and parenting decisions. Laws against raising chickens or rabbits for food, laws against consuming raw milk from your own cow, or keeping beehives for honey, or home brewing. Making it harder for people to defend themselves against agressors, with or without a firearm. Barriers to finding midwifery care and safe, out of hospital birth. Laws requiring vaccination with no caveats for personal beliefs (I’m pro vaccination, but anti one-size-fits-all medicine). Barriers to children’s lemonade stands and excessive regulations around other very small businesses. Laws against people selling their own cars, homes, firearms, and other personal property. Excessive taxes designed to price people out of normal activities such as driving, shooting, and drinking soda. Laws against being off grid, and definitions that say a home not connected to the power grid is not suitable for human habitation, justifiying taking peoples children away despite perfectly safe, comfortable conditions. Regulations against wood stove heating when that’s the only heat source in many homes. Excessively strict emissions standards that mean decent older cars can’t be driven making it so poorer people can’t afford to drive and thus can’t get to work.

        Laws, local regulations, policies from employers and homeowners associations and local businesses, all of these are influenced by local political climate and have real effects on the freedoms people enjoy. Someone from Southern California might not understand why their new rural neighbors need to be able to drive older cars that they fix themselves, grow and process their own food, heat with wood, generate their own power with solar panels and windmills, hunt, and keep firearms, but that doesn’t give them the right to take these things away, directly or indirectly.

        2 agree
  18. You may need to do some serious research on a few fronts to find the perfect location for you, as you aren't being sent somewhere based on a job, education or family proximity.
    1) Affordability – there are many sources for stats such as avg home price, avg rental, avg income, etc., available online. I've seen ranked lists of most expensive to least expensive states on a few sites.
    1a) Not sure what you currently do as a source of income. If it is a niche skill or a specific industry, you may need to do searches for those types of jobs/companies online early in your search.
    2) Politics – this is also easy to research. Between the graphs on how states voted, some down to the congressional districts, and discussions/opinions on how states may flip in November, you can get an idea of the political bend of the area you are looking at. Yard signs will start going up soon, and preliminary polls should be available as well in the next month or so.
    3) Hiking – Tons of sites with hiking trails by state. REI, National Parks, state parks, etc…do this as a drill down search, after you limit your list to 10-20 states…unless this is first on your list, in which case it may be more difficult. Most states have state/national parks with hiking trails. : )
    4) Climate – not specifically mentioned, but do you want to be near a coastline, warm weather or cold, etc.? Can you take New England or Great Lake snow/ice patterns? Are you open to living in a near desert climate? Will 50% days of average rainfall hamper your plans? Do you want to avoid areas with bears, panthers, snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, etc.? (Also look at the more recent climate patterns…fires, hurricanes, flooding, etc.)
    I'm a data analyst by trade, and would be happy to help you organize the information if you need help.

    3 agree
  19. As much as I love the PNW, I would say your options would either be somewhere expensive or somewhere that's moderate to red. There is a housing crisis in Seattle that is affecting much of the Puget Sound area, too. My dad decided to leave his home of the last 40 years. When he and my mom first moved in, there were only two other houses on their deadend road. Soon, there will be 7.

  20. We left Silicon Valley two years ago so we could afford a house, and we wound up moving primarily to Austin with a vacation home in Burlington VT. I highly recommend Burlington, although there is less to do here than in CA (obviously). Austin has lots to do, but the roads are awful (Bay traffic without the option of carpool lanes, tolls, and everything is a truck instead of a Prius/Tesla, plus the infrastructure was built under the idea of "if we don't build it, they won't come"– really!), the weather is awful for most of the year (way too hot and humid for this native Bay Arean), and they hate Californians there (nothing says "welcome to your new state" like a bunch of T-shirts in stores that say "don't California my Texas"). Like, it's a really cool place and I love it most of the time, but I can't handle the summers (we're in VT right now as a matter of fact). We plan on moving full time to Burlington in a few years, once my husband's job in Austin is done (or he's tired of it).

    1 agrees
  21. I've lived quite a few places (Rochester, Chicago, Minneapolis, Tampa, Bethlehem PA). I live in and would recommend northern Delaware which is totally beautiful. Most people don't venture of the 95 corridor as they travel between Baltimore and Philadelphia, but once you do it's rolling hills and river valleys full of historic properties, state parks, and amazing gardens. There are lots of affordable areas, and taxes are generally low (plus no sales tax!).

    We're close to Philadelphia for big city needs and there's lots of hiking here and in nearby Appalachia. Plus we have the Delaware beaches in the summer (think a nicer version of the Jersey Shore). There's a large biking community here as well.

    We are a blue state for sure, especially northern Delaware. I mean, former VP Joe Biden is from here and you'll see him about town nowadays.

    Our weather is moderate, we get a little snow in the winter and some hot days in the summer, but overall it's pretty temperate.

    1 agrees
  22. Check out Bellingham, WA! An hour and a half north of Seattle, an hour south of Vancouver, and surrounded by forests, mountains (including Mt Baker), and Puget Sound. There's a mid-sized liberal arts university and a large liberal/alternative community here, and it's still affordable (but getting more expensive as Californians, Portlanders, and Seattleites move in to escape the rising costs). We definitely see Bellingham just getting cooler in the next decade, glad we bought when we did!

    1 agrees
  23. New Mexico. It's not all desert, there's lots of mountains and hiking/outdoors activity options. Plus it's a blue state. Probably anywhere in the state will be more affordable than the Bay Area, but Santa Fe isn't worth the high cost of living. Albuquerque is an underrated gem, especially if you're a foodie. Granted, there's always a trade off. Albuquerque has great food, politically liberal, reasonable cost of living, laid back attitude, but the trade off is a rising crime rate. But I'd still recommend it. If you're ok with really living out in the boonies, Silver City is incredibly adorable. But I'd say keep New Mexico as a whole on your radar.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.