Sunday Coffee – To Move or Not to Move

This is a decision that’s been weighing on my mind. The last time we moved back to Texas, I swore we would never leave again, but so much has changed and I’m struggling to determine the best course of action.

When we first moved to San Antonio in late 2005, there were a few reasons. 1) My cousins were all having kids, and I had a toddler half-sister who I wanted to be closer to. I’m very close to my family and I missed that community aspect. 2) The job market in the rural area where we lived didn’t offer a lot of opportunities. In 2005, there weren’t the same remote-work options available now, that rumors of whole departments being eliminated made us uneasy. We needed to be somewhere with better opportunities. 3) If we did move for the job situation, we wanted to do it proactively – before either of us lost our jobs, and before the kids were old enough to be in school. The plan was to save money, move, find employment, find a place to live, and lay permanent roots.

And that’s what we did, until the whole Boston fiasco and wildly bouncing around the country four times in three years between 2014 and 2017. If we’d skipped those years and stayed in the same place according to our original plans, we’d all be in a far better place these days, in health, in finances, in my potential career, in mental health, etc. But this post isn’t about the way we kicked our lives off balance in 2014. It’s an evaluation of the reasons we chose to move here, the reasons we kept choosing to move back here, whether or not those reasons still apply, and if newer factors have changed anything.

Old Factors

  • Family: All those former young kids are now grown up, and much of my family lives farther away now. Most of those who live close are part of the core group of anti-vaxxers in my family, and there’s been a large cultural schism due to the pandemic. This is no longer a factor to stay, and honestly might be a factor in favor of leaving – more distance might be better at this point.
  • Jobs: Nearly 20 years of experience and technology has made this factor virtually nonexistent.
  • Kids and School: Our last kid graduated from high school this spring. Another no-long-relevant factor.

So our reasons for moving here originally in 2005 are no longer valid. I next want to look at the reasons we kept returning, the additional factors that arose between 2005 and our last move to San Antonio in 2017.

New Factors

  • Friends and Family: I already discussed family factors above. In friends, I had writing groups, book clubs, and health-related groups. Each time we moved away, I struggled to find similar groups for one reason or another. I always wanted to come back to where my people were.
  • Familiarity: We always moved back to the same area, both because of the school situation, but also the library, my favorite hiking park, my chiropractor, Half Price Books, our specific HEB, Salsalitos, and so many other restaurants, businesses, neighborhoods, parks, etc that made up the fabric of so many of our years. This area felt like home.

But of course, things don’t always stay the same, and this is where I need to focus on both the positive and negative changes over the last five years since moving back to SA for the final time, as well as the potential risks and implications of relocating again.

Recent Factors

  • Cats: With seven cats, our options for housing will be limited to buying a house. Buying in a new area without prior firsthand knowledge is a potentially disastrous proposition. No matter how much research you do beforehand, you can never tell if you’re making the right decision. Making the wrong decision puts you in an even more financially vulnerable position, and we aren’t young anymore. We can’t make another disastrous decision like we did with Boston.
  • Hiking: More recently, I’ve made an amazing circle of friends through my hiking group, and I love being part of this. I would really miss this if I were to leave, and I don’t know if I could find something similar, or how long it would take me to do so, if I moved.
  • Pandemic/Business Changes: Covid really changed the landscape of familiarity, with shops going out of business, hours shortening, and generally making my family more homebound (including WFH for Jason a big chunk of the time).
  • Paving the Park: My favorite hiking park mentioned above has been 90% paved over, which makes it much harder for me to use. (Degraded joints don’t like concrete.) It feels like an entirely different place, and I don’t go there nearly as often as I used to.
  • Doctors/Health: I finally found a good primary care doctor here, which is something I’ve struggled with no matter where I live. I’d hate to give that up. On the flip side, San Antonio is one of the worst cities in the country in terms of health, especially with the allergens being so high that even people who aren’t allergic react to them.
  • Weather/Climate: It’s burning hot six months of the year, which makes consistent exercise difficult, and takes a toll on my mental health. With climate change, the heat is getting progressively worse each year. I would love to live in a place with a more moderate climate year round.
  • Family Changes: My kids are all moving away to different parts of the world. The pandemic has caused a rift in my extended family. My siblings all live at least five hours away. Family is no longer a factor in staying, and might be a factor in leaving.
  • Politics: Uuuugh Texas is the worst and I don’t feel even remotely safe here. This was the catalyst that kicked all this from idle wondering to actively making potential plans.
  • Finances/Cost of Moving: As I said above, we’re not young. If we move, we need to be absolutely sure this is the right decision. Moving is expensive – often upwards of $20k goes toward moving expenses, and that’s doing it all yourself – and unfortunately, San Antonio remains one of the cheapest metro areas to live in. Other metro areas around the country range from double to ten times our housing market. Even if our current mortgage was paid off and we sold our house at the height of the most recent bubble, the amount we’d earn (all toward down payment) still wouldn’t make an affordable mortgage in many places. So places we could move would be limited to higher crime cities, small towns, or deep red state areas – none of which are acceptable.

This last factor is the biggest impediment to moving. Regardless of whether or not we want to move, or should move, it’s whether we can move that has to be answered. And honestly, with the current housing market, the answer to that is no except in a few locations (and even these require some sacrifices in our criteria). Of course, housing markets and political landscape can change any second, but in the meantime, we’ve been looking at two places we could potentially afford to move to in the next 5-10 years: Albuquerque and Pittsburgh. They are vastly different areas, both with pros and cons, neither or which either of us have been to. I’ve been gathering info both from internet searches and from friends who have visited and lived in those places, and the perspectives, the better. So if you have anything to add to that, I’d love to hear your experience! (Or if you have other location ideas, I’d open to hearing them!)

About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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7 Responses to Sunday Coffee – To Move or Not to Move

  1. Wouldn’t Albuquerque be just as hot as Texas? Pittsburgh would be cooler!

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    • Amanda says:

      You’d think so, but it’s actually not! Albuquerque is at a much higher elevation, up on a plateau at the foot of mountains. In the June-July-August months, it does get up to the low 90s, but it cools off to the 60s at night. Here in San Antonio, it’s in the high 90s to low 100s for six months (instead of three), and it rarely gets cooler than the high 70s at night. Because it never cools, we have a lot of residual heat from ground and pavement (which often measures over 120 degrees (49 celsius) in the shade!). Albuquerque is in a desert, which means it cools off a lot at night because desert climates generally can’t hold heat. Plus, it’s much less humid, so the “feels like” temp is a lot lower as well. In the fall, the leaves actually change color, and in winter, you do get snow, though most of it stays in the nearby mountains.

      In Pittsburgh, it still gets up to the mid-80s in the summer, and because of the geography, it’s humid, making it feel a lot hotter. I’ve put feelers out to people I know who live there, because if the humidity is too high, that mid-80s will feel over 100 and stagnant, and I definitely couldn’t do that. If the mold or mosquitoes are too problematic, that would also not work for me, as I’m severely allergic to both. Winters would definitely be colder, much colder, with a ton more snow (especially lake-effect snow). I’m not necessarily opposed to the cold and snow if it doesn’t get below a certain threshold degree, but I also know that it might not be the best climate environment for a degenerative joint disease. I’m not ruling it out, though!

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  2. Karen K. says:

    I visited Pittsburgh in January (crazy, I know) and I was mostly downtown. It’s a beautiful city but it does get COLD. I really liked it but I don’t know if I could personally live there just because it’s very hilly with a lot of bridges which really stress me out driving. Of course that was just downtown, I don’t know what it’s like living outside of the downtown area which could be really different. It is a really nice city with great art and culture and the people were all really nice!

    I haven’t been to Albuquerque but I did visit Santa Fe years ago and it was beautiful. I was there in the middle of summer and it wasn’t nearly as hot as I expected, but it’s so dry I don’t think I could live there either! Not a blade of grass in sight and if there were I’m sure it would look weird. I liked it but if I remember correctly the food was different than Texas, different style of Mexican food. Of course it was MANY years ago and things are probably not the same, also I was only there a few days. I loved visiting though, it’s really different from the Midwest where I grew up. I hope you find a place that suits you!

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    • Amanda says:

      As far as Pittsburgh goes, the driving is one thing I worry about because driving in that part of the world has generally been very stressful for me. I guess I’m used to the wider lanes and further-spread roadways of states that built their roads much later on? For ABQ, though, the dryness is one thing that I really, really love. I despise humidity and my body really doesn’t like any kind of humidity, winter or summer! Also I’d be happy to never see grass again, I can’t stand that stuff, ha! I’m less happy with rock yards and no plants except cactus, but I’m sure I can figure out some native scrubs like I’ve seen in some real estate photos!

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  3. Amanda, I know of a blogger who lives in the Pittsburgh area. Melissa Firman. Let me see if I can put you in contact with her. Sorry for the late reply. Mind hasn’t been tracking well..well, the last month. (also put this on my blog but realized that you might not see there)

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