Could we live here? This is the question we ask ourselves every time we visit a new place. It’s fun to imagine what it would be like to actually live in new towns, states and even countries. Especially after you reach financial independence and have the freedom to live anywhere your heart desires (and savings allow). There are countless articles touting the best place to live, but how can you know if it’s the best place to live for you?
Best Place to Live, But Maybe Not for You
As we get closer to financial independence (and without jobs that tie us to our current town), we are excited to consider other options for our home base. As a result, I’m addicted to reading “best place to live” articles.
However, the problem with these articles is the list is based on someone else’s criteria. And usually that criteria centers around things like crime, education, healthcare and cost of living. These are important factors, but definitely not a reflection of what’s most important to us.
We don’t have children, so a location with top-rated schools doesn’t top our list. We would rather have super clean, fun dog parks! And since we’re still in our 40s, the healthcare system doesn’t factor into our priorities either. And hopefully this will continue to be the case!
What’s been great about playing the could we live here game is that it’s helped us identify the criteria for choosing the best place to live for us. And after nearly 20 years of asking could we live here as we’ve traveled to big cities, small towns and foreign countries, here’s the factors most important to us:
Best Place to Live: Our 4 Factors
Smaller towns where we can enjoy outdoor activity all four seasons, along with a good mix of restaurants (love eating out!). We would prefer to avoid extreme or prolonged heat/humidity and cold/frigid weather as much as possible. Ideally, our surroundings would be a mountain town where we can enjoy hiking, biking, skiing, yoga, etc. Telluride is my first choice. But given factor #2, not likely a realistic option unless we win the lottery.
2. Cost of Housing
Our path to achieving financial freedom includes paying off our mortgage. And right now we’re incredibly close to hitting this goal. If we choose to move and sell our home, then our new home must be paid for in cash. And, we cannot spend more on housing than the value of our current home. This is a non-negotiable for achieving financial freedom as quickly as possible.
3. Locals & Entertainment
Dog-friendly retailers and people-friendly residents who enjoy good beer, value the environment, and appreciate outdoor adventure. A college town would be nice. Movie theatre is a must. And bonus if the town is home to a minor-league sports team.
4. Proximity to Family/Friends
While there are absolutely amazing places for us to call home that meet the above 3 criteria, the most important factor is that we remain in close proximity to family and friends. This means our best place to live is likely somewhere in the Western United States: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, etc.
Could We Live Here?
For us, we start off every trip to a new place thinking we could absolutely live wherever it is we’re visiting. After all, we’re usually on vacation and NOT working when we travel together, so our outlook from the get-go is this place is amazing! But after a few days of tourism, we start to take a more realistic approach to learn if this amazing place really could be a fit for us.
We recently returned from a long weekend in Vermont where we enjoyed the start of autumn. In spite of rolling my ankle on day 2 of our vacation (Sterling Pond hike – beautiful, steep and slick!), our trip was picture perfect. The trees were just starting to change colors and E was able to enjoy plenty of Trapp Family brew!
In addition to taking in all of the beauty of Vermont, here’s a couple of ways we tried to get a better feel for the state and answer the question, could we live here in Vermont?
Get a feel for the housing
We rented a car and drove around several different towns and surrounding residential neighborhoods, including schools, grocery stores, and downtowns. Tons of open space and enormous lots of land! We scanned the real estate listings in the local magazines and perused the postings on main street realtor offices. Compared to other places we’ve explored, Vermont’s cost of housing was surprisingly reasonable. Overall, thumbs up on housing as a fit for us!
Get a feel for the locals
We frequented several restaurants and sat at the bars to try and strike up conversations with local patrons (and, admittedly, did our share of eavesdropping on others’ conversations too). There was lots of talk about meeting up for biking and hiking – all good! And a bit of gossip going on about local business owners – who was doing well and liked by the locals, and who wasn’t.
We also went to the annual Oktoberfest event which is organized by the local rotary club. The locals were salt-of-the-earth wonderful (and rocked the bratwurst!). However we agreed that our definition of small town needs to be a population greater than 5,000.
As much fun as we had during our visit, and visualizing what it would be like to live in lovely Vermont, the reality is proximity to family and friends is a deal breaker. Vermont is thousands of miles away from our friends and family in the Western U.S. While we don’t need to live in the same state, we would like to at least be in the same time zone.
Net-net – we love you Vermont, and hope to come back and visit again someday to delight in more maple syrup, cheddar cheese and Von Trapp brews! But local status isn’t in our future.
What about you? Will you live in the same place after you reach Financial Independence or are you also considering a change of scenery?