I LOVE DC. The city feels full of opportunity. There is so much food to try, art and cultural activities to explore, and the city always feels so vibrant to me. I largely feel that way about the surrounding areas as well. The entire region feels like home, and I've been really happy the numerous times I've lived here since I first came to DC for school.
I have memories of my tiny old apartment in Rosslyn, on a quiet street but from a time in my life when I felt anything but quiet. I spent many long days and nights on busses and trains out late, making new friends, and figuring out how to survive graduate school. Our old apartment in Capitol Hill was far too small, but I loved the older folks who lived on our street. The endless stream of hellos and small talk as they sat on their porches felt so welcoming as I went by on my slow slow jogs. And our new apartment feels like a breath of fresh air, like we finally have enough space and light. Our friends are also, by chance, our neighbors. We are in a steady rhythm of walking treats back and forth to each other almost weekly now. I've built my business here and made such incredible relationships with local food folks throughout the industry. I want to feel like I could thrive here.
But I worry that I cannot; that we cannot. In a year or so, Ahmed and I are actively planning to leave this place we love so much and have made a home in. Like many folks during this ongoing global pandemic, we've realized that our priorities have shifted. And those shifts have made us see that maybe this isn't the place for us.
We've realized that we want more, or maybe just something different, like:
To lower our cost of living. We have a combined $200,000 ish of student loans. Let that sink in. Yes, 200k. And though Feed The Malik has been incredibly successful in its first year, I'm still a freelancer. My income is unpredictable. So yes, we could likely stay in DC and make our life here, but we would be accepting the hustle. The high cost of living, scrabble to afford the lifestyle we want, taking on extra gigs even though we're exhausted to build more financial protection for ourselves kind of hustle. I respect people who choose to do that. But as tired as I am after the last year, I know I'll thank myself in the long run if I step back a bit from the hamster wheel. So affordability is top of mind for us.
To be closer to family. My family is mainly in California and Hawaii; Ahmed's is in the Pacific Northwest. To get to Hawaii from the DC area takes an average of 14 hours, plus driving time to and from the airport. It's such a long trip, and not to mention expensive, that we find ourselves limited in how often we can go home, limited in how often I get to hug my mom or play with my nieces and nephews. COVID made this very clear for us: either we move much closer so the trip is shorter and we can go often, or we move somewhere with a significantly lower cost of living to afford to take multiple extended trips a year.
To find a place where we can both do meaningful work. This is much easier for me than it is for my husband. My interests are varied, and I feel pretty confident that no matter where we go, I'll be able to be happy with my work. As I try to find meaning and community for myself in a new home I know I can also do that online. Exploring the food scene, trying to learn the ins and outs of a new place, discovering our new community fave, making friends, adventuring in new parts of our home, baking, and cooking in a new kitchen... All of these are aspects of life that would make total sense for my work and would be a natural part of making a life in a new place. For hubby, it's a bit trickier though he can work remotely for his current company.
To have easy access to nature. Ahmed is a cyclist, and biking really fuels him. We know that no matter where we end up, that will continue to be a huge part of his life. My idea of nature in our new home is pretty simple. I love to hike and run outdoors, and I'd love to be able to do so in a place that's beautiful and safe. I no longer run outdoors in DC at all after one too many terrifying incidents of harassment. That's one thing I won't miss about the city.
We're making slow moves to figure this out now. We have a spreadsheet with our requirements and are slowly researching locations and narrowing them down. On the top of our list are Portland, Oregon (family ties), NW Arkansas (meets all of our criteria based on our searches), and Tucson, Arizona (a great food city with good cycling). We'll be visiting those places and others over the next year to get a sense of what life might be like there. Thankfully, we can work remotely, so we can take those trips and try to limit the cost by making them work trips. We'll be on our laptops during the days and out and about mostly in the evenings and between work projects.
In the meantime, I'll keep sharing what brings me joy, what I'm working on, and everything in between from our adventures in and around DC. We still have lots of living here left to do.