We have been journeying the country for the past 14 months and exploring both new and familiar places along the way. In search of new locals and new experiences, we are documenting our travels and noting our favorite spots as our potential (future) home. So far, we have explored the West Coast up to the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, most of the South, some of the Midwest, all of the “New England” territory, and have now wrapped-up the mid-Atlantic region as well. This is our fourth installment of the “Let’s Move There Series!”, the first highlighted the PacNorth region, the second covered the Southwest, and the third covered Part 1 of our Southern tour. Having just completed all of the Upper East regions of the US, we want to pause, reflect, and write our “Let’s Move There!- the Northeast” edition, while it is still fresh in our heads. For the purposes of our article, and based solely on where the states are geographically rather than historical classifications, we are lumping together Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and D.C into our “Northeastern” region.
How these pieces work is that we will independently write a short blurb about which city (or cities) we would move to, if we had to make a decision today, based on the highlighted region. Once we have finished writing our pieces, we will share them with each other (and you) to see how, or if, our choices align.
Without further ado…
This edition of the “Let’s Move There” covers a lot more ground that our prior pieces, and in such, it is especially hard to narrow down the list of desirable spots to live, as so many come to mind. For instance, I especially loved the idyllic towns of Bar Harbor, ME and Cooperstown, NY and enjoyed their postcard-perfect downtown settings and the seemingly relaxed pace of life. The fact that Bar Harbor is situated right next to Acadia National Park and Cooperstown is in the finger lakes region of Upstate New York especially appealed to my outdoor loving interests. I could see myself returning to these areas for getaways and vacations, and maybe even in retirement someday. But, when I sat down and really thought about what I wanted now for a place to live, I had to recognize that while I love escaping to slower paces of life, ultimately, on a more daily basis, I do need to feel as if I am close to some hustle and bustle and have access to the types of amenities afforded by major cities- even if that proximity is at an arm’s length. Not to mention, our mutual desire to always be within close proximity to an international airport.
Collectively, Vermont was probably one of the prettiest states I have ever visited and each town looked like it belonged in a magazine. I was mesmerized by how green, lush, and quaint everything looked (those covered bridges!) and at the overall absence of litter/ decay throughout the state. If I were a writer or an artist, it felt like the perfect environment to retreat to and be inspired. While there were many towns that enchanted me during our Northeastern travels, at this particular point in my life, I don’t see them as places I would move to for the moment. So needless to say, there are countless places I adored, even if they aren’t being highlighted.
While I normally gravitate to urban-like suburbs on the cusp of major cities, in some instances, I prefer the “big” cities themselves. Portland, ME is one of those cities for me as I view it as a “little Big city”. Portland, ME is one of the largest cities in Maine, but even at that, the population is under 100,000, which certainly makes it a more manageable and less densely populated “big city”. This is precisely why I like it. In the same way that I liked Austin, TX, and Portland, OR, for the fact that the neighborhoods in these urban cities have a suburban feel. Where single-family dwellings, with driveways and yards, can still be obtained. These cities have not yet succumbed to the asphalt jungle of tall skyscrapers and neighborhoods composed of adjoining townhouses and tall apartment buildings, and too-little street parking or paid parking spots that equal a second mortgage. Where open space is preserved as an interwoven normalcy throughout the city rather than strictly reserved for “parks”. Portland, ME was a very walkable city with lots of charm and character. It is most definitely a port city, and you are reminded of this as you walk along the waterfront roads and meander amongst the piers. The section of the city with its cobblestoned streets and preserved historical buildings was my favorite for aesthetics and charm, but I also adored the outskirts of town with the industrial buildings renewed as cafes, breweries, restaurants, street art, and spots of exploration, and how they had given second life to former factories in states of abandon. The city felt safe, and clean, and urban and progressive.
Another area that I could foreseeably see myself living in is the greater Washington, D.C. area, most likely in and around Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia (coincidentally, my birthplace and home ‘til the wee age of 2 months). I have always loved the D.C. area and the electricity that charges the air whenever I stroll by the many monuments, museums, and national buildings. D.C. offers first-class amenities combined with an intense sense of history and pride. The very design of the city (merci L’Enfant) is one that embraces open space and a reverence for history and grandiose architecture. The public transit system in and around D.C. is one of the best in the country, and I am so appreciative of how navigable the region is due to this expansive train network. Cost is by far one of the biggest deterrents to the entire D.C region and was the reason I didn’t move there after college. Overcrowding and the cost of housing are both incredibly high and not likely to come down, which make this adoration one I will likely continue to hold from a distance.
A new metro area and city for me was Boston. I was very excited to see Boston for the first time and felt that I would have an affinity for it based on what I had seen in photos and movies. Like D.C., I love the intense sense of history in Boston and the surrounding areas. We camped in Salem, MA and used the train to get into Boston and I really came to enjoy Salem as a destination in its own right. About a 40-minute train ride north of Boston, Salem is a sea-front suburb that is largely known for the Witch Trials in the late 1600s. Witch tourism aside, Salem has a bustling downtown scene of its own with lots to do and see coupled with a rich history and seaside location. Lovely houses, in a wide span of economic brackets, adorn the city, and recreation space is abundant. While there are several employment options in and around Salem, thanks to a good rail system, Salem is also a very reasonable location for commuting to Boston and other surrounding areas.
From Middlebury, VT & Burlington, VT to Portsmouth, NH, to Newport, RI, and Philadelphia, PA, there were so many other urban areas that really struck a chord with me throughout our Northeastern visits. Having spent the last 7 years living on the West Coast, I was reminded of just how extreme the seasons are in the Upper-east, and how serious the summer humidity is! In all likelihood, having emigrated away from Chicago after 29 years with horrific winters, moving back to an area with harsh winters is not likely to be in the cards for me, and moving to the Northeastern region of the U.S. certainly entails full-blown winters- a big factor for me to weigh in consideration. Weather aside, if money was no factor (which of course it is) I have always loved the D.C area and would love to be in close proximity, and very much so enjoyed my time in both Portland, ME and Salem, MA and would be excited to re-visit all of these areas as potential “move to” locations. Before any final commitments though, I think it would be essential to spend a winter here to see just how cold I am willing to go, again, and remind myself of my formative days of digging my car out of the snow and wearing snow pants to walk to work.
Traveling through the Northeast of the country has been really exciting for me, it has been our first time here without the time restrictions that come with a long weekend or holiday trip when your home-base is on the other side of the country. Looking back at so many different places and memories, it’s hard to narrow down to places I would see ourselves settling down. Washington, D.C. and New York City would be ideal places, but probably not what we are looking for. I know that deep down we miss and look forward going back to the West side of the country, and I also know that spending winters in this area would be a deal breaker for us. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still an incredible opportunity to be able to discover and enjoy other places, not limiting ourselves to what we know we already like.
These are the places in the Northeast of the country that really got me wanting to go back:
Vermont: There is no better feeling than being surprised for the first time when you don’t have any kind of expectations about what you are going to see next. Vermont did that for me. Driving through highways surrounded by forests, feeling like the place where you are hasn’t been overexploited and overpopulated, it’s something that you can notice really fast when entering this state. Vermont is not a huge state, but has lots of options to offer. I really enjoyed the outdoorsy feeling, the convenience of a short drive to Upstate New York, New Hampshire, Canada… and of course, the ice cream! My pick for this state would be the town of Burlington, a young and fun town situated by Lake Champlain, on the North West of the state. With a small but diverse downtown, enough breweries, cafés, and activities going on to keep us entertained, and having a convenient location: short ferry ride to Upstate New York, short drive to the capital Montpellier, the ski area of Stowe or many of other small towns and natural areas to discover.
Maine: Lobster! Yes, that would be enough excuse for me to move to this state. No kidding. I still can taste those slightly buttery lobster rolls from the memories we built during our month there. Jokes aside, Maine is a wonderful place to be, mostly when the temperatures are high enough. We were constantly making references to how this part of the country reminded us of Oregon, and it’s probably not a coincidence looking at the map. The rocky coast, the forests, the greenery, the people….. “Portland” monicker! My pick for this state would be the area between Portland, the capital, and Bar Harbor, which is the gate for the real gem that is Acadia National Park. Always close to the coast, where great sunrises, lighthouses and wonderful seafood spots are abundant. Location wise, it’s not far from other areas of New England, and with a quick drive you can get out of your bubble and see something new.
Massachusetts / Boston Area: Probably my top pick when thinking about settling down somewhere in the Northeast would be the Boston area. We really enjoyed our time in surrounding areas like Salem and Cape Cod, and did our best exploring the city itself and learning all about its long history. Boston is pretty much unlike any of the other big cities in the US, with so much history and reminiscence of what you would find in the streets of Europe. With a fantastic public transport grid, great universities (and what they bring with them to the community), and the access to a truly international airport, possibilities here are endless. The way people embrace going out and enjoy life outdoors, while for example attending a game at the ballpark or just being outside at any of the green areas within the city, was easily contagious. We know we want to go back!
As usual, there isn’t one! We both like many of the same areas and had similar observations, which makes sense as we are sharing the same experiences. With a growing list of places we enjoy, and no # 1 stand-out, these cities will be added to our list for reconsideration and the search continues for our new home!