My Philosophy On Picking A Place To Live

Filed Under: Advice

In this post I wanted to talk a bit about how my experience traveling, and even living in hotels, has informed my decision of where to live. I call Miami home, though as I explained in a previous post, we’re currently living in hotels as we wait for our new home to be ready.

What travel taught me about where to live

In my early 20s I lived in hotels full-time for several years. There were a few motivations for that, not the least of which was that I was indecisive about where I wanted to live, so I decided to just not live anywhere in particular.

Many people assume that the more you travel, the more you have absolute favorite places, and the more you’re decisive about where you want to live (this always brings me back to “the curse of the traveler”). For me it has been exactly the opposite:

  • There are cities I adore, but I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to live in them long-term; there’s a huge difference between being a visitor somewhere, and actually living there
  • The more places I’ve been, the more I’ve realized some of the cons to the places I love, and some of the pros to the places that I didn’t think I loved
  • The specific place I live doesn’t impact my happiness much — rather it’s certain environmental factors that I’ve found to be much more important
  • Given how little free time the average person has after factoring in work, family obligations, fitness, and other activities, I think people tend to put too much value into what cities have to offer, rather than other factors

Now, there are a few things worth acknowledging about my particular situation:

  • I’m very fortunate that I can work from anywhere in the world; I recognize that for a lot of other people job opportunities are what drive where people live, but that’s not the case for me
  • I’m an introvert, so I’m not looking for big social scenes, and in that sense I don’t care that much about whether a city is known for having particularly friendly people or not, for example
  • I stay pretty busy in my own “bubble” when I’m home — I spend most of the day working, I like working out, I like going out to eat sometimes (more pre-coronavirus than now, obviously), and I love spending time with Ford and Winston

What I look for in a place to live, and why I like Miami

I’ve spent only a limited amount of time in Miami recently, since we’d rather not be there right now with the lack of coronavirus precautions. I’ve received two types of comments/questions from some:

  • Why on earth would you live in Miami?
  • If you’re going to complain about Miami, “we” don’t want you there, go live somewhere else; I didn’t realize I needed to be voted “onto the island” to live in a city, and needed to have exactly the same take as everyone else

With that in mind, let me clarify — I actually really like living in Miami. That’s despite the fact that I almost never go over to Miami Beach (it’s too wild for me, and I’m not a beach person), and also despite the fact that I’m not much of a partier.

Why do I like living in Miami? Let me share the reasons, roughly ranked in the order that I prioritize them:

  • Warm weather and sun — personally I’m someone who loves to be in warm weather and to have sunlight, as it impacts my mood in such a positive way; if you have the same preferences that I do, there aren’t many places with weather as good as Florida
  • Views & landscape — I love a place with beautiful views and geographic diversity, and I find it to be so inspiring as a backdrop; that could mean living in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, or having a view of the water, even if it’s in the distance (I wish Florida weren’t so flat, but I’ll take the ocean)
  • Somewhere that’s accepting — I’m gay and married, and fortunately a lot has improved in the past decade when it comes to being a gay person in the US; I think in most major cities (and even many smaller ones) gays can feel pretty comfortable being themselves nowadays, though I’d never like to live in a place where I wouldn’t feel comfortable being myself (I’d like to be able to feel comfortable referring to Ford as my husband, and not faking that he’s a “friend,” or whatever else; obviously there are homophobes everywhere, but I’d like them to be the exception rather than the norm)
  • Cost of living — if you have the flexibility to live anywhere, cost of living is an important factor; Miami is a major city and absolutely isn’t cheap, though Florida has the benefit of having no state income tax, which I’d factor into the overall cost of living
  • An easy life & access to services — one day I’d absolutely love to live in the middle of nowhere, but at this point in my life I appreciate the ease of living in a major city where you’re minutes from anything you could need, and where you have access to services like Uber Eats, Postmates, Instacart, or whatever else; you can have just about anything delivered to your door in 30 minutes, and that saves me so much time and hassle
  • Being close to family — while not in Miami, most of our family does live in Florida, so it’s great to be able to see them without getting on a plane, especially as our parents get older
  • A city that feels international — I absolutely adore how international Miami feels, as some days I legit feel like I’m in an expat in a different country; while I definitely feel like an outsider, I don’t mind it one bit
  • Proximity to an international airport — I love the fact that many places in Miami are just 10-15 minutes from the international airport, which is oh-so-convenient, especially when you’re a frequent flyer

Bottom line

Travel has no doubt changed what I’ve looked for in a place to live. I used to think there was one perfect place to live, and that I just needed to find it. Then I accepted that there are pros and cons to just about every place, and that if there were a perfect place to live, it would no longer be perfect because everyone would be there.

Personally I enjoy living in Miami, even though I may not be your “typical” Miami person. I’m not a partier, and I don’t love the beach. For me Miami is just a great home base — the weather is nice, I love looking at the water, I love how international the city feels, I love how close it is to the airport, etc.

Do I love everything about Miami? Of course not. Do I think I’ll live there forever? Probably not. Would I ever vacation in Miami if I didn’t live there? Probably not. But for us it’s home for now, and we’re very happy with it.

I’m curious to hear how you guys feel — how important is choosing the right place to live, what do you look for, and what’s your favorite city?

Comments
  1. Ben: Acceptance has been important for me, too. I was born and raised in the South, and I want to stay here. Being gay and married myself, I too have felt the need to vet a place to make sure I can happily live somewhere in the part of the U.S. that I love.

    That hasn’t always meant a city. Previously we lived in Southwest Virginia—an area that fell within Appalachia—and my husband and I held hands walking down the street. The town was home to a major university, and so although there were only 30,000 residents of the town, the diverse student population translated to inclusivity within the greater community. It was actually my favorite place I’ve ever lived: Views for days, wineries for days, etc.

    Now we live in Nashville, which was a tough sell for me; I’m a country mouse at heart. We picked an area that is rural feeling but still influenced by the liberal ideals that the city fosters.

    Just thought I’d make a case for the smaller areas of the country where we gay-married types can still thrive. Thanks for the post. I feel very connected to your criteria!

  2. Ben, Since you have previously written about your intention to you and Ford having a family, whether through adoption of surrogate, why would the quality of education be an important criteria? Miami is no particularly well known for its public school system nor do any of its private schools earn high regard.

  3. You have no interest in being a part of where you live, no connection to the place, you make zero contribution, and most of all you have no “skin in the game” — no “stake” in the lives of others who are rooted there, no interest in that place’s success or failure. You’re indifferent to the place, as you admit yourself — and as you demonstrated when you fled your last couple places of residence. For you, it’s just a place to crash for a while before you move on.

    That’s not “living” anywhere, that’s just passing through.

    That’s why I don’t want you living in my hometown. We have enough disinterested tourists already.

  4. I’m a Floridian as well and have lived in 6 different states, but hands down my favorite place to live was the SF bay area. In spite of the horrible cost of living, the shit on the streets in the city, and the tech bros, the incredible weather and sheer beauty of the land and water in the area made it feel like a dreamland to wake up to every day.

  5. @ Ben — So, basically Florida is best place to go when you are trying to escape income taxes on a 6- or 7-figure income. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t understand why people with high incomes want to live in high tax states like CA and NY. You might as well light your money on fire.

    Personally, I see zero appeal in Miami (it is truly one of my least favorite places in the US), but obviously many millions of people disagree with my assessment (including you). Enjoy!

  6. The family part is key

    State income tax is overrated – esp when you consider property taxes, insurance costs, sales taxes

    Glad you found a place that works well

  7. I would not choose to buy property anywhere as low lying and hurricane prone as Miami, it’s a very risky medium term investment. Live there, sure if I liked it, but I would invest my money somewhere with less climate risk.

  8. You have no interest in being a part of where you live, no connection to the place, you make zero contribution, and most of all you have no “skin in the game” — no “stake” in the lives of others who are rooted there, no interest in that place’s success or failure. You’re indifferent to the place, as you admit yourself — and as you demonstrated when you fled your last couple places of residence. For you, it’s just a place to crash for a while before you move on.

    That’s not “living” anywhere, that’s just passing through.

    That’s why I don’t want you living in my hometown. We have enough disinterested tourists already.

    — Bobo Bolinski

    You got that from this article? Yikes. What exactly does being a part of or having a connection to the place where you live mean to you?

  9. So an entitled “blogger” who only cares about luxury, where his next bottles of Krug is coming from and where the closest first class terminal is for Lufthansa wants to choose his privilege so that covid rules don’t apply to him…..please stay where you are…we don’t want you anywhere

  10. I’m finding that I am a bit overwhelmed with choices in where I will live next. The pandemic has completely up-ended my personal and professional lives. The end result as far as living situations go is that I have no ties, job, or even apartment lease to keep me in any single place. My previous career allowed me to travel extensively and see many parts of the world. But now that the end of the pandemic is in sight, the prospect of picking one place to call home, and where that place will be, is proving quite daunting.

  11. @Luke – I think Bobo is spot on. The residents make the backbone of a city and you only get out of it what you put into it. Cities thrive when people establish roots and develop relationships. A transactional mindset doesn’t help communities or neighborhood businesses thrive.

    And to the comments about taxes… well, there’s a reason some places are cheap to live. Does FL have nice weather? Absolutely. The infrastructure? Crumbling. Schools? Abysmal. Environmental protection? Non-existent. Oh, and factor in property taxes, etc and the big picture savings become smaller and smaller. No place is perfect but we can’t expect it to get better if we don’t invest more than just $$ into a place.

  12. Who is going to break the news to Bobo that he has described the majority of residents of most any city.

  13. It’s good that you found a place to call home. Having lived in several countries and MANY cities/towns, I can relate to the point that you made that the more you travel, the harder it is to find THE place.

    I don’t know Miami well at all, except that unlike you, I cannot fathom the extreme humidity and heat and I would take our NYC winter over a Miami summer any day 😀 !
    Hopefully the new house comes through soon!

    @Gene: re-taxes, you do pay more in states like CA or NY but you also generally get paid significantly more when you work in the big cities, at least for certain jobs (I’m not saying it’s making up for the difference though but it’s something to take into account).

  14. So an entitled “blogger” who only cares about luxury, where his next bottles of Krug is coming from and where the closest first class terminal is for Lufthansa wants to choose his privilege so that covid rules don’t apply to him…..please stay where you are…we don’t want you anywhere

    — Andrew

    Dang, what are all these toxic comments about? Where did you get in the post that he wants to live somewhere with no COVID restrictions?

  15. I think Bobo is spot on. The residents make the backbone of a city and you only get out of it what you put into it. Cities thrive when people establish roots and develop relationships. A transactional mindset doesn’t help communities or neighborhood businesses thrive.

    — ChiFlyer1979

    Again, what exactly does being a part of or having a connection to the place where you live mean to you?

  16. As a native of Miami whose family lived there since the 50’s, the lack of community bothered me a lot. Of course I left, so my grounds for being judgmental are pretty slim. If you like it, good for you and more power to you.

  17. @Ben with your job and lifestyle, New York is honestly right up your alley. Plus you can’t beat the culture and “international” feel. It has everything you could ever want in terms of entertainment, food, etc.
    Yes, it gets a lot of crap (much of it justified), but I wouldn’t trade living there for anything. It’s also so nice to be able to fly essentially anywhere in the world within 2 flights and for much cheaper than other locations (although I don’t need to lecture you about the perks of flying from NY). It’s also very easy access to incredible nature in upstate, New England, Poconos, etc, which I know you guys love.
    As far as pricing goes – it is incredibly cheap right now (by NY standards) thanks to the pandemic. Don’t believe the fluff pieces about “NY is dead” – it’s still buzzing.

  18. I can’t believe how many toxic comments (different Andrew from above). I think a lot of people with high incomes don’t choose to live in NYC or California. It’s just where the jobs are. Dallas and Houston are also great options. Both are international airports, no state income tax, and can travel anywhere in the country pretty easily.

  19. Ben – Given your criteria, sounds like Phoenix/Scottsdale/Paradise Valley might appeal to you. Sunniest place on earth (Yuma actually, PHX #2), easy airport with 2 airline hubs (yes, only AA/BA have TATL), lots of outdoor fitness available year round, scenic beauty of great variety within close distances. 5 mil metro with the arts/culture/cuisine that go with it.

  20. @ Bobo….There are already many people in all cities that are like Lucky. How he and Ford chooses to live day to day is called personal freedom. He can live near the beach and bars and not go to them. He doesn’t have to conform to your idea of a local citizen.

  21. I was born in Homestead and grew up in Miami in the 60s and 70s. We grew up in one of those sprawling neighborhoods of little homes just southwest of the airport. I used to watch the planes fly over our house all the time.

    There is no where on earth like Miami. Its an amazing fabulous wonderful place. I loved growing up there. I couldn’t see living anywhere else in Florida. Everywhere else in Florida is Florida. Miami is Miami.

    I understand why you love it. I left in 1980 when it was not so good, and never moved back. The family left when Hurricane Andrew destroyed the neighborhood, so I would go visit them in incredibly boring Delray Beach. That’s when I realized, there is no place else to live in FL but Miami.

    That being said, I have no plans on retiring there, but I love to visit for the best Cuban food in the world. Enjoy Miami! I decided a long time a go that life is too short to live where you don’t want to live (that’s why I left Detroit). Embrace it and go for it.

  22. I’m a big city, family-centered person. If I had to list my “must haves” at this stage in my life, in no particular order, they would be: easy access to family, great weather, close proximity to a major airport, great restaurants, stable high speed internet, access to world class health care and great roads and freeways. I currently live in San Diego.

  23. @J If Miami had a mountain, even a lil one I would prob move there. Coast + Mountains are a requirement for me.

  24. Family and a feeling of being comfortable in my surroundings are what matter most to me. State income tax is an incomplete argument, as you really need to look at your total tax burden (including property tax, sales tax, school tax, etc.), *IF* you’re going to make taxes a factor. I live in San Diego, which is where my family lives, and where I feel at home. The weather and the people (including the politics) are a big part of that feeling. I know it’s a pricey place to live, but we make it work. Could I afford a mansion elsewhere? Sure. But what good is a mansion in a place you hate? That would be awful.

  25. Wow some toxic comments here. I’d like to know where Bobo lives, I don’t ever want to be his neighbor.

  26. Hi Ben,

    I just moved to Phoenix for many of those same reasons you chose Miami. I would highly encourage you to spend sometime in East Phoenix/Scottsdale while you are still living in hotels, especially before it gets too hot. I love Phoenix and all it has to offer and is a great place to visit!

  27. You shouldn’t worry about taxes. If you make enough money whereas 8-10% state income tax will really put dent in your while- start doing things with your money charitably. Earn some tax credits by hiring ex felons, veterans, disabled, etc.

    I don’t let taxes define me. You shouldn’t either.

  28. @Ben – Am currently in the process of moving to Miami and figuring out where to live. Which neighborhood do you live in, and why do you like it?

  29. I’m guessing you’re probably regretting stating your thoughts on this subject. I think you live where you feel comfortable for whatever your reasons, COVID has unfortunately for me made me dislike people and I’d rather stay away from them and stay at home with my family – hopefully that’s going to change

  30. @ Pete — You must have rent control. I don’t see how anyone can consider NYC housing prices to be anything remotely close to reasonable. I was looking at “cheap” NY condos for <$2 million last summer on the web. Yeah, I can scrape together the money for the purchase price (with a portion mortgaged), but then I would have to pay like $2,500 a month HOA? No thank you. That is like paying twice.

  31. Other than the family aspect, you’re describing CAPE TOWN.

    Sunny, gorgeous beaches, mountains, world class food, vibrant art scene, affordable, Stellenbosch, Diverse accepting population. World class airport and penguins fam, penguins!!

  32. I currently live in Seattle and although I appreciate the inclusivity and “liberal” policies the prices and the lack of sunshine really stop me.

    That’s really exciting about Miami-I’ll have to do some investigation. I love to travel too and want to not have homophobia at the norm. It sucks that so many people have negative comments on this-I really appreciated and agreed with entire list!

  33. The larger the city the harder it is to “make your mark”. Also if your in your 20s to 40s there is an extremely high chance that your circle of friends are going to move, especially high turnover expat cities like Hong Kong, London etc. over time it just gets very tiring saying goodbye over and over.

    I’ve lived in many cities all over the world yet I’m back to my hometown of Brisbane, Australia – the place that I couldn’t wait to leave as there must have been more to life than this. But I realised it’s really the people that you have around you that matters and the connections that YOU contribute to them. When I moved to Singapore I was beyond excited – awesome food, shopping and partying, beautiful city with all the amenities but after 2 years I couldn’t wait to leave. Most people are FIFO or stay within their bubble and there is little emphasis on community activities.

    If I ever were to move again my consideration list would look like this

    – family friends community
    – job opportunities
    – conveniences (shopping, restaurants, close to beach, hiking etc)

  34. I once spent 6 glorious days in Miami and visited the Art Deco Welcome Centre, which had just opened. Reading the story of how the many exquisite Art Deco buildings were saved was really moving and gave a back story to walking those streets.

    Wow

  35. Just want to stake my claim as the original Bobo here. I completely renounce and disown the negative comments of “Bobo Bolinsky.” Everyone is a part of their community and affects it; for example, when Winston goes for a walk, no doubt he sometimes lights up strangers faces.

    As Mark F. said well, only Miami is Miami. It is only Florida in the way New Orleans is Louisiana – basically not.

    I have the most fond memories of my time as a young Coast Guard officer in Coral Gables, the birth of my daughters there, helping out after Hurricane Andrew, bike rides to Calle Ocho, Key Biscayne, Matheson Hammock and the Everglades. When I have the beauty of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove for outdoor excursions, I don’t need hills to get my heart rate up to exercise levels.

    Every cold and icy mid-Atlantic winter I miss Miami hugely now. Sorry New York and LA, but Miami is the most international city in the USA and is the capital of Latin America.

  36. I live in Philly and man do we have problems but I absolutely love it here. It’s a slower place than New York yet offers the same amenities. It’s bikeable (I ride everywhere). Adorable row homes that are still affordable and a community that is very active in volunteerism. Don’t forget to mention the history and arts. But that’s just me. Everyone is different. I’ve lived a ton of places from rural to urban and I’ve learned that if you love a place, the pros outweigh the cons (whether they be cost of living or what have you). I know people in NY that work 2-3 jobs but they are insanely happy and that’s all that matters. Just be sure to get involved. There is a school around the block from me and I don’t have kids but still donate to their causes and clubs and have never even met a person there. The community is only as strong as those who live there and contribute to it.

  37. Surprised you haven’t relocated to somewhere in southern California. Ocean, sunshine, hills, no where near as humid and seems much more in line with your political views than Florida. I would think cost of living would be comparable. I stay where I’m at due to parents so understand that benefit.

  38. Sounds to me you would fit right in, in Puerto Vallarta, if you ever want to move to Mexico. Me: Ditto/Also -“In my early 20s I lived in hotels full-time for several years” – and actually many years beyond my 20’s; “I’m an introvert, so I’m not looking for big social scenes, and in that sense I don’t care that much about whether a city is known for having particularly friendly people or not, for example I stay pretty busy in my own “bubble” when I’m home — I spend most of the day working, I like working out, I like going out to eat sometimes (more pre-coronavirus than now, obviously), and I love spending time with (my partner)”.

    Why do I like living in Puerto Vallarta? Let me share the reasons, roughly ranked in the order that I prioritize them:

    Warm weather and sun — personally I’m someone who loves to be in warm weather and to have sunlight, as it impacts my mood in such a positive way; if you have the same preferences that I do, there aren’t many places with weather as good as Puerto Vallarta;
    Views & landscape — I love a place with beautiful views and geographic diversity, and I find it to be so inspiring as a backdrop; that could mean living in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, or having a view of the water, even if it’s in the distance;
    Somewhere that’s accepting — I’m gay and married, and fortunately a lot has improved in the past decade when it comes to being a gay person in Mexico, and Puerto Vallarta is the place to live if you fall into that category;
    Cost of living — if you have the flexibility to live anywhere, cost of living is an important factor; Puerto Vallarta is fast becoming a major city and absolutely isn’t as cheap anymore as one would expect living in Mexico to be.
    An easy life & access to services — I appreciate the ease of living in a city where you’re minutes from most anything you could need, and where you have access to services and stores like Uber, Costco, Walmart in addition to local produce markets with the freshest of ingredients. Amazon and Amazon.mx deliver hassle free from the USA as well as from within Mexico.
    A city that feels international — I absolutely adore how international Puerto Vallarta feels, as some days I legit realize the truth that I’m in an expat in a different country; while I definitely feel like an outsider, I don’t mind it one bit
    Proximity to an international airport — I love the fact that many places in Puerto Vallarta are just 10-15 minutes from the international airport, which is oh-so-convenient, especially when you’re a frequent flyer.

    Nuff said?

  39. This is a topic that has always fascinated me. Throughout my career I have traveled extensively, mostly in the US but also internationally. Everywhere I go, I ask myself, would I be happy living here. Usually, the answer is no. For me a big issue is character, and most places are, especially in the US, are too generic and lack character. I’m also fortunate to have a job where I can live anywhere, and live in Vermont. The reasons I live here work for me, because of the things we have and don’t have and in spite of the things we don’t have. We have a civil society and get along – for example, I’m a liberal Democrat who voted for our Republican Governor who voted for Biden. We don’t have billboards, and how cool is that? Our rural landscape is our playground for skiing, mountain biking, and lots more. Our climate is definitely isn’t the best but when the weather is good, it’s glorious. Our internet is bad, and my airport is small which means I have to connect to go almost anywhere. We have real towns and very little sprawl. We have high taxes. We have few freeways and most of our roads are gravel (really). Put it all together and it works for me.

    I’ve met many people who don’t care where they live and that has always seemed sad to me. In Las Vegas, the major reason that many people live there is that the cost of living is cheap and not because they like it. Or “I live here because this is where I got a job.” I understand that one, but still find it sad. Lucky seems to like living in Miami because considering the whole package, it works for him. We should all be so lucky.

    And BTW, I don’t want to live in Miami, but do really like it.

  40. Gay couple here. For us, it was necessary to be somewhere we could afford, plus we both had a shared love of New Orleans, so that was it. I do long for city life, but being able to travel whenever I want using miles and points shenanigans makes it work. The summer is brutally gross and humid, but I suspect MIA is too.

    I’m not sure what to think of the mean comments. Modern travelers are citizens of the world, not a plague of locusts. Community is where you make it.

    I might also suggest FLl, since most of our people have moved up there vs Miami and Miami Beach, but I suspect being closer to MIA would be a better fit. Best of luck for wherever y’all end up.

  41. What’s with the comments being so judgemental these days?

    @Bobo
    I don’t see anything wrong with choosing a city to live in based on pros and cons. Most people don’t have that luxury because they’re tethered due to their jobs, but that’s a matter of circumstance, not because they’re morally superior to someone who’s a traveler.

  42. Poor Miami; talk about being damned with faint praise ( only marginally better than Somerset Maugham’s assessment: “ a sunny place for shady people”). In any case, last time I read about your travels, you’d moved to Berlin. I must have missed a few chapters.

  43. It seems ridiculously obvious to say, but different people are made happy by different things, and so will make different living decisions accordingly. It’s not like there’s a right or wrong about where to live, only a right and wrong *for you*.

    I know people love Phoenix/Scottsdale, but I hate it and can never wait to leave when I’m there. Same goes for Houston. That’s fine. People who love it can live there; I don’t have to. I love NYC with all of my heart and all of my soul, and think New Yorkers are the best people in the world, but it’s not hard for me to imagine why it’s not for everybody.

    Taxes? For some people, money is the main thing that matters. For other people, it’s only money. Weather? Your mileage may vary. Lots of space vs lots of action? It’s a big country. And world. Live where you’re happy.

    I love civic pride. I love when someone talks about how much they love where they live, and why, wherever it is. (Unless it’s Brooklyn. Then it can be insufferable.)

  44. I’m yet another Andrew that’s not the first Andrew. (How is that comment management system coming, Ben?)

    I didn’t choose this aspect of my life: all driven by work or family. Even this surge in remote work is probably somewhat transient for most career profiles – it’s a small minority who will be truly remote for the long-haul.

  45. @bobo bolinski

    Good points. You obviously know Ben in real life.

    Just enjoy the present wherever you’re at in life. The new police chief in Miami Art Acevedo is the Tom Brady of police chiefs he just left us in Houston. Miami is good place.

    @all yall

    Austin is an autonomous region within the Republic of Texas.

  46. @Gene I should have specified, especially since the majority of my post was about NYC. I wouldn’t buy in Manhattan. I’m more referring to any of the numerous suburbs within 45 minutes of the city (and airports). Although I do think you can find some steals in specific areas, like Yorkville (Upper East Side) just to give an example.

    You bring up a good point though – with Ben’s lifestyle, why would he even need to buy an apartment? As sad and ridiculous as Bobo’s comment was – he inadvertently makes a good point that Ben does not need to settle anywhere; rather he needs a place to crash. Renting totally makes sense, and that is in fact very cheap in Manhattan right now (again, by NYC standards). I have a friend who just signed a 2 year lease and got 6 months free. Crazy…

  47. One of the good things of being an American citizen is the choices of environs American have from Alaska’s northern wilderness through Arizona’s deserts and the Appalacia mountains of West Virginia. I enjoyed reading your insights into Miami; an area I have yet to explore.

  48. Yeah, the need for warm weather narrows down the choices quite a bit. I ended up in MA by chance, but now I really like being in Boston. A lot of the benefits listed for Miami apply here. Winters are much colder, of course, but they are actually quite sunny. We do have distinct seasons (something I actually like), and fall foliage is spectacular. Plus, it’s not flat and still has the ocean. And while it’s not really a hub, airline choice are pretty good here – all Western European airlines, plus El Al, Emirates, Qatar, Cathay Pacific, Hainan, JAL, Turkish, etc. Would be nice to get ANA, Singapore and EVA, but I am not holding my breath, given that by now United operates from just a couple of gates in Boston.

  49. With over 3000 counties, more than 50 metro areas larger than 1 million people, access to two oceans and a Gulf, and every diversity of topography, climate and culture, it is hard to imagine how anyone can’t find “their place” in the United States and do so with more choices than anywhere else in the world – and everyone’s choice is uniquely their own.

  50. I’ve lived most of my life in two places – Maryland and Arizona. Arizona was kind of a fluke and came out here for a contracting job and found that I enjoyed the weather (I actually love snow but detest rain and humidity) and the night life/bars/restaurants.

    Now that I’m nearing retirement I’m not sure where I will live. I don’t really want to start over in a new place so I’m likely to retire in AZ but I am tempted to try Europe for at least a few months and see how I like that. I’ve enjoyed trips there but living can be another story.

    Throw in politics, and other stuff and living in some areas is problematic for now and likely the near future.

  51. Live where you want. No one gets to tell someone else they “don’t belong” because they don’t fit some impossible level of expectations from a toxic internet nobody. I’m moving to FL too – though not to Miami, and I don’t owe anyone an explanation.

  52. I hope you will have a place that’s 15ft or more above sea level…. otherwise, practice swimming and boating. By 2100 Southern Florida (or maybe all of FL) will be under water.

  53. Speaking of Texas – you know the picture you put up ISN’T MIAMI…. It’s SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS.

  54. Most people spend roughly 10 hours a day working. Which is the majority of your awake time during a working week. So, that matters and I´d say live where you find a decent job. Nowadays most big cities in the US look all the same anyways. Except for details they are hard to tell apart.

  55. Lived in the east bay in California for most of my life, with a few year stint in Hawaii, and now I’ve lived in Seattle for the last 9 months. I guess I’m different in that I don’t mind a bit less sun (although the summers are very sunny and mild, the best summer season in the country IMO). The natural beauty around Seattle is breathtaking (mountains, water, tons of trees), the food is great, lots of diversity, solid airport, tons of jobs, can drive to the ocean/Canada/Portland easily.

    We also found a great place within walking distance of tons of stuff for a decent price, so that enhances the experience a lot. It really is important to find a great neighborhood/home whatever city you live in.

    Sure it rains (drizzles mostly), so I just wear a North Face jacket, or bring one just in case. Need to have the right jackets in the closet when it’s not summer, plus I have a couple pairs of waterproof shoes.

  56. The main thing I dislike about Miami is how boring the surrounding area is, geographically speaking. Similar to Buenos Aires in that sense. Ocean to your right, swamp to your left, and flat as a pancake for hours in every direction. Give me a mountain, goddamnit! Also, I’d have to think long and hard and do some deep-dive research before buying property there due to sea-level rise, king tide issues, etc.

    Other than those things, honestly, it’s great. Weather and sunshine of course is the best part. Really lifts your mood, and motivates you to stay fit! Nothing better than jogs/roller blading down the boardwalk and bike rides up and down Miami Beach and across the Venetian. Year round tennis, soccer, kitesurfing, beach yoga, or whatever else your heart desires. People associate that element of the city with shallowness, but honestly, I’d rather keep up with the Quinteros in Miami on who has the healthiest lifestyle than with the Joneses in NYC on who pulls in the biggest year-end bonus.

    Yes, salaries are lower than LA, SF, NYC, etc., but so are rent, taxes, and other expenses. Live in Brickell, Midtown, or Edgewater, grab yourself a nice bike or moped, and you hardly even need a car (after all, there’s not much to see outside the city core). Pick up some Spanish, start taking advantage of cheapish flights to the Caribbean and Latin America, and you’ll be set.

  57. Warm weather and sun
    Views & landscape
    Somewhere that’s accepting
    Cost of living … having no state income tax, which I’d factor into the overall cost of living
    An easy life & access to services
    Being close to family
    A city that feels international
    Proximity to an international airport

    This is Ben’s priority. I agree with this list but not the order. However, everyone’s different. I’d also add crime but that is usually a neighborhood issue.

    As far as “warm weather and sun”, no place has that without having oppressive heat. Maybe Los Angeles.

    I’d also add medical facilities. That would eliminate isolated areas. If you have a major head injury in Glasgow, Montana or Teller, Alaska (near Nome), good luck.

  58. @ Greg, state income tax is overrated? It depends on your income. Wonderful post, Ben. You’re my favorite type of neighbor.

  59. @ ChiFlyer1979. Have you ever been to Florida? Infrastructure is better than Chicago or any state in Northeast. Property taxes in FL are not particularly high. Delivery of services such as DMV is almost pleasant. Prices for services are high and sales tax adds up. Schools are funded on county level. Within county, some are good and some aren’t so it is not all about “investment”. Texas and FL are two fastest growing populations in US. It isn’t all about weather. They are actually well run, at least by US standards. Keep believing you are so much smarter than millions of people voting with their feet.

  60. Except for cost of living and distance to family, I’m pretty sure LA would be high on your list too…

  61. Ben is right about the wonderful opportunity to live in an area in south Florida like Miami. How many people get to sit on their lanai or balcony outdoors while they work? It’s a luxury few have. The weather is an amenity of great value. The clean air from the ocean and Gulf of Mexico is priceless. You can virtually be outdoors nearly everyday all year versus indoors waiting for spring to arrive. It is uplifting.

    Hurricanes? That’s why you buy insurance. That aside, the weather catastrophies in the rest of the country during the past year have been so devastating, unusual and unexpected that Miamians and other Floridians’ possible freakish nature problems seemed nonexistent.

    Views and landscaping. There’s something really special about living somewhere where your outside views are something right out of a travel magazine. The ocean views or a pond. The spectacular swaying palm trees. Many people enjoy places out west with the desserts, but there’s nothing like a waterfront view. Living in Florida is about the lifestyle. The open areas. The sun. The 360 degree window views to the outdoors. Outdoor conditions that are widely adored. It’s like being on vacation year round. In Ben’s case, it would be like returning from his job of travel and being on vacation when he gets home. What’s not to like about that?

    The lack of state tax, the accessibility to a large international airport, the easy benefit to services, the nearness of family, the safety and comfort of one’s gender identity, the feeling of acceptance in a diverse society enriched with a plethora of cultural events, and a long list of other plusses of Florida living make Ben’s choice a sound decision.

    One thing worth mentioning and adding is health facilities. Miami has excellent hospitals and other medical facilities. In fact, many foreigners travel to Miami-Dade hospitals for surgical care. Some people consider being close to emergency care, and good health care, one of the primary reasons of their choice of where to live.

    One con is the traffic. I-95 is hectic at times. Some drivers like to think it’s a race track. Ben and Ford, if you decide to take a ride west on Alligator Alley, which is much more sane, you’re welcome to have lunch with us sometime.

  62. Hi Ben, it’s great to see that you love Miami. While I have never lived there, I’ve visited often from Europe in the past as I had some family around Fort Lauderdale.

    Personally, I love Florida as a visitor. I think it’s a beautiful state with lots of options for living and good diversity.
    I’ve been looking for a new place to live for a long time as I am not very happy in Europe anymore. While I’d prefer to go East, if I’d ever move to the U.S., Florida would be a place where I could imagine living. There’s not as much of a city life as in some places like SF or NY, but it’s got it’s perks I think. Having said that, I’m looking at it from a purely subjective point of view, so school quality and all these things are not factored in.

    In the end though, I think you have to live in a place that makes you happy. People are always overengineering this by comparing all kinds of KPIs. But what does it matter if the lifestyle in a place does not suit you? So in the end, this is a very personal and individual decision, for those who are even lucky enough to have a choice.

  63. Wow…some pretty wild comments.

    I have lived in Florida for the past 16 years and now I am moving to where I never thought I would go…Miami/Brickell. I should have a lifestyle there that pretty much reduces any need for a car as nearly everything is in walking distance.

    I also have a home in Asia and I look forward to 2 flight connections from MIA versus the three flights from the west coast of Florida.

  64. @ Aaron and everyone that is bewildered by Lucky’s choice of Miami you really need look at it logically and it’s not so complicated. He looked at family being in FL and there being no state income tax. So FL it is. While most of his family seems to reside on the gulf coast by Tampa why not the Tampa St. Pete area? I’m sure he would admit he could be very happy in that area. He’s roams the world and needs to be by a major airport. Maybe doesn’t need to be but if he lived in the Tampa area he’d almost always have to connect fir flights save for a very few flights to South America. He’s saving time and either dollars or points by eliminating many connections whereas he can fly many flights out of the US or have numerous competitive connections. It was like 3 circles and Miami was where all 3 overlapped.

  65. @Bobo Bolinski – That’s not what Ben is saying or about. you are wrong…and you are an a–hole. Don’t post here we don’t need your piss poor attitude on this blog.

  66. I prefer west coast, Monterrey is so beautiful with Big Sur just south and Palo Alto to the North. Perfect weather year round.

    Other options are San Diego and Palm Springs area.

  67. One of my close friends lives in Northern Idaho and is gay. Always had been more of the outdoors / Walden reading type. He says that being gay has never been an issue there, for him at least…of course he has more training than half the town and is a firearms instructor.

  68. Based on previous posts, it seems like Ford’s mother lives around West Palm Beach and Lucky’s parents live in the Tampa area. It appears that proximity to family as well as to a major international airport are pretty good reasons for someone like Lucky and Ford to live in the Miami area.

  69. I actually faced this problem 12 years ago. I was living for two years in Connecticut (hence the name) and needed a (semi-) permanent home. Having living in Tampa, Orlando, Houston, Boca, San Francisco, and Atlanta I knew I did not want to go back there.

    I chose Raleigh for the following reasons:

    – Four real seasons
    – Decent airport with a growing number of direct flights (90 minutes to Tampa or NYC)
    – Two hours from the beach and three to the mountains
    – Socially tolerant and diverse (unlike much of NC)
    – Clean and safe
    – Great economy
    – Lowish taxes and a well-run local government

    I have been very happy with the decision. Only major downside is the food scene is not up to big city standards, but it is improving. Well, summers are also a bit hot now that I think about it.

  70. Most of your criteria match mine, except I’m older, widowed, and straight. I live north of LA in the foothills, and I love it here. The weather is great almost every day. I’m right next to the mountains, but I can be in the city, beach, or desert for the day. I love the diversity of people and cultures. My cost of living is cheap, believe it or not! House is paid off; property tax is cheap for longtime homeowners because we benefit from old Proposition 13 that limits property tax increases; CA doesn’t tax Social Security; and I don’t mind the high sales tax because I don’t buy much. I’m within easy reach of four airports, including LAX. Can’t imagine moving unless I need to be nearer to my son and DIL in Denver at some point.

  71. Growing up in a small town, I like my space. I think people from New York or somewhere can’t stand the boredom, but we small town people acclimated to it a long time ago. We ski to ski and many New Yorkers come to be seen or for the scene lol. I have children so schools are critical. We buy a house based on school ratings. We have moved around a bit. It takes awhile to be a relevant part of any community @Bobo. When you aren’t rich, your kids’ activities are your scene. Or your church… Mountains are critical.

  72. There are some crazy comments on this post…with @Bobo being the most ridiculous, and I hope never to cross paths with a person of such poor character.

    Home is where the heart is, and there’s a reason why the quote exists.

    For me, it’s Los Angeles and Austin. And I will always have immense affection for Kansas City.

  73. Ben, when my partner Hugh and I make big decisions, we use a process devised by Edward de Bono. It is called Plus, Minus, Interesting. PMI. You can google it if decision making interests you. It looks like everyone here has concentrated on only the plus and minus. That discounting or not seeing the things that are neither plus, nor minus, but interesting, tends to limit the data and thought processing going into making a decision.

    I see people have talked about sense of community but not given practical examples. It might be something as simple as joining a local walk group, where once or twice weekly you do a one hour power walk with a group of locals.

  74. Perhaps an article on the cost-breakdown on how living in hotels is sustainable? I’ve nomaded in hotels for shorter periods, but it seems cost prohibitive as a longer term solution.

  75. @Mahjong

    Fords mother lives in Manhattan Beach ,CA

    I just read an article Ben wrote back in 2014 about living in hotels for an entire year. It’s been 72 hours and I’m dehydrated. I chug bottled water any chance I get. 40% of passengers are dehydrated.

  76. Your philosophy hit all the right notes for me and I hope you will be happy there. I spent more than thirty years in Florida, attending the University of Miami in the 70s. You didn’t mention your neighborhood but I really like Coral Gables and Coconut Grove and agree with you about the beach. I’d never go there either. I don’t like the hurricanes and Miami traffic freaks me out.

    My checklist was about the same when I retired and looked for a place to live, ending up in Chiang Mai. No regrets and Asia is a great jumping off place for travel, which I have more time for now that I’m not working.

    Best to you in your new home.

  77. @dee

    It’s nothing to brag about. President Biden should not speak in public. They should take photo ops instead moving forward. Both sides need to smarten up because the world is watching and there are some bad actors out there .

  78. As retirees, we are now residents of a small medieval town in southern France. It has beautiful stone buildings and a hodgepodge of narrow stone-paved streets in the same pale creams and grays. We return to a beach town in Southern California for a few months each year to visit with our families who live all there. We absolutely adore living in restored buildings five hundred years old, walking to the green grocer, the pharmacy, the butcher, the boulangerie, the doctor, and the dentist, none being more than a ten minute walk, most two or three minutes. We enjoy having dozens of friends, both French and international, also within walking distance. In non-Covid times that proximity is especially cherished after imbibing the tasty local wines at dinner parties or restaurants. Because it is a gorgeous little tourist town with incredible Wednesday and Saturday markets, there are about fifty small restaurants and cafés, also within walking distance, making the town very lively on the circling boulevard and the squares in normal times. The sense of community is very strong and people, both French and foreign, are very friendly. Just today (masked) on my way to the the fish monger in the market square I chatted briefly with my neighbor and her two new American friends who were standing in our apartment courtyard, checked in on a 96 year old former neighbor (vaccinated like me), chatted briefly with another former neighbor, dropped by another friend’s apartment to collect some homemade soup she wanted to give my husband and me, and ran into another friend who I wanted to invite to lunch along with his husband now that we are all vaccinated. Though we know a great number of people here (we are very social, unlike Ben), the size of the town is perfect because it is large enough to know only a small percent of the populace, yet it is very compact with its rabbit warren of large mostly 16th and 17th century mansions now converted into apartments; so you run into people you know on every excursion out. The population expands in the summer with second-home vacationers and an increasingly large number of tourists; so, in non-Covid times, there are a plethora of interesting people to meet and befriend, even if the friendship is transitory.

    I loved my Southern California surfer-dude town with its incredible beaches, perfect weather, young vibe and freeway access, and we have visited more than sixty countries (and Miami many times), but we both love the pleasures and challenges of living in a completely different environment as we age, in a town founded by the Romans surrounded by seemingly unending vineyards, learning the language and culture and savoring the piquant life of ex-patriots. And views? Not the ocean framed in palm trees but our second floor terrace looks across a large garden to a jumble of medieval tiled roofs on to the imposing towers of the castle nestled among them at the highest point in the town.
    The dentist and the doctors? Great and with the latest equipment – and paid for by France and my supplementary insurance. France truly wants all its residents to have good health care. My 96 year old friend told me today the French social services now has a helper come to her apartment one hour a day, six days a week to assist with housework and shopping so she can continue to live in her own home. Life expectancy here is four years more than in the US now. The atmosphere in this town is so peaceful that I sometimes don’t like to leave, although we are near the mountains and the Cote d’Azur, and major cities like Lyon and Paris are brought close by high speed trains. We have three cruises lined up post-Covid and will return to So Cal in the summer and again for Thanksgiving/Christmas. So we feel we have the best of all worlds, especially with the cost of living being much less here than in So Cal. There seems to be no “keeping up with the Jones” that can be so common and toxic in the US.

    And the fish monger today? He wasn’t crowded as usual so he had time to explain the difference between his gravlax and smoked salmon – and gave me a bite of each! Merci! We are frequently out of our comfort zone because we are not really fluent in French, but we think that keeps our minds sharp and we do not shrink from adventure even as we approach 80. Vive la France!

  79. Grew up in the northeast, lived and went to college in Miami and now live in LA. Miami is a great place and has a lot going for it. But I most often compare LA and Miami as my 2 main bases. I visit Miami a few times a year to watch my Hurricanes play and to visit family and friends. But for me the difference is the “fit and finish” as they say in the car industry. Miami – while great – still feels very much like a 2nd or 3rd tier city dressed up like a 1st tier city. Things like city services and daily life things like intelligent people working at stores or attentive service at restaurants. It’s just not there. Wages are garbage in Miami and there is not a diverse enough economy. LA on the other hand, feels much more like a mature A-level world class city. More culture, more history, much more diversified economy etc.. At the end of the day, to me, Miami: great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. LA: great place to live but I wouldn’t want to visit. BUT a visit to LA is a jump off point for Mexico, Vegas, Joshua Tree/Palm Springs, Big Bear, San Diego, Santa Barbara etc… With Miami you get….swamp.

  80. Lucky, I think you made a great choice! I have a second home in Miami and my primary residence is in the tristate area. Since the pandemic started, I’ve been able to work remotely, so I’m staying in Miami. Miami is one of the most vibrant cities in the country” with awesome weather most of the year. I chose to live in South Beach because I enjoy having everything I need within walking distance: beach, great restaurants,shopping and nightlife. (But I stopped going to bars since Covid started.) I enjoy the international flavor and the proximity to a major airport with non-stop flights to my favorite international destinations CDG, BCN and GIG. If it wasn’t for my job, I would make Miami my permanent home. Like someone else mentioned here, many choose to live in the northeast or in CA because it’s easier to find a better paying job in those places than in Miami, but your job allows you to live anywhere, I think Miami is the best place in the country. And for Miami haters out there, stay where you are, because the more people are moving here from NY and CA, the more expensive Miami gets.

  81. @ExPat France OK… now you have me dying to know the medieval town you are living in. It sounds idyllic. And I love France!

  82. Hi Lucky! Great post – and I fully agree with the essence of it: making somewhere a home depends on your personal preferences. I was born in a midsize town in my country and loved growing up there. I’ve lived in 6 countries on 4 continents at various stages of my life, and currently call the capital of my country home.

    I have now made a decision to relocate to one of the outer suburbs for a variety of reasons. My friends have started spreading out, I stopped clubbing years ago, plus I am noticing certain changes that I don’t appreciate. More “undesirable” elements roaming the streets, property prices becoming silly as well as a few other things. There are now several places within easy reach of the capital, which also offer great facilities, peace & quiet and both the airport and my family in a different county are only a short hop away. Don’t even need to buy a car.

  83. @Ben–I am so sorry for the special people and their vile comments. You are a better person than I for being able to tolerate these people and continue to go about your business.

    WHERE TO RESIDE?

    I have struggled with this my entire life which is obvious if you look at where we have lived. Now, I am pretty set, but my husband is still looking. Being that we are building a house, we’ll probably be set for a while longer.
    Here’s the timeline:
    *Washington (Seattle Area)- Hated the rain so much so that as soon as I could leave…I did.
    * Washington (Moses Lake)- Weather was good (desert like), but rather rural. This was fine when I was in my late teens and early 20’s, but once I was dating a man, it was less great. Also, the closest reasonable airport (GEG) was 2 hours away and to get to SEA, you were driving for >3 hours…and into the rain.
    *Aspen, CO- Loved the area, but also super difficult for travel. I was broke so had to drive to DEN for flights out…talk about expensive!
    *Washington (Moses Lake…Again!)- Same as above
    *DC- Moved for work with the government and totally loved it! I traveled a lot hitting 25 countries in a year. Bought a couple of homes here and really enjoyed the climate, people, and only being 15 mins from IAD. Routinely flew to TPA to see my parents and loved that I could be from cold to warm in 2 hours!
    *Germany- For work. Thought that we would love it, but actually didn’t. We lived in Frankfurt which seemed to be worse than Seattle for weather! Travel out of FRA was pretty good.
    * Florida (Panhandle)- Loved the weather and beaches in the panhandle. Disliked the airport and difficulty with travel (VPS), and the Alabama like mentality.
    * Florida (Orlando)- Loved the airport, hated the traffic and tourists. It seems the worst drivers in the world travel right through Orlando which makes it a nightmare. Ohh…did I mention that it is HOT A.F.!
    * New Zealand- Planned to live here for a while and maybe even immigrate! Didn’t plan on the South Island being like Seattle only with many…many sheep! Froze our assess off while enjoying the fame of being the only married gay men in the city!
    * Florida (Ft. Lauderdale)- We really liked it here! Somewhat small town feel when living in a neighborhood near Wilton Manor’s. Travel out of FLL or MIA was ideal! We really were liking our lifestyle here, but the husband ended up getting a job in Florida, but NOT in FLL.
    * Florida (Melbourne)- We have been here for 6 years and we are content! We live 5 minutes from amazing beaches (not a plus for you I understand), but only 45 minutes from MCO! I leave my house 2 hours before departure and have a stress-free travel experience. I flew 130k before COVID and loved being a business traveler in a tourist airport! Lines for miles, but precheck of less than 4 minutes. Terminal packed, but the United Club empty! United employees always phenomenal…The staff in the club were the best I have ever experienced, when it came to fixing flights.

    The only downside is that we are a bit on the right side of the political spectrum where we elect total buffoons because…”They are breathing, and they are GOP!” With that said, the people are generally great as the Cape is bringing some talent and social grace to go with it.

    Highly recommend if you ever tire of MIA. We also have some great plane spotting of flights traversing the coast or coming in and out of MCO.

  84. We, a retired couple in our early 60s, moved to Miami from the Midwest having lived there most of our lives. We are very happy with our choice. Our relocation criteria included easy access to an international airport, and Amtrak, public transportation, museums, art, a culture different than our own, a place family would want to visit, no snow and water views. Miami became our best choice. We are also introverts, so I completely understand Ben’s points about avoiding large social scenes, but luckily there’s more to Miami than that. Having stayed home most of the last year, we’re ready to travel and I have great views while I google and plan our next trips. In some ways, Miami is also our staging ground/Home base but that doesn’t mean we’re not concerned about our building/residents/employees, our local restaurants, our neighborhood, our city. I’m glad others responded to Dodo because I’m in Miami to get away from people with one sided thinking with no ability to see different perspectives. Maybe he should travel more…

  85. I’ve lived in six states and three countries over the last 50 years. In doing so, I’ve come to a fairly banal realization, which is that, to a large extent, you can DECIDE to be happy anywhere (or UNHAPPY). Certainly some places make it easier, but I’ve found desirable aspects in all of the places I’ve lived. I’ve also found things that aggravate me or make me sad. At the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that the things that are important to me are proximity to the people and activities that I enjoy.

  86. Wonderful thread and really appreciated everyone’s takes…

    I’m visiting Miami for the winter… but live in Vancouver… I just moved there pre-Covid… it’s a wonderful city … with much better weather than the rumors… unfortunately, real estate is even more expensive than my home city of Toronto.

    I love all three of these cities, plus so many of the cities in the 40+ countries i’ve been too

    And I’m with Mallthus… you gotta be make the best of where you are and be happy there.

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