Why Does Seattle Have To Be So Captivating?

Filed Under: Travel

As long time readers may know, about two years ago I made the decision to move from Tampa to Seattle.

I had lived in Tampa for far too long, and couldn’t stand it. The only nice thing about it was being close to my parents, who I care more about than anything. Still, I really wanted to try some place new. I’ve lived on the east coast all my life but wanted to see what the west coast was like, and Seattle just ended up being the logical choice. As an aviation geek, the area has always intrigued me, if nothing else.

I moved to Seattle in October 2012, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it at first. It was the start of the long Seattle dreary season — the Pacific Northwest isn’t especially harsh temperature wise (even coming from someone that lived in Florida for over a decade), but I did sleep about 14 hours per day given the lack of sunlight and constant gloominess outside.

And then summer came. Oh, Seattle summers. I’ve been a lot of places, but there’s nowhere like Seattle in summer. There’s just something oddly magical about it. I’m entirely embarrassed to link to a Jenna Drey song (after all, people rely on me for good music and movie advice!), but there is some merit to her song “Summer Night in Seattle,” even if the music video is entirely intolerable:

Anyway, fast forward to April when I decided to leave Seattle. Without getting too personal (I do enough of that on this blog!), I guess part of my motivation for both moving to and leaving Seattle could be summed up in this four minute clip from “Up In The Air:”

Since leaving, I’ve been avoiding visiting Seattle as much as possible. I would have loved to spend more time there this summer, but I wasn’t ready.

I did go for a few nights this past week for the first time since moving. I know it sounds crazy, but my dentist is in Seattle, and I love my dentist. And I literally hate going to the dentist otherwise. And she’s flattered by the fact that I “flew all the way from Hong Kong” to see her. 😉

I landed late at night and took the Light Rail from the airport to the city, and I had these weird flashbacks. I swear I’m not a total nutjob, and I’ve never had these before, so that left me kind of confused. Add in the fact that I’m an introvert, and I spent roughly 100 hours analyzing my 10 minutes of weird flashbacks. I think what it comes down to is that Seattle is the first place I ever chose to move to, as opposed to just moving around with my family because I wanted to be close to them. So to me it’s always bittersweet — it’s the city for which I “left” my family (which isn’t as horrible as it sounds, heh) and a city I have so many memories in.

The joke is always that summers in Seattle go from July 4th through Labor Day, so given that I was visiting in mid-September I wasn’t expecting great weather.

After spending most of my first day working, I went out in the evening and was faced with this sunset:




While I see lots of great sunsets in the air, it’s rare nowadays that I see sunsets like this on the ground. And as much as I’ve tried to get liking Seattle out of my heart for the past several months, seeing that sunset made me fall in love with it again. Damn you, Seattle!

Go figure the day after I left the weather went back to typical dreary Seattle norms. I kind of wish I had that weather while I was there, as it would’ve been easier to convince myself to write the place off…

But it ultimately did reinforce two thoughts in my mind:

  • Seattle is a great city, unlike any other in the US.
  • I’m ready to settle down and live somewhere. As much as I’m enjoying living in hotels, it’s nice to be able to go somewhere you love and call it “home.” Of course that requires finding the right city, and that’s not easy… especially since I’m fairly risk averse. I don’t want to move somewhere just “because,” and at the same time haven’t found a city I love so much that I’d really want to settle down there.

Sorry for a bit of a mushy post, but sometimes it’s just nice to write things down…

Are there any cities you have an emotional connection to, that you’re sad when you’re away from?

  1. I get so tired of the gloomy winters and summer is super short, but this weekend’s forecast calls for sun and 77 degrees tomorrow and 86 on Sunday. Ill take it! Think I’ll go to the fair.

  2. First, I’m really, really happy to read this post and knowing that you have found a city where you feel not only at home, but joyful to be part of the community. I think that is really important to one’s self being.

    Though my hometown is New York, particularly Manhattan, and I feel share a strong identity with that city, having lived and worked in a number of cities, there are two which give me the same feelings you describe: Paris and San Francisco (I lived for 8 years in Paris and 10 years in San Francisco). I often reflect on the factors that underpin such emotions, and I think they are a combination of physical beauty and social/cultural awareness.

    While, frankly, I don’t at all feel that way about Los Angeles, where I live now, I am making the best of it, though it’s just more challenging to find.

    Good luck with your move back to the city you love. (I recall at one point you mentioned that your parents were thinking of retiring in Germany, but know wherever they live, being the great son you are, you will visit with them frequently). I will be interested in knowing what neighborhood in Seattle you choose to live, now that you know the area well).

  3. For me, New York and Vienna are both my homes. Both are equally wonderful in completely different ways. Yes, New York may be loud and intense, but it’s home to me, and has been since I was born. And Vienna, well, Vienna is just a wonderful place to be.

  4. I love Arizona, particularly Scottsdale where I live. It is beautiful, clean doesn’t allow billboards, not a lot of traffic like other major cities, sunny almost every day and has what I think is the perfect mix of young, middle and old. Yes, it is hot in the summer, but we leave for most of it. In another month, we’ll be back to seven months of pure bliss 🙂

  5. Will this be one of those posts where two days later there are 200 suggestions as to where to live? 😉

    Nice introspective piece. You’re on a roll with three awesome posts since Thursday!

  6. Hey, I forgot how you had responded when you received some European suggestions at the time you were soliciting two years ago…. Why not Hamburg, Berlin, Munich,….. too close to home, so to speak?
    I would say the climate is similar to Seattle, if not better. When we have nice weather, it is spectacular and it’s not just from July 4 to Labor Day….

    Hey, if you find a place you like…. stop searching… it’s not being complacent.

  7. I moved away from my parents 14 years ago and go back to see them once in a while. Whenever I go visit and there is a beautiful sunset, I get very depressed and feel like I want to move back in with them!
    I just start thinking about life and begin to miss my carefree childhood. I have a love/hate relationship with sunsets. They are incredibly beautiful, but they make me depressed.

    So you are ending your ‘living out of hotels’? If you settle down, does that mean the travelling will also settle down?

  8. Strangely enough I’d love to see your pics and directions on doing out of SEA and light railing into Seattle………..

  9. I know the feeling quite well. I went nomad for a year, with some frequency returned to San Diego during that time, and each of those times I got that feeling like it was “home”. Now I’ve moved back here (well, rented an apartment) and feel like I made the right decision. Like a friend of mine likes to say, “San Diego isn’t amazing at any one thing, but is above average at basically everything”.

    I also think that my love of *neighborhoods* is far higher than my love of cities. If I had to live in downtown San Diego (which I hate), I simply wouldn’t live here at all. Even in Seattle, living in Wallingford/Fremont is far different than Belltown. Neighborhoods matter. How you feel *day-to-day even during the mundane cycles of life* matters immensely.

    Another important thing about where you choose to live is having lots of people that you can relate to and be friends with. For you and your popularity out there in the travel world, it’s probably less of an issue as I’m sure you know all sorts of people all over the world. But I’m inherently pretty shy, and having a group of people in San Diego I regularly interact with is really important. I don’t have that in most cities. Even outside of that, I find that how you feel about *complete strangers* affects quality of life quite a bit. The interactions I have with complete strangers I meet in San Diego (neighborhoods outlying Balboa Park) are overwhelmingly positive. That is not at all true for me in most East coast cities, or in San Francisco. Even in Seattle, my experience is that “the Seattle freeze” is a real thing.

  10. @lucky – so wait, where is ‘home’ now for you since you’ve apparently ‘left’ seattle? I always thought it was still your homebase even though you were living in hotels more or less full-time. is tampa your base by default since you started living in hotels full time?

    I also noticed with all your travels, you rarely check luggage in — which means you dont carry a lot of stuff around, smart strategy — but you gotta start running outta clothes and such. so do you go back to tampa to recharge and get fresh clothes etc?

  11. You lived in Bellevue-“east side”. You should try living “in the city” Capital Hill, Ballard, QA, West Seattle (close to SeaTac) or even Magnolia. All great neighborhoods

  12. Born in seattle, currently living in vancouver (which is really practically the same city, just a bajillion times more expensive), and I can honestly say I’ve never stopped missing Seattle! Especially Bellevue….I dream about Facing East’s pork belly burgers…

  13. @Lucky,
    Historically I have never had a city that I called “home”. When I turned 18 (the “legal” age in Denmark) i got out of the town in which I grew up in, and moved to Copenhagen (Denmark). Copenhagen is now my “base” where I have an apartment, however everytime I land and look out of the windows of the plane I don’t think “I am home” more… Ok, back to base for refueling. I have always travelled a lot both privately and with work but have never found a city I would call home as such. I seem to enjoy places around the world but not getting attached to them. However, I recently hadto go back to Orlando alone without my partner and realised that I actually do have an emotional connection with Orlando – The place didn’t feel the same and on the plane on the way back to Denmark I realised that the reason for the weird feeling was my partner not being there.So opposite your issue – No I’m not sad when away from Orlando, but being there without my partner.

  14. Agree with @Matthew – LA is the place. I am biased as I chose LA as my home 25 years ago and as the Randy Newman song goes – I Love LA! And I have lived through the tough times here – riots, fires and earthquakes. There is so much to do here and the weather is great. Love my adopted hometown!

  15. “The Curse of the Traveler”

    An old vagabond in his 60s told me about it over a beer in Central America, goes something like this: The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love, the more things you see. It drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking, for a place not that’s perfect (we all know there’s no Shangri-La), but just for a place that’s “just right for you.” But the curse is that the odds of finding “just right” get smaller, not larger, the more you experience. So you keep looking even more, but it always gets worse the more you see. This is Part A of the Curse.

    Part B is relationships. The more you travel, the more numerous and profoundly varied the relationships you will have. But the more people you meet, the more diffused your time is with any of them. Since all these people can’t travel with you, it becomes more and more difficult to cultivate long term relationships the more you travel. Yet you keep traveling, and keep meeting amazing people, so it feels fulfilling, but eventually, you miss them all, and many have all but forgotten who you are. And then you make up for it by staying put somewhere long enough to develop roots and cultivate stronger relationships, but these people will never know what you know or see what you’ve seen, and you will always feel a tinge of loneliness, and you will want to tell your stories just a little bit more than they will want to hear them. The reason this is part of the Curse is that it gets worse the more you travel, yet travel seems to be a cure for a while.

    None of this is to suggest that one should ever reduce travel. It’s just a warning to young Travelers, to expect, as part of the price, a rich life tinged with a bit of sadness and loneliness, and angst that’s like the same nostalgia everyone feels for special parts of their past, except multiplied by a thousand.

  16. Although people are making suggestions as to where you should live or assuming that you’ll move back to Seattle I understand what you meant completely. While you travel the world constantly and are obviously living in hotels at the moment I’d say your simple statement of “I’m ready to settle down and live somewhere” is the truly revealing part of this post. I know you’ve mentioned it before but never in way that wasn’t speaking about the future. I’d say realizing this now will make you look a little deeper into the locales you travel to. Instead of just traveling to try new products and ‘see’ new places you’ll be looking for something, somewhere to settle, where ever it might be and I couldn’t be happier for you to take this next step, whenever it happens.

  17. I could live anywhere. I picked Seattle. It’s easy to travel anywhere. And it’s great to be home. Good food and a beautiful city. Clean air. Pretty easy to live here.

  18. Ben,

    I understand your feeling. I personally have emotional collection to London – I just feel happy walking the streets. I had a chance to settle there but gave it up for the comfort of living in the US and ever since I question myself if I did the right thing.

    I currently live in Seattle. I agree it’s a pretty good city by US standards but far from ideal. The biggest reason I still live here is because I can’t find a better city on the US soil. But why do you limit yourself? I’ve mentioned you have a great connection with HK – why not settle there? Or in Europe?

  19. I do have a city that makes me feel that way. It’s called Seattle.

    I moved there in 1991, and lived there for 19 years. I moved to central Missouri in 2010 for work. I miss it constantly, and my heart aches very time I visit. I hope to get back there someday.

  20. Enjoyed your post. I have lived in the same city in Texas all my like (except for about 2 years during college which was also in Texas). I would love to find somewhere where I have a view of water/boats/ships, nice places to walk, “warm” weather, few bugs, not too expensive…and, of course, reasonably close to an airport. I still have not found that place yet, but looking and Seattle is one of the places on my list to think about. Don’t mind gloomy, but worried it may get a little too cold.

  21. Being and introvert as well I can completely sympathize with analyzing your flashbacks internally for entirely too long (don’t we do that with most of our thought’s throughout the day? I know I do)

    On to where to move and feeling “attached” to places. I definitely feel better being closer to either coast, i know it seems weird but anywhere else I get kind of a “suffocating” feeling. I’ve lived in Phoenix/Scottsdale for 9 years and completely done with it (much like it sounds you were done with Tampa, but for slightly different reasons). There are good/nice things about Phoenix/Scottsdale that many people overlook but something about it has just had me hating it lately, the summers don’t help either. Over the years I have regretted a few times not just completing the full coast to coast move from Maine to California rather then settling in Phoenix (cost of living had lots to do with that). I definitely have to agree with others and say Los Angeles…..I know people absolutely hate it, and there is plenty to hate…but oh so much to like. If you are anywhere near relatively close the water and in LA you have the best year round weather in the US, maybe world….no contest. I feel like LA is such an epicenter for so much (good and bad) that it’s just ALIVE….i get that vibe and I always feel good when I am there, always. It’s sometimes hard to describe but i’ve always been drawn to it.

    I hope to at least live part-time in LA in the future, for now though we are moving to Portland – we also thought about Seattle as well but ultimately decided on Portland for a few reasons. We are hoping to just make the best of the winters and travel to LA frequently. I feel like summer in Portland is much how you describe summer in Seattle – plus people don’t realize that it is pretty dry in Portland in the summer (very low humidity).

    I hope you find what you are looking for.

  22. I definitely have an emotional attachment to the Pacific Northwest. While I might enjoy more sunshine, the prospect of drought is much scarier to me. I love all the green. I remember flying out of Seattle one summer and it really did seem like the emerald city. I hope you have an opportunity to move back to Seattle. You didn’t really say where you might be headed.

  23. Obviously a biased observer here but I think Summer in Chicago makes it the best city in the world for about 4 months a year. I take the other 8 months because it’s still a great city and it’s very affordable vs. the coasts. If you’re a domestic business traveller, this is the place to be (DFW/DAL and HOU/IAH are just big boring metropolises and the only other easy places to do tons of domestic flying from). Never connect domestically because there is no need.

  24. I agree. Having moved to Seattle 10 years ago, I don’t believe I could ever leave.

    My question….. Who is your dentist?

  25. What a strange thing – I am from Hong Kong and Singapore and after searching the world for a perfect place I actually ended up in Tampa!

    I suppose it depends on what you are looking for. Spend most of my time on the water fishing or taking friends and family out island hopping enjoying America’s best beaches, crystal clear blue water and driving the boat to all the waterfront restaurants. Sunsets on shell key or lazy days in front of edgemont watching the dolphins. Its a lifestyle at a price few places can match.

    I’ve been around the world even am friends with Adrian and Bebe of the aman resorts but after 7 years I am not leaving this bay area anytime soon. This place is a paradise!

  26. Sea Town restaurant for Breakfast, next to Beechers and the old SBUX. Crab and cheese English muffin with the brown butter salt hash browns. The single best breakfast in America. LOVE Seattle. That being said. GO COUGS!!! Noboody likes a Husky

  27. DJ, well said and so true. Lucky, after years of moving (with family) and searching, I finally came “home” to LA. I’ve had to be away for more than 2 years, and I ache for her. I think of the city as a her, and when I can make the occasional visit for a few days, I feel so at peace and so blessed to be in such a great city. The weather, the food, the people, the wildness of the landscape, the trees and plants, it’s so….rich. People don’t realize that there are many hidden LAs, not just the glamorous Hollywood stuff (although that is really great too!). My heart aches for LA and I long for the day when I can move back.

  28. “Being an adult is like that feeling you get when the fireworks are done, but all the time.”

    Oh, and DJ nailed it. Whenever I reunite with my childhood friends, I get sad that they’ll never share what I’ve seen. I’m glad that they’re content to be born, grow up, live and die in one city forever, but I do wish I could take them with me sometimes.

  29. Lucky, thank you for sharing this post. I’m going through something similar right now, traveling non-stop while trying to find “my place”. Like you, I’m a type-A, risk averse introvert, so I created a kinda neat multiple spreadsheet Excel algorithm to evaluate cities based on objectively weighted criteria that’s personally meaningful to me (instead of those random “best places to live” lists). I’d be happy to share it with you if you want to email me. Thanks again for sharing, this really hit home!

  30. First visited Seattle in 2010 in my mid-30s and fell in love and while I have sufficient reasons for not living there, I feel almost precisely the same way—the magic period of time from July 4th really into mid-September is unlike anywhere else I have ever been, the perfect summers—being out on Puget Sound in those months is the closest to heaven I have found.

    Great post.

  31. Home has always been Hong Kong for me even when I was at boarding sch in Brighton (England), then college in Northampton, MA; postgrad in London and and a summer in Paris.

    Home’s gotta be where you got family and support network. A place to stay doesn’t necessarily qualify…

    Seattle’s a great city.. congrats on re-anchoring if that’s the case.. my uncle and aunt live in Seattle and end up spending winters away cos it’s just too depressing for words.. but in the summer the view of Mt Rainier is worth a million dollars…

    Someone suggested HK for you.. much as I love the idea of getting a lot more HK-based travel tips from you, be warned that many expats love the pace here without feeling they belong here..

  32. DJ’s comment is both wisdom and truth.
    Your introspection, Lucky, was timely. I flew back from Phoenix Thursday this week and connected through Seattle on my way back to my home, Portland. I have been a lifelong Northwesterner (Eastern WA, Anchorage and Portland) and after leaving the brown dinginess of the desert (always reminds me of death) of AZ, when we were on descent into Seattle, I couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to call home (the NW).

    Your decision – wherever it may be- has to be about sense of place and that you feel that’s where you feel most ‘at home’. Weather isn’t enough. People, community, relationships are all part of it. For me and my partner, Portland fit that bill more than any other place.

    We love Seattle and have many friends there, but the traffic is horrid, so that’s what edged Portland out (and the weather is also a notch better in Portland). Still, we are a close drive to SEA, and very quick flights to YVR (our other most favorite city in the world) and SFO. We visit these places a fair amount, but love coming home to Portland.

    Wherever you find ‘home’, you’ll know it when you do.

  33. Well said, @DJ! This reminds me of what I told my husband once. The travel bug is a search for new experiences and stimulus that gets more and more extreme over time, because the more experiences you have, the more risk you need to take to experience the same rush. It can make everyday life seem even more mundane after a while. The key is to enjoy the time you have with friends, family and support networks so that when you are home, you are in the moment, and recharging for those exciting travels.

    Oddly, we are deciding where to move and though I have always longed to go back home to NYC, I really like living in a small city close to the suburbs to get the best of both worlds. I have always lived on the East coast and have been captivated by the raw beauty of the Pacific North West, too. It’s a tough decision.

    Speaking of moving to be close to a love interest, it’s important to have a Plan B. Your happiness and success matter the most of all, because relationships change, end, and sometimes transform us. Good luck!

  34. LA gets my vote. Lived there part-time for two years and always look forward to visiting whenever we get the chance.

  35. Graham – not quite sure how you figure Austin is like Seattle/Portland. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s not 100 degrees all summer long :-).

  36. For me, the SF Bay Area (my home now) always felt like home. Especially after spending 13 years in Dallas. Whenever I traveled to new places, I always noticed how I felt about each locale. DC and Boston also feel like possibilities, as does Barcelona. Perhaps my being a California native plays into this a bit, but this state has a lot to offer. Not every decision can be decided by our heads, and our hearts often lead us to where we need to be. Just remember, there are no mistakes, just lessons.

  37. Oh, boy, I feel like we are in for another 1000-comment thread if Lucky’s place-to-get-settled is up for debate! 😀

    And Seattle sure is nice in the summer. Was there 2.5 weeks ago and lucked out with the weather tremendously — was 85F and no cloud in a sky. I feel like summer is when FTU should be held in Seattle as opposed to April with no-so-great weather.

  38. That won’t happen because FTU books hotels when rates are at their lowest, which is always off-season in that market. Seattle rates peak in the summer.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *