Pick Your Place and Let The Rest Fall Into Place

2010 February 1
by Grace Boyle

This past weekend my cousin who lives in New York City came into town for a visit. She was in awe of the natural beauty, landscape and healthy, progressive lifestyle so prevalent in Boulder.

After a morning hike overlooking the continental divide Saturday morning, we walked downtown from my apartment (also my 5 minute commute to work), had lunch on a rooftop deck overlooking the mountains, walked around downtown in the sunshine, stopped by Whole Foods to pick up her favorite tea and then walked back to my apartment to get ready for an evening out.

On our way back she looked at me and said, “I just can’t believe this is the life you live. Your lifestyle is so amazing.” I smiled and nodded in agreement. Then I began to ponder what I’ve written about before but couldn’t quite see until now: the power a place has over you.

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My cousin has lived in NYC for five years and is ready to leave. Her commute from Brooklyn to the art gallery she works at in the Upper East Side, involves three trains and an hour each way. The hustle, crowds, expenses and intensity has worn her down. She experienced anxiety for the first time while living in NYC and now feels it almost everyday, to the point of sickness. I’m not knocking the city – I love it there, I just would never live there. As for my cousin, she’s moving in two months, back to her hometown to regroup.

When I thought about the way I live here in Boulder I realized that my whole life, I have picked places all analogous to my needs and desires. Call it risky? I call it living.

I grew up in a small town in Iowa. The community was enriching. I’ve known my friends since birth, because our parents are best friends and it was a great place to be raised. For college, I decided on my own to move to Burlington, Vermont: A healthy town in the Green mountains of Vermont, overlooking Lake Champlain with delicious farmers markets, artists, musicians and five colleges in the area. Smart place. Next, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy just big enough to explore Tuscany, but small enough that in six months I recognized friends walking down the street and felt the ineffable happiness of la dolce vita. Next, I moved to Boulder.

I explained to my cousin that I moved to Boulder for Boulder. I didn’t have friends, a job or a home to call my own. The place came first and I love it. I have a lifestyle list that I know is important for my livelihood. There are other towns and cities I can think of that would match what works for me, but the important piece here, is knowing it. I also purposefully chose my apartment to be close to downtown, the mountains and where I work. I didn’t want to settle, because I knew what was important to me.

I’ve visited NYC for years, some of my best friends live there but I know I would never live there. And that’s okay. Knowing what you want and need is important. It’s not that Boulder is superior to any other city, it just works for me, I trust it, for reasons I know are innate and important for me.

I believe that picking a place that vibes with you should be one of your top priorities. It’s about designing your lifestyle. For me, the rest fell into place e.g. job, friends, a home, a schedule, my community and my happiness.

My cousin then realized how I have purposefully and thoughtfully picked where I have lived over the years and dutifully replied, “The next place I live, I’m going to do that.”

What about you?

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  • saralizdavidson

    What you write about here makes so much sense. I've struggled internally with this same dilemma a lot, especially lately. Relocating is such a huge decision. I currently live in Omaha – and while it's a growing city, it certainly doesn't have the same opportunities and benefits as other locations. One of the main reasons I haven't moved away is that most of my friends and family are here. I've always wondered if I'd be happier moving somewhere else (which is hard because other than the cold weather, I'm pretty happy now). It's just so hard to know since I've never lived outside of the Midwest. Did you just “know” when you visited Boulder that you wanted to live there? Or did you just wait for a fabulous opportunity? Either way, I admire how brave you are and am glad that you've found a place where you're truly happy! :)

  • http://twitter.com/ElleLaMode Ellen Nordahl

    You couldn't have written this post at a better time. I've been reading your blog for quite a while now but haven't commented (sorry!) until now. I currently live in Madison, WI but grew up in a small town (read: 4 stoplights) in central Wisconsin. I graduated last May, but couldn't muster the gumption to up and move without having a job. It's a great city, but I'm ready to move on and experience something different. The summer here is unbelievable, but life's too short to hate where you're at for 5 months out of the year. After having traveled to Austin, TX last November, I found my place. You're right – if you aren't happy with the city you're in, it's hard to be happy about anything else. I've decided to set the wheels in motion for a move to Austin – and I'm sure your previous writings about your move to Boulder will be an invaluable resource.

  • http://twentyorsomething.com/ Susan Pogorzelski

    “It's not that Boulder is superior to any other city, it just works for me, I trust it, for reasons I know are innate and important for me.”

    When I was looking at colleges, my dad and I checked out one about three hours from home. It was pouring down rain outside, which surprisingly has a huge impact on first impressions of a place, but as we got off the exit and drove through the town and along the river, something inside of me knew, in an instant, that this would be home. For four years, at least.

    I think you're absolutely right. You know where you belong, and when you find where you belong, everything naturally falls into place.

    On another note: I have a feeling if I ever visit Colorado, I would never want to leave πŸ˜‰

    Nice post, Grace!

  • http://modite.com/ Rebecca

    “for reasons I know are innate and important for me” – yes, that's how I operate. I came to Madison largely out of instinct – it felt “right,” and as I look towards the future, I'm using the same measuring stick. Like Ellen, I'm all for the summers here, but the winters are unbearable! I'd love to move to San Francisco (first choice), New York (second choice) or somewhere like Arlington (third choice – a compromise on DC). Ryan's all for Chicago, but I'm tired of being a Midwestern girl… πŸ˜‰ Maybe I will add Boulder to the list though on your recommendation :)

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  • http://samdavidson.net/blog Sam Davidson

    I agree – a healthy sense of place can do wonders for your outlook, personal life, and career. Normally we hear of people moving to NY, SF, LA – but people also move to Boulder. And Nashville (where I live). It would take a lot – more than just a job offer – for me to move.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sara I think it's hard to leave when you have family and all your friends in one place. I've never really had that, mostly because my friends left my hometown to explore as well.

    I actually didn't even visit Boulder (yikes). It was intuitive. I had spent time in Colorado growing up (snowboarding, hiking, family trips) so I knew I loved the state but I researched Boulder, heard amazing things and then I felt it was right. When I drove into Boulder, I also knew I had made the right decision even though I was shaking in my boots.

    I guess my point with this post is that I had no opportunity when I came here. No job, no home, no friends. But I knew that this place harbors opportunity and the rest will fall into place. Let me know if I can be of any help or if you have other questions :) Thanks for sharing, Sara!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ellen It's good to hear from you and thanks for the comment. I love to hear from readers. I'm so happy that you've found Austin. I started thinking about Boulder in January and I moved in August. So there was definitely some wheels in motion and I think the planning helped me feel ready. Please feel free to e-mail me whenever you relocate or just to say hi: gracekboyle at gmail dot com I am happy to help!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Susan Great story! It doesn't matter what is externally happening when you visit that city, you just know it feels right. It was actually raining in Burlington, VT when I visited it (for the first time) to see if I wanted to go to college there. I knew right away. I think we overlook our intuition too much, we know ourselves best :) Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Rebecca Ah, I really love San Francisco and there are opportunities abound there. It's so easy to go along the coast, up north to wine country or even down south for some beach time. Great location :) And yes, you are always welcome for a trip to Boulder. It's great.

    As I mentioned, I think people underestimate our intuition and knowing what works right by feeling it out. ENFP's probably operate like that the most πŸ˜‰

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sam I go for the underdog city πŸ˜‰ I agree with you, there would have to be something pretty compelling for me to move (right now). Thanks for sharing and the RT, Sam!

  • http://www.lifeschocolates.com sameve

    As I've told you before, I totally admire everything about your move to Boulder and the life you've built there. It sounds like you had an amazing time with your cousin, which is so great to hear. My cousin is like my brother, and I love spending time with him. I do think that you should come visit NYC before your cousin leaves, but that's just because I really want to meet you :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sam Thank you! I know so many of my friends are now escaping NYC :( But either for business or pleasure, it's the center of the universe, so I'll be there soon enough! :)

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  • http://www.ryanjknapp.com Ryan Knapp

    I believe that picking a place that vibes with you should be one of your top priorities. It’s about designing your lifestyle.

    Here here. Where you live can have a huge impact on how you feel on a daily basis.

    I'd say I have a love/hate relationship with Buffalo. I truly love my city and want to be one of those people who stay around long enough to make a difference and not get lost in the 'brain drain' of 20-somethings who leave and never come back.

    At the same time, I constantly feel the brain drain myself as friends and family lose their jobs and have nothing to fall back on. It's tiring trying to create in a place where creativity seems lost, but in the end, it's what you make of it.

  • http://fiwk.blogspot.com Royce

    I don't really have anything to add to this discussion, I just want to say that this is extremely awesome. Your current lifestyle is pretty baller.

    Colorado also sounds fantastic, I'll have to go there sometime.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan It's where we live. We see and feel it everyday. So you're right, it is pretty important to find fulfillment from your home. There are of course, external factors that can influence a move but in general, it's such a good feeling to be somewhere that benefits you.

    It's interesting you bring up a love/hate. Sometimes I am frustrated with Boulder – just like any relationship, it's not perfect and there are pain points…

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Royce Come visit! And thank you :)

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