DECIDING WHERE TO LIVE
If you had asked me twenty years ago if I'd ever live any place but Louisville KY my answer would have been "Probably not." Although I enjoyed traveling, the idea of moving to a new city never really occurred to me. I'm sure there are a lot of people like that....people who're content to live where they were born, to enjoy the continuity of life surrounded by family, lifelong friends and familiar sights.
Perhaps if I'd gone away to college my eyes might have been opened to the possibilities the world held. My one experience with moving had been when I was twelve years old and my parents uprooted us from our life in New Albany, IN (just across the river from Louisville in case you didn't know), and moved us to Pittsburgh PA. I'm sure my age had a lot to do with it, but I HATED Pittsburgh from the first mention of it all the way til we moved back to Louisville two years later. That traumatic event may have stifled my wanderlust for good, but thankfully I got over it....eventually.
It wasn't until Art and I had been married several years that we started to talk about the day we retired, and what we would do. It dawned on me gradually that we'd have the freedom to move once we'd retired, and once that idea hit me, it was such a revelation!
We could live someplace where it was warm in the winter, like Florida. We could live someplace with great air connections so we could travel all the time. Heck, we could even live and travel at the same time with a motor home! The possibilities were endless, and I began flipping through those "Best Places To Retire" magazines. I learned how various cities are rated, the importance of healthcare, continuing education, crime statistics and tax rates.
Until Italy reached out and grabbed us by the throat, we still had no idea where we'd spend our retirement years. Now that we've decided to move back to the states, we have to start that process all over again. We've made the decision to go back to the states because our retirement dream was to travel, and we think we'll get more travel for our dollar by being based in the United States....but where?
I began to search the internet and found several sites with "The Best Places To Retire" information. CNN/MONEY MAGAZINE, US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT , and AARP all have articles to read and surveys to take to help you find someplace suited to your needs. After a while all the names and statistics started to blur, and I eventually realized that it would take me years of traveling to an ever-expanding list of possible cities to make a decision, so I started a less scientific survey of my own.
Looking at a map of the United States, we decided that we didn't want to be west of the Mississippi. This was because we still plan to fly to Europe at least once a year and we don't want to make the flight any longer than we're used to, which is bad enough! Using Louisville as our basis of comparison, we knew we wouldn't want to go further north, even to Indianapolis or Cincinnati, because the winters are more severe...maybe not by much, but still, who needs extra snow and ice?
Although Tennessee sounds appealing, I know for sure that I wouldn't want to go any further south because of the heat and HUMIDITY in the summer. Oh, and the bugs, which never seem to go away when you don't have hard freezes. Atlanta might be a wonderfully diverse, cosmopolitan city, and a great air hub to boot, but it's just way too big. Tampa or some of the smaller cities around that area sounded appealing, but Florida is just growing by leaps and bounds, and I don't see how the state can possibly keep up with the influx of retirees. Jacksonville was another thought, being that it was almost far enough north to perhaps justify a fireplace in the winter, but still, it's Florida. Several cities in North Carolina seem to make the lists, but they always seem to be so far away from everything else, like interstate highways and major airports.
Of course if I could live anywhere in the world, if money were no object, my number one choice would be to live in New York City, right in the heart of Manhattan. Unless I win the lottery though, a really BIG lottery, there's no way I'll ever be able to afford to live in the Big Apple.
We both really liked Boston when we visited friends last spring, but the thought of winters there quickly ruined that idea. I'd love to live someplace on the East Coast....Providence RI, maybe, or even as far south as Richmond VA, but let's face it, on a pension, anywhere on the East Coast just isn't going to give us much bang for our buck.
So, there we were, back to square one. Where should we go? Or should we just go back to where we once belonged? LOUISVILLE has a lot to offer, not the least of which is a reasonable cost of living. It has a good selection of performing arts, a AAA baseball team, college sports, zillions of great restaurants, plus it also has most of our kids and some of our grandkids. We're also familiar with the area. We know that if we miss our exit on the expressway we can easily take the next one and still get to our destination. We know if traffic is bad how to skirt the bottlenecks, and what roads should be avoided and when. We still have a core group of friends in Louisville, and yes, we've all gone in different directions, but certainly I think we could reconnect.
After being a stranger in a strange country, having to learn all those shortcuts and back roads, the idea of living someplace where everything was familiar sounded sort of nice....sort of relaxing. We wouldn't have to work so hard to make friends and figure out where the best grocery store was. We wouldn’t have to figure out how to renew our driver's license or ask directions to the library. We'd still have fun exploring everything that's changed while we've been gone, but at least we'd have a frame of reference. Maybe someone would direct us to a new business by saying it was behind the old Sears building, or where the White Castle used to be....landmarks that we know.
And so for now, that's what we've decided to do. At least it's a start. Nothing's set in stone, and our plans could change. After all, the one thing that living in Italy has taught us is that life takes some unexpected turns, and you just have to be prepared for what might happen next!