It finally happened. After 11 years in the Northwest, I moved out of Washington State to Austin, Texas. It’s still surreal to say those words out loud even after being here for a few weeks already.
On Tuesday, November 14, my husband and I were two of the 50 new people (and our fur child Zoki) who relocate to Austin every day. That might not sound like a lot compared to cities like Atlanta or Nashville, but it is significant for a smaller town like Austin.
A popular travel destination for many, yet not quite big enough to live for some, Austin has maintained its happening reputation while staying relatively uncrowded. Lately, things have been changing and the city is experiencing a resurgence similar to the tech boom of the 90s. People are flocking to Austin like birds escaping harsh Northern winters in search of a life they won’t need a vacation from. Yes, summers are hot. But when the “worst weather” of the year is around three months of 90+ degree days, I’ll take it. Being a native Southern Californian, I’m happy to get back to my beloved warm weather and endless sunshine.
So, how did we settle on Austin as the best city for us? To be perfectly honest, I never in my life imagined I would live in Texas. It’s really been a great lesson in, “Never say never.” You could say the stars aligned and led us to this exciting town.
At the beginning of our relationship, my husband would talk about having lived in Austin and gone to school at the University of Texas. He had fond memories of the town and never thought he would leave. That is, until the job market changed, and the once booming downtown seemed to lose its momentum. Fast-forward 15 years, the two of us were dating and my job at the time gave me the opportunity to attend South by Southwest (SXSW) in 2013. It was an exciting time to be able to go on this work trip and have my boyfriend come along to show me the place he once called home.
Going into the trip, I had high expectations for what Austin would be like because my husband seemed to like it so much. You know how things go when you imagine something that you’ve never seen before, it can be very easy to let your imagination make it bigger and better than reality. Visiting a new town when it’s overrun with people and activities that are specific to such a big event, like SXSW, can completely change the vibe from what it’s usually like. Between being busy with event sessions and sightseeing with my husband, the trip was a whirlwind of activities that left me feeling like I didn’t get to experience the “real” Austin. The downtown seemed like it was stuck in the 90s and we both left feeling like Seattle/Bellevue had more going on than Austin.
It’s funny how our brains work. I think our assessment of Austin was what we needed at that specific time because our lives were not ready for such a big move. We weren’t married yet, I was still in the beginning stages of my career, and we were still figuring out our lives together as a couple.
After working in a new job for three years, living in a new apartment for four, finishing my master’s degree and making countless trips to SoCal, we decided it was time for another visit to Austin in the spring of 2017. This time, we were going just for fun to see our favorite band – The XX – play at Moody Theater where ACL Live is filmed. I happened to see their tour dates online and saw they were playing a show in Austin at the beginning of May. The idea to come down for the concert and experience Austin again, except this time stay at a nice hotel downtown and not be working most of the time, sounded like a great adventure. We booked our trip for May 10-14, and that’s when my research started!
Anytime we travel, especially somewhere new, I always have fun looking up restaurants and local attractions to explore while in town. I also love to look at Zillow and browse real estate to see what houses and condos look like, and how they compare to what’s around where I’m currently living. The more I discovered and read, the more I became excited about the city of Austin. All of a sudden, it was like a lightbulb went off and I thought, “Wow, we could live here and be really happy with everything.”
What first struck me about Austin was the amount of new development around the city and surrounding neighborhoods. There were a lot of new homes being built, old ones getting remodeled, and I started to see firsthand that you get more for your money in Texas. When thinking about our future and settling into buying a home someday, it started to sink in that buying something new in a neighborhood we liked in Seattle would cost close to, if not over, a million dollars. Nowadays, that has become the norm in the greater Seattle area, but it wasn’t something we were interested in tying ourselves to. The Texas state capitol began to reveal itself as an unexpected oasis with music, art, culture, food, progressive values, friendly people, in-demand jobs, and abundant sunshine amongst the rolling greenery of the Texas hill country.
After back-to-back trips to Huntington Beach and Austin, it was time to do some serious evaluating. I was all excited about Austin now, but what about Orange County? For a long time, I imagined we would move back to the O.C. where we could live close to the beach since we both enjoy the ocean so much. The other big factor was being closer to my family and childhood friends.
Between a few trips down to Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and Austin (once in May and again for July 4th), it was time to determine which place we could see ourselves putting down some roots. During these trips, we made a point to take in the lifestyle and imagine what it would be like as residents and not just vacationers. Here is the criteria we evaluated on:
- Affordability – Could we find a place to live that was as nice as our current apartment without having to spend a lot more on rent? Is there a good real estate market with nice homes or fixer uppers that are affordable?
- Activities – What kinds of outdoor activities are there for us to do as a couple and with our small dog? Are these activities something we could/would do on a regular basis?
- Friendliness – Are the people friendly? Would it be easy to meet people and make new friends?
- Urban living – Is there a good option for urban-style living (walking distance to restaurants, shopping, gym, events, parks, etc.)?
- Weather – Are there more sunny days on average throughout the year? Would the weather offer more opportunities for an outdoor lifestyle?
- Culture – How do our values match with the overall population? Is the town more liberal or conservative?
- Jobs – Is there a good job market for my skill set? Are there companies that I would enjoy working at?
- Lifestyle – Would living here provide the kind of lifestyle that we would be less likely to need a break from? AKA go on vacation to relax and enjoy warm weather.
It seems like a lot to live up to, huh? But, I think if you’re going to make a big life change, you’ve got to get specific about things and ask yourself what will make you truly happy? After seriously considering both places, it surprised my husband and me to both say that we felt less of a connection with the O.C. and more of a connection now with Austin. Like I said, I never in my life thought I would want to live in Texas coming from a SoCal lifestyle and living in the uber liberal greater Seattle area. But, as life sometimes goes, a curveball was thrown our way when Austin resurfaced in our lives in the spring of 2017.
So, that is how we chose Austin. A town that was once meaningful to my husband had inspired me to explore the possibilities of us moving our lives down south to Texas. It feels like everything happened so fast now that we’re here, but the truth is that it was in the making for the past four years, even when we didn’t realize it. Austinites love their home and are proud to live in a unique town with so much personality and history. What was once just a quirky small town with arguably the best music scene in the country, is now facing the bittersweet reality of growing into a metropolitan city while holding onto its “Keep Austin Weird” roots. However it goes, I’m excited to be a part of it now and for many years to come.
Have questions about Austin or the moving process? Leave a comment or send me an email. Look out for more blog posts on how we chose our apartment building, where you can find the best breakfast tacos, coffee, and more in Austin!