Forks and Jets

The true story of a couple or amateur foodie travelogues going around the world

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Mile High for Life

July 28, 2010 United States

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It’s hard to look for a home and not dwell for a minute on where we’re coming from. We lived in Los Angeles for almost a decade. Decentralized and sprawling, a megacity cobbled together of diverse neighborhoods. To live in a place like that, to never have want for more options is mind-bending. We shudder to think that a city we never loved could get under the skin so that more humble surroundings seem frightening and subversive.


Jeremy walking the neighbor’s cat, on our old street

Everyone has a personal vision of L.A. fortified by the media and film industry. We’ve all made it through the fourth wall into Venice Beach, Rodeo Drive, or a Hollywood premiere. But as residents, we couldn’t help feeling like we were sharing an inside joke with Angelenos when we saw the local street corner on the small screen. It’s quite a different sight when you’re beyond a certain camera angle. But still, what you’ve seen is all true: the coast, the stars, the traffic and the sunshine are all turned up to eleven. People flock here hoping to achieve their greatest dreams; it’s easy to drink the koolaid and start believing there isn’t a better place in the world to live.


Gospel Brunch at the LA House of Blues


The annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Traveling made us realize how easy it is to live a mobile lifestyle, but almost as importantly, that we want to find a home. Though we’re not prepping the nest to start a family, we are ready to settle into a committed relationship with our community. Seeing such an extensive list of cities has helped us to articulate what exactly we are looking for and much of it revolves around what kind of lifestyle we want to lead.

So off we go to Denver, Colorado. Our first impression: Where was the great body of water? The dense, cooling forests? Are the trees of Colorado stunted from either the elevation or terrain, or the wrath of god? Looking upon the Rockies does recall “great mountains’ majesty,” but good lord do the plains just go on and on forever? Looks like you can take a coastal dweller from the coast, but not the coast from the dweller. At least throw us a surging river, or something… And oh yes, it was also snowing, and it was May 15th.

The city feels safe, and creepily clean. Nothing was too perfect, but just enough sterilization made us feel the lack of chaos and grime we felt at home in. Seems like a weird example of the grass always being greener, but there it was. The walkable center was designed or even manufactured, with a plan and by committee. The outskirts are beginning to be filled in with the grisly attraction of brand new gated communities and tract homes, the promise of a better life with order and precision, but without your soul. We had a Stepford Wives flashback looking at these well groomed lanes peppered with smiling people in their unsoiled city.


Housing Community outside Denver

But then we started to notice a few things. If the weather was even remotely good, the entire populace took to the outdoors running, hiking, bicycling and barbecuing with friends and family. The city planned trails everywhere: along streams through downtown, across footbridges, and straight into the surrounding Rockies. State and National parks beckon from all directions, and stores overflow with outdoor equipment as if they were struggling to keep up with market demand.


REI Flagship in Denver


Red Rocks Ampitheatre

And then there’s the locals, the Denverites (Denverinos?), and they are really friendly. Maybe some people would shrug off this amity as normal, but in big bustling Los Angeles and “liberal” San Francisco, friendly can be the exception. The self interest which seems to fuel a big city was missing, and instead the locals would just walk up and start talking to us. When they asked how our day was going they expected a real response, and would give us one in return. It was a little frightening at first but eventually we warmed to this welcoming attitude.


LoDo, or Downtown Denver


Jeremy at Rockmount Ranch, the birthplace of western wear


Denver’s beloved Tattered Cover Bookstore

Everyone we spoke to boasted that Denver is “growing” and “emerging,” a lot was going on now, compared to a few years before. Because the city isn’t taking time to form naturally, residents are involved in the architecture of their communities. There are a lot of independent businesses — not quite as many as in L.A., but the ratio was higher, somehow there are no where as many chain stores. People were proud of their small local start-ups and basement projects.

Outside of Denver there are other prospective towns for us to be interested in. Boulder is hip, forward and unfortunately so full of itself that people warned us before we even got there. Yes, it is a nice little town with youthful energy from it’s College, nestled beautifully into the crook of the Rockies, but we felt instantly that the people were less friendly. Some of that smugness we were trying to leave behind in Southern California had crept in, and turned us off. It’s a familiar story, our alma mater Santa Cruz suffers in a similar way: as long as we were matriculated we owned the town, but decide to stay on after, and the community turns a conservative cheek.


Boulder Farmer’s Market

In comparison, Fort Collins seemed like a little hippie stronghold, maybe a little small for us, but with pride in its uniqueness. Both towns are within what we from Los Angeles would consider acceptable commuting distance.


And of course there’s all that snow. We took a quick drive out to Breckenridge to get a closer look at the Rockies.

We are not sold on packing up and moving away to the Great Divide yet. But there may be a place for us in Denver. We are used to cities big enough to have everything you can think of, plus a few things you couldn’t even imagine needing. We are the small fish in the big pond, and have never though of a different equation. Smaller cities are still growing, searching for further possibilities, and for us that could mean a chance to try something of our own in a receptive environment, a smaller pond.


Denver has Burlesque! The Clocktower Cabaret has a pretty full schedule.

We could try starting our own business or growing some kind of community based club. The reality is there are a lot of options that haven’t yet surfaced here and the population seems so hungry for more choice. We want pick a community which will make our transition pleasant, a city where we’ll be able to make new friends and connections — Denver residents seem sincerely interested in one another and their community efforts. Could we be received here just as warmly?


Us in early 2009, before our big round-the-world trip!

Criteria for the City of Dreams

Most people decide where they will settle down based on their jobs, and we get asked a lot what we intend to do about work. The truth is, our careers aren’t figuring in very much on our decisions this time. When we moved to Los Angeles, we were moving from college. We thought the big city would be a good starting point for our careers, much like everyone else who came there. Our plan worked, but the city didn’t. With Jeremy’s bank position, we were effectively slipped a pair of golden handcuffs: a great position with a great boss that was very hard to walk away from. Now we want to choose a home based on lifestyle.

We love seeing cities where people seem to be constantly socializing, and are able to connect across diverse circumstances. Eva finds L.A. to be quite ugly, so she wants to find a “beautiful” place, where she might find more inspiration. A progressive place. The idea of seasons sounds intriguing, after a lifetime of spring and summer, but then again… could we handle it? We’d like to be free of daily car use. We are attracted to extensive public transportation networks and walkable communities. Cities that love coming up with excuses to get together, free music in the park. Good food, obviously.

Even the concept of being a big city resident is now up for discussion. Could we be happier in a quainter, less urban environment we sometimes fantasize about? Or are we already too jaded and infected with bigger needs? We’re talking a lot about picking a home just outside a major city center where we can explore removing citified elements, but still be able to run for cover if we need to.


Forks and Jets in the country?


Can we move away from the coast?

It’s a lot to put on a wishlist, but we aren’t shy. People are happy the world over, and soon we’ll also be. The more places we see and lifestyles we sample, the easier it has been to recognize a good thing when we find it, and to see potential in unexpected places. Including places at a high altitude.

Comments

  1. Nidhi says:
    July 28, 2010

    I loved reading this! I have been reconsidering all my notions about LA that I formed over 8 yrs living there. Our recent move to NY has made me realize what you mentioned about LA getting under your skin.
    I was waiting to hear what you thought of all the potential cities you’re exploring. I keep wanting to move back to CA once NY sparks that creative direction I came looking for here. I crave the coast too and the weather but maybe not LA as much!

    Reply

  2. The World Effect says:
    July 28, 2010

    We see you were in our neighborhood (Highlands Square.) Sorry we missed you guys while you’re out here, we hope you enjoyed Denver. We really love it here, although Meggan sure could use a big ocean near by. Great post, thanks for sharing.

    Beau and Meggan

    Reply

  3. Alethea says:
    July 28, 2010

    I, too, love Denver and agree with your comments about Boulder. As you already know, we’re fairly sold on Portland and would love to hear your take on the city as compared to the other places you “tested.” But, for now, we’ll resort to experiencing as much of the world as possible before settling down. Sounds familiar, huh?!

    Reply

  4. patrick morrison, Marketing Manager All About Beer Magazine says:
    July 29, 2010

    Great post guys. Both Nigel and I are very much like you in that we arrived in LA in our early 20s and having recently, well, shit, its been almost 2 years now, left LA for some of the reasons you are toying with.

    After two years here, or away from LA I should say, we’ve come to miss LA immensely. Not LA for LA, but the culture, the food, the people, our friends and the opportunity to get access on personality alone. Strangely, “community” here is more smug, possessive and self-centered than you would ever think. Most of all, here, and I suspect many places like here, have come to think they are more interesting than they really are. Just because its “local” doesnt mean it’s better. At the end of the day, the economy here is not affording us the opportunities to live the life we require. Durham doesnt seem terribly interested in us and we are growing less and less interested in Durham. Unsolicited advice wherever you land, make sure the economy has the capability too support your needs.

    We’re coming back to LA at the end of August with the baby for a surprise birthday for a good friend. Not sure if you kids will be around, but I’d love to have a drink and let you hold the critter. She’s pretty fucking cute.

    Reply

  5. Jessica the hedgehog says:
    July 29, 2010

    Hey there! :)

    We went through some similar thinking when we returned from our 18 month around-the-world trip. Prior to our trip we had lived in Philadelphia for 10 years and, though we loved it so, we thought returning there after the trip would almost be like taking a step back. We worried that we’d just get into the groove we were in before the trip, and we really wanted something different…because, well, we were different after traveling.

    So we headed to Washington, DC. At the time it seemed like a great decision – an exciting city with lots to explore and loads of people from all around the world. But, long story short, it turned out it wasn’t for us. And moving there helped us realize what we did want: to live by the ocean.

    And so 15 months after moving to DC, we packed up our stuff and headed to Cape Cod. And here we’ve been ever since, living in a little converted fishing shack 500 feet from the water. We can hop up to Boston whenever we like (or down to Philly for a weekend). We can explore the coast of Cape Cod. There are several international airports that we can choose from for all our continued travels. And, most importantly for us, we feel connected to the world when we’re here, just standing at the edge of the ocean.

    All of that is a rather long way of saying: After a trip around the world, the first city/village/part of the country you move to has a lot to live up to. And so it’s okay if the first place you choose ends up not being a perfect fit. Just keep listening to your heart and following your instincts, and you’ll find your place in the world in no time. :)

    Reply

  6. Akila says:
    July 30, 2010

    Good luck on your search. We’ll be in the same place in a couple of years, trying to figure out where to live, and “absolutely freakin’ beautiful” is high on the list of qualifications.

    From your criteria, it sounds to me like you should consider Portland. Very walkable, beautiful, people into outdoors, hippie subculture, etc. Seattle is kind of like that but I don’t find Seattle to be that gorgeous. Or, how about San Francisco? It’s one of our favorite cities in the US.

    We prefer smaller to mid-size cities because we think they’re more livable. We loved living in the Raleigh/Durham area and Asheville is one of our all time favorites (and may be where we end up staying.)

    Reply

  7. ayngelina says:
    August 1, 2010

    Wow what an adventure after your big adventure. I have noticed Im reflecting on my life in Toronto quite a bit now that Ive spending time in other major cities.

    Reply

  8. Stacey says:
    October 25, 2010

    Ahhh, this post is so timely for me! My husband and I are also “interviewing” cities as we call it; and this time it’s all about the lifestyle, and not the job! I will keep checking back to hear more from you guys! Incidentally, Denver is in our top 10 also!

    Reply

  9. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World says:
    November 9, 2010

    It’s funny that I’ve stumbled upon this post… We’re planning our own RTW trip, and not sure where we’re going to end up afterward. My husband and I go rock climbing a lot, and naturally thinking of checking out Colorado after our trip ends.

    Boulder, CO actually… Untill I read your post, hahaha….

    Reply

  10. George says:
    December 9, 2010

    Hey, really great blog post… I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog because of the great style and energy.

    I actually work for the CheapOair travel blog. If you’re interested, we would love to have you on as a guest blogger. Please send me an e-mail: gchristodoulou(at)cheapoair(dot)com, and I can give you more information. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Reply

  11. SHarper says:
    March 28, 2011

    Loved this entry because I live in Denver and totally know what you mean. When I moved here three years ago I instantly felt like I was welcome and that this city was mine for the taking – there’s so much to explore and so many hidden gems everywhere. I’ve just barely touched the tip of the iceberg so far.

    Boulder’s an interesting place for sure – the summer is the best time for you to have come though! Everyone is happy, there are street performers everywhere, and the restaurants have you sit outside, etc. It’s really a fun and bustling place to be, but then again, Denver is too. Denver also has a lot more to offer in terms of just number. I like to visit Boulder every so often but Denver is the place to be.

    Reply

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