I’ve seen a few of these things now, tales of some family that Gets Away From It All. The first I noticed was the Island Chronicles from BoingBoing cofounder Mark Freunfelder and his family. The most recent is A Year in Cornwall with Frank Leahy and his family moving to rural England. It’s interesting to read the two in a row. The geography is totally different but there is a sameness between the blog and the island articles. This might be exacerbated a little by similarity of voice between the four authors from the two couples. One suspects that once this formula is established, they will all read similarly. Some form of techie, not retire-young wealthy from the boom but with a reasonable amount of money and with an established career and reputation, moves from the hustle and bustle of the big city to some remote place. Maybe it is an island, maybe a farming community. This new area is much simpler and slower paced, the customs and cultures are different, which causes some amusing misunderstandings, but at the end of the day everyone learns some important lessons about who they are. In the end, although the technocrat has a longing for the place because it fills a void in their soul, they return to the hustle and bustle but with a greater appreciation for their lives. It could be a movie. Wait, it was – Local Hero with Peter Reigert and Burt Lancaster. Good flick.
I’m reading these and others (haven’t I seen others? Maybe it is only those two but it seems like more) at the same time as I read Po Bronson’s What Should I Do With My Life, and I’m viewing all through a similar filter. Do people really understand what they get themselves into with decisions about place, career and other life-altering matters? Do I? I just made one of these moves with my wife although I traded up sizes of metro areas. On the other hand Evanston itself is fairly sleepy if you never leave its cozy confines. I continue to evaluate my career. I really like what I do in general, but I’ve had specific jobs that left me, uhm, distinctly less than fulfilled in life. Is that a problem with my decision making or just playing the hands I have been dealt?
I currently telecommute, which I enjoy quite a bit. I find that after doing this for a while, getting back into the routine of leaving the house and going to a job every day feels like torture. This really is the way it should be – wake up, be at work in 7 minutes, work till you need a break, then shower and lunch, work a few more hours, nap if you need it, knock off around dinner time. If you can’t let something drop (and you usually should), you can always walk back to the home much easier than you could drive back to the workplace. Assuming that I am successful at this lifestyle and am successful at keeping enough work this way to pay the bills, then the question of where you live becomes moot. Anywhere with broadband is sufficient. This puts burdens on you, by taking away the simplicity of “I’ll live where the job is” and puts it back in your court with “Where do you want to live?” Ideally, if this is a permanent lifestyle you should live in the cheapest place that meets your needs and keeps you happy. I like living in Evanston, but it isn’t a cheap place. Very much the opposite, in fact. We have been thinking about this for the long term, trying to identify places with low cost of living, cheap houses, access to broadband. It needs to be somewhere out of the way enough to be inexpensive, but with enough access to big city amenities that you can see movies or concerts without a huge hassle. There is a balance amongst all these things.
For the areas I’m familiar with, my best shot at answering this question is Crowley, Lousiana. It’s close to Lafayette and around 2 hours from New Orleans and Houston. There is plenty of Cajun culture, lots of stuff to do and ways to amuse oneself. The winters are mild, the summers terrible, but you can drink a lot and cool yourself down with drive through daiquiris. This remains a question to think about, but thus far the best answer I can come up with is this. It’s not a popular one in the household so far, but its my answer.