Why I Want to Move to the U.K.

Why I Want to Move to the U.K.

I often wax poetic about wanting to move to the U.K. and long-time readers of the blog know that I sincerely mean it when I say I want to move there. But, recently, I had a breakthrough in thinking. Last week, Mr.T and I were on a road trip from Dallas to San Antonio with two sleeping 3-year-olds in the back seat. So, we were stuck in a car with time to chat.

Our usual conversation is about where we would move if we left Alaska. Our parents are in the Northwest and we grew up in the suburbs of Seattle and Portland, but we’ve found that when we go back, we’re stressed out by the amount of people and traffic and the bustle that has moved into the suburbs. Living in Anchorage has made us small-time people. We’re now definitely more country or suburbs-of-suburbs type of people. We also would love to live next to siblings, but our siblings are all over (Texas, Nebraska, California) and we’re not in love with any of those locations and we can’t count on them to stay there either.

Alaska’s Downfalls

Alaska is wonderful and we really do love it so much, but we live in a small house. In reality, we may not be able to comfortably stay in this home until the kids graduate. Yes, we absolutely could make it work, but you know I think the journey is important and I won’t want us all to be at eachother’s throats because we’re forcing ourselves to stay in this house when the kids are big (2 teenage girls may not be able to happily share a tiny room with bunk beds). That’s when I get depressed about our future here.

Our home is perfect for us now. We love it. We can see the northern lights from our living room window! Housing in Anchorage is weird. We only have a few areas that would qualify being called “neighborhoods” in the lower 48. The rest of the areas are just splatterings of houses. Nice houses next to trailers. Split-levels (I’m not a huge fan) are king here because the housing boom that followed the pipeline hit in prime split-level building years. Most housing is dated and ugly. The only new constructions are outside Anchorage or in the too-nice or not-so-nice parts of town. And houses are relatively spendy. A dated, ugly split-level (split-levels can be nice, but these are ugly inside and out) in our part of town costs $375,000+.

In summary, if we moved into a larger home, we would be moving from a home I actually LOVE that would be entirely paid off (we’re getting closer!) to a home I don’t like at all with a mortgage.

The Perfect Place to Live (May Not Require a Move to the U.K.)

Our conversation in the car ventured into WHY I wanted to move to the U.K. so much… and this is where the breakthrough occurred. Having recently read Mr. Money Mustache’s The Happy City, I realized THAT’S what I wanted! I could be talked into nearly every village in the U.K. because they are self-contained and walkable/bikeable.

My perfect community:

  • Has shops within walking distance
  • Decent schools within biking distance
  • Small homes are fine because everyone has one and people hang out elsewhere instead of just going to the “cool kid’s” house that is bigger than everyone’s.
  • Trains or public transportation easily accessible to bigger cities (museums, concerts, theatre, etc.)
  • Enough people that everyone doesn’t intimately know each other, but few enough that the community comes together for community events (ie: annual community fair, etc.)
  • Weather that isn’t too hot (we are now Alaskans, after all) or too cold (we live in Anchorage, not Fairbanks).
  • Is a place we can legally live (since we’re U.S. citizens) and put our kids in school without getting a job there.

The places I’m aware of in the U.S. that are heading in this direction are bigger cities that are creating this kind of community for young professionals. Kids are often not included in the plans. Or, they are 55+ communities where kids aren’t even allowed (also, we’re not that old, if you weren’t sure…).

My Vision of the Future Isn’t Clear

Because I can’t think of a place that fulfills my requirements, I’m frustrated. (If you can, CHIME IN! WHERE IS IT?) Our plans are unclear. Again, maybe we can just stay here and all be very happy until the kids leave (in 15 years!), but more likely, we’ll have to move out of this house at some point.

Not being able to visualize the ideal location (and thus concretely visualize our perfect future) makes aiming toward that goal more difficult. Concrete goals provide more motivation.

I don’t have the solution, but the realization of my list of needs (and Mr. T agrees) is a breakthrough. Maybe we don’t need to move to the U.K. to fulfill all my requirements (also, we still can’t figure out how to legally do so, so the U.K. doesn’t actually fulfill all my requirements). And maybe we’ll be able to find the perfect place as time goes on and we get closer to that future.

Can you think of a place that fulfills all of my requirements?

 

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48 Comments

  1. The Green Swan

    We hear ya! We don’t talk about this a ton in our household but it’s definitely in the back of my mind. We’re happy here in Charlotte right now, but it doesn’t meet all of our wants and needs and we may actually want to settle elsewhere eventually.

    At some point we’ll need to get our list put on paper like yourself. I guess that’s step one but we have some time yet too.

    • MaggieBanks

      As someone that preaches living your ideal life as early as possible and realizing my kids are getting too big to stay here has really accelerated this on my mind as of late. We’re here for at least 3 more years (probably 5), but then my oldest will be 14 and it might be time for a change.

  2. Being British (currently living in America but shortly to return to the UK), I’ll just put my two pence worth into the discussion and say that the rural idyll of country living in a nice village in the UK comes with a ridiculous price tag 🙁

    It’s the thing I’m looking forward to least about going back – finding an affordable place to live. Sometimes I wonder why I’m even moving back.

    • MaggieBanks

      I agree with you on pricetag… but I’m open to Scotland or Wales and have found some pretty great places in my spare time. 🙂

    • Connor McLeod

      Living in Scotland I find rural Aberdeenshire, the Morayshire Coast and up to Inverness hard to beat with an affordable price tag. Affordable in England are still places in Yorkshire.
      What all these areas make it worthwhile are the people, the hospitality there is second to none. Take your time, gather information and wait until Brexit is done and dusted as this might play a major roll as to where foreigners can freely move to.
      Until now, foreigners were always welcome in Scotland, it makes us proud if someone choses our country as their home!
      But then – nothing should hold you back.
      20 years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do – Dream, Explore and Discover.
      See you there
      Connor

  3. Beth

    It is my understanding that the New England states are closer to your wishlist. Somewhere like Portland, Maine where they still have cobblestone streets. Bike racks are everywhere and there are many public transit options around town, and a daily train to Boston. Plus, it won’t get crazy hot or crazy cold…but they do have all four seasons, and beautiful fall foliage. Might be worth checking out!

    • Beth is on to something here. We currently live in the midwest, but I’m originally from the U.K. (dual citizenship is the best!) While I was primarily raised in the US, I spent large portions of the summer months back in the homeland.

      My wife and I did a two week road trip through the New England area for our honeymoon. The feeling of the area is about as close to the U.K. as I’ve found in the US. We didn’t spend more than a day or two in any particular city, so I can’t tell you the perfect New England town you’re looking for, but it might be a good place to start your search.

      I’ve also heard Vancouver, Canada has the same feel, but as of yet I haven’t been there. It also has two additional obstacles: it’s very expensive to live in and you’ll have to figure out a way to become a legal resident of Canada. But if you can do that you’d get great health care coverage!

      Good luck in your search!

      • MaggieBanks

        Yes… Canada has a lot of great places, but that’s tricky as well. But it looks like I need to start exploring the east!

    • MaggieBanks

      You probably are onto something. I need to do some exploring in the northeast!

    • Yes, Portland is nice and definitely more affordable than Boston. I also agree that we have a British vibe in some places here in Massachusetts. Definitely check it out. Some towns here aren’t bad price wise, just depends on where you are.

      • MaggieBanks

        I also definitely think new england is super spendy, but I’m betting I could find some smaller gems outside of large metro areas that are pretty decently priced.

  4. Please let me know when you find it! One of most noticeable things about some of the places we’ve visited in SE Asia so far is the intimacy of the neighborhoods. Narrow neighborhood streets are lined with families late into the evenings — reading, socializing, watching TV, cooking on the sidewalks (many of the kitchens are outdoor), etc., all in this semi-public setting. I imagine that everyone knows their neighbors a whole lot better than we would in a typical suburban development. Walkability is a really important criterion for me — not just because of the convenience but also because of the social nature of a neighborhood that it represents.

    • MaggieBanks

      You know our love for Cambodia. And it would be awesome to move there… but the kids’ schooling is the hesitation. The international school costs a small fortune and I really would prefer not to homeschool.

  5. slowlysippingcoffee

    We have that same issue. Our list is different but similar and at least as detailed and picky, lol. Our current plan is staying in Texas, but literally 20 minutes after that post was published I got 4 different houses in CO from Prof SSC saying, maybe we stick to the original plan and I find a different something to do when we move…. Like i said in that post our version 3 is really like version 12 or more I just don’t post all the changes,lol.

    I liked Burlington, Vermont when we visited there years ago. It could meet a lot of your requirements, and since it’s also a college town you have access to more cool stuff the school puts on, music, plays, etc… I agree with Beth, NE sounds up your alley with weather and a lot of your other wants. Good luck, we haven’t figured it out either. 😆

    • MaggieBanks

      I love it! We’re always changing our plans as well. But we never have had a concrete place. Still don’t. Sounds like we need to start exploring suburbs in New England!

      • Let me know if you need information. I’m just outside of Boston.

        • MaggieBanks

          Sounds good. Boston seems too big (though I do love the vibe there). We’ll just have to do some exploring.

      • I forgot to mention that we use http://www.city-data.com/ a LOT to scout out potential places. It shows you weather, demographics, median incomes, crime, air quality, housing costs, all sorts of things in one site. And they usually even ahve a lot of the smaller towns too, since we’ve been mostly looking at smaller towns. Good luck! It’s another time suck research site to get down lots of rabbit holes with, lol.

        That being said, it’s great for scouting, especially from a weather standpoint. enter your current city, grab a screenshot of that weather profile and then start comparing any other city you are interested in. 🙂

        • MaggieBanks

          I totally spent a great portion of yesterday exploring all different parts of the U.S. on satellite view on Google earth and looking up weather data. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. fetchingfinancialfreedom

    Oh man do I hear you about temperature/weather. All of the “best places to live” seem to discount coldish places, while including places like Florida o.O. Don’t get me wrong, Florida is fine in the winter, but….(& Florida tends not to be so walkable).

    My favorite tools are Walkscore and The Earth Awaits for searching for cities/towns. 😊 We have some short listed but haven’t visited any yet.

    • MaggieBanks

      I know The Earth Awaits… I’ll have to start looking at the east coast on Walkscore! Thanks for the tip.

  7. Matt @ Optimize Your Life

    My wife and I recently had a similar conversation on what we want out of a place to live. Our current location has a lot of the things on your list (very walkable – schools, shops, restaurants – easy subway access into the city, well-balanced weather). But the cost of living is very high and the pace of life is fast. It’s very difficult to find the best place to live when moving across large distances is such a huge ordeal, as we can’t just keep moving every few months until we find the best fit.

    • MaggieBanks

      #truth. I honestly still wish we could figure out a way to legally move to the U.K. and try it out. It would be worth the experience. Doing the same in the U.S. would just be a hassle if it doesn’t end up being what we want.

  8. I feel your pain. I have these boxes I’d like to tick too and it’s not LA…but I have no idea where it might be. It’s funny because the town I live in in LA I love. I can walk or bike to work, shops, restaurants, etc., and the weather is unbeatable. But holy shitballs is it expensive, AND I hate driving around LA in general so I’d like a place I could explore more without dealing with so much traffic and urban-ness. I don’t think I could do the NE personally because I grew up in Michigan and I don’t do humidity anymore. lol!

    • MaggieBanks

      I actually prefer a bit of humidity over a dry heat, but basically any heat over 80 and I’m out! 🙂

  9. I love this topic!

    I don’t think my perfect city exists, sadly. I want lots of nature, good public transport, decent COL, a job I love, close to friends and family, close to water, huge range of cuisines, warm but not hot weather, mild winters … but my husband hates the heat and would be happy to live in Antarctica, seriously. Blogged a bit about this here: http://nzmuse.com/2013/12/tradeoffs-make-living-nz/

    I really liked Toronto actually, and I loooove NYC (but couldn’t live there long term). But I couldn’t live anywhere with colder winters than Auckland, which rules out many many places.

    • MaggieBanks

      Too many people for me in most of those cities. And we definitely have to count out “close to family” because they’re all over. But I agree. The perfect place is tough to find!

  10. Christine

    I am a Canadian that lives in Ontario and I agree that the east coast (Nova Scotia preferred) is the place to be. If I had to move to the states I think I would choose Vermont.

    • MaggieBanks

      I was actually born in Vermont, but didn’t spend long enough there to remember it…

  11. Caren

    Can you legally live in the UK? It’s so expensive there, so I think that takes you out of the running if you want to live in a home that’s less than the equivalent of $375 USD. it also rains. A lot.

    Plus in a previous conversation that we had, you said you loved the outdoors (hiking etc) that alaska provides. The UK is less of an “outdoors” culture from my experience.

    I often ponder the same thing, living in silicon valley, it’s SO expensive here, so I dream of going somewhere where I can buy a nice comfortable home for under 300K. But the salaries here are too good to pass up while the job market is hot, so we’re sucking it up.

    If I were you, I’d explore up and coming cities where you can still buy an affordable home with good school systems and the outdoor stuff you want. Try Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Oregon?

    • MaggieBanks

      Scotland is not as expensive. Our plan is to try a summer there in 2020 and then if we can’t figure out how ot move there, we’ll come home and find something stateside (or if we end up hating it).

      • Mike Earl

        I’m enjoying this discussion; I’m a new reader to your blog. Excellent content here.

        Aberdeen does look idyllic. I took a few minutes to look at several homes in the surrounding countryside. It looks like the sub-$300K USD is attainable.

        But, as Caren said, the weather would give me pause. It is quite cool in the summer (average temps peak at 57 F in July), with 20+ days of rain every month of the year. Winters are quite mild, at least relative to my home here in MN.

        For comparison, Seattle peaks out with 19 days of rainfall per month in the winter, but just 5-10 days of rainfall through the summer months. Average high temps in summer months in Seattle are low 70s. So you’re looking at 15+ degrees cooler with nearly double the rainfall days in Scotland vs. Seattle.

        (this may not be news to anyone reading here, but thought I would share my elementary findings)

        • MaggieBanks

          This is some great research! I just compared Anchorage to Dundee, Scotland and the weather is warmer in the winter, but cooler in the summer and they get more rain than snow. The problem is still finding a legal way to move…

  12. Hi Maggie! Sorry, but I don’t have an answer for you. Mr. Smith and I haven’t traveled very much, so (for better or worse) we’re content staying in the geographical area where we both grew up. As our family grows, we will need to move to a bigger house, but it will most likely be well within an hour of driving from our current home.

    I do understand the need to change things up once and a while – and that’s why flexible plans are the best ones.

  13. I actually just had this conversation with my father in law about my sister in law. In her case she can’t afford to move due to an underwater home. The discussion quickly shifted to can you build an extra room in the garage, basement or attic. Could you expand out. It depends on if it’s the size of the house or the location driving you, but it’s something to consider.

    • MaggieBanks

      We have looked at that option as well… but since we live in a pretty strict HOA in a neighborhood where all teh houses look identical, an addition is out of the question.

  14. We are looking for exactly the same thing! I realized that I really liked the small village format (with the caveat that many bad days I prefer the suburban / urban format where I am anonymous and don’t need to present a civil and friendly face) for raising a family and being a whole person because of friends in the U.K.!

    But we’re not willing to leave the country, I don’t think. I would never see my family again if I did. They don’t have international travel money, nor could I continue to support dad’s basic life expenses if we were ex-pats.

    I’ll keep thinking. Maybe we need to form our own place that’s got those qualities.

    • MaggieBanks

      If we could figure out how to do it legally, I am serious that we would stat packing immediately.

  15. It doesn’t fit your requirement of being close to a big city (although it’s 3 hrs from Seattle by plane), but Sitka completely hits it out of the park with the rest of those requirements 🙂 Not so much U.K., but you wouldn’t have to give up your XtraTuffs.

    • MaggieBanks

      Ha ha ha. Good suggestion… though that does feel super isolated. I could do small if we were close to a big city by car.

  16. LeighInCT

    We live in New England. You might try looking into Brattleboro, VT, Keene, NH or Mystic, CT. Good luck!

    • MaggieBanks

      Specific suggestions?! I’ll definitely look them up! Thanks!

  17. I have struggled with this myself. I think there are pockets in lots of places. I LOVED my neighborhood in Los Angeles. It was expensive, but I could walk everywhere (except work) and there were shops and activities that I loved. I find that I gravitate toward a particular type of neighborhood, wherever I’ve lived. It’s highly walkable, architecturally diverse, economically diverse, and incorporated into nature (built among hills, ravines, high tree count etc.) My current neighborhood doesn’t quite fit, but the one I left when I bought the house certainly did. People caught on, though, and there’s been really high turnover there in the last year.

    I was reminded of this article: https://emagazine.com/new-lessons-from-the-old-world/

    I read it when I was living in LA and was preparing to move back to Ohio. It made me realize how much my hometown was very much the model for what I gravitated toward. It’s not like that NOW, but when I was growing up there, it was very much what I described.

    Anyway, I know lots of pockets in lots of cities. Little art towns might count, too.

    • MaggieBanks

      Great article. And there’s definitely a tide that’s turning. But it’s mostly in downtown areas for young professionals and not yet extending to families with kids. Anchorage is wonderful in a lot of ways. The bike paths are amazing. The culture is fab. The housing is terrible.

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