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ISO: Home Sweet Home

If We Wanted to Live in a Ghost Town, We'd Just Shack Up Here.

A potential home?  Albeit, located in a ghost town.  Details, details…

Yes, we’re traveling to explore, and camp, and hike, and check out the variety of grocery stores and laundromats that populate our country.  But we’re also traveling to see if we spy a spot that we may one day call home.  As this trip progresses, what we’re looking for becomes more clear to me.  I expected this to happen as we saw more spots and had a better sense of what options are out there.  But I think it’s really happening because I have more time to listen to myself and understand my reactions to a place.  For example, I’ve always known that I’m a cold-weather gal.  I like winter, I dislike really hot and humid summers, and I love snow.  But spending time in the high desert, which is undeniably beautiful, made clear to me just how much I would go crazy living in such a hot and sunny locale.  My mood changed noticeably (for the better) when we traveled away from places in which the blazing sun was rarely filtered by leaves or green or anything really.  Clearly my sensitivities to weather are more pronounced on a trip where our home is nothing more than nylon sheet, but given that my preferred location does not have four walls, this is important information.

This is where you come in.  As we spend more time on the road, we’d love any suggestions from our readers of places that we may want to consider.  If we had to choose a place before traveling, it’s likely we would have wound up somewhere in Vermont or Western Massachusetts.  To clue you in to what we’re looking for, I’ve put together a list of ideal characteristics for our new home (the original list was much longer, but Alan suggested I not bore you all to zzzzzzzz). I’m not naive (at least not all of the time); I know that we won’t find a place that meets all these ideals, but hopefully we’ll find a place that meets some of these and feels like home.

  • Access to the outdoors is out our back door, or at least within biking distance.  Ideally, I’d love to be able to get in a couple of mid-week after work hikes.
  • In close proximity to mountains and water (lakes, rivers, whatever), and with places nearby to hike, bike, cross-country ski, kayak, etc.
  • I do not want to live in the suburbs – I’ve spent much of my life there.  I know that it works for some people, but I always feel like an imposter there and it never feels quite like home.  Cities can be great, vibrant, diverse, beautiful places, but I’m just not a city person.  I’m glad I know this about myself or I might still be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  What I do like are small towns, small cities (Burlington, VT and Bozeman, MT seem like the largest I’d like), or rural areas.  In fact, I love rural areas near small cities or towns.
  • An area that is welcoming to outsiders, or at least a place where it wouldn’t take us ten years to make friends because we didn’t grow up with everyone else.
  • Cultural or intellectual outlets, be they art museums, lecture series, book readings, great classes, or something similar.
  • A DIY ethic where folks put creation above consumption.
  • Snow in the winter.  And by snow, I mean real snow and lots of it.
  • Access to quality locally grown produce and pastured meats and dairy.
  • Quirky.
  • A place where people prioritize time over money and quality over quantity.
  • A place where diversity of thought and opinions are common and embraced.
  • A place that has good educational and recreational opportunities for our son, but not a place that is overrun with uber-competitive families on the quest to raise an Ivy-league grad.
  • Somewhere with a strong sense of place.  I’d prefer to live in a place, even if it is nearby to something bigger or more well-known, that has its own identity and culture and isn’t merely a footnote in the other place’s story.

So, with that modest list of qualities, any suggestions, folks?!?!  Please comment below and let us know if you can think of any places that may fit the bill.  Perhaps it will be the place we wind up calling home.


13 thoughts on “ISO: Home Sweet Home

  1. Hi Stacy!
    I grew up in, and 4 years after Smith, returned to Buffalo, NY. To be honest, my family moved to a suburb of Buffalo when I was in grade school and was thrilled to leave for college. I returned to get a Masters degree at the University of Buffalo, expecting to only stay for those two years… but I never left. When I returned to Western New York, I moved into the city instead of returning to the suburbs, and I could believe how different the two places were, with an only 10 minute drive separating the two.

    The only thing on your list that Buffalo is missing is mountains… but we have water. Lots and lots of water.

    I currently live in the city, in a vibrant, multi-ethnic neighborhood. Within walking distance of my house there is an Italian grocery, an Ethiopian Deli, a Burmese convenience store, a hipster coffee shop, two established butchers, a community garden and The Westside Bazaar:

    I drive 5 minutes to take my dogs to Lake Erie everyday for a swim… if I wanted to drive further, 30 minutes would get us to a county recreation area with hiking and mountain biking in the summer and cross country skiing in the winter.

    Buffalo is filling up fast with lots of re-pats and transplants. Housing is cheap here, in some cases virtually free if you are willing to put in some blood and sweat to return an old victorian to its former glory. The cost of living is pretty low in general, so it is easy to use Buffalo as a jumping off place for lots of traveling.

    The East Side of Buffalo has been emptying for years and there are now a few urban farms that have popped up on the vacant property, selling veggies at the local farmers markets and through CSAs. In fact, I purchased the vacant lot across the street from my house and we now have a pretty large garden, eliminating our need to buy tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and potatoes.

    We have a vibrant arts scene… the Albright-Knox is a well-known contemporary and modern art museum, with the Burchfield-Penney right across the street. Throughout the summer there are outdoor music and dance performances and every weekend there is a festival in some part of the city…

    As far as a sense of place, I have never met anyone that loves their home more then a Buffalonian… maybe its because they (we) have been the butt of so many jokes about the weather… and the sports teams… and everything else, but Buffalonians are warm and friendly, incredibly hospitable and generous… you will feel at home so quickly.

    Lastly… if you need a city fix… Toronto is two hours away… if you need mountains, the Adirondacks are 4 – 6 hours away… The Finger Lakes are 2 – 3 hours away… NYC is 8 hours away.

    Let me know if you ever want to visit! 🙂 We have a place for you to crash!

    Carrie Jacobson ’99

  2. No mountains here, but otherwise, all the things you listed are exactly why I love Madison, WI and environs so much. Esp. the locally grown meat and dairy — I barely eat anything these days that’s not from around here! Even if it’s too un-mountainous for you guys to call it home, you should definitely pay us a visit 🙂

    • We’re definitely hoping to make the upper Midwest part if our travels, just trying to figure it out with the weather and all. If/when we head up your way (and Madison would definitely be on our list), I’ll let you know. It’d be so great to see you!!

  3. As I read your list, Stacey, I couldn’t help but think that our home in the Hudon Valley meets quite a few of your criteria…… certainly near the lakes, river, mountains and hiking trails of Harriman Park and West Point land. Small town flavor with weekly Farmer’s Market but near enuf to NYC for culture etc. The Appalachian Trail practically runs thru our yard !!! (we’ve hosted hikers). Sure would love to have you guys as neighbors. You’ve been here – so I don’t have to tell you about the views … we feel like we’re on vacation every day. The downside …. it IS (sadly) expensive

  4. This may be a little extreme despite your like of cold weather, but Fairbanks, Alaska is a lovely place. You’d have a wide range of out of doors activities through the different seasons. I know they have a great farmers’ markets in the summer, but I don’t know how that translates in the winter. It’s a great DIY place. I don’t know how welcoming they are to outsiders, but I think if you got connected to the right community it wouldn’t take ten years. Obviously I don’t live there, but I think it’s beautiful and has a lot to offer. Good luck finding a place to call home!


    • Cool suggestion! Not headed up that way on this trip, but it’s something to think about. By the way, I’m writing this from Sarah (Cliffy)’s kitchen. We were both talking about how fabulous you are. 🙂

  5. First put Bayfield, Wisconsin on your list to visit. It comes close to everything you asked for. Second put Houghton MI on your list.
    Then if you want a bigger town try Ironwood MI or Marquette, MI.


  6. Check out Oregon ! Has everything on your list except in the west part you would have to drive an hour to snow, but it’s there! In central Oregon you get more snow though! Lots of nice small towns in rural areas an hour outside Portland. My fave is silverton , but McMinnville, hood river, sandy, Dallas, Albany, mt angel (near silverton) sisters (near bend) are all great! Better housing costs n good jobs n very safe area from natural disasters, also it does snow a few times in winter at your doorstep but mostly rain which keeps things cool n green n u won’t find better summers anywhere! Light till 10pm n perfect July August n sept. lots of water near and the beach too

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