For many people last year – 2020 – was “the year”. For some of you this new year may be the year. The year to follow your dreams, as I did five years ago, into the mountains.
My dreams and desires were derived from a romantic vision I had as a very young man seeking a slower and more intimate community. I only knew suburbia having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area in a town called San Bruno. My family lived a modest yet privileged life reminiscent of the iconic television show from the late 50’s and early 60’s called “Leave It To Beaver”. After moving out of my parents house at 20, I lived in a number of towns on the SF Peninsula and eventually married.
My wife Holly and I embraced west bay suburbia. We sent our children to a catholic school in Burlingame, became involved in the community, and we were very happy. My parents always owned their homes and I wanted to be a home owner too. But Holly and I would have never been able to afford a home in the west bay; especially in the eighties. The combination of home prices and little capital for a down payment combined with interest rates still close to 10% in the early 90’s made it prohibitive for us. But affordability of homes in the outer east bay in the early 90’s was part of the reason we eventually made the move to Livermore. We scraped every dollar together we had – including our children’s small savings accounts – got a small loan from my mom and we were able to come up with a 20% down payment on a a home for $210,000 on the eastern edge of Livermore. Compared to the west bay it felt like we had moved out to the country. There were open fields all around our neighborhood. during warm nights when the windows were open the smell of wet grasses drifting through the bedroom and sounds of mooing cows could often be heard. We lived a mostly blessed and blissful life raising our children, seeing them go on to college, and eventually moving out on their own. The circle continued…
Life often causes dreams to be put on hold. As it turned out Livermore was a blessing but just an extended hold over to eventually achieving my vision of living in the Mountains. 25 years after scraping together enough money to buy our first home Holly and I made a life style choice to leave the Bay Area and move to a small town in Tuolumne County. For me it fulfilled that romantic vision I had as a young man. For Holly and I as a married couple it’s underscored that when we are on the same page we can do just about anything. We packed up 25 years of suburbia, got out of “Dodge”, “headed for the hills”, and we’ve never looked back!
The ongoing pandemic has caused many people to reevaluate their life styles and priorities. If there could be anything positive out of an otherwise tragic health crisis it may be that the professional paradigm expanded for many people. The collective “we” are learning that there are better ways to combine work and personal needs than having a gym located in your office building or free lunches and snacks to keep workers in the office longer. We’re learning that we can be as productive, or even more productive, when we are close to home in more enriching and nurturing environments. We’re working through the challenges of adequate space for home offices, surprises from small children photo bombing Zoom meetings, and leaf blowers leaking into conference calls. The trade offs are worth it. At the end of the day instead of walking through a parking lot to our cars and onto a stressful hour plus commute home we’re able instead to spend that time on “me” and spend more times with our families. Some of us have even found time to get back to long neglected projects and hobbies. The manner in which we work and live in harmony has created better quality of life!
More and more people – married couples, young families, retired or soon to be retiring folks – are realizing that there are alternatives to the cities and suburban jungles. Silicon Valley professionals are no longer locked into office suites and boardrooms. Service industry representatives are providing remote services as well from home offices as from crowded cubicles. And software engineers and social media developers are leveraging technology that enables them to work from any where they wish to work from. These same people are also realizing that now may be the time to “cash out” of Suburbia. Take the money and run…. to the hills. The contrast of home prices in places like San Francisco (west bay), San Jose (south bay), and Pleasanton (east bay) are striking compared to more rural areas like Tuolumne County where $500,000 goes as far as 1.5 million dollars and more in the afore mentioned areas.
So will 2021 be the year you make the move? Whether its to follow your dreams, cash out, or just get out of Dodge. Will this be the year you make a bold life style choice and head to the hills?