Don't get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed living in Indiana these past 12+ years, and in some respects I don't feel I'm leaving of my own volition. All other things being equal, I would be content to live out the rest of my days in Indiana. But all other things are NOT equal.
The cost of living, and the cost of acquiring certain things that I consider essential to a healthy and active lifestyle, is simply too high in Indiana. The cost of fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which are not produced in Indiana, is astonishingly high. The cost of heating my home in winter is growing unaffordable. Even though I love having four real seasons, I cannot afford living somewhere the furnace must be on five months out of the year! So my next stop will be somewhere with a more temperate climate, and hopefully somewhere that I can reduce my living costs and improve the quality of my diet by growing some of my own fruits and vegetables -- without drenching them in chemicals or altering their DNA!
That one consideration alone narrowed my search to what is essentially America's "Sun Belt" states: California, Arizona, southern Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. However, I included parts of southern Utah, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Carolina in my research, as well. Another consideration was frequent weather extremes, like hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, or flooding. This eliminated most of Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and the Gulf Coast. As soon as I factored in the cost of housing (including insurance, property taxes, and utilities costs) the scope of my search was narrowed to just EIGHT feasible states: Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
Next I focused on cities and towns. My primary considerations were:
- Not more than two hours from a major airport to facilitate visits with my family
- Population to sustain a dojo (at least 100,000 within 25 mile radius)
- Cost and availability of housing and utilities
- Local cost of living factors
- Temperate climate
So, please stay tuned for the next part in this series, "House Hunting 2013" in which I will start reviewing the pros and cons of each possible location and invite your suggestions on which to choose.