It is a common pastime in the San Francisco Bay Area to try to figure out where else we could possibly move to and be happy. The reasons for leaving are many, but most boil down to the extraordinarily high cost of housing and the (somewhat related) frenetic pace of life. We also have so many good reasons to stay—friends, the perfect climate, endless and varied natural beauty, cultural happenings, tolerance, and diverse languages and cultures. It is a place that is hard to match in so many ways.
Moving to a whole new city is a huge project. At least it certainly is for me; some people seem to move about the country, and even to other countries, with ease. When I moved to the Bay Area from Colorado, it was an exhausting undertaking.
I moved to the Bay Area in 1998, and it took a long time but eventually I did adjust to being surrounded by 7 million people, the complex web of freeways, how you have to plan driving trips around rush hour traffic, and I learned the locations of most of the 100 cities in the immediate Bay Area (I am not exaggerating—I just counted them!) My staying power was really due to my wife, who I met just before moving and married just as soon as same-sex marriage was legalized. She was San Francisco born-and-raised and she showed me the secrets of her hometown and region and I came to love it as much as she did.
As each friend departed the area over the past many years, we were always curious to get the scoop on how they decided on their new location. Everyone has their own priorities. Obviously family and job most often are primary considerations, and the pressure in the Bay Area is to get to someplace more affordable, especially if you want to either raise children or retire.
For me, friends and community are the most important priorities, having lost my wife to cancer during the worst part of the pandemic. I very much wondered whether I could find close friends in a new place where I would start out knowing no one. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of cohousing and thought it might hold some answers. Like magic, my very first conversations with Cindy at Cohousing ABQ made me realize that I could easily find friends among this group of like-minded folks.
This left me with the question of whether I would like Albuquerque (ABQ) itself. It’s not a city that was ever seriously on my radar, though I visited it briefly in college and had vague good feelings for it. I asked a dear friend in Denver who has similar tastes in so many things, and who knows Albuquerque well and she raved about its many virtues. I like the climate of the high desert, in the Bay Area I do miss having four seasons (without desperate extremes or too much snow shoveling), and I need a lot of sunlight—check, check, and check. I prefer college towns for the cultural resources they provide, and it turns out that ABQ has quite a nice university. I had some crazy vision of having bike trails everywhere and…surprise! ABQ has that. I am so looking forward to biking directly from home to do errands or to just stretch my legs. I had some concern about whether it would be safe and welcoming, and turns out that there is a significant and visible LBGTQ community. There is quite a lot of cultural diversity too, which surprised me given that ABQ is not all that big. I do want a city that welcomes diverse people, it is just a more interesting place to be.
So off I went on a weekend visit. Three days is not very long to scope out a future hometown, but it felt very right almost immediately. I loved Old Town, the comfortable and excellent restaurants, the easy pace of people, the adobe buildings in all the neighborhoods, the Rio Grande running through the middle of the city. One thing I had started envisioning while looking for a house in Denver was a Ponderosa pine tree in the yard. I miss Ponderosa pine. And then on my last day, I found the terrific hiking trails on the slopes of Sandia Mountain, close to town. There are in fact Ponderosa pine (and other pine, but I do have a special fondness for Ponderosa), Douglas fir, and aspen! I do love hiking in the desert also. I’m a nature gal, and New Mexico has scads of beautiful nature, and outstanding stargazing. I do miss seeing the stars!
To top it off, friends in San Francisco told me that a lot of non-traditional San Francisco artists have been fleeing to Santa Fe for years, which is quite close enough for frequent excursions. Though there seem to be a ton of art and artists everywhere in ABQ as well.
Finding a well-planned cohousing community with people who have similar values, and are funny and smart is wonderful. Finding such a community in a city that I know I will feel at home in is even more amazing. I am looking forward to this new adventure. All thoughts of moving being hard have suddenly become distant background!