We spent the first 58 years of our lives in Pennsylvania, with the exception of two in Virginia. Then we picked up and moved to Colorado. Why? Because we could.
That’s the short answer, Vera. Here’s the longer one.
For starters, it was the first time in our lives we were choosing where to live without regard to a job. We moved to Pittsburgh, Mechanicsburg (Pa.), Philadelphia/West Chester and Bridgewater (Va.) for a job. But this time was going to be different. We were moving to a place we wanted to live simply because of the place. No job was dictating our decision. (I didn’t need one.)
So why Colorado? Principally, because I finally realized that place matters a lot. And once I learned that lesson, we assessed our options against the factors that are important to us: climate, culture and location.
I absolutely love the climate in Colorado. It’s dry. I loathed the Pennsylvania and Virginia humidity. And I can’t image how anyone likes living in the south-east or Gulf regions of the country. It’s true that we’ve applied more skin lotion in our four years in Colorado than we had in our entire previous lives, but that’s O.K. I’ll trade the low humidity for moist skin any day of the week.
I also love the abundant sunshine and warm winter days in Colorado. My “uniform” is shorts and sandals, 12 months a year. There are some days in the winter when I have had to don pants and shoes, but the only time I’ve worn my heavy winter coat in the past four years is when we’ve gone snowshoeing up high in the mountains on a windy day, or visited your uncle in Minneapolis.
It’s not uncommon to be walking or hiking in shorts in January. And cycling year around is doable. Due to the low humidity, sunshine and elevation (a mile closer to the sun), winters aren’t bad at all. I recall one time when I was snowshoeing in short sleeves in Rocky Mountain National Park (9-10,000 feet elevation) on a sunny, calm day, with temps in the high 20s. I don’t fully understand how it’s possible, but it is.
And then there is the matter of culture. Compared to the East and South, it’s more informal and relaxed out west. And outdoor-oriented. People are active. Many people hike or bike. Or hunt or fish. Or climb. Or walk. People don’t hibernate in the winter. It’s simply a healthier lifestyle.
Politically, it’s an unusual mix from a native Easterner’s perspective. We have progressives in Colorado (the main stronghold being Boulder), right-wing evangelicals (the main stronghold being Colorado Springs) and everything in between. A thread of libertarianism runs through the entire state. Hence, we decriminalized the use of marijuana. Most Coloradans simply don’t think the government has any right to tell us how to live our lives when it doesn’t hurt anyone else. I like that (even though I don’t partake).
Finally, there is location. We live at the base of the foothills to the magnificent Rocky Mountains. The opportunities for hiking and cycling are endless.
Plus, we’re within driving distance of many places we like to visit. We can be in Santa Fe or Moab by early afternoon. We’ve taken jaunts to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Idaho, Yellowstone and Great Teton National Parks, South Dakota, Glacier National Park, and Banff and points north in Canada.
And then there are the skies — the most glorious skies I’ve ever seen. This is what we saw when hiking in Boulder.
And standing at nearly 12,000 feet looking west one evening with your great uncle Randy, we saw this sunset.
Colorado isn’t perfect. No place is. We get some weird weather here. And, of course, the state seems to have more than its share of wing-nuts and mass shootings. But no place is perfect. Indeed, nothing in life is perfect. Perfection should never be your objective. Be content with happiness. And with living life to the fullest.
So what are the lessons I’ve learned along the way that might help you, Vera? Here are a few.
First, culture matters. We’re at home in Colorado. The fit is good. It’s not been good everywhere we’ve lived. If I had to live life over, I’d be more attentive to culture and strive to live where the fit is best.
Second, there is no substitute for sunshine and low humidity. Obviously, not everyone agrees — hence, the huge population growth in Portland and Seattle (two great cities) and Houston (that one’s a mystery to me). But if sunshine matters to you (especially in the short days of winter), then try to live someplace where it shines 12 months a year.
Third, strive for optionality. We moved to Colorado because we could. I didn’t need a job, so our residence was not dictated by necessity. I realize that’s a luxury many people don’t have. But I also realize it’s a luxury more people could have if they valued it more. I’ll have more to say about this later because I think it’s one of the most important lessons you can learn (and one of the biggest mistakes you can avoid).
Fourth, place is important. I know what it’s like to live someplace that isn’t right. And what it’s like to live someplace, like the Front Range between Boulder and Fort Collins, where your values and interests are in harmony with your surroundings. We are not solitary beings. Our surroundings influence our actions and thoughts. Place matters a lot. They don’t teach you that in school. They should.
For me, Colorado is near perfect, at least at this point in our lives. Sure, we miss our family and friends back East. And I wish we lived closer to you. But we’ve met some wonderful people here. And we’ve explored and experienced a part of the country that fits our values, lifestyle and climate preferences.
Perhaps more importantly, we’ve experienced new things. For someone like me who gets bored easily, change and newness are important. Staleness and provincialism are suffocating. Life needs to be fresh and exciting. There is so much to see and do. Avoid the ruts.
Why Colorado? Place matters.