Moving from Colorado Springs to Portland, Oregon - a year later - was it worth it?
I promised myself that after living in Portland, Oregon for a year that I would reflect back on my decision to move here and evaluate the pros and cons of doing so. I'm sure that 95% of you might find this blog post a little boring, but for me, it is an opportunity to look inward and to focus on the future in my life and career. I also think it might be helpful for anyone else looking to make a huge change - whether it be a move to a new city or something else - may this post offer perspective and help you on your journey... or you can just look at the pretty pictures.
Disenchantment with the status quo in Colorado Springs
Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs I am a 5th generation native to Colorado Springs, a city within a short drive of some of my all-time favorite things to do - camping, mountain climbing, snowboarding, backpacking, hiking - an absolute perfect place to be a landscape photographer. Having lived there most of my life (my whole life except my 4-years of college spent in Grand Junction, Colorado), I had some deep roots there - I was on two non-profit boards, I had an amazing set of extraordinary friends, and both my parents were close-by - a truly wonderful commodity indeed. I had grown a nice following for my photography business as well, and even made a name for myself in the Colorado mountaineering circles for the work on my other website. Unfortunately, all of these positive factors could not compensate for how we were starting to feel. My wife and I had grown more and more disenchanted with the state of our city and its lack of progress towards being a more vibrant city that is able to attract and retain young professionals. We served on non-profit committees and leadership groups aimed towards improving these issues, but the needle barely moved. In fact, I had grown so frustrated with living there, that I wrote a letter to city council and posted it on Facebook. Lastly, the divide between our political beliefs and those of the general population that lived there had grown to a point where I could barely stand it any longer.
The Siren Call of Portland, Oregon
Rewind back to December, 2013. My wife and I had returned from an incredible Thanksgiving holiday where we spent a week exploring the city of Portland, Oregon. We had stayed at great VRBO rental in the Alberta Arts District of Portland, just a couple minutes walk from shops, vegan restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries, and more. Everything we had dreamed of living within walking distance to was right there, easily accessible, with lots of quirky attitude. You see, my wife is a vegan and my son and I are a vegetarians - a lifestyle not easily accomplished in every city in America, especially not Colorado Springs, where most restaurants don't even know what vegan means.
In Portland, everywhere we went the people were incredibly friendly and the opportunities for exploration and adventure seemed endless to us. To top it all off, everything was green and alive! The weather was much warmer and the rain did not bother us.
On our plane trip back to Colorado, we could not help but notice the vast sprawl of Colorado Springs and the ugly brown land below as we approached the runway. It was somewhat of an epiphany for us - Portland was just better.
The hard decision to move
Let me start off by saying that this was not an easy decision to make, not at all. My wife and I are hardly the type to just do things on a whim, we are both planners at our cores. We had no plans to move away and had never really even considered it before; however, before I knew it, we had already ordered a Portland relocation book and started researching neighborhoods heavily. We had long talks about the pros and cons of moving away from Colorado Springs, about what it would take to pull it off, and what scenarios would be acceptable to make the move become a reality. We crunched numbers. We built spreadsheets. We researched. We talked with friends. We thought about it night and day. Luckily, our house we owned was already for sale, as we were hoping to upgrade to a better home in a better neighborhood, so that was already set in motion.
1. If I could find a job making roughly the same amount of money, and,
2. If my wife could keep her current job and work from home via Portland
So the search was on. I applied for two jobs in total, one that was at another Community Health Center similar to the one I was working at in Colorado Springs, and one that I still have today. I interviewed and got the job by the end of December, much to our disbelief. We had no idea it would happen so quickly. Angela confirmed she could work remotely and the decision was done. We even were able to secure a buyer for our house in the nick of time, thanks to our awesome realtor and amazing friend, Jariah Walker. We announced our decision to friends and family and were met with both excitement and disappointment - especially from my parents. They were understandably upset that we were leaving, but it was something we just had to do. The idea of moving to Portland had me absolutely elated for weeks and weeks. The search for an apartment began and again, I lucked out - finding an awesome loft in the Belmont District, surrounded by shops, restaurants, bars, and more - all within biking distance to my new job downtown.
Was the grass really greener on the other side?
Punchbowl FallsMy summer take on Punchbowl Falls - nothing special here in my opinion, but I do like the scale of this shot, which is two horizontal photos stacked together and blended. I love how the water looks like it is pouring into a midnight blue pond of emptyness...
Quite simply - YES.
Portland, Oregon is truly a wonderful place to live if you have the means to do so and can find employment to sustain the lifestyle that makes it a great place to be.
I literally live on top of a grocery store that has over 500 beers for sale - probably more than any liquor store in Colorado Springs. I can walk or ride my bike to world class taprooms, some of the country's best, including Apex and Belmont Station. There are over 50 breweries in Portland and many others across Oregon. I've still not even visited them all after a year of living here.
I drive my car no more than 10 miles a week unless I'm travelling to the coast (did I mention the Oregon Coast is an hours drive from Portland) or the Columbia River Gorge. I can ride my bike to work every day, even in the winter if I choose to - a lifestyle that both supports improved health and reduced carbon emission. To top it off, there's actually good public transportation here - including a very robust bus system (with some critics that find it difficult to use on the outskirts of town), and a fabulous light-rail train.
My wife and I also no longer worry about eating out or finding food that we can eat - there are dozens upon dozens of restaurants here that cater to the meat-free lifestyle as well, and most normal restaurants have lots of meat-free options on their menus. Just within a block of my apartment exists over 10 awesome restaurants, and about 30-40 more within 10 blocks. I've not tried half of them yet. I'm also sure you've heard about the food carts - there are a ton of food cart pods around town, clustered together like outdoor mini food malls with huge variety and flavors. Near my office downtown, there are probably 100 food carts for me to choose from during lunch. It is quite insane.
The Pacific Northwest is arguably one of the best places to live if you're a landscape photographer. The subject matter is diverse and plentiful. There are coasts, beaches, waterfalls, rainforests, mountains, cities, deserts and more. My only two complaints here are that there are not more mountains in Oregon to see and the rain does interfere with your plans quite a bit.
Portland really is one of the most liberal places I've ever been. Most people I've met are even more liberal, on average, than me. It is quite refreshing to not be on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum than everyone around me where I live. To make matters more interesting, I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Keep Portland Weird"? It is no joke - this place is a riot. I've seen some strange things while living here, and it makes life all that more rich, including public nudity, a naked bike ride with thousands of people, a unicyclist wearing a darth vader mask that blows fire out of a bagpipe, and much much more.
So, I've spent some time here touting all of the wonderful things about Portland, and there are many; however, I think it is also good for me to highlight some of things I miss about Colorado and some of the things that irk me about Portland, in case anyone is still reading.
1. I really, really miss the Colorado mountains.
They are just a part of who I am, and those mountains run deep. I even went as far as to get a tattoo of my favorite Colorado mountain (Vestal Peak) on my arm to remind myself of that part of me every single day (not sure if that was such a good decision since it serves the purpose of making me homesick every time I look in the mirror). I've made it a point to go back to Colorado to continue working towards my goal of climbing the highest 100 mountains there (I'm at 84 in case you're wondering).
2. Making new friends.
This has been one of the hardest parts of the move. I've found that in general, Portlanders are a cliquey group, with some exceptions of course. It has been tough making really meaningful connections, with the exception of a few people. Also, the school our son goes to has an overwhelming amount of parents that don't quite seem to be the same types of people as us (not worse, just different). It kind of reminds me of that Portlandia episode... or perhaps we have just not been very approachable ourselves, hard to say.
3. Cost of living.
So, we knew it would be tough, but is really a lot tougher than I thought. Portland just made the list of the 10 least affordable cities in the country. The home prices here are absolutely absurd. There's a $410,000 condo down the street that has zero appeal, and I bet it will sell in a matter of days. The market is just crazy. Our rent keeps going up. Food is expensive. But we manage. It's worth it. Will we ever own a home? I can't say for certain, but I sure do love it here.
One of the most difficult parts of leaving Colorado was leaving my mom and dad behind. As an only child, I have a wonderful relationship with my parents and hope to keep it that way for the rest of our lives. I'm sure that they miss my wife and son a great deal as well (probably more than they miss me, hah), and of course, having a babysitter 15 minutes away was a huge help!
5. That "homeless problem."
So, I actually have nothing against homeless people - in fact, I work for an organization that assists clinics that serve this population on a daily basis. I used to be on the board of directors for a youth homeless shelter. I want to help. Here's the deal, the problem in Portland is pretty extreme. We don't just have your "run of the mill" homeless folks - the mentally-ill, the disenfranchised veterans, the kids on hard times. We have migratory homeless, affectionately referred to here as "road warriors" that steal bikes and set-up bike chop shops. It is a fascinating and troublesome conundrum obfuscated by a myriad of factors. In fact, the local paper is doing a pretty extensive bit on it this month that is actually quite a good read that helps explain it all much better than I can here. The signs of homelessness are all around us, all of the time. It is not uncommon for me to interact with homeless people several times a day. Again - I have no issues with the people... I have issues with the problem and the factors that contribute to it.
I don't regret my decision to leave Colorado Springs and move to Portland Oregon. It was one of the best things I think I've ever done in my life. It challenged me to expand my horizons and to make a better place for myself and my family somewhere where we are a better fit. I'm grateful for all of the relationships I made back in Colorado and try hard to stay connected to those people whenever I can; however, I'm also excited for what the future holds here in Portland. Check back in with me in another year, and I hope I'll still feel the same way. Until then, enjoy the view!
If you made it this far in the article and appreciate the insights, I'd love it if you helped me out by purchasing some of my artwork. Use the code "MOVING" for 15% off. Cheers!
Bed of Leaves at the Portland Japanese GardenI just loved how these leaves adorned the forest floor like snowflakes of orange and yellow, with the explosion of colors in the background. I think this might be one of my favorite shots this month. Hope you enjoy it as well.
Keywords: beer, colorado springs, decision, food, move, moving, photography, portland oregon, transportation, young professional
We're in the Denver sprawl (Aurora) and are strongly contemplating a move to Portland, but actually north of the river to Vancouver, reason being -- and I'm surprised that it hasn't been mentioned here -- Oregon is a high tax state for Income Taxes. I think we'd be paying 3-4 times as much in income tax. Also property taxes are generally much higher. So that's another way that the cost of living is much higher. Washington has no state income tax and property taxes are within our range, at least for the properties we're considering. So Vancouver, a much different town, is a stone's throw across the river from Portland.
We came to Colorado from Los Angeles twenty years ago and it was our choice. We went through a similar process of pros and cons. But in the end, we couldn't resist owning a cabin in the sky, a beautiful home with views of the high range. Employment in the city - a very long commute - made it necessary for us to move to town, but we always miss those four years we lived up there and have never regretted our move to Colorado. It's been a wonderful twenty years.
We also have a twenty year acquaintance with Portland due to family and friends who live up there. But it wasn't until we spent a week there just recently that the idea really occurred to us.
Thanks so much for all the info! You certainly explain it well and have helped me make my decision. May I ask, what are your feelings now? What do you miss? If the exact job your in was in Portland, would you of chosen it over CO?
Thanks Andrea and Dane for your comments! I think choosing where you want to live is one of the most important things you can do. I know I could make a lot more money in another city but I would not have access to the places I so desperately have to have in my life for quality of life and recreation. It is vital.
Thanks for this post!
Currently live in Philly, after living in Seattle for nearly 5 yrs and missing the outdoors! Husband and I know East Coast is not the right place for us. He is a musician and I am a photographer. We are just stuck between the PNW, Cali or Co. All in which are too $$ these days. Unsure what our next move truly is. But reading others experiences help!
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