In a past post I mentioned a quick and easy way to get a clearer idea of what a particular neighborhood looks like by using Esri’s “Zip Lookup.” Users simply type in a Zip Code to see demographic and lifestyle information showing the three primary market segments in a particular area along with comparable data on income, age, and population density.
This is just one of numerous online tools and data sets you can draw from in order to take a somewhat educated first step toward deciding on where you might want to plant your feet in the future.
What Your County Says
Another interesting online tool comes from the American Communities Project (ACP). ACP breaks down the U.S. by segmenting every county into one of 15 color-coded community types. For instance, almost every county in the state of Utah is colored purple for “LDS Enclaves,” a place, perhaps, if you are not a Latter Day Saint, you may want to stay away from. Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, you might want to live in one of 197 “Urban Suburb” county designations. An Urban Suburb typically has many large city characteristics and is relatively diverse as well as wealthy. Santa Barbara County, California is an Urban Suburb as well as Suffolk County, Long Island, New York.
The Best Book on Finding Your Geography
For a really great comprehensive book about anything and everything you should possibly understand relative to relocating, get Move to the Place of Your Dreams, by Troy Heerwagen. In one chapter alone, titled “Develop Your Criteria,” Heerwagen covers an enormous amount of important information you should be keenly aware of before considering a move, including factors related to economy and employment, cost of living, crime and safety, health services, transportation, education, city size and density, climate, aesthetics, location, people, local culture, and demographics.
As you can see by those topics alone, Heerwagen did his homework. His book is well worth its relatively inexpensive price because it will ultimately save you an enormous amount of money and hassles. By reviewing all of the key information in Move to the Place of Your Dreams you’ll be extraordinarily capable of making an extremely pragmatic decision concerning your next geography of place.
Esri, ACP and Heerwagen’s book comprise a very small number of the vast amount of interesting tools and data sets that are at available. There are many, many more.
However, over and beyond all the helpful information you can find online and in bookstores, physically visiting a place and exploring the surroundings is the absolute best method for finding your ultimate place. That is, of course, an expensive undertaking. Start by conducting an extensive amount of online research on the places you find most intriguing and then narrow down your choices to only those places you can physically visit for a few days, if you can muster up the funds.
Go to a Supermarket
When and if you make such a trip, and once you are in the neighborhood you are contemplating, pay a visit to its best supermarkets, especially on a Saturday or Sunday. Supermarket traffic gives you an eye-opening picture of what your prospective neighbors are really like. Notice how the people dress, how they move through the aisles, what kind of cars are in the parking lot and whether they are courteous drivers, how friendly and efficient the cashiers may or may not behave, what kind of products are on the shelves, how the deli workers handle customers, what kind of food-and wine-bars they may have, and the overall entire aura of the place. Supermarkets are most definitely great one-stops that can show you a neighborhood’s true character.
On Light and Temperature
Outside of all these ways and means to review any geographic location you may be taking under consideration for a move, Winifred Gallagher, author of The Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions, gives us another set of factors to contemplate as we search for our ideal place. In a chapter titled “A Day and Night World,” Gallagher notes that light and temperature are the “two greatest environmental influences on living things.” How much sunlight and whether or not the temperature outside is conducive to being under direct daylight as opposed to being under indoor light definitely has an effect on your overall well-being. I can attest to that from my experiences living in the Southwestern U.S., Hawaii and in Buffalo, NY.
While the winter can be beautiful, especially if you partake in winter sports, it can also put you in the doldrums of relative darkness and indoor lighting for extended periods of time and consequently a challenge for many people to not fall into a deep depression. Those of us who live in places where there are long winters – as well as those of us who live in other harsh climates, such as geographies with stifling hot summers and other commonly harsh weather conditions that keep us indoors – can easily get depressed after spending days without venturing outdoors or from being hampered by weather conditions that restrict your ability to walk unimpeded, regardless of temperature. I typically battle several relatively mild bouts of depression during the months of January through March in Western New York. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to travel to a warmer clime during these months, so I do what I can to avoid falling into severe depression by going for early morning walks at the local gym (with my favorite music piping over my headphones) as well as by frequenting cafes and books stores whenever I can. Going out into nature under the light of day, is matchless, however. There is no replacement for a good walk in the woods, through a park, at a beach, along a city sidewalk or country road.
Nature and Walking
It seems almost unnecessary to say, but ensuring that you have good access to nature, of course, should be a key element in your decision-making process for finding your ideal place. As Gallagher so efficiently puts it, “when we immerse our weary brains in soothing patterns of natural input, such as rippling water, sighing branches, or drifting clouds, fewer things compete for our attention and drain our energy, and we start to feel refreshed. Even in a big city, we can enjoy this most obvious benefit simply by stepping from a busy street into the nearest park.”
What You Do for a Living: Earning Potential Can Outdo All Other Factors
Regardless of Gallagher’s exceptional views, your focused research on places that intrigue you is only the very beginning of your journey. What you already do for a living or what you are planning to do for a living can make all the difference in the world as to where you wind up, either permanently or temporarily. In other words, where you find work can overcome everything else; that is, of course, if you let that be your main guidepost, which is something many people do for both comfortable survival as well as for pursuing their passionate interests in general.