ex-Seattle-ites who moved to California: let's talk (San Diego, Sacramento: real estate, apartments)
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ex-Seattle-ites who moved to California: let's talk
I've lived in Seattle for the last 20 years. It's taken me that long to be convinced that the grayness and drizzle up here make me physically depressed for half the year.
I am leaning toward moving to California because on my many trips there it's been very appealing (I'm a nature and ocean gal)... and it seems the winter sun is more reliable. I want to live somewhere I can hang out outdoors year round. (I'm not into winter sports or walking in the rain, else I'd do it up here...)
So, a couple of questions:
1. Is the fabled California coastal fog enough to have the same depressive effect as the Seattle gloom (question for those who've experienced both)
2. Are there any places within an hour's driving distance of the coast that have a strong "community" feel... a place where the physical layout of the town or city allows encounters and mingling with your fellow residents. (Anyone who's been to parts of Mexico will know what I mean here...)
3. Is it totally crazy for me to try to find a job in the small motel or inn management arena along the coast? I am leaving a career in administration and PR and have the requisite skills, but it would be a new area of work for me. I am switching because I long for a certain type of people contact on a daily basis and this kind of service work has always called me, but not in a fancy hotel or large downtown operation. Homey and quiet would be better.
If I don't find some kind of set-up with housing, as per #3, I am not sure I can afford California. My husband is a civil servant and I want to work at jobs that tend to pay lower (as in the service industry mentioned above.) But I know that magic can happen and opportunities can open up at times...
I moved to Santa Barbara in 1995 after living in Federal Way for 13 years. The coastal fog here is nothing like we experience living in Seattle. The coastal areas in northern CA are much foggier than in the southern areas so the farther south you go the better, however. Honestly, when I moved to Santa Barbara and people were complaining about the "June Gloom" I didn't really get it. The weather is so close to perfect here all year that anything less than perfect gets a lot of whining and attention from the locals. We're definitely spoiled! There is some cloud cover but the skies aren't as dark and it's much warmer than Seattle. I moved up to the Santa Ynez Valley in 2002 which is inland from Santa Barbara about 40 minutes and we only get a little light fog early mornings and evenings (more like small clouds sitting on the valley floor) but always burns off by 9am. The weather up here is warmer during the day and colder at night but beautiful as well.
Most of the places I have gone from Pacific Grove on the north end to Carpinteria south of Santa Barbara have the community feeling I think you're hoping to find but I haven't been to Mexico to know what you're referring to. There has been more of a community feeling here in SYV than in Santa Barbara mainly because of the difference in population. Santa Barbara has lots of opportunities for meeting people and getting involved in things and has a much stronger feeling of community than I felt in Seattle.
As for your innkeeper question ~ I myself have been working in a small lodge for the last three years. I really enjoy the guests and lifestyle and would be pretty content if the pay was more reasonable or I owned it. I work 6 days a week just to barely make ends meet in a $950 per month apartment (which is one of the least expensive apartments here). Most smaller quaint properties are run by the owner and when you do the math on the monthy revenue hotels receive for each room you will understand why they prefer to keep them occupied with guests instead of staff. It's pretty competitive getting into the higher paid positions in the nicer places and coming in without hotel experience to run something will be tricky. There may be an opportunity to run a small hotel like Super 8 but be careful to investigate anything offered carefully. Many places are known to others in the industry as have ongoing problems ~ like plumbing or super thin walls. Dealing with unhappy guests is not the way you want to start each day! Sadly, the wages here are less than Seattle and the hotel industry unless you're in management is some of the lowest.
All of this being said, it really comes down to compromises. My monthly heat bill is half of what I paid in Seattle and there is so much to do here without spending money that I don't need as much shopping and movie money as I used to. Since I moved out of the damp Seattle climate my health has been way better so I'm saving some there too. You'll even save on all that cold weather clothing! If you think you can be happy being a renter and have a fairly simple lifestyle I think you will love it here. The real estate prices and wages are the only real downside but keep in mind that the possibilities for expanding on that lifestyle once you are here are endless.
Please feel free to email me directly if you have any more questions.
I'm not ex-Seattleites exactly but lived in Olympia for 16 years prior to moving to Newport Beach. Maybe my experience will help. I completely empathize with your response to the weather in the NW. It is the primary reason we left the area. When you have a great job, house, marriage, neighborhood, friends, activities indoors and out, and you still find yourself crying in the shower, you've got to realize that no narrative of your life yet created can help you. It's just chemistry! And it is the sun that makes most of the difference. Discovered this when we had an unplanned opportunity to spend two weeks in a cottage on the beach on Oahu. Second day there and my whole outlook shifted to the positive. I know, vacations do that, but this was much more than that, this was like the lifting of the proverbial curtain. Anyway, enough empathy and on to your questions:
1. The FOG. Yeah, we get fog and it can be thick (I live right on the coast) but it often does not penetrate very far inland (1/2 mile or so) and so is easy to escape. It, like the rain, is also what I call "civilized" in that the rain, such as it is, often falls during the sleeping hours, and the fog is often gone by mid-morning. In short, it does affect my mood ala' the NW but you can easily mitigate. As my friend says of the weather here "It ain't bad and it don't last long." He's nicer than he is literate.
2. Coastal "communities". I can't say definitely no but I do not live in one, at least of the degree and quality that we enjoyed in Olympia. I do not know why this is but I will theorize that many people cannot afford to slow down from trying to make ends meet and so they just don't take the time. Others simply do not care to try. It doesn't occur to them as something to seek or contribute to, I guess. Also, this area is very spread out and so where you work and where you sleep may be far removed one from the other. Not much opportunity for interaction outside of your work environment or the line at Starbucks or the valet car washes. Having said this, I've heard that San Clemente and Dana Point are pretty cool, esp. SC.
3. Can't really speak to opportunities in the hotel industry here beyond observing that there are myriad hotels of all sizes and so I would guess that opportunity would exist. Hominess may be scarce though as real estate is very expensive and so businesses must either cater to the wealthy at a low volume, resort-style pace or to the teeming masses at high volumes and far fewer amenities. Just a theory, mind you.
4. Good luck (I mean it) with affording it here. Literally millions of people do to greater and lesser degrees so you can too I'm sure. This is totally off-the-wall for me to suggest but have you considered a career in professional home management. I just recently read an article in the L.A. Times about the high demand for people to manage the day-to-day operations of the homes of the very wealthy. It does not seem to far removed from hotel management and I understand that the benefits can be substantial. In addition to sunshine, we seem to have no shortage of the wealthy in this area so maybe....... It seems that there was a school mentioned in the article but I did not keep the link. There is a magazine called Celeb Staff (www.celebstaff.com) that might provide more leads. Just an idea.
Ah the clouds are parting! Great questions KyleM. I too reached my breaking point in Seattle and it was nearly 100% weather related after 13 some years of loving the weather etc to the point of never questioning it, but fully accepting it and all of its drawbacks.
Two years before moving from Seattle, I went on a vacation in the Palm Springs area and my boyfriend (husband now) and I got up at sunrise and literally felt the sun infuse our bodies as we drank up the energy and warmth of the sun. It was as if a light switch went on on how completely heat and light deprived we were in Seattle. I believe that year we literally had close to only three weeks of real summer and that was it. I began to notice my most joyous moments were when I was jogging and in the sun and realized that could be a daily occurance if I just moved and now it is. As I age there is now cycling, roller blading, walking you name it all in the sun. Now my favorite (an always has been is fog with the combination of sun nearby--so I am thinking of moving to get closer to the fog so I can wear more clothes :-). By the way, the comment about not having to buy all those clothes is right on and we keep the heat low here year round and off in summer, much of spring some years and in early fall (hot down here because of the Santa Ana winds).
The housing is expensive in Seattle (we had great jobs and money) and before we left Seattle we bid on a house there that went for $150,000 over asking--we had added a $100,000 escalation clause and lost it! and I had gotten caught in traffic on a 'quick errand' to Bellevue without my cell phone and was stuck for two hours behind a major backup, with my whole family waiting to go to a scheduled dinner, wondering if I had died somewhere. I used to love the casualness and laid back ways of Seattle and her neighborhoods and when I got continually caught up in major traffic even on non freeway areas that really impacted me. So I thought why not go into the eye of the tornado of high cost housing, traffic, but get the true benefit of the sun? I made the right decision.
California is king when it comes to the outdoors, shopping, exercise, holistic health, creativity, variation of things to do and see (more so then Seattle), diversity, fine living, you can attempt to do and be anything here and no one will bat an eyelash when you go for it (not true in Seattle)--you really can--and worth every suffering--as I know Seattle has the same sufferings on a not so distant level when it comes to housing cost and traffic.
Is it worse here? Sure it is. But that is because many know the benefits and want to be here. If they leave it is usually because there are things hindering them from their dream, desires, quality of life or their priorities/dreams have changed, but rarely the weather, and the job market is very healthy here! The major annoyances are all the darn people down here, the encroaching mono culture from the southern invasion and how that impacts local and state services and just about every community except the very wealthy, and the cost of housing. Seattle is getting some of the same as well and will only continue to explode population wise in the surrounding areas and housing will not come down in that area in a serious way, ever. Plus Seattle does nothing to accomodate the expansion. They still have only the same roadways (except for maybe the additional Tacoma bridge).
No the fog or overcast from the ocean does not compare to Seattle. In fact if you are like me, you may at times find the sun a bit too hot down here and look forward to rain and overcast days and fog. As someone mentioned the overcast from the ocean usually burns off or one can just drive a mile east (sometimes more sometimes less) and go get some lunch or whatever and you will be infused with sun and heat in its purity.
You can get a job at any resort. I would suggest traveling down the coast if you have time and you will easily find communities and areas that you love. It will probably all come down to the full package for you--job possibilities and cost of living/housing options. I especially recommend/suggest you do try to live as close as possible to the community you want to interact with though as one could really become a car person detached from the world very quickly down here. It may be worth it for you to live in the outskirts of San Diego in a smaller community (North) or anywhere along the coast that has resorts (so many!!)
Will you be buying or renting? Maybe you should look in the the Santa Ynez Valley (the drive into Santa Barbara might be perfect for you) and at jobs in Montecito or Santa Barbara. Also try jobs in the San Diego area (housing prices are dropping down there right now--comparitively.
The only hinderence in California is price/money. It will be much more of a factor here then in Seattle, so doing your homework will really benefit you here. There are no mistakes in California--only miracles. If it is nice/good situation there won't be bargains/handouts (unless you are homeless). In Seattle I am sure although it has lessened, there was always a nice landlord doing a public service (keeping the rent just below or way below market), not here. Those days are long gone.
Keep an open mind though sometimes the perfect scenario or close to it is just waiting for you to arrive. That is the miracle. Have they diminished here? Yes. But in my opinion and experience there are still lots of them just waiting. So come on down . . . it may be hell, but it is a beautiful, warm, interesting hell. Even though there are days I rear against this, I still call California my heaven and have permantely crossed Seattle off my list.
Hey, I didn't see these answers until recently - pwratch & fairweather... thanks for your input.
Pwratch, interesting suggestion re: professional home management. I see those opportunities often listed in The Caretaker Gazette, to which I subscribe...but, I have to say, the pressure to make the wealthy keep up appearances would probably be too much for me! Perhaps I have biases but I'd rather work on an even par with customers than be the hired help for those in "another class." Thanks also for your observation about crying in the shower despite a great life. I keep hearing about Californians who move up here and turn around and move back the next year. Maybe global warming will even things out!
FairweatherGolfer - thanks for all your observations... I 'm not sure what you mean about the 'monoculture' affecting social services, but I sure am in love with Mexico and Mexicans so maybe that's another reason I should come down there! You mention the major hindrance in CA being money and that sure enough is what's holding us back. We don't have any. We sold our house here and are eating through savings while we figure out what to do next. Pretty soon we'll have to live in Arkansas! If we make it to CA we'll have to rent first while we get the lay of the land.
I think based on what everyone has said, and what is realistic for our situation now, is that we cannot come to CA without a concrete reason: job offers or some other kind of pre-arranged setup. I want to work less, and closer to home, not more, and not with the craziness of freeway traffic. It may just be that I go to Mexico or Latin America for a few months in the winter and stay the rest of the year here in Seattle, and have a bi-city marriage. Not ideal, but better than losing your marbles.
Thanks again everyone! I really appreciate the input and thoughtfulness of your answers.
I have lived all over Calif, and lived 10 years in Sacramento because it was my absolute favorite
I have been living in Seattle or three years - and it's hell!! I want to move back as soon as possible!!!
I say as long as you don't have kids anything is possible and affordable. Iwish for the days (oh in 20 years) when my kids move out and I can just work at a resort and rent a small loft somewhere - hopefully much more warm then where I am now
Four years ago I jumped ship from Bellingham to end up in the California Desert. I loved Washington State at first, but after 20 years I just could not face another winter of constant rain. I moved to Cali to be closer to my dad, but the sunny weather has helped my outlook on life immensely. I knew the weather was effecting me, but not to the degree it was until I moved away.
When I first moved out here I got a job as a caretaker for a small motel. It was fun and I met some interesting people, but I was ready to move on after 6 months. I felt a little too isolated where the motel was at, and I had a hard time getting away from the motel.
I also love the social gathering of families in Mexico. I have yet to see that kind of community spirit and social setting in California. It may not exist anywhere, us Americans are pretty fast paced. My husband and I actually considered trying the expat lifestyle and moving out of the country, but when push came to shove we realized we were not the risk-takers we thought we were.
I think if you have your heart set on a coastal community, I would look into Carmel, or San Luis Obispo .
It's not that bad settling into a more frugal lifestyle due to cost of living. I used to drive a Mercedes, had the big house with the view , an important hectic job. Now I life very simple, with cheap car, average house, and a worry-free job.
It's not a perfect lifestyle, I drive a distance to work, and I hate the wasteful state government, we had a big sandstorm today. But, it sure beats another rainy, cloud-cover day in Washington.
I think if you have your heart set on a coastal community, I would look into Carmel, or San Luis Obispo .
If you consider Carmel ~ be aware that the weather is much more similar to Seattle with more fog than the southern coastal areas and much cooler temperatures year round. Carmel Valley just inland has sunnier weather but not many rentals to choose from. That whole area near Pacific Grove, Monterey, and Carmel is some of the most gorgeous scenery I've ever seen. The communities are vibrant and artsy. If the weather was better I would move there in a heartbeat. I came close to moving there about a year ago and found rentals to be the same price you'll find here in Santa Barbara County. I just could never go back to cool weather.
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