Need to leave the Bay Area. Advice on where to go....

Hello, my husband and I have a 2.5 year old and have decided that it's time to leave the Bay Area. We live in Oakland and our jobs and friends are here. I grew up in the north bay and my aging parents (who I'm very close with) and brother still live there; my husband's family is on the east coast and we don't want to move there. We have been in the East Bay for 10+ years, we both own our own businesses, and our clients, friends, community, and livelihoods are very much rooted here. That said, we just can't take the noise, stress, and grind anymore. We both work all the time and home ownership is still way out of reach. Housing and childcare costs are astronomical. We live close to a busy street and our son is scared of the motorcycles and cars that drive by. We both crave nature, quiet, and access to recreation. We love to hike, camp, and do anything outdoors. We spend a lot of time in the sierra foothills (grass valley etc) and we love it. I love the idea of being within a few hours of the bay so that we can support my parents as they age, and hold on to our connections, clients, and friends in the bay. But I'm concerned about fire risk, cost of living, and lack of diversity in the smaller towns of the foothills, especially after living in the bay area for so long. 

We're looking at Washington State and New Mexico. We have friends in both places. I'm a huge fan of the climate in the PNW, and WA looks like it's friendly for small business owners like ourselves. Ideally we'd love to find a place with affordable housing, good public schools, easy access to outdoor recreation, and close to a major airport so we can visit both our families. But I'm heartbroken at the idea of not being able to be a reliable support to my parents in their old age. I'm struggling with whether to stay in CA so that I can be support them; or move out of state where we can find a place that really aligns with our values and the lifestyle we want. I'm wondering if there are others who have gone through this thought process. I'm overwhelmed figuring out how to weigh all of these factors. Any insights, suggestions on how to think through this, towns we should consider, etc, would be appreciated! 

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It's a trade-off, but I think if you are not too far away (Wash state) you can get to the Bay Area easily to visit your family and friends. We are planning to move to Oregon for all the reasons you mention- it's just too stressful here now, and so insanely expensive. It's untenable. Hve you thought about Oregon? Your kids are still small so I encourage you to move to a place you can afford, where you can build community. We never really could afford it here, and sometimes I wish we had left much sooner. It's not what it was here 20 years ago, and when you have a young family, it's really important to build community. Life is too crazy here. 

Your post resonated with me because we have considered leaving the Bay for the opposite reasons- it has been hard not to have any friends and family nearby, but otherwise where we live in the Bay is working perfectly for us/aligns with values/lifestyle/finances. If you are used to having a support network around you then I think it will be really hard to transition out of that. It can be pretty devastating not having grandparents around to have a relationship with your kids, especially if they already have one. It gets even more complicated as you need to be there to provide support to them as well and to your kids. I imagine you have looked into this, but I wonder if there are other parts of the Bay that are more affordable and in nature that you could look into. What about Martinez or Benicia? El Sobrante or the Richmond Hills? Hercules? It seems like there could be a Bay Area compromise between urban Oakland and Out of State. If I was you, I would try to stay driving distance.

As an aside, I grew up in New Mexico and my family still lives there, and the public schools are generally not good and are underfunded. The upside is the "lottery scholarship" so college is free for most residents- if that's still around. New Mexico is an extremely poor state and you see that reflected around Albuquerque. The outdoors are abundant in New Mexico, but it does get extremely hot. The airport is fine, but I wouldn't call it great- especially if you like direct flights around the country. If you move to Santa Fe (not by a major airport) where schools and crime could be better, it's really not THAT much cheaper than the Bay Area- it has always been expensive and seen a big migration in COVID. I love New Mexico, but articles like these about New Mexico ( are abundant (though generally use biased analytics- but it's also a fact that crime is high there), so I would really dig in and do research before deciding on a big move there. Good luck!

No suggestions but we are in a similar situation (2.5 years old). We are actually trying to move out of the country. The logistics is overwhelming complicated even without the covid factor. Offering my moral support to you!

When you say your a huge fan of the climate in the PNW, you are probably thinking of the west side of the state, but I'm going to suggest Spokane. My brother lives there, so I've flown in and out of the Spokane Airport (GEG) many times. There are direct flights on Southwest to Oakland. I don't know about East Coast flight options, but worst case you connect through Seattle. Eastern Washington is cheaper on average than the Puget Sound Area. Spokane has Riverside State Park and the Centennial Trail. My brother is an avid mountain biker and bikes Beacon Hill and Mt. Spokane. There are several ski areas within an easy drive. Eastern Washington is more conservative the west; Spokane is more liberal than the rest of Eastern Washington but still more conservative than the Puget Sound area. State politics tend to be driven by the dense urban centers in the west.

I've been asking the same question now for a couple of years.  And just talked to a good friend about this yesterday.  We haven't found any place other than the Bay Area where we would like to live.  As much as I don't like the traffic, huge homelessness population, city politics, crime I have not found another place I would like to live.  I've had friends who have moved to the PNW, they are telling me it's becoming another San Francisco.  They are saying the homeless and crime in Seattle is out of control.  Take a look at Seattle is Dying on YouTube.

If you don't plan on living in Seattle I would probably move there.  Sounds like where you would like to be... do it!  But from what I've been told it's nearly as expensive as the Bay Area.

Hi! May I suggest Vancouver, WA? My story is similar to yours-east bay native, moved back a few years after college and figured I’d never leave. And was committed to making it work, until one day (right before COVID) I realized I didn’t want to anymore. We took a long time to decide where/when/how, but have been in Vancouver since June and I haven’t looked back. It is such a relief to have more space, to have parks we can walk to with our 2 yo, to have everyone be so nice, to not deal with constant summer/fall fire threat. My parents and sister remain in Oakland and I too struggled/struggle with the idea of caretaking from a distance but we had to do this for our family. We would never ever have been able to afford a house there and our two bedroom apartment started to feel suffocating. My husband and I met in college in Portland, and Vancouver is right across the river. It’s a town in its own right and has impressed me with its offerings so far. In a post-COVID world, we’ll go to Portland for things like museums and date nights but for now Vancouver has good take out and beautiful views of the Columbia River Gorge and we are out exploring almost every weekend. The diversity here is less racial/ethnic and more socioeconomic and political, and that was a compromise we decided to make. I think it provides for a more realistic view of the rest of the country and a good opportunity to learn from others but also really push for what you believe in. We’re still settling in, but I was amazed how I never had a regret while packing up and moving, nor have I longed to be back in Oakland at all. It’s my hometown but it’s no longer my home and I’m okay with that. 

I grew up in the PNW after my parents left Marin when I was 3 for many of the same reasons you mentioned in your post (cost of living, density, etc).  I grew up on Bainbridge Island, a 35 minute ride west of Seattle. The cost of living in the Puget Sound is getting comparable to the Bay, but still think it’s much better overall (particularly a bit further outside of the city, for example, in Gig Harbor or Poulsbo).  I also second considering Spokane, as I have many friends from the Puget Sound area who have moved there and loved it.  

Overall, I think the distance from family would be tough but agree that the quality of life in the PNW is much better, assuming you’re okay with the weather. Very happy to chat more if helpful.

We moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in January of this year and this was the best decision ever. Our daughter is now 4 (she was 3.5 when we moved). She is going to a wonderful Montessori preschool for 1/2 the cost of the Bay Area. We toured 4 preschools and picked the best, but we could have easily gone to the others, they were that good. My husband's job is not remote (mine is), and he will be flying back to Bay Area twice a month when his office opens up, but it's only an hour away, so no big deal. Yes, summers are HOT here, but we have a pool, and the house is obviously air-conditioned. Our utility bills were about $300-$400 higher, which is pretty reasonable given how hot it gets here. One thing I love about Arizona is a school choice. You can send your child to any public school in the state. Our neighborhood elementary school has a French immersion program with no lotteries or waitlists. There is obviously much less diversity here, but at the end of the day I like that my blond fair skinned and blue eyed child doesn't stand out amongst other kids as more than half of her classmates look very similar to her.