Finding an escape route (or how we picked our new home)
Earlier, I explained how telecommuting stamped our ticket to a mountain life. By letting me work from anywhere, my employer gave us the flexibility to choose a new hometown. And, after careful consideration, we settled on Davis, West Virginia, a small village on the edge of the Allegheny Plateau.
But how did we make that decision, with so many available options? Why Davis and not some other town?
A few practicalities filtered down our list. First, to do my job, I need a robust Internet connection. Frequent video conference calls and humongous media downloads don’t fly over dial-up. Fortunately, Davis offers decent broadband, thanks to a federal fiberoptic initiative for rural Appalachia. Davis’ sole service provider recently began offering a 6mbps downstream plan, with higher speeds on their way.
Another practicality helped pare down our list: we needed a home near family. Although many areas out West would be amazing places to play, moving there would take us too far from our roots. Our new home in Davis, however, lies just a few hours’ drive from many relatives. And family can visit us, too; in fact, the area’s natural beauty and outdoor fun promise to attract our adventure-loving kin.
Speaking of outdoor sports… there’s another box ticked in Davis’ favor. The West Virginia mountains boast some of the best adventure landscapes on the East Coast. Just minutes from our new home, you’ll find great backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and skiing. When we lived in the city, adventure trips required meticulous planning, maddening traffic, and squandered vacation days. We’re excited to live in a place where the trails start at our back door (literally!).
The Allegheny mountains are scenic, but they’re also continually threatened. A hundred years ago, logging decimated the region, destroying the ancient hemlock and spruce forests. After that, strip mining left its orangish, acidic mark on the area’s creeks. Now, mountaintop removal and gas drilling encroach on the picturesque landscape. It may seem counterintuitive, but this environmental conflict actually drew us to Davis. In some small way, we’d like to help our new community find a middle ground between dreamy tree-hugging and ruthless economics.
Relatedly, Davis offers us the opportunity to join an actual community—something we’ve dearly missed in our last two hometowns. Between the thriving arts scene and outdoors-loving culture, we may find friends who share our interests. But we’d be disappointed if we only heard stories just like our own. An eclectic crew has gravitated to Davis; urban transplants live side-by-side with long-time locals. A variety of political persuasions, economic classes, and ideological perspectives coexist there. Hopefully, we’ll learn to appreciate the area’s cultural diversity.
All of these criteria played their part. In the end, though, we relied on intuition more than logic. For me, earlier blog posts echoed in my head. I had suggested choosing a hometown by the number of stars in the sky. Or judging options by their proximity to the woods. Or settling down where the sun shines most often. Davis did well in each category, and I couldn’t help but notice. For her part, my wife caught a vision of mountain life when we visited Davis this summer. She could see how this move made sense; when the time came to make a final decision, that imaginative confidence made it easier to take a leap.
What about you? If you could move anywhere, where would you go? How would you decide? What would be your top priorities?