When we think about people who can live anywhere, we tend to think about corporate-employed remote workers and online entrepreneurs. But many other kinds of professionals, from teachers to doctors, could hypothetically find a job anywhere, and thus live anywhere they’d like.
If you’re what my guest Melody Warnick calls an “anywhereist” and have seriously or casually considered moving somewhere else, today we’ll talk through the factors to consider in making that decision. Melody is the author of If You Could Live Anywhere: The Surprising Importance of Place in a Work-From-Anywhere World, and in today’s conversation we discuss the factors that you should include in what she calls a “location strategy,” from the cost of living in a place to whether it allows you to build the kinds of relationships you’re looking for. We also talk about how the place you live can be part of your purpose in life and the elements that contribute to an overall quality of life.
Resources Related to the Podcast
- Melody‘s previous appearance on the AoM Podcast: Episode #227 — The Art & Science of Loving the Place You Live
- Melody‘s previous book — This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are
- Tulsa’s remote worker program
- Make My Move — website which catalogs the various offers cities are making to entice people to move there
- CNN’s cost of living calculator
- AoM Article: How to Make Friends in a New City
Connect With Melody Warnick
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Listen ad-free on Stitcher Premium; get a free month when you use code “manliness” at checkout.
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. When you think about people who can live anywhere, we tend to think about corporate employed remote workers and online entrepreneurs. But many other kinds of professionals from teachers to doctors, could hypothetically find a job anywhere and thus live anywhere they like. If you’re what my guest, Melody Warnick calls it Anywhereist, and seriously or casually considering moving somewhere else, today we’ll talk through the factors to consider in making that decision. Melody is the author of If You Could Live Anywhere, The Surprising Importance of Place in a Work-From-Anywhere World. And in today’s conversation, we discuss the factors you should include in what she calls a location strategy. From the cost of living in a place to whether it allows you to build the kinds of relationships you’re looking for. We also talk about how the place you live can be part of your purpose in life and the elements that contribute to an overall quality of life. After the show’s over, check at our show notes at aom.is/anywhere.
Alright, Melody Warnick, welcome back to the show.
Melody Warnick: Thanks for having me, Brett.
Brett McKay: So you joined me a couple years ago to talk about your book, This Is Where You Belong, and it’s where you highlight this research about this idea of place attachment, where it’s like, why we feel like we belong to a place, why we like a place where we live and you use that research to provide insights about how people can learn to love the place they live. You got a new book out, similar theme of place attachment, but it’s called, If You Could Live Anywhere. And it’s all about picking a place you love so you’ll move there. And what made you explore this idea of how to pick an optimal place to live?
Melody Warnick: So I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of place, in general. But even before the pandemic, we kind of forget this, but lots of people were starting to shift to remote work. We were seeing towns offering $10,000 bonuses to people who were remote workers who would move there. And so I started just noticing also that in my own hometown of Blacksburg, Virginia, people were arriving who weren’t coming there for any particular job. It was just, they could live anywhere, and they had done some research and this was the place that they chose. So I became really interested in how people were making those choices. And then on the flip side, I was starting to speak with economic developers and Chambers of Commerce, doing some speaking related to This Is Where You Belong, and that made me aware of this whole underworld of community economic development agencies who are desperately trying to attract talent and retain them. And so I just became curious about that kind of connection between communities who want people and people who are looking for the right community to live.
Brett McKay: Yeah. I hope we can talk about that. ‘Cause my own town, Tulsa, is sort of on the vanguard of that, of paying people to come to move here. But you make this case that a lot of jobs today are what you call Anywhereist careers. What are your typical Anywhereist careers? And then, we’ll talk about some of the surprising ones you think, you wouldn’t think would be an Anywhereist careers.
Melody Warnick: So I think when people think Anywhereist and that’s just kind of the term I use for anyone who’s a location-independent worker in some way. We automatically think of remote workers and that can be these days, almost anything, writers and marketers and coders and podcasters and accountants and life coaches. A lot of jobs that didn’t used to be remote have gone remote, something like 30% of Americans have the option of working remotely five days a week. And that’s like 117 million Americans. So this is not an insignificant number of people, but Anywhereists are not just remote workers, I think of them also as just anyone who has greater than average autonomy when it comes to choosing the place they live.
So that could be a gig worker or freelancer, or an entrepreneur, or a retiree, maybe not your Broadway actors who are still tied to a specific place or your dolphin trainers, who kind of have limited options where they’re going to live. But the other part of this is that even if you’re not a remote worker, a lot of people are kind of realizing, hey, I have one of those jobs that really can be done almost anywhere. They’re teachers, they’re doctors, they’re lawyers, they’re builders, they’re designers. So the jobs aren’t necessarily portable, but a lot of people have kind of that Anywhereist moment where they’re making that choice about where to start their career or where to go next. And the answer might not be just any place, but you probably have more choice than you think, even if you’re not completely location-independent.
Brett McKay: Right, is it like a lot of jobs, they’re in demand, everywhere. So I think you mentioned one person, she was a reading specialist for elementary school teacher or just kids.
Melody Warnick: Yeah.
Brett McKay: And so like, that’s like an in-demand job. And so she could just go, she could live anywhere, like she could literally, but it’s tied to a specific place, but she could be any place.
Melody Warnick: Right, exactly. And that’s exactly what she did. She and her husband were living in Santa Cruz and realized that their careers were, they weren’t exactly remote, but they could be done in a lot of different places. And so they did this huge road trip all over the country and explored lots of different places, eventually settled in Graham, North Carolina, a small town in North Carolina, not far from Greensboro. And for the first time in their lives, they could afford to buy a house. And that meant that Jennee could start a business, baking sourdough bread. And so really that shift in location changed a lot of things about their lives.
Brett McKay: Well, so what makes this interesting, this is a different dynamic from maybe what our parents are used to. Your parents would just, they’d go to the… They’d move someplace ’cause the job was there, right? Like my dad moved to Oklahoma city.
Melody Warnick: A hundred percent.
Brett McKay: Yeah. So he had no choice. You had to make… You had to learn to love the place you live, right? This is where you belong. The first book would be for that type of person.
Melody Warnick: Yeah, exactly, and I am totally on board with that idea. And that’s kind of why I wrote the first book. My husband got a job at Virginia Tech. Academics are one of those people that are kind of semi-anywhereist where they have moments of being able to choose but aren’t entirely remote ever, and there’s this feeling of, you only have so many choices, you’re gonna go where the job takes you, but I think for a lot of people just our relationship, our expectation from our place has changed, I think exactly what you said, it used to be that people just… They got the job and they went wherever the job was, and that was it, and now there’s some research that people who are graduating college choose the city where they wanna land first, and then they get the job. So being in the right place is the most important thing in that equation, and I think it’s important for most of us, maybe even more than we think.
Brett McKay: Well, this is a challenge though, because I think a lot of people who could work from anywhere, they don’t take advantage of that, ’cause choosing where to live is just another thing to think about, and there’s so many factors, and it can overwhelm people. For example, my wife and I, we could work from anywhere. But we’ve been in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for 16 years. We don’t plan on moving any time soon, probably ever. So why is it that are some anywhereists game for moving, ’cause I’m sure there are other people, you highlight people in the book that they try different places, but others like us aren’t.
Melody Warnick: I actually think that you’re maybe the best case scenario, I think when people all of a sudden realize that they have that freedom to move anywhere, that they are location-independent, it’s sort of this heady moment and people feel like, Oh, we’re wasting that if we don’t move. But the reality is, not everyone needs to move and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. So I divide anywhereists into three broad groups, there are wanderers who are just people who really crave adventure, these are maybe more like digital nomads, people who are trying out lots of different places and aren’t in the mindset of really trying to settle any particular place. And then there are seekers who are… A lot of the people I write about in the book who have that freedom to be location-independent and they wanna make the most of it, they wanna find the right place for them, and so they’re sort of in that process of actively looking. But the third category is what I call settlers, and those are people who maybe have that freedom to move but don’t need it because they’re happy where they are, and in my mind, I wrote a lot, and this is where you belong, about the value of putting down roots in a place.
And I still think that that’s true. If you’re in a place that you love, that’s serving you, and your family, you’ve probably built up a lot of social capital there, there’s no reason to just think, “Well, jeez, my boss just came and told me that I can work a 100% remote, so I need to find… I need to find my new city.” You find your new city if you are drawn to that them, if that’s gonna be something beneficial for you right now, but you certainly don’t need to feel like you’re some sort of remote worker loser if you decide not to do that.
Brett McKay: So how do you figure out what kind of anywhereist you are? Is it just sort of feeling like, “Well, yeah, if I just wanna stay here, I’m a settler.”
Melody Warnick: Yeah, I kind of think it is just kind of your mindset around moving and that can change throughout your time in a place. For a lot of people, it’s like, we really loved this city when we were young and single, and now we’re starting to have kids, and it’s just not working for us quite as well as it used to, so we definitely go through… We’re not necessarily just one or the other permanently, we can move across these categories.
Brett McKay: Well, if you are in a place where you can move anywhere and you think you might wanna move, you recommend developing what you call a location strategy, and that involves thinking about going deep into what’s worked for you in the past, the kinds of places you’re drawn to, and what elements of your life are the most important to you that you’re looking for in the community, for example, it might be if you have kids, really good schools are important, or you want easy access to nature, and then you also recommend thinking about those deal-breakers, maybe you can’t deal with a place where it’s a 100 degrees plus in the summer, or you can’t deal with just a long, bleak winter, it’s gonna just grind you down, so those kind of factors. And then you think about, in the book, you focus on some big overarching factors you might wanna consider when you’re developing your location strategy. So let’s talk about some of those. The first one you talk about in the book is recognition. What do you mean by a community giving you recognition?
Melody Warnick: So it’s kind of going back to that idea we were talking about where there is this whole effort at town attraction and retention, so there are communities out there that want you, and it’s sort of like an echo of what we might look for in our workplace for people to be truly satisfied at work, they need to feel recognized and rewarded and appreciated for what they’re doing, I think towns kind of… Especially when we’re location-independent or remote workers, towns become our office, they’re providing some of those things that we’ve always saw in our workplaces and towns can give us some of those. So I started thinking about what are the ways that towns sort of recognize us, and I think it starts with a community that is willing to welcome you. You mentioned Tulsa Remote, which I think is the original program started in 2018 that started offering $10,000 to remote workers who were willing to relocate to Tulsa, and it was like BYOJ, Bring Your Own Job, and today around 3,000 people have done that and have brought all these economic benefits to Tulsa, and it’s gone so well that dozens and dozens of cities across the country have started similar programs, so you have Bentonville, Arkansas, that is offering $10,000 and a bike to ride on the mountain bike trails around Bentonville.
Other cities are offering free land to build a house on, or a discount if you buy a home here, or we’ll help you pay off your student loans, there’s a website called Make My Move that catalogs these offers. A town doesn’t have to pay you to move there per se, to be a welcoming place. I talk about Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that created a program. It was called The Wingman Program, and if you were someone who was moving to the area, you would get matched with sort of a community mentor who would take you out to lunch. They would introduce you to a couple of people. They would maybe take you to a community event. So I really like to look at what our community is doing to show that they’re welcoming places, that they’re open to you, and that this is a place where you can settle in and build a life. And so that’s kind of what I think about when I think about recognition in a community.
Brett McKay: So, you also have another factor to think about in your location strategy, and that’s the cost of living, basically. How can living in a place make you feel wealthier? How can where you live make you richer?
Melody Warnick: So that is one of the… Probably the number one motivator behind mobility among location-independent people, is this idea that you can basically give yourself a raise by moving to a city with a lower cost of living. So, for instance, if you’re in San Francisco and your job is remote and your boss says, “Yeah, feel free to move anywhere and you’ll make the same salary.” If you move to say, San Antonio, Texas, it’s like getting a 200% raise because the cost of living in San Antonio is about 43% of what it is in San Francisco. So, some companies do adjust salaries depending on where you live, but there are definitely places where your money will go farther, and a good cost of living calculator online will tell you that.
I think for most of us, we’re looking at home prices which have skyrocketed in the past couple of years, and so the thought of moving to a community where, “Hey, I can afford to buy a home, or I can save several hundred thousand dollars if I live in this small town versus the major big city.” That’s a huge factor in quality of life, right, if you have all of a sudden a lot more spare cash. And it isn’t just home prices either. We think about things like transportation costs, or food costs, healthcare, entertainment, fuel, insurance. We call this geographic arbitrage, and that’s a term for this way of using your location to gain a monetary advantage. For a lot of people, that’s simply something like moving to a state that has no state income tax, or moving to a state that has lower property taxes, than you’re used to. Some people even move to other countries, if you are willing to go be an expat in Costa Rica or Portugal, you can have a really good quality of life for less money, and I think that is a huge factor for a lot anywhereists.
Brett McKay: Yeah, you saw this in the pandemic, a lot of people moved from really expensive places like from California, for example, and that’s the one you hear about in the news all the time to cheaper places, ’cause they’re trying to take advantage of… Their job is now remote because they had to go remote and they’re gonna go someplace cheaper.
Melody Warnick: Yeah, and unfortunately, the side effect of that is that those Californians are driving up prices in places like Boise and Salt Lake. So it’s definitely a double-edged sword.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I’m always… I love, I do this Zillow thing, and we’re always comparing like, you have a friend moving to California from Tulsa, and you see what… How much does a house go for in California? It’s shocking. It’s always shocking to me ’cause it’s like this tiny home that would be $150,000 in Tulsa, it’s like $700,000, $800,000, sometimes a million dollars in… If you moved from California to Tulsa, you could buy a mansion for what an average home would go for in California.
Melody Warnick: Well, totally. And people do. Like I remember we lived in Ames, Iowa, for six years. My husband was in grad school there, and we had friends, who… Or they became our friends who moved from California to this little college town in Iowa, and they had the nicest house of anyone that we knew, and I don’t think it was that they were just rich. It was just that they had owned a home in California and they sold it and they moved to Iowa and they were like, “We’re millionaires now, apparently.” There’s this other thing that happens where we kind of create these anchor points for pricing based on where we live, and that’s why when you’re moving from one part of the country to another, it can be shocking. The differences in prices, sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways, a really hard move if they moved back from Iowa to California, just because the pricing is so different.
Brett McKay: Alright, so if you’re anywhereist, you’ve got some ways to make some money here, so first you got cities that are probably gonna pay you money to move there. Tulsa will pay you $10,000 to move here if you’re a remote worker. And if you’re moving from California to Tulsa, you’re gonna save a bunch of money on cost of living. So it could be substantial.
Melody Warnick: Yeah, absolutely, and this is… As we’ve looked at remote workers and location independent workers making these choices, cost of living and affordability is number one for everyone, and I think that’s probably even more true now after a year of inflation and crazy real estate prices, so it really is a huge factor when people think about where to live next.
Brett McKay: Are there any calculators that you recommend checking out online off the top of your head that are pretty solid?
Melody Warnick: CNN, cnn.com has a good cost of living calculator. I think the New York Times has one. There’s just a ton out there and don’t put all your belief in a single cost of living calculator, because those numbers do change. But if you’re making this decision for yourself and thinking of moving to a place based on affordability, definitely take the step to really research for yourself, How much am I gonna pay for car insurance here? Or will I have to fill a boiler with oil at the beginning of winter? Expenses really can shift from one area of the country to another. Like you think of New Yorkers, one of the most expensive cities in the world, but a lot of them don’t have a car. And so there are different things that can kind of balance out some of the expenses in different parts of the country.
Brett McKay: We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsors. And now back to the show. Alright. So another value to consider in your location strategy as an anywhereist is connection. What do you mean by connection?
Melody Warnick: So, connection, I just mean relationships with other humans where you live. And that, I think, is probably the number one most important thing that people can have if they want to be happy in a place. If they really wanna be a settler and find the right place and settle there, you have to have friends where you live. Like people, towns have personalities, which can be hard to pick up on if you’re just visiting. But you think about who are the kinds of people you like to hang out with typically, and where do you imagine meeting them? I’ve done some location coaching recently, helping people make these decisions about where to live, and one woman I talked to, I think, took a really great approach. She was considering Denver versus Bozeman, Montana. And so she would do visits to these cities and she would kind of strike up conversations in the line at the coffee shop. For her, a big thing is hiking and yoga. So she would go to the yoga class, find a local yoga class, and then afterwards, she would kinda try and talk to a couple people and invite them to go hiking with her. And if that was a success, that was a pretty good sign that she could find her people in this community.
So I think for a lot of us making these anywhereist moves, we’re not necessarily moving to a place where we already have a lot of friends, although some of us are, that’s certainly something important to consider. But when you’re looking at a community, try and figure out where do you imagine meeting people, what are your entry points going to be to this community? I think, also, blind friend dates are great. The internet can be an awesome place for friends. It doesn’t replace in-person friends in a new community, but I think it can facilitate that. So you throw out online, on Facebook or Instagram or whatever, Hey, I’m thinking of moving to Rochester. Who do you know in Rochester? And you start having coffee dates with people. And that can kind of give you a sense of, Will I be able to make friends here? Will I find my people?
Brett McKay: Yeah. And so that’s an important thing. ‘Cause you might move some place, and let’s say you have an interest, I don’t know, I can’t think of a hobby off the top of my head, fly fishing. I don’t know. I’m just fly fishing. I did some fly fishing this weekend. But you move to a place and you want someone to fly fish with, but no one does that there. Well, you’d probably live with it, but it’d probably better to move… If that’s important to you, you might wanna move someplace where there’s an active, vibrant fly fishing community.
Melody Warnick: Yeah. Absolutely. And just kind of identifying that beforehand, like, Oh, I really love to play rugby. Is there a group in this town or nearby that plays rugby? Those have been my friends in the past, and they don’t necessarily have to be your friends in the future, but if that’s something that’s important to you, identify if there’s a community for that in this new place that you’re thinking about, and sort of find out, How can I tap into that when I get there? No matter where you go, it’s important to remember that moving sucks, and you’re very likely gonna have a period of time where you feel a little lonely. And it’s a process to make friends in a new community. But if you can give yourself that head start of, I’m gonna go to this yoga class, and I’m gonna take my dog to this dog park, if you know that there’s a few concrete things that you can do to try and make friends, I think it makes you feel a little better about it.
Brett McKay: Well, and speaking of communities having their own personality, some communities might be like Mayberry, right? That’s… And then you think, Oh, this is great. But for some people that might actually be bad. To them it’s like, These bunch of busybodies up in my business. I just wanna be left alone. That’s important too. You might be, I’m gonna move to this rural town, and the sense of community is good, but it might not fit your personality ’cause you’re more of a loner type.
Melody Warnick: Right. Yeah. And you just might not be the small town person. Towns sort of do certain activities. And one of the things I talk about in This Is Where You Belong, which is really about, Hey, you landed in this town, you hate it, here’s what you do now, was learning to embrace whatever your town is good at. So the example for me is, I moved to a college town, college football is really big here, so even though I don’t care at all about football, I wanna be into what my town is into. And so I have made an effort along those lines to sort of embrace football to a point. But if you can identify that beforehand, like, This is what I love to do with my time, these are the things that interest me, you can kind of check out whether that’s something that’s happening in your community, whether you think it’s a fit. I talk in the book about a woman who was on a road trip with her husband, and they fell in love with this small Midwestern town that had really adorable homes that were affordable, and just kind of on a whim, they decided to move there, they bought a house. People were indeed friendly, but they just realized fairly quickly that they just didn’t fit in.
It didn’t feel like them, and so she became very focused about figuring out where are we going next, did a ton of research. For her, it was important to be in a community that had yarn shops and movie theaters, and her… She identified her dream place was Eugene, Oregon, so a far cry from a small town in the Midwest but sometimes we have to have the experience that wasn’t a fit to really identify what the fit would be.
Brett McKay: Well, related this idea of connection is family or proximity to family. When you talk to people who are considering moving, is living by family a big factor?
Melody Warnick: It is for some people, and it’s not for other people. It’s one of those things where, for some people, that is the thing that they’re trying to get closer to parents or siblings or maybe adult children, and for other people it’s more like, “How far away can I get from these family members?” We definitely saw that as a driver of moves during COVID. I think that was an “aha” moment for a lot of people. I live on the other side of the country from my family and all of a sudden there’s this pandemic that’s going to keep me from having any contact with them for a long time. And studies have shown that almost half of Americans during COVID had some sort of reassessment moment of where they were living. And I have to imagine that family factored big into some of those decisions, like having support as you raise kids or being near aging parents. I think there’s also research that shows if you live within an hour of several family members, you’re more likely to stay.
I think family should be a big consideration, at least a consideration in the sense of you need to decide, really intentionally, whether this is important to you to be near family. And it’s okay to decide that it isn’t, but it’s something that everyone probably needs to weigh. My family, in our mobile years, never really prioritized living near parents and siblings. We ended up in Virginia, most of our family is in the west, Arizona and Idaho and Utah. And I have to say that there’s a little regret there, honestly. My kids are teenagers and beyond and every so often they kind of complain about they didn’t really know their grandparents really well, or they didn’t really know their cousins. And we’re always making trade-offs like that when we decide where to live, so that’s a question to ask yourself. What are you going to regret most when you make a choice about where to live?
Brett McKay: Yeah, it’s a tough one because in my experience talking to people about this issue, it’s like the grass is always greener. It’s like people who live away from their family it’s like, “Oh, I wish I lived near my family, it’d be so great. Mom and dad could help out, and the kids can know their cousins.” And then the people who live by their family are like, “Oh my gosh, I need to get away from my family. There’s so much drama and it’s just crazy, I’m just tired of it, I need some space.” It’s hard to figure out. I think you don’t know until you actually do it.
Melody Warnick: Yeah, it definitely is super complicated and it makes life complex. We actually had friends here in Virginia who, just a couple of months ago, picked up and moved back near family. Didn’t have a job, just decided, “This is the thing that really matters to us.” And so far, based on what I’ve seen on her Facebook account, they’re super happy with that decision. They’re doing dinners with parents and siblings and cousins are playing with each other. Maybe that’s the idealized honeymoon phase of living near family. You have a couple months where you’re just like, “This is amazing,” and then all of a sudden there’s… You have the drama and the angst of it. It’s not without its problems, for sure.
Brett McKay: Family is complicated.
Melody Warnick: Exactly.
Brett McKay: Another factor is this idea, a community can help you feel a sense of purpose. How can that look in your life?
Melody Warnick: So that, again, goes back to this idea that our town can sort of provide some of the things that typically we’ve looked for in our workplaces. There was a study that Adam Grant did with Facebook where they surveyed thousands and thousands of Facebook employees all over the world, and asked them what mattered most to them in their job, what helped them be engaged and feel satisfied with their work. And it sort of boiled down to what I call the three Ps: Profession, people, and purpose. Profession just being, people wanna feel like they are good at their job, they’re learning new things. People is you wanna feel like you like your boss and your colleagues. But purpose was this category of people want to feel like the work they’re doing has an impact in the world, that it’s making some sort of positive effect on the world.
And the reality is, how many of us have a job like that, right? That sounds really nice but if you’re a bookkeeper or a marketer, you may not find that sense of purpose in your work, but you absolutely can find it in your community. I think there’s lots of ways where we can feel like we’re having a positive impact in the world and we’re creating meaning for ourself when we get really deeply involved in a community. We start volunteering for local organizations, we build relationships in our community, maybe mentor people, we start a non-profit or raise money or become a friendly neighbor. Really fairly simple actions that can help us remember sort of what we want big picture in our life.
Brett McKay: Right, so maybe you can look for a place, if there’s something that’s… Like a cause that’s really important to you. Like if, I don’t know, conservation is really important to you, maybe there’s a small town where that’s… Sustainable farming is a thing, where you can be around that and take part in it. I think church, that’s a big part of people’s purpose in life for a lot of people, and maybe you pick a place where there’s a vibrant church community there. Or maybe if you go to a place where it’s not that vibrant and you feel like you can get things going again.
Melody Warnick: Yeah, that’s actually a really great point that… One of the things that I do in the book is talk about… I talk about a lot of small towns, ’cause that’s kind of my secret mission here, is to make people give smaller towns a second look. I think a lot of them have a great quality of life to offer, but we don’t need to move to places that are already perfect, and that can kind of be part of the purpose is choosing a place that needs you, that needs your contributions to become even better, not like you need to choose a place like, Oh my gosh, this place is so crappy, I’m gonna go fix it, but moving to a place with that mindset of contributing there instead of just expecting the place to magically meet all your needs.
Brett McKay: Yeah, there’s someone in our congregation or church who’s like, why did you move here? He was like, Well, God said we should be here. And I’m like, that’s… Do you have a job or anything? No, just… We’re gonna be in Tulsa. I’m like, That’s bold, and it seemed to work out for him.
Melody Warnick: Yeah, I’ve heard that story from a lot of people, honestly, people who are spiritual or religious allow themselves to be drawn to particular places, they maybe don’t even know why, but that’s pretty common to feel like God called you to a place, and I think that that’s a real thing that we all kind of have missions in life that we’re fulfilling, and we fulfill them in our towns, in our cities, it’s the whole… Think globally, act locally. And so wherever you end up, that’s the local where you’re going to act and where you have a chance to make an impact.
Brett McKay: So another factor is this idea of happiness, what factors contribute to your happiness in a community?
Melody Warnick: So I’ve talked about affordability being something huge that a lot of anywhereists are looking for. The second thing that anywhereists are looking for is quality of life, which is a really sort of nebulous term that I like to describe as just your access to the things that make you happy on the daily. So we know that there are a few things that have been proven to make people happy in their places. People having social connections is a huge one. Walkability, people tend to feel more content in places that are walkable. There was a study about a decade ago from the Knight Foundation and Gallup that found that the three most important factors to people feeling satisfied in the place they live are aesthetic, social offerings, and openness. So feeling like the place you live is beautiful, feeling like your place has things to do and people to do them with, and feeling like your place is welcoming. Those can make you feel happy, but again, those vary dramatically from person to person. What I find beautiful in a place may not be what you find beautiful in a place, so it’s kind of becoming familiar with what that looks like for you. And I sort of think understanding what in your daily life will bring you joy.
One of the stories I tell in the book is of a couple, Amy and James Haddon, who were living in Seattle. Amy started her own business and James joined her. They could move anywhere, and Seattle was really expensive, so they started this process of looking around, but their number one consideration was honestly chickens. They really wanted to raise chickens. They were excited about having the chicken kind of life, and having a garden and canning peaches and things like that. That was really high on their list of what’s gonna make us happy in our daily life, and so they ended up in a town in Tennessee and are doing really well there. So I think if you can sort of identify having a place where I go every morning to grab coffee is gonna make me happy, or having a great library is gonna make me happy. Those are kind of the quality of life factors that matter to you and that should be on your location strategy list for sure.
Brett McKay: Yeah, you talk about… You highlight the mayor of Paris, Texas. She had an initiative to make it a 15-minute city where anyone… You can get to anywhere in the city in 15 minutes, whether by foot or public transpo or bike. I kinda like… That’s one of the things I love about Tulsa, is that you can get anywhere in Tulsa in about 20 minutes or less. You can get downtown in 20 minutes, have a great meal, and then get back home in 20 minutes, but then it’s also I love the location because we’re really close to nature, but I’m still in the city. That’s important to me. I would hate to live some place where I’d have to drive hours to get some place remote. But with Tulsa, we got everything, we got the Apple store. We’ve got a big arena, Taylor Swift comes, but then I can go to the Ozarks if I want to.
Melody Warnick: Yeah, I love how you’re selling Tulsa right now.
Brett McKay: I’m gonna sell… Tulsa’s great.
Melody Warnick: This is what you do when you love a place. You developed this thing called place attachment, which is just those feelings of being at home, and one of the signs of place attachment is actually I like to tell other people about where I live, and so I love that you’re doing that Brett, like Hey guys, Tulsa is the best and you should come live here.
Brett McKay: Right, if you live in California, you can buy a mansion in Tulsa, and then we’ll go to the BOK center.
Melody Warnick: Right. Let’s get all the Californians to relocate to Tulsa.
Brett McKay: Yeah, we got the River Walk, we got nice trails along the Arkansas River. It’s fantastic. So all these factors are… They’re really abstract, you can go online and do some research in these different Facebook groups, but you don’t really know until you actually visit the place, how do you… Let’s say you’ve created the spreadsheet of different places, do you recommend just actually going there and giving these places a test drive?
Melody Warnick: Yeah, for sure I don’t recommend moving to a place that you’ve never been to, which I know happens. I met a woman who lives a couple of towns over from me, recently, and she moved during COVID. Was an anywhereist, could go anywhere in the world and she and her husband got on Zillow and fell in love with a house and just bought it, sight unseen, and moved to this small town in Virginia. And when I met her, she was kind of like, “We love the house but the town, not so much.” So I think there’s a high capacity for disappointment if you’re just… If you’re doing that, if you’re buying a home and you’ve never been there. Certainly, I recommend that people visit, bearing in mind that being a tourist in town is not the same as living there. I mentioned people who have done a month each in different cities or who have done a road trip around the country. If you can swing that, I think that’s a great approach. Most of us can’t, so I think doing a visit, kind of absorbing the vibe in a place, is really helpful. Doing your research to figure out, how much of the things you’re looking for does this community offer?
But I think kind of the addendum to that is that no matter where you live, you will almost certainly get to a point where you think you’ve made a terrible mistake. [chuckle] It’s almost inevitable. And that’s because A, no town is perfect and it may take you a hot minute to discover why. But B, it takes a while for us to fall in love with communities. Place attachment peaks about five years after you move somewhere, and five years is a long time to feel like you don’t necessarily fit in. I think we can choose to be intentional about falling in love with the place that we’ve chosen, even though once you move there, you might discover some of those faults. And also none of these decisions have to be permanent. You don’t have to stay in a place that turned out to be horrible for you, but I think you gotta give yourself a lot of grace and you have to give your new community a lot of time. This is just a process, even no matter how carefully you’ve chosen, it just is going to take a little while to really fall in love with that community.
Brett McKay: Okay, so yeah, do a test run. I think I imagine the best way to do a test run is instead of staying in a hotel there, do an Airbnb, like in a home.
Melody Warnick: For sure.
Brett McKay: Right, so you actually feel what it’s like to live, ’cause the hotel is usually off by the highway and it’s different. Airbnb it for a week, if you can do a month, fantastic. And then, yeah, give it time, ’cause it takes a while to get that place attachment. And then yeah, don’t be afraid to course correct. You talked about that one family, they went to Iowa and they’re like, “We don’t like Iowa,” or the Midwest, wherever they were, and they went to Eugene, Oregon.
Melody Warnick: Right. Yeah. So you definitely can course correct, but don’t course correct too soon.
Brett McKay: Okay.
Melody Warnick: Be as intentional as you were about creating a location strategy for yourself and being really thoughtful about where you wanted to live. You should be just as intentional and thoughtful about settling into the place and trying to make it your home. Yeah, I think doing a test run, staying in an Airbnb, trying to meet people, attending community events, eating at local restaurants instead of McDonalds, living like a local would live. A week isn’t probably enough time but it will certainly give you a sense of what life would be like in this place which, I think, is what we’re all imagining for ourselves. What would it be like to live in this place?
Brett McKay: Well, Melody, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?
Melody Warnick: You can go to my website, which is my name, melodywarnick.com, and I have links to my books, This Is Where You Belong and If You Could Live Anywhere, and you can also subscribe to my newsletter which is all about place and why it’s so important to us.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Melody Warnick, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Melody Warnick: Thanks so much, Brett. I loved it.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Melody Warnick, she’s the author of the book, If You Could Live Anywhere, it’s available on amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. You can find more information about her work at her website, melodywarnick.com. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/anywhere where you can find links to resources, where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the AOM podcast. Make sure to check out our website at artofmanliness.com where you can find our podcast archives as well as thousands of articles written over the years about pretty much anything you’d think of. And if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Head over to stitcherpremium.com, sign up, use code manliness at check out for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or IOS, and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple podcast or Spotify, it helps out a lot. If you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing this show with a friend or family member that you think would get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support and until next time, this is Brett McKay reminding you to not only listen to the AOM podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.