This time last year, my family and I sold our home and were packing our life up to move nearly 600 miles away from everything we knew and held dear to the great state of North Carolina. My husband and I were born and raised in Washington, DC, and grew up in the same neighborhood. Our nation's capital was all our kids had ever known.
In business as in life, "thinking" outside the box is one thing. Actually "acting" outside the box is quite another. One of the most popular questions I am asked during media interviews is how we decided to move, and how we decided where to move. For those of you Indie Business owners out there thinking that a lifestyle change may be in order, here are our best tips for thinking and acting outside the (moving) box.
1. Know What's Important To You
Despite its attractions, the DC area is an expensive place to live, and according to the most recent issue of Forbes Magazine, the nation's capital commute is among the unhealthiest in the country (along with Atlanta, Los Angeles and Houston). Rush hour traffic is an all day affair and gas prices are crazy like everywhere. We lived in a great county in the suburbs, but the public school system left much to be desired. Private school was an option but there'd be little left for fun summer vacations. Add to that the fact that we were spending the kids' college fund on property taxes. As Indie Business owners, we knew something had to give!
We started by deciding what what was important to us: saving for retirement and college, quality public education, lower property taxes, proximity to a major city, a friendly climate and a location not too far from the ocean. Once we knew what mattered most to us, we were ready for the next step.
2. Research The Country
Armed with our list of priorities, we assumed the position in front of our laptops and began using search engines to scope out states that fit our criteria. We eliminated most of the country because it was not near an ocean. Left with both coasts and the friendly climate factor, we narrowed our search down to: California, Florida, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina and Oregon (well, we had to have a wild card!)
Then we called everyone we knew in each of those states and quizzed them on everything from the price of bread to the public school options. We quickly eliminated California and Oregon (too expensive and too far away from family). Then, we nixed Florida because we don't like hurricanes. New York and New Jersey were next on the chopping block for a variety of reasons I won't mention. I'll just say that a lot of people who lived there told us to let them know where we ended up so they could come too!
That left us with Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
3. Visit In Person
Now, it was time to travel! We knew Virginia and Maryland well enough since we lived in Maryland and had been to Virginia on numerous occasions. Not much to do there but research property taxes and property values in a few counties that were semi-rural. We found some promising options but in the end, whenever we talked of either state, the conversation stalled.
That left Pennsylvania and North Carolina, so we packed up the kiddies and headed out on the open road. Each state had a lot to offer, plus our dearest friends had recently purchased a home in Pennsylvania. There were some good public schools there and the coast was not too far away. New York and all it had to offer in terms of entertainment was close and we could be home to visit our families in 2 hours or so. In the end, when we talked of Pennsylvania, we could only get excited about our friends. We knew that wouldn't be enough to sustain us until our kids turned their high school tassels, so off we went to North Carolina.
My husband was a bit on the terrified side where NC was concerned because he had never lived in the south. I was a bit less nervous because I went to college at the University of South Carolina. Still, the thought of being so far away in the state were tobacco, cotton and slaves were once the biggest export was a bit scary. After all, when I started college in SC, they were still flying the confederate flag over the state house, which is located in the middle of campus. Yikes!
Once in NC, we were captivated. The ocean and the mountains were nearby. The school system in the county we had our eye on (Union) was award winning. Property taxes were non-existent compared to what we were paying. The neighborhoods were family friendly and we were 30 minutes away from Carowinds. We also connected with a great kid-focused church.
We put the house on the market in July 1. We had a contract on July 11. We settled on July 30 and leased the property back for a month. By the first week of September, we were NC residents and loving it! How's that for confirmation of the right move?! (These guys were our moving crew.)
Packing up the whole family and moving hundreds of miles away may not be for everyone. But this is just an example of acting outside the box. In the end, thinking is just that. But it's the Indies who act who accomplish their goals and better their chances of living their best life possible.