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The day after my college graduation, I peeled off to Philadelphia, and later New York, and never looked back. magazine), I started a “USA Rankings” doc that organized each place we visited into one of three categories: the YES List (our top ten), Stranger Things Could Happen (numbers 11 to 30, including surprise entrants like Chattanooga, Tennessee; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Livingston, Montana), and a definitive NOPE pile (everywhere else, with insufferably richie-rich Aspen coming in dead last). Like single dudes forever swiping left, we were fueled by the thrill of the hunt and the fantasy of what might be lurking just around the corner.
Besides, when we found the one, we’d know it deep in our bones. Our speed dates lasted as little as one hour (#sorrynotsorry, Dublin, Ohio) and as long as six weeks (Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis).
But the terrifying finality of such a long-distance move, coupled with an intimidating local rental market, inspired a different plan: to road trip around the U. until we found a place that checked all the right boxes (culturally rich, ethnically diverse, politically progressive, full of friendly locals, and affordable). Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Andrew had lived most of his life in one house.
In two separate legs totaling 16 months, we’d crisscross America multiple times by car, visiting some 40 states and 229 cities and towns, ticking off a lifetime’s worth of bucket-list diversions along the way (Badlands National Park! Before we met, he had flown on a plane exactly once.
Perhaps we’d forget journalism altogether and launch a mobile dog-grooming business!
Or take up gardening and canning and live off the land?
My dad ran his own consulting firm, and my mom, an artist, always thought the next place would be better.
— glowing in Technicolor while the rest of the world turned to gray. The first thing that sold us on Minneapolis and its sister city of St. One of my favorite things about living in New York was riding the subway and hearing conversations in 20 different languages.
Every stop gave us an opportunity to slip into a brand-new identity.
Did we want to spend Saturday nights down at the rodeo, decked out in cowboy boots and bolo ties in Wimberley, Texas?
I’d been tethered to a desk for more than a decade; I wanted to see the world and live out my dream of becoming a full-fledged travel writer.
We knocked out 17 countries in our first year abroad and spent an additional eight months living in Bangkok. When it was time to come home, our initial idea was to pull our belongings out of storage on the East Coast and head to Los Angeles. We joked to friends that we were “speed dating America.” Everywhere we went, we asked ourselves: Could we see living here … Andrew and I had met in journalism school in February 2002; I was the features editor at the student newspaper, and he was my pop music critic. Like our taste in music, our upbringings were fairly opposite.
The locals’ welcoming of outsiders was in step with their liberal political agenda — another plus for us ex–Blue Staters.