Moving from a big city to a small town. Would I miss my friends, and all of the culture?

Moving from a big city to a small town. Would I miss my friends, and all of the culture?

It’s been 2 years since I moved from Portland Oregon to a much smaller town up north along the coast of Washington. I wasn’t sure how well I would make the transition moving from a big city to a small town. Would I miss my friends, and all of the culture of Portland? I’m happy to say it’s been easy, and I am glad I made the move. I might even retire here.

Finding a Job in a Small Town
First, let me describe my life in the city of Portland before I moved. I had a great job. A wonderful job working in the computer field, and the pay was fantastic. If I wanted to switch jobs and stay in a big city, all I had to do was look on craigslist and within a month I had another great job.

It’s not quite as easy finding a high paying job in a small town. Luckily for me, I still found a job within a month, but the pickings were very slim. In a small town, there aren’t nearly as many companies to work for that pay as high. I got lucky and found my new job working in the computer department at the local hospital, the biggest employer in our area.

Many of my new friends here have told me I had gotten lucky in my job search. Many of them would love to find work close to home, but most of the high paying jobs are about an hour and half drive away in Seattle or in Bellingham.

If anyone asks me advice about starting a good career, I always say – If you want steady employment with good pay, go to school and study computers. Specifically – Network Administration or Desktop Support. Every company has computers, and they need a good support staff to keep everything running.

Social Life in a Small Town
Surprisingly – making new friends in a small town has been very easy. I met most of my friends by volunteering at the community theater. I had never done any theater work before, but I heard that it’s a great place to meet outgoing people. So I asked one of the actors in one of the plays after a performance “Hey – I loved this play. Is there any way I can help volunteer in one of your next plays as a stage hand? I just moved here, and I am hoping to make new friends.” The folks at the theater welcomed me with open arms, and soon I was helping backstage with stage building and running lights. After a few plays, one of my theater compatriots asked if I would mind acting a small part in one of our upcoming plays. They needed a couple of people to act as soldiers in a battle scene and to die on stage. I didn’t have any lines, I just had to die. Honestly I never thought being onstage would be so much fun, and it’s totally addicting. I’ve probably made over a dozen new theater friends since I moved here, and I’ve been to quite a few fun cast parties. I still miss my friends dearly in Portland, but I like to think I have lots of friends in two towns now.

Cost of living in a Small Town
Those that live here say the town I live in is an expensive place to live. Actually, I find it much cheaper than living in Portland. Housing is a whole lot cheaper here. I can rent a home where I live now for about $1200 a month. In Portland, the same house in a good neighborhood is twice as much in rent, and in some cases, three times as much. Utilities are also much cheaper here than in Portland.

Age Demographics in a Small Town
One thing I was surprised to find was the average age in this town is much older than the city of Portland. The town I live in has a population of 16,000, and 37 percent of the population is 55 and older.  The median age is 47 years old.  It makes sense, all of the higher paying jobs are in Seattle, so that is where the young people go to work. Small towns such as this are more for retirees. This is not a big deal for me, as I am getting very close to retirement myself.

Another surprising thing I found – there are about a dozen very nice restaurants in this small town of 16,000 people. The locals say it’s because our community is a tourist destination, and the tourists like to stop by to eat as they head off to explore the San Juan Islands of Washington.

Will I Retire Here?
My mom also lives in this community. She is retired, and she loves it here. My sister moved here about 13 years ago and started a family, and she loves it here as well. There’s no traffic jams, and the pace of life is much more relaxing. However, I will probably not retire here. My girlfriend is from Thailand, and that’s where we will probably end up retiring. I can retire at an early age if I move there, but that’s another story.

What’s your story? Have you moved to a small town? Did you love the change?


Gary is one of the founders of RetireBook, and is the site engineer and also one of its writers. He has been working in IT for over 25 years, is a world traveler, and enjoys everything about living in the Pacific Northwest. He is full of energy, loves the outdoors, climbed several mountains, volunteers in his community, and has been saving his whole life for an early retirement that will be coming up in just a few short years.