Chris Wiegman

Finding Home

Our first home

Last week I wrote the quick post, 7 years, talking about our seven-year anniversary here in Florida. While we closed on this house on 14 Jan, 2015, we didn’t drive away from Texas until 24 Jan, 7 years ago today.

My how time flies.

For a while I was actually pretty happy with Florida. After our first year I wrote this post when I thought this could really be home. We had, after all, done our planning for this move right. We visited, we made a list of what was most important to us (3 bedrooms for an office and a guest room, enough room for the dog, no harsh winters and, most of all, a walking neighborhood) and, at least on paper, I should be happy here but, I’m not.

I’ve written a lot about my dislike of Florida lately. I know why I don’t like it here. This post is my attempt to define what could actually be home for us for the long-term. If money, time and distance was of no concern, what would be the perfect place to call home?

The perfect house

The perfect home is, in my opinion, different from the perfect house. For the most part I’ve actually liked all the houses I’ve lived in. The only one that was rough was our house in Makawao, HI where we needed roommates to afford to live.

Today we had a neat little apartment that was comfortable, roommates in Hawaii, 2 houses in Carbondale, one of which was the first house we bought together, the rental house in Texas and here. For the most part they’ve all been comfortable and served our needs well. I would argue our current house, at 1,860 square feet, is too big but that’s easy to deal with.

As we look towards what next I do think these different houses have taught us what could work for us next. First, 2 bedrooms could be fine as long as we have a layout where we can setup our offices so they’re not too close together. We love each other and we love spending time together but having our offices on opposite sides of the house where we can each work in peace has been wonderful.

The third bedroom is really nothing but a closet for most of the year. I don’t think we need to continue that. There are many ways to comfortably allow for visitors and, while the guest room is handy once or twice a year, I think we could easily do so without it if we had to.

Next I don’t want a stand-alone house at all. I would rather get a condo where outside and other maintenance can more easily be handled without our input and Joy can enjoy her time outside with a real garden of vegetables or whatever else she would want to grow. I’ve lived in apartments and condos a few times in my life, mostly before Joy and I met, and I miss it. A stand-alone house is quieter overall but the dynamics of a condo always felt more alive to me.

The neighborhood

One thing that hasn’t changed in our needs is a walking neighborhood. In an ideal world I would love to move to a neighborhood where we didn’t need a car at all. We have electric bikes which I never ride as the area is horrible for bikes and most everything we can’t walk to requires a car. I wouldn’t mind changing that. The perfect neighborhood would be just as good for walking but would be in an area where a bike could replace the car for most of the rest.

Next I would like to move to a neighborhood more in-tune with our interests. The one thing I miss from Austin is the WordPress Meetup. I’ve tried here, it isn’t the same. I would like local coffee shops and bars where we can talk with people about something other than sports or “conservative” politics (the latter of which has ended more conversations for me than it has helped me make friends). In addition, we would love to find a lively local theater where Joy can return to the stage like we had in Carbondale. Both Austin and here have had theaters but they’ve been anything but welcoming to new folks. Our perfect neighborhood would fix that with places where we could both participate in the community.

The city and region

We thought Florida would feel more like home than Texas. It did for a while but that is only because of my time in Florida as a kid and our desire to avoid Chicago-style winters.

One thing we didn’t take into account is that Chicago winters are exceptionally bad relative to many places, not just Florida. On the other hand, Florida’s pleasant winters make for absolutely horrific summers, something I never want to deal with again.

So, first up is climate. Something in between Chicago and Florida weather would be great. My semi-official shopping criteria, as I look around, has been average January lows about freezing and average July highs below 80F/27C. While we might need a coat more in the winter at least I could go outside in the summer, something I avoid at all costs here in Florida when the lows for a good part of June through September are often about the 80F/27C line with nearly 100% humidity.

Beyond temperature I would like to be back in a real city. It doesn’t have to be as big as Chicago but exploring the area shouldn’t require a car either. In Chicago I could get anywhere on the bus or the train. I miss that. A city with good public transit is a must when we move again.

While I would like to live in the city again I also want to be in a place where we could explore the outdoors and, ideally, a rich history. Florida has the beach and the swamp, both of which are unbearable 9 months of the year. When we lived in Illinois and Hawaii we had the forests, hills and mountains (depending on which) not to mention museums and so much else to explore. Sure Sarasota has a few museums but nothing on the level of a real city or a state like Illinois.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I really did used to love the outdoors before we moved here. We would take our motorcycles out into the Shawnee or Hill Country or to Hana and spend our timing enjoying what the areas had to offer. Here we’ve sold our motorcycles and I hate even walking from the car to the door during the summer. Any place we go should reverse that. I want to be outside again.

Finally, I would love to leave the US and move to a country with a functioning democracy and bright future. Prior to 2016 we had considered the UK but then they committed national suicide in the form of BREXIT. The US isn’t on a better path.

I don’t know where we’ll wind up yet. I don’t see us being able to leave here for at least a little while and with other variables such as family and pets moving just isn’t as easy for us at the moment. That said, we’re making plans and doing our homework. With that I am, for once, hopeful that we will be able to finally find someplace to call home within the next few years.