February 4, 2015

They say that home is where the heart is and for the most part I believe that to be true. But there is also a different sense of feeling at home. A feeling of comfort, a feeling of belonging, and a sensory experience that jives with your well-being.

I feel at home in several different places, but most notably, not where I actually live.

You see, I’m a big city girl. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, experiencing all the culture and diversity, and appreciating all of it. The sounds, smells, and sights were part of me. Then I moved to New York City for graduate school.


I fell in love with New York hard — it’s a city for dreamers and believers, hustlers and hard workers. People come to New York for a reason and everyone has a purpose. I didn’t want to leave New York, but my long-distance relationship was strained and I wasn’t exactly rolling in dough in New York.


So I moved to Portland, which is a lovely city, but for me feels like a small town. I remember the first few weeks in Portland were so eerie for me. Why was it so quiet? Where were all the people? Why was it so white? Portland and I didn’t get along at all for the first year. For a city that boasts retiring in your 20s, I felt like my ambition was out of place.

In New York and LA, I always felt pushed — you had to work hard, or you’d sink or swim. Now, I have a cordial relationship with Portland, but to be honest, I’m always longing for LA and New York.

I really miss the culture, the diversity, the design of the city, the sense of being enveloped in something bigger than yourself. I like the ooze of entertainment in LA and the abrupt honesty of New York. I can’t stand the overly nice, politically correct, passive-aggressive communication style of many Portlanders.

I have always known that Portland was not my forever home. It’s tough to fully enjoy a city when you know it’s not where you belong — but I’ve made the best of it (lately) and am enjoying it for what it is.

Now, the lingering question that my partner and I face is when to move. Just like so many other big decisions in life, it feels like there is never a good time. I’m still paying off debt and growing my business, and he is getting experience at his job.

But several things have happened lately that make us question whether it makes sense for us to stay — another move could be on the horizon. It’s too soon to say and I’m not at liberty to discuss everything. I’m the type of person who gets overwhelmed with big decisions — decisions you know will change the course of your life. I freaked out when I moved to NYC, I freaked out when I moved to Portland, and I’ll probably freak out again.

Except this time, I’ll know it’s the right move, I just don’t know the right time. I feel guilty and terrible that we want to move to LA or NYC — two of the most expensive cities in the U.S. But those places are home and they equal possibility. It would be hard, but I truly believe there are more opportunities — especially for my boyfriend who is a musician. He’s already played the biggest venue in Portland and he’s done pretty well. But there’s a cap of success.

So, we’ll see where this journey — this tale of two cities — takes us. I have no news yet, but will keep you posted.

How do you make big decisions? How did you choose where you currently live?


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

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32 responses to “A Tale of Two Cities”

  1. Great post, Mel. Try not to stress about making a moving date/plan yet. I know I’m not going to stay in Vancouver forever, but it’s good for now, so I’m just trying to enjoy it to the fullest. I want to travel a lot more, and think I’ll eventually settle down back in Victoria (where I’m from)… but who knows where life will take me! Until then, travel to both cities as often as your budget allows, and see which one feels right. And you’ll be a side hustler, no matter where you live. So, until then… keep hustling. xo
    Cait Flanders recently posted…February 2015 Budget & GoalsMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks, Cait! It’s so tough. Depending on how things shake out, we may move sooner than anticipated, but I’m not sure. Trying to stay calm and enjoy the ride. I also want to travel more and have so many dreams. But first, hustle and pay off debt! And of course, try to be happy.

  2. I vote for you moving to NYC!!! It was so fun to see you last week and I selfishly wish you lived closer!
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Music Mondays – Crash and BurnMy Profile

  3. No Shannon! I vote for LA!!! I hope you can send me an email with some details you can’t post here? I’m dying to know! In any case, it’s funny because aside from the things LA has to offer that are great (the weather, beach volleyball, my friends), I long for something a tiny bit smaller and more mellow. I just don’t know where that place is. For now, I’ll just stay here. Good luck with your decision!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…So You Want To Start A Blog?My Profile

  4. Alicia says:

    i don’t have a vote, but I totally get it. I’m drawn to my hometown like crazy. Great size (for me), own a home there, all my family is there… just need the job 🙂

    Good luck with your decision, whenever and wherever I’it takes you.
    Alicia recently posted…Financial Update: January 2015My Profile

  5. No practical advice, just sympathy. It’s really hard to be in one place for good reasons but know your heart’s in another — and the actual making the decision part is really tough.
    C@thesingledollar recently posted…Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 4: Go SturdyMy Profile

  6. I usually have a freak out first, then the fog clears, and I’m able to make my decision.
    I’m sure that you’ll both succeed wherever you go!
    Kara @ The Daily Whisk recently posted…January Budget: The Good, The Bad, and The Grocery BillMy Profile

  7. Michelle says:

    I think that you will know when the time is right. Trust your gut and go for it. I already know that you will work hard and enjoy wherever you decide to land. I vote for L.A. only because you’ve already done NYC.
    Michelle recently posted…21 Ways To Live Frugally and Not Feel Any PainMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      I’ve also done LA too — it’s where I grew up and started my career. I miss the LA sunshine (though I hate driving) and I miss the hustle and bustle of NYC. We’ll see where I land — and I’m sure I’ll know when the time is right, but it still takes planning!

  8. Isabella says:

    I’m a city mouse too! Hubby and I left Minneapolis (one of the best-kept secrets in the US) for eight years to live in a small city in northern California. I did my best, but I never hit my stride there. It just felt too rural to me! Now we are back in Minneapolis, five miles from downtown, and I feel as if I am home again. I can completely understand that pull to a larger city.

  9. Some days I feel exactly the same way. There was this amazing feeling the first time I stepped off the train in NYC. It’s like this energy that you feed off of. And when you leave you don’t know what to do with yourself. It’s honestly such a personal choice that needs a lot of thought.
    Amanda S @ Passionately Simple Life recently posted…Days off and Frugal Ways…My Profile

  10. Corina says:

    Wow, tough decision Melanie.
    Seven years ago I moved from my home country – Romania to Spain. I fell in love with Spain while visiting on holiday. My boyfriend and I decided to move and after six months we were on our way to Madrid.
    I now live in a city close to Madrid called Rivas Vaciamadrid.
    It´s a small city compared to Madrid and even smaller if you compare it with LA or NY.
    But we love it here. We loved it from the first time we came to Spain and we said if we were to move to Spain, we would love to live in a city like that.
    After living in Bucharest (Romania´s capital), which is quite as busy and noisy like NY, we wanted quiet and nice people and lots of green. We have exactly that here. I love it because I go outside of my house and can go for a run without “fighting” with other people for the same spot, because it´s very green and because I am so close to nature.
    Above all it´s safe. You can go outside in the middle of the night and the only ones you will meet are the local cops patrolling.
    For a long time I´ve been crazy about the life in the big city, loved the noise, the people and all.
    Right now I am enjoying the silence. 🙂
    Though it´s difficult to move, in the end you will have to make the best decision for you, no matter how pretty is the city.
    I am sure everything will work out for you.
    Corina recently posted…The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick – Book ReviewMy Profile

  11. Jenna says:

    Where I live right now is sooo not my city. I can’t wait to move — it’s probably going to be about 3 months. It’s been hard to commit to this city for the 4 years that I’ve been here since I haven’t loved it. But… not settling in has probably gotten in the way of being happy as well.

    So I totally feel ya, and I hope you find peace with Portland until it’s time to change.
    Jenna recently posted…Brooke’s February Budget PreviewMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      I’ve been here for three years and I can’t believe it! I’m ready to go, but money, life, jobs, etc. affect timing. So we need to plan and it just feels like yet another thing — but an important thing!

  12. Lauren says:

    I’m a wanderer, so I’ve enjoyed living in different places and feel like I can make myself at home almost anywhere. After years away, I now find myself back in my hometown for one big reason-family. I don’t think that this is our forever home, but it’s right for now. I hope you end up in the place that feels right! That gorgeous sunny weather in California would be hard to turn down…
    Lauren recently posted…8 Steps to Easily Improve Your Grocery BudgetMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Our families are in CA, so that says a lot for us too. They are getting older and so are we…we’ll see where the wind blows. Trying to plan, yet remain in the present. It’s tough!

  13. N says:

    Selfishly, this post comforts me!! I too have been wrestling with the moving question with my partner. We live in Austin right now and he loves it and I hate it! I think we are going to leave the US and teach abroad for a bit and then decide where our new home will be, but it makes me sick with nerves!!
    So many decisions! I love California though…

  14. It’s exciting that you’re thinking about this! And of course, smart to think before you leap 🙂 Having experience with living in both areas counts for a lot, too — you know what you’d be getting into if you chose to move. Keep us updated on you thoughts and decisions, and of course be happy your career now allows you to make awesome big changes like this!
    Kali @ XY Planning Network recently posted…Resources and Links We LoveMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      It’s exciting and daunting! I’m happy I can work from anywhere, but we’re trying to build my bf’s business too, so that we’ll have more flexibility.

  15. I sometimes think about moving, but know that I’m not going to. I think I’m on the opposite spectrum…live in NYC but sometimes wonder how it would be living somewhere more affordable and more laid back. But ultimately we live here because of family and friends. I’ve lived here my whole life so it is kind of hard to imagine living somewhere else. Good luck with where ever you guys choose to go.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Stop Being Time PoorMy Profile

  16. Debt Hater says:

    I grew up in the suburbs (but still pretty urban about ~20 miles from me) and went to school in a huge city. Now I’m back at home in the suburbs, and looking to move out to a more “bigger town/small city” which would you probably think is tiny if you think Portland is still small!

    There’s a part of me that would love to be back in a big city, it was nice having so much just a short train ride away. But that’s a long ways off for me and the cost of apartments is MUCH higher.

    It’s great that you are able to work from wherever you want now and hopefully the move can help your boyfriend’s career take off with either decision. If you do choose NYC, I highly recommend checking out Hoboken as the COL is not quite as high as being in the city.
    Debt Hater recently posted…January 2015 Budget ReviewMy Profile

  17. I totally relate to this. I’ve lived in a few different cities and by far the hardest I ever had was living in a smaller city. There’s so much we can get used to living in a big city that you just can’t replicate. I sometimes dream of living in NY. When I interned there, it felt like every weekend was an adventure. Even though I was by myself most of the time, it was still amazing the things I could do. Hope it all works out for you!
    Zina at Debt Free After Three recently posted…What I Love: FloatingMy Profile

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