Why My Husband Turned Down a Great Coastal Job to Stay in Our ‘Flyover’ City

published Mar 17, 2019
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A few years ago my husband was abruptly laid off. As a freelance writer, I can live anywhere, so when he wasn’t having any initial luck, he expanded his job search from our hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to the whole country.

And some interesting opportunities came up, including one in the Pacific Northwest. We talked about it pretty seriously–how cool would it be to fly off to Bangkok in 16 hours, instead of the literal days it takes to get there from Kentucky? (Seriously, it takes upwards of 30 hours!)

Then I started looking at housing prices. In one Pacific Northwest city we were considering, the median home cost was $400,100. Here in Louisville, we paid $50 per square foot for an amazing old, 4,000-square-foot Victorian. That’s about half the price of those Pacific Northwest homes. Really, the cost of everything would be higher, from a veterinary visit to appliance repair.

But higher cost of living means higher salaries, right? For someone who earns the median U.S. salary of $56,516 in Louisville, they’d have to earn $69,511 to maintain their standard of living in the PNW. While my husband would earn more at a new job, my freelance income would stay the same. One bumped-up paycheck wouldn’t make up the difference.

That means we would have needed to scale down. That would be quite an adjustment since we’ve gotten pretty used to having so much room. We frequently have big groups of family and friends over for parties and there’s more than enough space for our big Great Pyrenees mix and little fluffy dog to have plenty of room to romp!). And we even Airbnb out part of the house to help pay for it!

All of this made me realize that despite the disadvantages (mostly the connecting flights and lack of an IKEA), the lifestyle I’m able to afford in my mid-sized “flyover city” is more than worth it. Since housing is less expensive, there’s more discretionary income for things like eating out and travel.

So, my husband turned down that job and we decided to stay in Louisville.

In the years since, I’ve noticed how much the low cost of living affects every part of our lives. There’s quite a ripple effect in the community, too: Affordable real estate helps bring in creative talent to open restaurants and cool businesses. More people can support them, too, because they’re not spending their entire paycheck on housing.

And that means there is so much to do every day. We have a thriving arts scene, including free Shakespeare performances and concerts all summer in our neighborhood’s Olmsted-designed park. Bourbon is booming and our downtown is coming alive with distilleries, craft cocktail bars, and restaurants. And we have more than our share of blockbuster events: Ever heard of the Kentucky Derby? Our city draws out the celebration for weeks leading up to it.

Also, in a smaller city, nothing is ever very far. The job my husband ended up taking was downtown, just a 10-minute drive from our home. We only need one car because I mostly work from home. If I need anything during the day, I can walk or hop in a $7 Uber. Overall, we’re spending less time commuting, and can spend more time together doing the things we love (like renovating our home!)

While metropolitan-dwellers may not immediately see the appeal of a city where everybody knows everybody, I’ve found just one visit often changes their mind. As an Airbnb host, I meet people from all over. And every time, without fail, they’re blown away by the cool things in my city: the strong independent business scene, residents’ warmth and hospitality, and the general affordability. Many have even talked about moving here themselves.

They think it’s a hidden gem, and while I don’t think it’s particularly hidden, I definitely agree it’s a gem.

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