It’s Not All Retirees and Disney: 5 Reasons Why I Keep Moving Back to the Southeast U.S.
There is no shortage of things to see and do in the nine states that make up the Southeast (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). I’ve loved living here for most of my life, and even decided to move back after a grand three-year adventure living in Alaska. It wasn’t just the phenomenal food or scenery that called me back—I missed its signature mix of revised Southern hospitality and a slower, calmer pace of life. I think that people here really know what it means to enjoy something be it delicious shrimp and grits, or a leisurely walk among the everglades. How could I have resisted moving back for that?
While, of course, visiting any of these incredible states is great—living here year-round has some serious perks. Here, five reasons I think the Southeastern U.S. is a great place to live:
1. It’s pretty affordable
Compared to its notoriously costly northern neighbors on the East Coast, living in much of the Southeast can be done on the cheap. According to Zillow, the median sale price of homes in the U.S. as of Dec 31, 2018 was $226,500. Of all nine Southeastern states, only two had higher sales prices than the national median (Maryland, $264,000; and Virginia, $260,000)—the two states that also have median household incomes higher than the national figure ($80,776 and $71,535, respectively, compared to the U.S. median of $60,336.)
In many of the larger cities, it’s not difficult to start a new career and put down roots. According to an August 2018 ranking of America’s Biggest Boomtowns by Magnify Money (a LendingTree product), Raleigh, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee, are all experiencing business growth, improved workforce and earning scores, as well as an overall general increase in population and housing.
2. You get all four seasons (for the most part)
Speaking of fertile soil, the Southeast is home to a long growing season for a wide amount of crops: This is thanks in large part to its geographic location, humidity, and overall “mild and pleasant” climate. That means local produce is available for pennies on the dollar all year round. After having to eat canned vegetables or buying asparagus for $8.00 a pound in Alaska, I love being here and how easy it is to find locally-grown, healthy food at one of the many, many local farmers’ markets.
Though ranging in weather patterns from state to state—Florida is quite different from Maryland, for example—you’re likely to see beautiful weather across the board every season. Though we joke that you may experience all of the seasons in one day, the Southeast is where many flock for vacation—whether it’s to Tybee Island, Georgia, in the dead of winter or the Appalachian Mountains in the peak of summer.
3. The food is king
Incredible food is all over the United States—that can’t be denied. The Southeast has an interesting blend of cuisines that the locals know to be some of the best you can find anywhere—and it is as varied as it is delicious. The kind of barbecue you prefer is practically a religious thing in this area (are you mustard-based? What about vinegar?), with festivals like that of my hometown of Lexington, North Carolina, drawing hundreds of thousands of people annually. The seafood along the Southeastern seaboard is top-notch, with freshly-caught food ranging from flounder to conch, salmon to catfish, and blue crabs to shrimp. And because of that fabulous growing season, you’ll find that farm and field-to-table restaurants are plentiful (shout out to Elijah’s in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Lady’s Island Dockside in Beaufort, South Carolina!)
4. You don’t have to choose between beach or mountains
Do both—in the same weekend! In the Southeast, there are many states like Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina where you can be in the mountains or the beach within the same day, and you’ll find the breathtaking scenery on the journey in between to be enjoyable as well. The incredible Appalachian mountains loops through many Southeastern states, while the gorgeous beaches, various islands, and waterways dotted along the coast are accessible and worth spending a day (or many!) at. We’ve been known to make the few hours-long drive to the beach a day trip, because it’s worth it to explore your own backyard when it’s this breathtaking.
5. It’s super diverse
Something I yearned for growing up was knowing people from other walks of life, and it seems as though the Southeast is beginning to expand in this important way. People from all over the world are beginning to claim the Southeast as their home, which means there is an incredible and eclectic mix of neighbors to meet—five of the top 20 most diverse states are in this region, according to WalletHub. Every age group seems to be putting down roots in this worthy region, as you’ll find everyone from young families to retirees spread across the entire Southeast. And it won’t be hard to mingle: There are large metropolitan cities and small towns alike, where people are friendly more than not; as a matter of fact, half of the 10 Friendliest Cities in the U.S. are in the Southeast, according to Condé Nast Traveler.