I spent my entire life in Los Angeles, but I decided a few years ago that it was time to move to Austin.
But what led to this decision after 35 years in the city of angels? What was life like before leaving? How did I come to the decision and what experiences did I go through while coming to terms with such a major move?
To start, there is no denying that Austin has become one of the hottest cities in America. People are moving there in droves. Restaurants and bars are opening at a rapid rate. High rise buildings are continually beating each other to the title of “tallest building in Austin.” Enormous tech companies like Apple, Tesla, and Google are building offices there. It’s a city erupting with excitement, maturing a bit quicker than it had likely intended.
Moving to Austin was a big decision, and some might say a backwards decision. After all, don’t most people want to move to California, not away from it? Why would someone leave the sunshine and beaches for the lightning and swimming holes?
There was indeed a lot of thought involved before my move. Leaving LA was something that I had considered for years, but even when the opportunity arose to make the move to Texas, I had a lot of decisions and anxiety to factor into the equation.
To make a long story short – I moved to Austin for a better lifestyle (and also because the girl who ultimately became my wife was already living here).
But who likes a short story?
I’m going to break down my move for you so that you can not only understand my process, but realize that we’re all in the same boat when it comes to moving to a new city. It can be scary, but for most of us, it’s well worth the little bit of struggle for the end result.
Living in Los Angeles
I was born and raised in Sherman Oaks. I went to college at USC. I spent my first few professional years working in the music industry and before making the move to Austin, I was a marketing executive for a craft brewery.
I love Los Angeles. It is my home and always will be my home. My blood is blend of Dodger Blue and the grease from all of the street tacos that I’ve consumed over the years. I’m one of those “foodie” types who’s obsessed with the influx of new restaurants in LA. I consider live music to be a top hobby and I probably spent more time at The Troubadour and Hotel Cafe than I did at movie theaters or shopping malls.
LA has everything and that is why I always told people it was a hard city to leave. But at the same time, it’s a rather annoying city as it is so large, so congested, and these days, so expensive.
I first tried to escape from LA when I considered my college options. I actually had a deposit down at the University of Michigan, but at 17 years old, I was rather easily convinced that the cold weather would kill me and that the opportunities from going to USC would outshine that of Ann Arbor. I’m actually quite grateful for those who swayed me to stay in LA as it is actually quite true. The jobs are in LA. So going to school there is important for what comes next, especially, if like me, you had wanted to work for a record label.
Post college, I found myself living in Venice Beach in an apartment building that I wouldn’t find myself dead in at this stage in my life, but as a struggling 25 year old, living with 3 of his best friends, walking distance to the beach, it was pretty amazing.
As I matured, I started working for a growing craft brewery that was located in north Orange County. This was probably my first opportunity to leave LA, albeit just for somewhere behind the orange curtain. I decided that I’d rather commute. I was travelling against traffic and figured that half my friends commuted for an hour just to get from Santa Monica to West Hollywood, so despite the 40 mile drive, the time in the car was actually similar to anyone else.
LA traffic sucks. A lot.
If I had to pick the one aspect of LA that keeps it from ranking as one of the best cities in the world, it’s the traffic. There is so much to do, so much to see, so many activities on a daily basis – but getting anywhere is so hard that we tend to just stay within a few blocks of our homes.
The second, and perhaps more critical issue with LA that I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older and thought about starting a family is the cost. Buying a house in LA, one where you’d feel like you had space to raise a family, is extremely expensive. I was renting in LA and never really saw a way to escape that lifestyle without a massive increase in salary or a few good lottery numbers.
Austin Was My Destiny
I had pondered a move for ages. Every time that I went to a city like Portland, Nashville, Denver, or Austin, I’d come home and wonder what it would be like to move there.
If I were ever to move, I had to think about what was important to me. I like good food and great drinks. I like music. I like friendly people. I like the idea of the outdoors, but when it comes down to reality, I’m not an avid camper or hiker. For the most part, I was always attracted to cities with a good social scene, lots of independently run businesses, and a reasonable cost of living.
The latter is the biggest decision factor, perhaps, for most people moving out of Los Angeles. Value is important. LA is incredibly expensive and I was sick of paying $15 for a cocktail and who knows how much on rent.
Call it fate. Call it destiny. Call it what you will. But by complete accident, I ended up matching with a girl on a dating app who happened to live in Austin.
Our relationship flourished as a cross country romance. I was consulting at the time and had the ability to travel relatively frequently, working from the road, so I’d take flights every few weeks to visit her in Austin, staying at her downtown apartment.
I had actually only been to Austin once before and it was for a bachelor party, so all I really knew of the town was the great bbq and a couple of bars where I got way too drunk.
Through my relationship, however, I slowly grew fonder of both the girl and the city.
I was having a great time each weekend that I spent there. I was eating well, drinking well, going to shows, spending time outside on patios and at parks or outdoor concerts. And I was also eating a lot of breakfast tacos, which was weird, because LA is all about the breakfast burrito. This took some getting used to.
A Fear of the Unknown
Despite having started to make a bit of a life in Austin while still residing in LA, I was undoubtedly scared to make the final decision for an official move.
First of all, my family was in LA. My parents were in the valley, my sister in West Hollywood, and my grandparents in Laguna. While Austin isn’t that far, it would still be tough. I could no longer call my dad up and grab dinner or go visit my aging grandparents on a Sunday afternoon.
Secondly, my friends were in LA. I had grown up there, gone to college there, and started my career there. I knew a whole lot of people and had a relatively large group of friends and acquaintances.
When I really started to think about it, however, I began to realize that a lot of my closest friends had actually moved to places like San Diego, Northern California or even New York over the past few years. And even those who were still in LA, now were married, some with children, so the days of seeing them every weekend were over. Perhaps it was time for me to make a move of my own.
There was also the feeling of comfort in LA. I could get around without using a map. I had coffee shops where I loved to work and bars where I loved a relaxed night. I knew that every major band (and independent band) came through LA at one point or another. All the best shows would roll through the Pantages and great art would come to LACMA. There are Michelin starred restaurants and an airport that can take you to anywhere in the world.
Austin doesn’t have a lot of these things. It’s a growing city, but few cities are LA. Really only Chicago, New York, and perhaps San Francisco or Seattle could compare. But that’s okay. And its something that I had to come to terms with.
What Austin does have, is unique and exciting. It’s a city that has its own flavor, similar to New Orleans or Nashville. You could almost describe something as being “Austin-like.” There is plenty to do and you can get that large city excitement, but with a small town vibe. I liked that idea.
Moving to Austin from LA
The move itself wasn’t too bad. I sold my larger furniture as I figured it was a good time to restart – plus I didn’t really want to deal with a cross country moving truck to be quite honest. I sold my couch and bed and other items that wouldn’t fit into my Prius.
I packed everything else as best as I could, denying my girlfriend’s request to drive with me as I needed the front passenger seat for storage. It’s pretty incredible what you can fit into a 4 door hatchback sedan when you use every inch of space available.
I spent some time with the classic farewells. I saw some friends, took in a couple of last shows at the Troubadour, somehow managed a reservation at n/naka for dinner for my birthday, made sure to hit up happy hour at my local bar a couple more times, bid farewell to my family (plus dropped a few things off at my parents’ home for storage), and set out on the most boring but most exciting drive of my life.
It takes around 22 hours to drive from LA to Austin and you pass through nothing on the way. There is barely anything to look at out the window, there are no interesting cities or sights to stop at along the way, but the excitement of what’s next kept me entertained along the way. That, and a couple dozen podcasts with breaks to sing loudly along with favorite albums while drifting through barren West Texas.
I had organized some ideas with my girlfriend as for living when we got to Austin. I was leaving my job, so money would be important for the first 6 months while I was on the search. However, we also wanted to live in the heart of the city. So, we needed to find something small, which we did. We got ourselves a studio apartment on the western edge of downtown and it was perfect.
When moving to a new city, Austin or otherwise, I think it’s ideal to spend at least a few months living in the heart of town. I moved to Austin for everything that Austin has to offer, so living out in the suburbs just to save a few dollars seemed silly. I wanted the experience!
Living downtown gave me that. Being able to walk to bars and restaurants after work for happy hour or take a quick Uber when I wanted to venture a bit further out for a night on the town was amazing. It was nothing like living in Los Angeles and it was just what I had always wanted.
Moving without work was actually a great benefit, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as having income is rather important. I had some money in the bank, so I wasn’t too nervous, and having days to jog around Town Lake, discover neighborhoods and try as many bbq spots as humanly possible was a pretty great baptism into the Keep Austin Weird lifestyle.
I’ve now been in Austin for 2.5 years. Life has settled from being a constant vacation to normal life with a job and a dog. But I have never looked back.
Keep reading Part 2 to get a bit of understanding of what it was like to acclimate to life in Texas, how Austin compares to LA when it becomes a home rather than a weekend of partying, and what its like to settle down in a new home.