How we chose our new town

I’ve long been fascinated with people who picked up their lives and moved somewhere else, especially if it wasn’t for a job but just because. An ironic obsession for a girl who lived 40+ years in the same town and rarely traveled. Much of my fascination was because I didn’t think it was something I’d ever do, and it was fun to live vicariously through conversations with people who had.

It started at Tybee.

During our trip to Tybee Island, we began to daydream about moving to the beach. We loved the quirky small-town vibe of the place, but we relegated the idea to wouldn’t-that-be-nice, maybe, someday.

tybee island lighthouse

I’m so practical and logical that my family suspects I’m part Vulcan. {Live long and prosper, y’all.} So you’d think that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. Maybe because that trip felt significant to me. It was the first vacation with my mom, the only real family vacation we had with Lindsey, our first vacation with dogs, and a week that prompted me to re-evaluate how we were homeschooling.

Tybee island vacation sisters

“How’d y’all end up here?”

Nearly everyone we’ve met has asked, “So how’d y’all end up here?”
I tell them the short version: we decided we wanted to live at the beach, so I researched online to find a town we liked, and with two vacations to confirm it, this was it.

A few friends back in Georgia who have toyed with the idea of a big change like this have also asked how we chose this town. So this post is the longer answer.

After that Tybee Island trip, I began researching coastal towns. Just for fun, at first. I talked to people who lived or visited in different areas, and I started making a list of requirements for the imaginary place we’d live someday.

sailboat in the waterway

Picking up our entire lives and moving would need to be worth the trouble, and not just the same ol’ thing near water. It would need to support the things we wanted to keep about our current life: homeschooling, involvement in a church, access to shopping and cultural activities, and so on. It also needed to have options for what we wanted to change or add, like a more active outdoor lifestyle and smaller town.

Our requirements for a new town:

  • affordable homes, job opportunities
  • reasonable driving distance back to GA for family
  • small town feel, not too commercialized
  • bicycle and pedestrian friendly town
  • climate similar or a little cooler than Atlanta
  • near bigger city with museums, theater, etc
  • above-mentioned city must be drive-able for me
    (in the 40+ years I lived near Atlanta, I can count the times I drove there myself on one hand; I could hyperventilate just thinking about it)
  • not a major hurricane zone
  • low crime rate
  • homeschool-friendly + other school options
  • volunteer opportunities
  • several church options nearby
  • good grocery store nearby
  • parks, nature centers, playgrounds

Basically I wanted Mayberry by the ocean.

So I got serious about researching and hopped on google earth to look for coastal towns within 7-ish hours from our town back in metro Atlanta. Next, I looked at home prices and availability, and if prices looked reasonable, I moved on down my list to see if the town met my other requirements.

I found a town that met all the requirements, at least from what I could tell online. I told Ken, “I found where we we’re going to live.”  So we planned a vacation there to see if it measured up in real life.

It did.

kids on the fishing pier

After that first trip, I started talking with a real estate agent, thinking we’d look for a little fixer upper house that could serve as a vacation home for the next 5 – 10 years until we could eventually move there.

We planned another vacation, this time with my mom. On this second trip, we explored further, looked at homes for sale, and drove into the nearby “big” city. Everything checked out and we felt like this is where we wanted to be, but it was still a down-the-road thing.

Back home, I’d look every so often at any newly available homes for sale, and we continued to talk about when “someday” might be. While we were daydreaming, Ken looked for jobs in the area, just to see what was out there. On a lark, he applied for the only job that sounded suitable for his skills and experience.

A few months later…

Long after he’d applied, Ken unexpectedly got a call about that job. After a rather speedy interview process, he was offered the position and we had decisions to make. One year after our first trip here, we put our house on the market and started packing up our home in Georgia. While Ken came on out and started his job, staying in a one-room vacation rental while we searched in earnest for a home. I’d never seen our little house at the beach in person until we arrived with moving trucks, dogs, and kids.

We’ve been here more than a year now.

Our house is reasonable walking/biking distance to the beach. We’re on an island so we’re also close to the waterway and canal, which both have kayak launches. We’ve gotten involved in the community and we know our neighbors here better than we knew most folks in the neighborhood we’d lived in for a dozen years. We’re 45 minutes away from Wilmington, which has all the big city things we could want, and I’ve already driven there more than I ever drove into Atlanta. Our little town is quirky and friendly, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had something like deja vu meeting people or going places I could swear I’ve already met/seen in a novel.

This place is a good fit for us.