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From Suburban to City Life

Share Your Story: Moving to the Washington DC Area

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Where did you move from?

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

How long ago did you move here?

3 1/2 years. I had short-term assignments here prior

Where do you live and what do you like about the area?

I live on Pennsylvania Ave. NW (the Penn Quarter). I like the adventure of changing to urban living, excitement, free museums and galleries, rich theater scene, parks and Mall, huge number of restaurants, protests and rallies, friendly people, and the sense of being at the center of our government.

Why I moved to the DC Area

After retiring from a CIO job, I hired on to a consulting company. The company kept sending me to DC for short-term assignments. On each of these, we lived in the suburbs and longed to go back to our suburban house on a wooded lot in Tennessee. On one assignment, the last part of the assignment had us living in the Penn Quarter near the Navy Memorial and National Archives. To our surprise, that changed everything. We wanted to stay in DC when the assignment ended. I spent the next 10 months getting another assignment and rented a place in the same neighborhood. We have been here since.

What my biggest challenges have been

Living in DC, particularly downtown, is exciting and fun. We feel like we are on permanent vacation and that hasn’t lessened after over three years. The biggest challenge is choosing among the entertainment available.

Having the Smithsonian Museums and the Galleries handy is a blessing. There are always new exhibitions that are world-class. Since they are free and close by, you can take them a room or two at a time and do each room thoroughly.

The theater scene is unbelievably rich. There are 67 professional theater companies in the DC area. The productions of the larger ones are of such quality that currently there are five plays on Broadway that we saw here first. Three were originally produced here and then Broadway producers picked them up. Besides live theater, there are a wide range of movies: mainstream, indie, foreign, and art available in the theaters and the museums and galleries.

This is a very friendly town and interacting with the people is enriching and fun. It’s great fun to interact with the tourists. There are a large number of protests and rallies here, and we attend whether on the left or on the right. They are exciting, colorful, with passionate people, and great fodder for my photography hobby.

This was a dramatic change in lifestyle that required philosophical changes in how we live. We went from a six bedroom house to a small two bedroom apartment. We thought we would be claustrophobic in that small space, but we discovered a striking difference in suburban and urban living. In the suburbs, you live in the house; but in the city you live in the neighborhood. The apartment is like taking a tent when you go camping. It’s utilitarian and you don’t spend much time there. Divesting ourselves of “stuff” was very difficult, but when we did, it was absolutely liberating. We have very little “stuff” now and it frees our time and emotion.

Cost is a challenge. DC has an income tax–TN doesn’t. An apartment cost 4 times as much as the same one would in TN. Utilities are at least double the cost in TN.

A big change was getting rid of cars. I had three cars in TN. In downtown, I had no need of a car, and it was very expensive to maintain and park. It took a while to mentally adjust to selling my last car. It was also liberating. It is a big time, attention, and cost burden I no longer have. I addition, with the walking I do, I can eat 50% more than I could in TN without gaining weight.

Advice

I wouldn’t change a thing- having the most fun of my life. However, my advice:
  • Get rid of stuff, including car, if possible
  • Aggressively pursue enjoying the wonders of DC
  • Interact with the people. Your personal space bubble gets smaller in an urban environment
  • Utilize the wonderful environments available in DC, rather than spending your time building one where you live. I use the Mall as my front lawn, and your taxes pay for the upkeep
  • Get out of your apartment and enjoy DC. If you’re going to stay in your apartment, you might as well live somewhere else where you could get a large place cheaper

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