OurNextLife.com // The Mountain Town Blues, the downsides of living in the mountains, moving to the mountains, relocating for retirement, moving to a small townwe've learned

The Mountain Town Blues // The Downsides of Paradise

As summer winds down and people start to shift back indoors, no doubt a lot of us are wishing we’d gotten out more this summer. It’s easy to conflate the joy of being outdoors with the desire to live in an outdoorsy town. So let’s talk about outdoorsy towns.

Probably because we don’t divulge where we live, for the reason that doing so would make it easy to identify us if our employers ever found the blog and we kinda need them to keep paying us through next year, we get a lot of questions by email, direct message on Twitter and even sometimes in the comments about where we live. We’re still not telling ;-) but we promise we will just as soon as we give notice. Just like we’ll share our names and faces and pictures of our cute dogs and our prettiest local landmarks and all the rest… all except our actual numbers.

We know we get these questions because we talk a lot about the good parts of living where we live, which – let’s not play coy about it – is pretty much paradise. We feel lucky every day to wake up a place we love (or at least the days we wake up at home, and not in some random hotel on work travel like I did today), and we find endless inspiration on our local trails and waterways. (If you feel like guessing where we live, please do it by email, not in the comments. ;-) ournextlifeblog [at] gmail dot com.)

But it is not all perfect, either. The questions we get tell us that some of you are considering making a move to the mountains for your early retirement years, or maybe in the lead-up years like we did.

But if you’re considering the move, make no mistake: No place is perfect. Anywhere you live on Earth, there will always be the daily drudgery, the occasional clogged pipes, the irritating local quirks. And as tends to happen in all awesome places, the more desirable the place is to live or visit, the more crowded and expensive it will be.

But as we’ve learned in the last five years in the mountains, mountain towns come with their own set of challenges. Feelings can be complicated and contradictory, and we can both love where we live and be driven crazy by it. So, yes, though we are glad we made the move, sometimes we’ve still got those Mountain Town Blues. Let us sing ‘em to ya.

OurNextLife.com // The Mountain Town Blues, the downsides of living in the mountains, moving to the mountains, relocating for retirement, moving to a small town

The Short-Term Blues – the stuff that gets us down now, but should get better after we retire

Weekend Warriors – The worst thing about weekend warriors – the people who come out to the mountains and get their outdoors groove on only a few days a week – is that we are them. Those long weekend ski lift lines? We’re in ‘em. The long line of traffic to get out of said ski area? We’re stuck in that, too. The crowded trails in the summer? You get the idea.

Premium Prices – We call it the “mountain tax,” the surcharge added to basically everything we buy, from groceries to gas to utilities. In our case, we figure it works out to about a 20 percent total markup, but it’s higher on some things, like our natural gas bill. We’ll be able to escape some of that by chopping our own firewood after we retire to save on our heating bill and by volunteering for our local CSA in exchange for a share of produce, but it will always take more effort to get our prices a bit closer to what most Americans are used to paying – and gas will just always be expensive.

Off-Limits Stores and Restaurants – Locals know, if you haven’t made it to the grocery store by noon Friday during peak winter and peak summer seasons, then you’re going to find a way to suck it up without new groceries. When the weekend tourists start to roll in, the stores fill with people and empty of food almost unbelievably quickly, making references to the Soviet Union unavoidable. Same goes for restaurants – unless you want to wait for a long time, locals don’t bother trying to eat there on the weekend. Right now we rarely have time to go out during the week, but that will change soon.

Lack of Bear Sightings – Until just a few weeks ago, we’d never seen a bear here. Including when the neighborhood bear did major damage to our property, and including that time it cleaned out our chest freezer. Just let us see you, Yogi!!!! (We call him Yogi because we’re highly unoriginal. And because he steals food. And also I’m totally guilty of assuming that the thieving bear is a “he.”) I’ve actually become slightly obsessed with seeing a bear – I am always trying to spot one when I’m out hiking, and sometimes I stay out a little too late into dusk in hopes that he’ll come out come out wherever he is. We were recently rewarded with a brief sighting of Yogi’s baby mama and cubs, but we were at a safe distance, and thus the iPhone photos didn’t turn out at all. (Seriously, Yogi, you can help yourself to our freezer again if you’ll just stick around long enough for me to get a blurry pic.) Now moving on to actual problems…

The Long-Term Blues – the stuff that will always be true

Drivers in the Snow – It’s the curse of the SUV, y’all. Anyone driving a vehicle that has even part-time four-wheel drive seems to think that snow is but a minor inconvenience that doesn’t bring into play the laws of physics. Or at least that’s what we presume they must have been thinking when we see scads of SUVs in snow banks and spun off roads after big storms here. That’s one way to learn that snow is slippery and worth slowing down for, I suppose. But driving around newbie snow drivers all the time, because new visitors are constantly cycling through, gets a little frustrating.

Climate Change – Groups like Protect Our Winters have sprung up in realization that climate change is creating not just hotter summers, but also warmer winters, meaning: less snow, more rain. While it would have been unthinkable to ski in the rain 20 years ago, it’s now a thing that happens once in a while, and will likely happen more in the future.

Unbelievably Short Growing Season – Where we live sits at elevation, and even though it gets plenty warm here during the day in the summer, that elevation means that it can drop below freezing (meaning: frost) any day of the year. Lovely for cooling off the house in the evening without air conditioning, lousy for gardening. We tried to garden our first summer here, but what the deer didn’t kill, the frost did.

Limited Infrastructure – This is more a small town problem than a mountain town problem, but small places have less infrastructure generally. There’s not much public transit to speak of, which means we’ll always be car-reliant, especially in the winter when it’s tougher to bike places. There aren’t that many doctors here, and we’ve had to travel to see specialists. And there are plenty of things you simply can’t buy here for any price – if you want ‘em, you’re going somewhere else to find ‘em.

Wildfire Fear – Pretty much the entire western half of the country now spends half the year worried about wildfire, but the threat is for sure more acute in mountain communities. Fire tends to travel uphill, plus most mountain towns still have massive amounts of flammable timber all around. This problem, like climate change, is only likely to get worse.

Comparative Mediocrity – We saved the pettiest one for last. Have you ever felt like the fastest hiker in your group? The best skier in your family? The paddler with the most perfect stroke? Or just the camper with the most epic survival story? Yeah, you’ll never feel those feelings again, because everyone who moves to the mountains is crazy awesome at rad sports. Ski towns generally are overpopulated with Olympians and triathletes who you’ll see all the time, and even your basic dirtbag skier or climber probably has a sponsorship, and not the self-sponsored kind. So prepare to be reminded over and over how much you suck at everything. ;-)

In spite of all that

We love living in the mountains. We love cities, too, but we’re so happy we made the move here, in spite of all the downsides. But we’re big believers that we should all go into big decisions with our eyes wide open, and not expect any place to be perfect. If you can embrace the upsides and downsides together, though, then you might just be in the place that’s perfect for you.

Do you ever dream of moving to the woods or mountains?

Do you dream of moving somewhere different for retirement, or before retirement like we did? What places are on your wishlist? What downsides are you willing to accept in exchange for the big upsides? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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94 replies »

  1. Ah ha! Written for the PIE family ;-)
    While we don’t live in the mountains full time yet I can certainly see already that pretty much every item on your list will apply to us. Yes, we are currently the weekend warriors and bemoan the busyness on the trails. The tourists are a key part of the local economy, which I have to remind myself when stuck in traffic – either the road kind or the lift line kind. We’re also going to be moving away from some of the best healthcare in the country – all things to think about.
    I say ‘nearly’ everything on your list as we do have the bear sightings you are craving! We’re getting pretty blase about them now. Bear on the driveway again? Just slam the car door to frighten it away. This is far cry from our early days. There’s the classic story of Mr. PIE alone one morning, stepping out onto the deck with a bowl of cheerios, only to see his very first bear, just 20 yards away. He turned to flee back indoors so quickly that he hit the screen door and the cheerios took flight!

    • OMG — Thank you for the laugh! I’m picturing Cheerios flying. :-) So I’m slightly jealous of your more frequent bear sightings, but I’m sure that comes with its own challenges, too! And yeah, we have to give ourselves the same reminders — we love the things that tourists help support, so we can’t complain about the tourists themselves! Though we do allow ourselves to grumble when we’re stuck in particularly horrible traffic or especially long lift lines. ;-)

  2. I never dreamt of moving to the mountains, but having grown up in South Florida and now living in the Northeast, I’ve often dreamed of retiring to a nice warm coastal town!

    I really enjoy the water sports like sailing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, diving, etc… and would love to do more of each of those things once I’m out of the rat race!

    Your post just goes to show that no place is perfect and you have to have the right mindset to enjoy where you happen to be living at that time. I’m fine with the suburbs for now, it’s good for the kids and my commute is not terrible.

    • I can definitely see the appeal of a coastal town! We talk about moving to one once we’re sick of the cold winters. :-) And yeah, I’m sure beach towns face a lot of the same problems. As you said, no place is perfect, so choosing what challenges you’re willing to put up with is the key.

  3. We dream of living in or near the mountains! Even with the downsides you mention, its still seems worth it because of the huge upsides! We live in a huge city – and I was just commenting to my husband this morning, that I am a little annoyed because I wanted to hit the grocery store this morning (its only 2 miles away), but because of rush hour traffic, it isnt worth it because it would take me 25 minutes to get there. And there isn’t a sidewalk there to bike on – and no shoulders on the road, so in rush hour – biking is not an option.

    • As I was reading this, I thought, “Could you bike to the store?” But then you answered that! Bummer. I definitely get the traffic challenge — we dealt with it for years when we lived in the city, and I agree, it becomes a force in your life you have to plan around. We don’t deal with traffic now, but other inconveniences just jump up to fill that void. So nothing is perfect, and you just have to choose which inconveniences you want to work around. :-)

  4. I lived in the ‘hills’ not the mountains for about 15 years and the commute to the ‘small city’ where I taught got old real fast, especially with two little ones. We live in a “resort” community too so the summer population more than doubles who is here in the winter. It’s definitely more seasonal than you face. Same issues though – lots of traffic (we have a concert venue in town), weekend boat traffic – but during the week we have the lake to ourselves to kayak. We bought our retirement place within walking/biking distance to the beach and walking distance to the store. The traffic there is crazy during the “snowbird” time so we expect to just walk or ride then and we went in like you did, with eyes wide open (and a list of goals clearly defined).

    • It sounds like you know the challenges well! And as you point out, you can be very happy in a town with the seasonal tourism challenges, so long as you know what you’re getting yourself into! (Also, I have a theory about where you live!) ;-)

  5. Ahahahahaha omg as someone who just attended a wedding in a mountain town, SO MUCH YES to the “being the worst at everything” thing. I am what one might generally call a moderately active person here in Ottawa, which in the mountains makes me the equivalent of “My 4 year old can handle this so you should be ok.” Actually, make that 3 year old.

    It is so, so, so true that everyone who moves to mountain towns is amazing and active and can do incredible things like it’s no sweat. (Throwing yourself down a double black diamond slope on a bike? Suuuuuure, why not.)

    • Hahaha — so you’ve seen this! Yeah, I went from having some pretty cool stories and being seen as mildly hardcore in the city, to now being the slowest and lamest at absolutely everything. :-) I’m pretty sure I got passed by TWO-YEAR-OLDS multiple times on the slopes last season. Fearless mountain town two-year-olds, but still. ;-)

  6. My first thought reading your opening was, “now that summer is winding down, peoplea re shifting back OUTdoors” hahahaha Seriously, I went for an hr run last night in the “cool” 85 degree weather, and after I was done I was able to wring out my shirt, and even just having it on my shoulder for my 15 minute cooldown/walk back home I was able to wring it out again before going in… Ugh…

    Our area is one of the last in Houston to get “suburbanized” and there has been explosive growth around our neighborhood. By neighborhood I mean master planned community of ~3000 houses that now seems small comapred to the 4-5 similar to it that have been popping up and getting built out over the last year or so.With that comes more shopping/retail strip mall areas, and more traffic.

    Even yesterday after the rains passed by I looked out my office window and saw a nice 1/2″ thick layer of smog on the horizon… No place is perfect, but some are definitely better than others and they all have their quirks.

    I love being able to get on different bodies of water within 10 minutes of the house,a nd i love that in December we can hit the zoo with the kids, and still wear shorts and flip flops (mainly because we didn’t grow up here thinking 50 is cold). I love that even though my commute is 30 minutes each way now, and we live in the 4th alrgest city in the US, I can still feel like I’m in a nice rural area because of all the older trees our neighborhood left up. The main reason we chose that neighborhood over others. Even with the heat I can garden 4 seasons. :)

    • Oh my gosh, I seriously don’t know how you guys live in that heat. I start melting just thinking about what your weather must be like. But I’m the hugest wuss about humidity, as I believe we’ve established before. :-)

      It sounds like you guys have a pretty sweet set-up, getting to feel like you’re in a smaller place with all the benefits of a huge city. I’ll be so curious to see if you stick it out in Houston or retreat to a mountain town somewhere. You know my vote. :-)

  7. I always appreciate your honesty. There’s something idyllic about mountain towns that makes it easy to romanticize. In terms of where we’d move, I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else. We’re so moored down with family, but I actually don’t mind. In 10 or 20 years, though, we might consider living somewhere else. Arizona and much of the Southwest has had a hold on my heart for a long time, but I think there are equal drawbacks to desert living. The bear comment is my favorite. Wishing you lots of Yogi and friend sightings from a safe distance.

    • And I have totally been guilty of romanticizing the mountain life! Which made the reality check a little rougher. But of course now that we’ve embraced these faults, we’re happy with our decision. I think if you’re happy where you are, then stay put! We aren’t trying to lure folks to small places — there’s a lot of upside to big cities and metro areas! And thanks for the Yogi wishes. Thank goodness we finally saw Ms. Yogi and the junior yogis — it took five years!

  8. Ohhhh the people who think they can drive in snow….. We do a lot of long distance winter driving and see more trucks in the ditch than cars.

    Definetely a weekend warrior but I dream of having a lake to myself without a million jet skis flying by when I am fishing

    • That’s true! It is more trucks than cars, like the truck we saw completely flipped over on a regular, non-highway road this past winter. I still can’t even compute how that could have happened!

  9. I can *definitely* see where you’re coming from. As a child, our family spent a lot of time “in your area”. No doubt about it, it’s a beautiful place.

    What would get to me the most is the traffic and the prices. I don’t mind driving, but I absolutely abhor traffic. Living in Tucson, we have the same influx of people, but instead of just the weekends, we get people for the ennnnnnnnntire winter. And…I’m not sure how to put this politely, but…these people are usually fairly “advanced” in the age department, which slows down traffic even more.

    And then we have what is known as the “Gem and Mineral Show” in February, and that’s when every hotel in the city fills up with people. Literally, not a single room available at times (I originally came house-hunting in February of 2007 before I moved to Tucson – by mistake!).

    Once we finally settle down, we *think* it’ll probably be close to the beach, but we aren’t completely sure yet. We are going to let our travels decide that for us depending on what we like best. We are generally warmer weather kind of people, so the beach might be a better fit than mountains. But like I said, we’ll see. Things could change.

    They always seem to in our family!

    P.S. – Also, once you are ready to come out of the closet, you might consider running a contest to see who can guess your hometown. You might give subtle clues or something and then let people guess. I don’t know, might be something fun to do. I, of course, will happily abstain from the contest, but would watch with a bag of buttery popcorn in hand.

    • Oh yeah, I can’t imagine having to drive behind all those slowpoke “advanced age” folks! I am a fairly chill person, but I know that would trigger some road rage. Haha.

      When you guys settle down, you might need to be on the east coast if you want warm beaches — so many of the west coast beaches are cold, especially at night. Brrrrr!

      And I love the contest idea when we unveil ourselves. We’re already thinking about how we can unveil tidbits piece by piece, and I’m guessing that quite a few people have a very strong theory on where we live but are politely keeping it to themselves (which we appreciate!). ;-)

  10. People who don’t know how to drive in the snow are a pain. I grew up in New England, but live in the mid-Atlantic now. Whenever we get any tiny amount of snow everyone loses their minds and we end up with crashes all over the place.

  11. We are considering moving to a mountain town in the Northeast eventually, and this post was like reading my mind. I grew up near the Rocky Mountains and have fond memories of the “mountain tax” in those ski towns. We still think the move will be worth it despite the cost of living, especially if we can get acreage so we don’t have to fight the masses to get our nature on :)

  12. Winter driving is the worst…even in Minnesota it seems like the locals forget how to drive until the 3rd or 4th snowstorm. I’ve lived here my entire life and still get nervous driving before the roads are plowed.

    I’m what you’d call “indoorsy” so living in the suburbs works just fine for me, although it would be nice to live in a location where I could walk to more shops/restaurants. My hope is that more communities will be built in the suburbs, with the baby boomers aging, and I could move to something like that at some point. It would be great to become less dependent on a car, especially as I age.

    • Yeah, I grew up in the midwest, and remember that people weren’t perfect about the snow driving there either. And LOL — I’ve never heard of “indoorsy” before. :-) But yeah, I do think towns are trying to focus on making things less car-dependent, which is good for so many reasons, so I’m hopeful more places will make that possible!

  13. That last one had me rolling. I do not think I am suited for mountain life even a little bit. I’d love to visit, though!

    I’m weirdly torn between “I just want to go live in the middle of nowhere and buy a horse and be a giant hermit” and “I want to live in the city where I can walk everywhere and constantly be surrounded by people and conveniences.” See how those two are pretty much polar opposites? I think I’ve still got some time to figure it out, and maybe do each one in different seasons in my life.

    • Haha — you don’t have to be an athletic striver to be happy in the mountains at all, fwiw. :-) And I can totally relate to your opposite impulses. I pretty much want the same thing. Like I want lots of space and privacy, but also total convenience and the ability to walk to everything. Haha.

  14. I think about moving all the time. I fantasize about living somewhere different and could easily see that being a mountain town, although I prefer it be near a lake or something as I’m equally a water girl. I have no idea what my place would be yet, as LA has ruined everything for me weather-wise. It’s damn near perfect here. And the stores would be another thing that would be tough to get used to. I can typically drive to Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Ralphs in a single trip, all incredibly close to each other for my favorite things. I’m pretty sure that would not be the case in a small town! :)

    • It sounds like you have a pretty sweet situation now! I get wanting to move someplace smaller — that’s what we did — but you definitely give up a lot in the way of convenience, so it’s worth thinking hard about the decision!

  15. We moved to a Northern California mountain town with a gorgeous lake, and while we couldn’t be happier, I always caution people who are considering a similar move that there are definite trade offs. Lakeside communities get lots of traffic, particularly on holiday weekends (really, on every weekend these days) once the weather warms. Fishermen are on the lake EARLY, as in 5:00 a.m. early, year ’round.. Grocery stores start filling up Thursday afternoon. If you don’t pay to moor your boat on the water, expect long lines and potentially no parking at all at the launch ramps, especially on holiday weekends. If you need to purchase anything out of the ordinary (curtain rods, coffee bean grinder, sheets), use Amazon unless you don’t mind driving many, many miles to several distant towns, and still not finding any selection. If you need a new car, expect several long distance treks to check out what’s available. Install a wood burning stove if you don’t have one, and shop for firewood in the dead of summer when it will be delivered dry (lesson learned the hard way). Watch out for drivers towing boats and RV’s on narrow mountain roads, and deer as well. You’ll have to become accustomed to injured and killed wildlife on and around the roads. People rarely stop to assist the animal because the roads are steep and winding and it’s just too dangerous. Beware of what you plant in your yard! Deer eat almost anything and you’ll soon have bare twigs if you don’t do your homework. You can hire people to do a lot of the chores you either don’t want to do or can’t do anymore, but beware of unrealistic expectations. When there’s not a lot of competition, the quality of yard cleanup, pruning, home repairs, housework, etc. you were used to in the city may not measure up when the population drops to a few thousand! Home maintenance and repairs can be very expensive, and homes in the mountains need a lot of it! Roofs, gutters, downspouts, windows, doors, siding all take a beating in mountain weather. Expect the unexpected. We’ve had to bite the bullet on some very expensive repairs up here, and there’s no end in sight! Lastly, something that still drives me crazy: people up here run on what I call “Hawaiian time.” Call you tomorrow? Maybe, unless they’re fishing or hiking or they got busy or forgot or whatever. A price by next week? Possibly, but more likely next month. Open on Sunday? Most likely not, sometimes not Saturday either. If you’re okay with three weeks turning into three and a half months (our custom bedroom slider with dog door), or being told you’re “on the list” for concrete work (the list is out several months), you’ll be fine. It’s taken me a long time to just accept that this is not the city, good people are in high demand, and I just have to wait (I wish it were that easy for me). I frequently come off as that type A, stressed out Bay Area person, but I’m getting better at resisting the urge to call back every day until I get the answer I think I need, and I’m learning it really makes no difference anyway, eventually it all gets done. We wouldn’t trade our lovely house by the lake for anything anywhere else, but $500 air conditioning bills when it’s been over 100 degrees for three straight weeks are just the tip of the iceberg up here.

    • Yes to all of this! And I’m impressed that you can even get people to call you back when you need work done at your home. That is our biggest complaint — no contractors ever call back, so we’ve had to learn to DIY some things we’d rather hire out just because we couldn’t get anyone to actually come out and take our money to fix whatever problem was happening. That’s definitely our biggest problem with mountain living!

  16. I can relate to every one of them:) i honestly hate tourist season …. But I learnt to live around it:) my days off are mid week, I visit restaurants and grocery shops midweek…. I don’t leave the town very often so gas prices don’t bother me much and I drive on the back roads to avoid the traffic or I just don’t leave the house during the major holidays. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else though. Slow or locals season is just around the corner … Late September, October, November… That’s where locals get discount deals on everything, town is empty, beach is empty …. All trails are there to enjoy them without any crowds. Lake Tahoe, I love you❤️

  17. I made the rather conscious choice to stay in the plains states after grad school, and in an area with a very, VERY low amount of public lands. We make do, but it’s not great. I envy your mountain life for many reasons, but I know that if we moved at this point, we would be battling all of the “short term” inconveniences you mention above. Living in a major University town has its own set of delights and challenges; maybe that’s a good post for me :)

    • I don’t know where you live, but I’ll guess based on your region that you also benefit from a MUCH lower cost of living where you are compared to most western resort areas, so there’s that too. We envy those in LCOL areas, so there’s some mutual envy going on. :-) And yeah, being in a college town for sure comes with perks that we don’t have!

  18. So many thoughts.

    When I spent the weekend in Idyllwild with my July fling, it was nice how you couldn’t hear neighbors, you had a lot of privacy. But I also noticed how we would have to drive from the cabin for any sort of services, whereas now, I can walk a couple blocks to go to the grocery store or a bank or a hair salon or a couple of restaurants. I love having that convenience and I’m not sure what it would take for me to give all that up on a permanent basis.

    As I semi-soon embark on an indefinite road trip, let’s be honest, this is just as much with the intention of seeking a new place to call home as it is an adventure to experience all these different places. It would be funny if I decided after all of it that where I’m from isn’t all that bad after all, but that would shock me. =)

    • Yeah, that’s completely the trade-off. When we lived in the city, we had tons of walkable convenience, but very little privacy, and now we have the opposite. I love not sharing walls anymore, but do often wish I could walk or easily bike to the grocery store!

      I hope your upcoming trip is illuminating for you. :-) Whether you find a new place to call home or decide that your original home is where you’re meant to be, it will be worthwhile.

      • DO you guys have trash pick up at least? That was another frustrating thing, had to put all the trash in my trunk and toss it int he dumpster when I got home. Not sure how a local would handle their trash removal there….

  19. The give and take of living in paradise. I have lived in small mountain towns on and off my adult life and I really love them. Each town is different of course. Some mountain towns are more touristy than others (Moab vs. Kalispell) and some are more developed towns than just resorts (Boulder CO vs. Vail/Eagle). The bananas, mangoes and avocados aren’t great but the wild huckleberries, raspberries and strawberries are amazing. I really miss restaurants open past 8 pm and ethnic food. I have adapted and figured out which places are open later and capitalize on the monthly Indian dinner fundraiser. We also cook more ourselves and have developed an international menu. Eating ethnic food is a priority when we go to the big city.

    The lack of infrastructure and weaker maintenance is something that out of towners do not really appreciate. Because of the smaller tax base the infrastructure and maintenance budgets are smaller which directly translates to lower service. Plowing only main roads (snow emergency routes) after storms (not during), piped water and sewer does not extend far out of town, no to very limited public transportation are all examples. This also contributes to higher costs of living because will likely purchase a 4×4 to get around without relying on the plow schedule, maintaining own well and septic tank, and driving said 4×4 more often.

    As with everything in life, living in one spot is a give and take. Is the positive aspects worth the negative? I think being able to ski powder or hike in the alpine with only a 30 minute drive out weights not being able to eat out where and when we like.

    • Haha, yeah, I didn’t even go into restaurants since we’ve mostly stopped going out. But yeah, forget about getting a late night bite, because it’s not going to happen! And OMG yes on ethnic food in cities. I would kill for some good Indian food right about now. :-) We’re thankful not to be on septic or propane, and to have a street that’s actually plowed, but forget about having the plow come when WE want it to — it’s coming when the town is good and ready to send it out, and there’s nothing we can do to speed it up. :-) But yeah, being a half hour from powder makes pretty much everything worthwhile!

  20. Our dream retirement location is Northern Spain, in a city called San Sebastian. We have vacationed in this region and city many times, so we have a pretty good idea about what might be challenging. One of the ideas we’ve discussed is to try living there for one entire year (end to end) so we get to experience all seasons & weather. The more serious things to investigate will be healthcare options and Visas. DH says we’re doing it 2025 (when kids are done w/college). Seems so far away. In the meantime, I’m making t-shirts with a 2025 logo!

    • Your idea of testing it out for a full year is super smart! Because tourists mostly just experience one little slice of life in a place, and your reality there will probably be quite different from the tourist experience, it’s good to know what it will really be like. And yeah, visas and health care seem like big questions! Please send a pic once you have your 2025 shirts. ;-)

  21. Your description of people not being able to drive when it snows reminds me of what we say here in Southern California on the few times when it does rain. People completely freak out and don’t know how to drive. And the accidents…sheesh! But it sounds like you absolutely love where you live and the drawbacks seem minimal compared to the happiness that you experience living where you truly feel at home :)

    • Haha, I bet! :-) And yeah, we definitely love it in the mountains despite the quirks, and we didn’t even mention how people just let their dogs roam free, which is a whole other headache! So yeah, some legit drawbacks, but that’s true anywhere. All in all, we’re thrilled with our choice. :-)

  22. I have always been more of a Mountain Man than a beach buff. If I were to retire in a beach paradise I would get bored after 1 week. Incidentally, that’s the longest vacation at the beach I ever took and I did get bored after 1 week.
    So, among all the different versions of paradise, mountains are probably a good choice, despite all the challenges. One of the mountain states with low or no income tax and a town away from the fancy and expensive resorts would look like a good place to retire. Some of the issues (long winters, bad drivers, weekend warriors) are annoying, for sure. What I’m least worried about: relaxed attitude and doing things on “mountain time.” Since I will be retried, that will be exactly my attitude!

    • Yeah, I can’t really just do nothing at the beach, either. I love the beach in smaller doses, and I sometimes love beach towns, but I will never be one of those people who just lounges for a week at a time! And the mountain time thing is definitely a thing. It’s great when it’s you yourself, but not so great when it’s the repairman or contractor — half the time they don’t even call you back! Definitely not something they print in the tourist brochures, haha. :-)

  23. We are historically beach bums spoiled by proximity who, in the last few years, have discovered we are completely enamored with the mountains. My partner proposed to me there and go back a couple of times a year, usually once in spring and once in winter. We have our eye on a very different area than you all (Blue Ridge/Smokies) for our 5 year plan, but despite the geographic differences I think a lot of these points will still apply. Seasonal tourism is actually one of the pluses in our case because we will still need to work for awhile, and where there are people, there are jobs! I can just picture the crackling fireplace inside our cabin now…

    • Aw, what a sweet story! I love that you had a mountain proposal and that you go back there regularly. <3 And yeah, even though the eastern mountains are different, I think a lot of our stuff applies in any touristy place — and you'll probably see more bears than we do! Haha.

  24. Having lived in both Northern CA and CO I can guess where you live by descriptions & pictures. I’m curious to see if I am correct! I live in Boulder CO and my observation is that Denverites are much better than Californians in the snow in the mountains due to winter snow in town (although I echo the observation that invariably there is a high proportion of 4WD vehicles upside down and in ditches–4WD doesn’t help you slow down, turn or stop, people!!). Having been here for 25 years now I do notice it rains more in Denver now in the winter than it did when I moved here. I can remember feeling so hungry for the sound of rain on a roof after my first winter here! Snow is absolutely silent coming down. I’m happy with the compromise between mountain town and big city that is here, although I think it would be fun to get more remote (Southern CO, the alps of the Rockies, so gorgeous) at least for some period of time in the future.

    • We’ll be sharing our location soon! ;-) And if your experience with snow is that it’s silent falling, you must not have a metal roof! LOL. While falling it might be silent, but as soon as it piles up, the roof avalanches start. :-)

      • Haha, definitely don’t have a metal roof! But when the graupel comes down it is pretty noisy even with the non-metal roof. And I can imagine that the metal roof is more likely to shed its snow. After big enough snows, we definitely get the big old “whoomph” and sudden darkening of the room when the snow comes off the roof! Better that way, because otherwise it just stays on the roof and melts and freezes and makes giant snow-stalactites, wrecking your gutters.

      • Oh yes, we get that “whoomph” quite often when it snows! I actually love that sound… except when we’re sleeping. Sometimes I wish we could hit a pause button on the snow (or at least on the snow shedding) at night because trying to sleep while snow is falling and shedding is borderline impossible. :-)

  25. Ah yes, we too live in the mountains outside of a small town. I do have a 4WD for winter driving, but don’t drive as those you described. Actually, I probably pull at least one rig out of a ditch/snow bank each year, sometimes more. We don’t live in a winter tourist area so it’s usually just the typical 20 year old hot-rod sorta thing. And finding certain items, growing season, fires, etc. you pretty much nailed it.

    • Wow, that’s so great of you to pull folks out of the ditch! We don’t have any towing ability on our Subaru, so it’s never occurred to me that we could help in that way.

  26. Your description sounds an awful lot like living in any semi-remote tourist area, or popular “remote” wedding venue! Also like living in the country with my grandparents. Lovely but really just for a visit, not to live.

    Ten years ago, I thought I was a city woman but it turns out that I really am not, I hate paying for parking so much! It was probably a “grass is greener” effect from living in a place where you could reach the beach, the mountains, or the desert within an hour drive.

    Nowadays I’m quite comfortable admitting to being a weekend (or weekday on a flex schedule) enjoyer of all those things, for a limited time only. All the other times, I have to have my urban / suburban comforts so I can stay a functional human being. Plus out here in CA, too many people forget how to drive in the rain, much less snow, so I’d rather not be in a remote area when we inevitably end up behind a pile-up. Yuck.

    • Yeah, you’re right — it’s more of a tourist town problem, and fewer of our problems are specific to mountains (maybe just wildfire and maybe bears — haha!). And hey — know thyself. If you’re happier in the city and burbs, then stick to that! :-)

  27. I can SO relate! We sold our “city home” and moved to the mountains in April of this year. Had to laugh at the “Friday grocery run” before the “Weekend Warriors” arrive – so true! Wouldn’t trade it for the world!! The quality of life is SO much better than the city, and will get even better after I FIRE in <2 years!

    • Congrats on making the big move! And so glad you’re feeling good about it despite some of the funny adjustments you have to make, like not buying groceries on the weekend. :-) And yeah, we can relate to that feeling big time of knowing it will get better soon, post-FIRE!

  28. Timely post for us as we’re in the process of scouting out some potential FIRE landing spots. We’re heading to CO in a couple of weeks to hike/climb and then the Tetons this winter for a ski trip. We’ve been trying to stay objective and not see the grass as greener on the other side, but we both feel the need to live in the mountains where we have access and we’re willing to deal with the downsides. The nice part of FIRE and having a little one is that we can get out during the week without the crowds and have our family time with her on the weekends.

    • You know I’m excited that you’re seriously considering a move west! I’m sure you guys will be happy in the mountains if you can handle being far from family — knowing everything you’re into, it’s such a no-brainer. Especially, as you said, once you’re not working and can do your out-and-about stuff on weekdays.

  29. My mom moved near Boone NC when she retired and loved it, but it was lacking in infrastructure and got a little crazy, especially on football weekends and in October when the leaves changed and the Blue Ridge Parkway was packed. But she had a wonderful time hiking and doing outdoorsy things (her hiking group was called the Menopausal Movers). She loved small town mountain living. I don’t think she ever regretted it, even when she was driving an hour and a half in the snow each way for chemo.

    I, on the other hand, would love to live beach front, but it’s entirely too expensive, the erosion and storm risk is ridiculous, and a marine environment is tough on cars and everything else. So we’ll probably stick to Raleigh and rent a beach front house once or twice a year.

    • The Menopausal Movers — LOL. How great for your mom that she was able to move to the mountains and create a life that felt worthwhile for her. I definitely understand your beachfront vision, too! We’ve talked about moving to the beach when we’re old and gray and sick of the cold! But who knows… as you said, there are tons of drawbacks to that life, too. But thank goodness visiting is always a good option! :-)

  30. Living in the mountains is not part of our wishlist. I prefer mix of city life with outdoor possibilities.

    Mountains have a place on my hope for list: Why not hike the mountains or a few days with the family and be off grid a couple of days! Sounds fantastic

    • You’re so spoiled in Europe with everything closer together. :-) I think your mix of city life with mountain visits sprinkled in sounds wonderful. That’s what we did for years, and we loved that, though our pull to the mountains was a bit stronger in the end. :-)

      • I do hope that you can make more ski trips one day soon! I know you enjoy it, so it’s a shame to go only once a year. But I’m sure it’s because you have such a full life with many activities otherwise. :-)

      • Even though it was not so long ago for us that we had to pay for ski trips, I guess I sometimes forget how much more expensive it is if you do not live near the resort. The travel, lodging, meals and lift tickets add up, of course. Whereas if you live near skiing, the only expense is the season pass (which is far less expensive per visit than a regular lift ticket) plus gas and maybe an occasional on-mountain beer. :-)

  31. I’ve been waiting for this post! I think I’ve mentioned before that we want to live in the mountains and this is just the post that I needed to read. (Although, honestly, your ‘downsides’ made the mountains more appealing to me. Ha!) My biggest fear about our plan are bushfires. It’s a serious and huge risk – I mean, a fireman once said on tv ‘the Aussie bushes are designed to burn, that’s just the reality of it’ – and it’s something we have to plan well for. We don’t mind being away from everyone/everything else, as we are both introverted and like being away from the crowd, but I do think about being far away from my brothers. Work is also a concern, moving to the mountains will mean we have to find work closer to home if we can’t arrange for a remote post.

    Thanks for writing this! I bookmarked it so I can show it to my boyfriend later. :)

    • I wish I’d known! I would have written it for you sooner! :-) The forests in the American West are the same as the Australian bush in that regard — they are meant to burn, and at least here, we’ve suppressed burns for so long that now our forests are all ready to go full inferno. It’s pretty scary, actually! But it’s good for staying unattached to things, knowing that it could all be gone tomorrow. :-) (And, you know, insurance helps us sleep at night too.) As for the rest of it, I’m sure you can find an arrangement that works for you, whether through remote work or a new job — lots of people are making it happen these days!

    • And in the mountains, all water is cold all the time, so any splash is a splash of cold water. Haha. :-) Mountain living is definitely great, but it’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows. There are some very real drawbacks which plenty of people can live with, but which could be deal-breakers for others. And yeah, beach life could be amazing… or it could drive you crazy. ;-)

  32. We are moving to a mountain town in 2 years and 9 months (not that I am counting, or a anything). The “challenges” vs “pluses” were debated, and the towns of our interest were visited extensively. For example, Estes Park was cut off the list due to tourist crowding, distance from airport in case of bad winter, and lack of relative proximity to a cultural life had we wanted to jump up and see an opera or similar. Anyway, as someone said here, no town is perfect, gotta weigh in and make a decision to love your choice. Gosh, surely beats big city in Texas! :))

    • Haha — we can relate to that countdown feeling! :-) It’s great that you visited lots of places. In addition to the pros and cons we talked about, it’s for sure true, as you said, that every place is different and has its own unique upsides and downsides. As long as you go in clear-eyed and honest about the downsides, it’s not hard to make a good choice. :-)

  33. I worry about y’all and wild-fires all the time. Since I hate driving and self-driving cars are not yet attainable, I prefer to live in major cities with great public transportation. I am hoping to buy a home in the next year, and there’s a place near me that I’m eyeing. It is small and surrounded by trees, but along a major bus-route. I could walk through the woods before work, and see some deer and foxes. I am also always near 3-6 hospitals who could help me in case of emergency. This sounds good to me.

    • No need to worry about us — we have our most important stuff out of the house during fire season, and the rest is just replaceable stuff. :-) But I totally appreciate the sentiment! <3

      And yeah, you definitely hit the upside of city living dead center! Plus restaurants open past 8, a higher concentration of cultural events, etc., etc., etc. Sometimes I just wish we lived somewhere with more than one farmers market! But yeah, being able to walk more places or take public transit would be huge!

      • Of course, you are taking appropriate precautions. Multiple farmers’ markets are great. I got fresh gooseberries this year; I had never seen them out of a can and had not even seen a can in a decade. My pie was so delicious.

  34. I don’t think I can ever live in the woods or the mountains. I went camping once and long story short, I ended up sleeping in the car :p I might have changed my ways since then so if I ever move to the mountains I would have to do a test drive before making the plunge.

  35. Just wanted to let you know that I just found your blog via your recent guest post for Cait Flanders. I went back to the beginning and read every single post. Looking forward to following along as you get closer to pulling the rip cord. Thanks for sharing all you are learning and thinking about.

    • WOW, you just read the equivalent of like three short novels! You deserve some serious applause. :-) But seriously, I’m honored you were interested enough to go all the way back — that totally made my day. :-)

  36. I just had that moment when for the first time in quite a while, I have found another human whose life experience parallels my own. While my circumstances are much different (and likely unbelievable), I relate to everything you have said. Perhaps equally important, your writing skills and conversational-yet-eloquent writing style is such a pleasure to read! I am one of those that fights back the acid-reflux when I get part way through an article and can no longer continue to count the assaults on the English language…thank you! Thank you for writing this and for being a beacon of hope as I nearly close out year number two in my rural mountain town having made zero friends but accumulating an impressive stack of rejection letters for jobs which I have come to learn that twenty-plus years of experience matters not without being second or third generation small-towner. Thanks to you, today will be one more day I don’t just give up on making my situation work out.