In a previous post, I mentioned that Mr. FAF and I planned to travel to different cities in the US to see which one we’d like to move to in the future.
Below is the list of the cities we’d like to visit and make the next big move (in no particular order):
1. Austin, Texas
2. Raleigh, North Carolina
3. Nashville, Tennessee
4. Denver, Colorado
5. Atlanta, Georgia
6. Pittsburgh, PA (just added)
We used the following 5 criteria to pick the 6 cities above:
1. A hub for software companies
2. Low taxes and low levels of government regulations
3. Low costs of living
4. Moderate temperature
5. Good Asian, especially Chinese, restaurants
Raleigh was our destination this summer. We decided to make the trip happen in June for four reasons.
First, we originally wanted to go during the July 4 weekend. However, July 4 this year awkwardly fell on a Wednesday, which made the idea of a long weekend impossible unless we took two work days off, which we didn’t want to do.
Second, the prices of lodging and such would increase on national holidays, not to mention all the big crowds of tourists like us.
Third, it will be much hotter in July, and my baby bump would be much bigger, making the trip all the more difficult and exhausting for me.
And lastly, Baby FAF’s daycare closed for a week in June, so we wouldn’t feel bad about pulling him out of daycare for travel.
For all of those reasons, our family embarked on a three day road trip from DC to Raleigh (Fri-Sun) to see it it was a city we wanted to move to in the next few years.
These are the expenses incurred during the trip:
|Airbnb||157.46||For 2 nights|
|Shenandoah National Park||30||The park was on the way to Raleigh.|
|Gas||50.84||We left the house with maybe 1/3 of a tank of gas and had to buy more on the way.|
|Lunch at Taipei 101||71||Top rated Chinese restaurant in Raleigh|
|Lunch at Asian food court||23.06||We went to the food court to try it out.|
|Lunch at Peter Chang||43.26||One of the most popular restaurants in Richmond.|
|Beer||10.81||Mr. FAF had some beer fun at the AirBnB.|
I have to give Mr. FAF credit for doing ALL of the driving on the trip. I offered to drive, but he turned it down.
He was probably afraid my driving skills were not good enough and might get us in trouble, which would be problematic since we had a toddler (Baby FAF) and a pregnant women (me) in the car.
We left home at 9 AM on a Friday morning. It was supposed to be a 5-hour trip from DC to Raleigh.
However, we went to Shenandoah National Park on the way and drove around that huge park for about 3 hours. The scenery was beautiful, and the green trees just seemed endless.
Beautiful view at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
We were thinking of staying at one of these park cabins until we found out the daily rate is $270-300 (ehh).
We finally got to the AirBnB (which I will write more about in a separate post) at 6 PM. We dropped off our stuff and drove to the highest rated Chinese restaurant in Raleigh to check it out.
Our AirBnB in Raleigh
We spent the whole Saturday driving around Raleigh to visit:
— The downtown area
— The Research Triangle & Google office
— The NC Museum of History and Museum of National Sciences
— University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
— North Carolina State University
— The Farmer Market
— Asian Grand Market
— We went to a local park, but there were no parking slots left, so we just left.
We completed the trip at 3:30 PM and went back to the AirBnB to take a nap. We spent that night relaxing and went to bed early to prepare for the trip home the next day.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
We hit the road at 8:30 AM. We stopped by Richmond to have lunch with our friends and visited their house for a bit. We also went to a nearby Costco to get some apples, a water melon, and two gallons of milk.
Our overall impression of Raleigh is that it was a very quiet and peaceful city.
We went to the downtown area on Saturday, and there was hardly anyone on the street. There were a couple of cars parked on the sides of the street, but it was definitely not the crowded scene like what we usually see in DC.
Mr. FAF said he really liked that aspect about Raleigh. Everything seemed slow and relaxing. It really reminded us of downtown Atlanta and even Dallas as Mr. FAF said.
There were a lot of trees and farms in Raleigh. When we were driving past those farms, it really reminded me of Mrs. Frugalwoods and her family’s life in Vermont.
A quiet Saturday in Raleigh
I didn’t buy any snacks or drinks for the trip. I just packed whatever snacks we had left in our pantry to save money and declutter: seasoned seaweed, pistachios, fish snacks, waffles, matcha Pocky sticks, popcorn, and cereal.
Mr. FAF and I rarely snack, so the trip was a perfect opportunity to get rid of all the odds and ends that had been sitting in the pantry for who knows how long (but not expired yet).
Our overflowing pantry
Below is basically what we ate on the trip and in Raleigh. In total, we spent $147 on food and drinks for three days for two adults and one toddler (less than $50/day for the whole family).
|Friday ||Saturday ||Sunday||Total|
|Breakfast||Dinner leftovers||Airbnb food||Airbnb food||$0|
|Lunch||Dinner leftovers||Asian food court ($20)||Peter Chang ($45)||$65|
|Dinner||Taipei 101 ($71)||Taipei 101 leftovers||Home-cooked meal||$71|
|Drinks||8-pack Bud Light for Mr. FAF ($11)||$11|
|Total||$82||$20||$45||$149.87 or $50/day
Breakfast was provided by our AirBnB host. I was very pleased with the wide variety of breakfast options that we had: cereal, bagels, English muffins, grits, oatmeal, bananas, yogurt, and frozen pastry.
Our AirBnB kitchenette
We were not particularly impressed with the Chinese food that we had in Raleigh.
The dinner at Taipei 101 was fine. Mr. FAF said it was slightly cheaper than comparable Chinese restaurants in DC, but the quality wasn’t as great.
Twice cooked pork with leek
Sweet and sour pork ribs
Beef pancakes, beef soup & spicy beef
The lunch at the Asian food court (Grand Asia Market) was a bit of a disappointment. A lunch box with three sides and rice there was $7.85 while it is only $5.99 at Good Fortune in Falls Church, VA.
I was expecting the price to be $4.99 in Raleigh, so it was a bit of a shock to see such a big price difference. Even the bubble tea was $3.99 at the Asian market, which is almost the same as in DC (maybe $1 cheaper depending on the size).
$7.85 lunch box at Grand Asia Market (compared to $5.99 at Good Fortune in Virginia)
Roasted duck & BBQ pork. It looked great but tasted ok.
Groceries were about 10-20% cheaper than in DC, depending on the item. For example, eggplant was $0.99 in Raleigh but $1.25 in DC. Pork belly was $4.99 in DC but only $3.99 in Raleigh.
Grand Asia market opened only a year ago in Raleigh.
Mr. FAF ended up buying a huge can of sesame oil and two huge bags of green beans and soy beans, a pack of Chinese sesame noodles, and leeks for $40 since he said those items were cheaper in Raleigh.
The job market
The job market was something both Mr. FAF and I were particularly interested in. We checked out the Research Triangle and the Google office.
I know I can’t judge a book by its cover. But I was a bit disappointed when I saw the Research Triangle. I think it’s mainly because we visited during the weekend, so there was literally no one and virtually no car there.
I think part of it might be that I’m used to seeing tall buildings with lots of people walking around and a myriad of restaurants and shops in DC. Seeing that the RT was so quiet with no restaurant or shop in sight made me feel a bit depressed.
Mr. FAF also said Google’s Raleigh office is a satellite office, so there aren’t any engineers there. We drove by the office and agreed it looked a bit small.
Google office in Raleigh
An office building at the Research Triangle
I didn’t see any buses or train in Raleigh. I know the city does have a public transit system, so it was probably because of the weekend.
I think if we move to Raleigh, we will need to buy a second car, which will definitely become a sizable expense on our budget.
Feelings, emotions, and decision
Both Mr. FAF and I agreed that Raleigh might be an ideal place for us to move to when we are close to retirement or if both of us get really good jobs there.
When we retire, we might buy a farm here and enjoy nature more. Right now, we still love the vibrancy and the job opportunity a big city like DC can bring us.
Good jobs are great opportunities and shouldn’t be easily dismissed. We will happily move to Raleigh if career opportunities present themselves.
As I was exploring Raleigh, I couldn’t help but thinking maybe DC is expensive for a reason. There are many more fun activities, tourist attractions, free museums, historical sites, good Chinese restaurants and Asian grocery stores in the DC area.
We live in Fairfax County, which boasts one of the best public education systems in the country. Mr. FAF still dreams about our son going to Thomas Jefferson High School one day.
The housing prices in DC might be high, but the appreciation rate is also better. If we do want to do rental, it will be easier to find both short-term and long-term tenants due to the huge number of professionals in DC.
But I have to be honest to say that it still hurts a little when I see brand-new single-family homes on sale for the low 200,000s in Raleigh. It’s just impossible in the DC area.
At the end of the trip, we just couldn’t wait to get home and enjoy the comfort of our house. I think that’s how we usually feel after we travel for a couple of days: East or West, home is the best.
We will continue to explore other cities on our list. But after longing to move out of DC for the longest time ever, we gradually realized and began to appreciate the benefits this big city has to offer to us more.
And before we make any big move in the future, we will also try to live in the presence and cherish what we already have in the capital city of the nation.