Traveling With A Purpose – Our Plan To Move Out of Washington DC

Yes, you read that right. Mr. FAF and I are planning to move out of the DC area.

In case you wonder why, it’s because DC is so expensive, and we feel that we can enjoy a less hectic and less pricey life somewhere else.

I moved to the DC area in August 2013 to attend a Master’s degree program. After graduating, I got a job in the area.

Mr. FAF and I bought a house here, and our lives just started revolving around DC due to my job and the house.

Where to settle down

The topic of where to build our family was a contentious issue that caused constant tension in our marriage for four years.

At first, I was enamored with my job and the ample opportunity the city had to offer.

Plus, we had already bought a house in DC, and it would be a big loss for us to sell it after only one or two years when Mr. FAF graduated from his PhD program.

In fact, Mr. FAF turned down an offer from Google in the Bay area and started working in DC because of me.

We agreed that we would live in the area for a couple of years.

After I have built enough work experience in my field, I would then move with Mr. FAF anywhere he wants.

I have finally become at peace with the idea of moving elsewhere for two reasons.

First, Mr. FAF kept his promise to stay in DC for me, so I will keep mine and move with him.

Second, after almost three years of staying at the same organization, I have gradually given up the idea of sticking with it for another 5-10 years. There’s not much upward mobility for me, and frankly, I want to see what else is out there.

This is my first full-time job, and I have enjoyed it so far. But life is short, and I would like to try my skills and luck at another organization or even in another industry since my skills are transferable.

Related: How Our Lives Have Changed With A 128% Increase In Income

5 criteria for the new city

Below are the five criteria for the city we want to move to:

1. A hub for software companies

Mr. FAF would like to move up the career ladder as a software engineer and hone his skill set at big tech companies like Google, Apple, and other big tech names in the market.

2. Low taxes and low levels of government regulations

We got a taste of what it’s like to live in Maryland versus Virginia and do not like the myriad of fees, regulations, and bureaucracy in Maryland.

3. Low costs of living

One big reason why we want to move out of DC is the high cost of living. We want to move to a cheaper area where we will get a bigger bang for our buck and not stress out about high housing prices.

Related: How To Navigate The Housing Market In DC

4. Moderate temperature

I grew up in Vietnam, so I can handle the heat better than the cold. New York or Maine winter is a bit beyond my stamina. The weather in California is definitely ideal, but we can’t justify that with the high costs of living and high taxes.

5. Good Asian, especially Chinese, restaurants

Mr. FAF loves his Chinese food and wants to live somewhere where we can eat delicious Chinese cuisine on the cheap. This criterion is not a must for me since I want to save money eating at home.

But having access to inexpensive Asian dishes won’t hurt either (maybe except for the wallet).

Related: The Financial Benefits Of Being Chinese

The list

After much deliberation, we have narrowed the list down to the following cities (in no particular order):

1. Austin, Texas

2. Raleigh, North Carolina

3. Nashville, Tennessee

4. Denver, Colorado

5. Atlanta, Georgia

In order to determine where we want to settle down, Mr. FAF and I will try to travel to and spend at least a week in the cities above to get a feel for the lifestyle, weather, costs of living, and job opportunity.

We plan to move out of DC in 2-3 years, so the travel will be spread out during that time frame. I am particularly excited about this plan for three reasons:

1. I have lived in the US for 13 years but haven’t seen much of the country due to my limited travel budget. This will be a perfect time to travel. We know where we want to go and what we’re looking for during the trip.

2. We have to save our vacation days and money for our long trips to visit our family in Asia. Having a legitimate reason to do more domestic sightseeing makes me feel good about spending the time and money on such trips.

3. We will also visit our friends who live in such cities to get more insight into what it’s like to live there.

Related: Hubby Decided Not To Be Cheap – Our $1,400 YOLO trip

First mini trip to Austin

While planning to attend his friend’s wedding in Dallas in March, Mr. FAF made a two-day trip to Austin, TX to visit his other friend and gave me a sneak peak of the city.

One thing we really like about Austin is its low housing prices. His friend bought a brand-new two-storied single family home with 3 beds, 2 baths, a two-car garage, and a deck for $320,000. The house is only a 10-minute drive from his friend’s company. It looked luxurious.

I can totally picture a home like that in DC costing around $600,000-700,000 or even more. We can only dream about such a house in DC unless we want to move further out in the middle of nowhere.

Mr. FAF also said the food is cheaper than that in DC. However, the temperature in the summer can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

I think we really need to explore Austin in the summer to see what the fuss is all about. I told Mr. FAF I can be a fried Asian chicken for him (lame joke), and he was super happy to hear that.

We plan to visit Raleigh this summer. One of my best friends lives in Raleigh, so I would love to meet up with her and her family as well.

Conclusion

I love planning for the future. It gives me direction for my life, career, finance, and even entertainment. Relocating a family is a big decision. That’s why Mr. FAF and I need to consider the pros and cons of each option carefully before making the move.

I am super excited about our plan. After traveling to those cities, we might fall in love with one or all of them. But we might also realize that we like the DC area much more than we thought. After all, the grass seems to be always greener on the other side.

However, whatever conclusion we make, I will be happy that I stay flexible to accommodate Mr. FAF’s career plans after he did the same thing for me.

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28 thoughts on “Traveling With A Purpose – Our Plan To Move Out of Washington DC”

  • Austin Texas is awesome, and starting to grow with word spreading. There is a lot of fun things to do, but most important, there are so many opportunities for Engineers and programmers. I think you guys would love it. Plus cost of living is resonable

    • Thanks for the insight! Mr. FAF seems super excited about Austin. I also want to buy a house there before things get crazy expensive. Great to hear that you enjoy living in Austin 😀

  • We’re twinning again. We were just thinking about moving somewhere else in 4 years yesterday.

    We’ll see how popular Seattle will become and decide what we want to do. It’s hard to beat the diversity of everything here but it’s also hard when there’s a screeching domestic terrorist running the political scene.

    But unlike you guys with a hugeee net, we know we want to stay in Washington. Just not Seattle/King County. It’s absolutely stunning in Washington and the weather is mild and cool.

    (You have to inquire a states long-term capital gains tax too by the way.)

    • I like that Seattle has no income tax, but the prices there are probably almost the same if not high than in DC. The weather is great though. I’ve been to Seattle once and also liked the moderate weather there (sans the rain though hehe).

  • I want to hear more about Raleigh. The cost of living sounds super cheap over there.
    Right now we don’t want to move because our school district is great. Portland is okay for now. Someday we’ll probably move to southern CA for a few years. After that, who knows?

    • The school district is definitely important when you have a school-age kid. It will be a couple more years until our son goes to school, at the moment we’re primarily concerned with the career prospects and costs of living.

      We’re planning our Raleigh trip and have already booked AirBnB. I’ll definitely write a post about it 😀

  • I always daydream about moving out of NYC because the cost of living is so high. It would be tough to leave since both sets of parents are here plus our friends and job. We work for the State so it might be tougher to find jobs too. But if we were to move, I strongly considered Raleigh/Charlotte. The Root of Good family reached FIRE there and based on his posts, seems to have decent Asian food options.

    • NYC definitely has great Asian food, but the costs of living are also super high. It’s more difficult to move out of an area when your jobs and relationships are tied to the area. For now, I’d just enjoy the NYC life if I were you 😉

  • Have you thought about what you will do with your house in DC? Will you rent or sell it?
    I recommend going to the cities you are interested in and Airbnbing a house for a few weeks to get a better feel of what’s its like to live there. Just a thought.

    • We’ve thought about it. I want to sell the house since I don’t want to manage it from a distance. Plus, the 1% rule is impossible in our area. Mr. FAF, however, wants to keep it and rent it out since the house is located in a nice neighborhood and is close to the Metro. I think we might end up just renting it out since I don’t have a strong preference.

      AirBnB sounds like a great idea. I’ll discuss that with Mr. 😀

  • I don’t recall reading why Mr FAF wants to leave DC. Was it for any particular reason? I left DC a while ago, but I remember being so amazed when I saw the cost of living in Charlotte – a huge beautiful house costs the same as a tiny 1BR condo in DC! The job opportunities are so much more abundant in the DC metro area than in Charlotte/Raleigh though. Have you considered moving further out into the burbs in northern Virginia? Charlotte did not seem nearly as diverse or accessible to an Asian community/restaurants/markets as NOVA. There’s always the west coast too, but you’re definitely not going to get any better with the cost of living in Seattle or SF.

    • Hi JM, Mr. FAF wants to move since DC doesn’t have those big names in tech. Even if they have offices here, they’re more for lobbying and marketing purposes than the actual tech work (there are exceptions like AWS of course).

      I’ve heard people talk about the housing prices in NC and are enamored! If we sell our current house in DC, we can get a much bigger single family home plus a rental property in NC. We currently live in the burns in NA, but we still think the costs are too high compared to many other cities.

  • I haven’t been to any of the cities you mentioned except for Atlanta, where I live. The weather is nice here. It does get hot in the summer, but nothing unbearable. Winter weather is not too cold and we don’t get much snow either. I’m not familiar with engineering jobs here, but we do have Georgia Institute of Technology (GA Tech) which is highly ranked nationwide (I believe) so I would assume there are good engineering careers in the city. Home prices aren’t too bad either. Despite the housing market incline, you can still get a lot of house for your money in the suburbs. The Asian food scene is incredible here. There are so many good restaurants that offer a variety of Asian food, snacks, desserts, etc. You won’t be disappointed. =)

  • This is a great idea! I would definitely do a cost-benefit analysis of staying near a very large tech hub, though. As an example, if you decided you wanted to work in NYC, your salaries would shoot up substantially. Of course, home prices are higher nearby, but you’ll have access to every single type of food you could dream of. A good question is if your total compensation increased by $100,000, would you consider paying more money to live in one of those expensive areas? Because I would assume your income would jump by that much. If you lived in Queens, you wouldn’t need a car either. Just a thought.

    I go to Flushing with my wife’s family all the time. Incredible Korean BBQ

  • Austin is a growing city with Google and many other high tech companies operating over there. And with the cost of living pretty low like you mentioned, it’s a good option for you and your family. But I think the one thing you have to overcome is the weather down there. It can get really hot especially during summer so it’s a good thing your taking a trip down there to see if it’s manageable for you. You can also check out the Asian restaurants down there to see if they have great quality, I hear they have a good number of Asian establishments.

  • Colorado on holiday was awesome, especially of you love outdoor activities like me. Even then, if you’re not the most adventurous, having such beautiful scenery will definitely entice you to go out more.

    I’m always interested in WHY people have began to move out of these areas. It’s the same with London and its surrounding areas, like Cambridge. I guess people are getting tired of the daily grind to keep up in an evermore competitive place; may be more people are reaching the limit.

    If you do, hope you settle down in a place great for you and your family. 加油 😊

  • I love the planning ahead! We too are scouting our cities for our next move, depending on what my husband wants to do after his PhD program ends in a few years. And we are taking advantage of conferences and vacation time to do that.
    I love loving in the north, so I think we’ll be avoiding all the areas you mentioned 😂

  • Don’t prematurely rule out the SF Bay Area lah. If you’re good at your jobs, your pay and stock options will far outweigh the increase in expenses. It might be tougher in the early years but would pay off big time later.

    I’m early retired but if I went back to my old job as an engineer now, I’d be making $500k on salary and ESPP, not counting stock options.

  • I have lived in Austin for almost my whole life.

    Weather – my mom and sister just traveled to Vietnam (Hoi An, Danang, Hanoi). They said the heat index was significantly higher than even Austin in July. I think that’s mostly due to more humidity in Vietnam vs. Austin,. Austin is not dry (especially in summer), but it is not as humid as it used to be.

    I would seriously question the strength of the software ecosystem in Nashville.

    As a proxy for strength of software ecosystem, on Indeed there are the following # of job listings in the past month for “GoLang”:

    Denver – 28
    Austin – 12
    Nashville – 1
    Atlanta – 13
    Research Triangle – 4
    (Bay Area – 78)

    DC – 33

    However, I’ve heard Austin is much stronger (relatively) in terms of mobile programming. Let’s see.

    # of job listings mentioning Kotlin, Swift:

    Denver – 4, 33
    Austin – 8, 35
    Nashville – 1, 6
    Atlanta – 10, 56
    Research Triangle – 5, 10
    (Bay Area – 60, around 170-180)
    DC – 21, 53

    So this basic analysis shows that the software ecosystem in Nashville seems tiny, and not so large on the Research Triangle either (though likely there are many other spaces within the software field that do thrive in Raleigh, that I simply didn’t search for).

    Austin seems to be moderately smaller than Atlanta, and slightly smaller than Denver even. That’s surprising to me, although I know that Austin’s relative IT strength lies much more in hardware than software. DC clearly takes a strong 2nd while Bay Area is (as expected) by far the leader.

    Pros of Austin – safe (compared to Atlanta), people are friendly, there are some good parks.

    Cons of Austin – bad traffic in many areas (though Atlanta and DC are even worse), not very walkable except in a few very localized zones (Atlanta, Nashville, Research Triangle all bad), bad public transit (Atlanta slightly better). Denver public transit and walkability are significantly better. However, there is state income tax (unlike in TX) and housing is a bit more expensive.

    Asian restaurants – mediocre. I spend several months a year in Asia; Korean, Chinese food are far better in Asia compared to Austin. The Vietnamese food is OK (not great), the Thai food is actually pretty good, and the Japanese is actually surprisingly not bad at all (see recent NY Times article on the Austin sushi scene).

    Housing cost – very dependent on where your company is located. If in the burbs, housing will be very cheap. If in central Austin – there are many startups in central Austin, e.g. Bumble (dating app), housing will be more expensive than nice areas in Denver (at best equal) or Atlanta or Research Triangle (and certainly Nashville). Still cheaper than DC though.

  • This is super exciting news! I can sense the feeling of excitement, anticipation, and progress in your writing!

    My initial rxn while reading was
    “Seattle fits all the boxes sans your budget”,
    “Bay area is the dream of all but the price tag is top of the nation creating a barrier to entry for the adamant home owner”,
    “LA is also highly popular with all that sunshine but the road rage will turn you into an angry mega commuter in no time if you have to work outside of the municipality you live in” .

    Then I saw your 1st choice and that makes absolute sense. There is plentiful access to Chinese groceries and affordable hole in the walls. The sky is mostly blue all year round. The price is within your range.

    But hurry as all the Californians fed up with the price and politics are also headed there as well.

  • I’ve been in the Raleigh area going on 7 years and I lived in DC before this. If you have any questions message me! I love DC hands down. Was just there a few days ago for a graduation. I don’t miss the traffic and aggravation. It seems lately there’s no good time to leave the city that won’t get you stuck somewhere.

    As for your criteria:
    – some tech jobs and seemingly more coming to RTP
    – property tax gets some gripes amongst the locals. I know I pay more to have my car registered here than in MD or CA where they’ve been before. I also got speeding tickets here my 1st year because I couldn’t believe you could actually travel at or above the speed limit!! I don’t own any other property
    – this area is A1 for married people with kids, cars, homes, and pets…oh and a Bible. That’s your ticket into any conversation.
    – you can get a brand new fancy townhouse starting at $200k in Morrisville and Chapel Hill
    – more “established” neighborhoods have different price points
    – i live in a studio apt in the ‘burby part of the area for $910/mon; directly across the street are brand new ‘estates’ starting at $400k
    – the temperature here is pretty annoying in the summer but i would say similar to MD/DC; snow removal = sunshine
    – asian food? there’s an H-Mart that just opened in Cary so there’s asian people somewhere… i’ve seen 1 or 2 at work…they have white spouses 🙂 ; morrisville is like Little India though; otherwise your children will have predominantly white friends
    – i would say most of the asian restaurants in the area are owned and frequented by non-asians.
    – oh and the pollen! bring your claritin.

  • The Raleigh-Durham housing market is bombing right now and rumour has it that Apple will be coming here soon. I don’t love NC but I would maybe settle here after graduate school for a few years. Depending on what part of the greater Raleigh area you end up in, there’s some awesome public schools. If you wouldn’t mind being in a college town Chapel Hill/Carrboro has some of the top schools in the south

  • Austinite here. I have lived here most of my whole life. I’ve been an incognito active reader until this post. Be warned that “low housing prices” comes with massive property tax bills and increases in property apprasials year over year. I’ve also been an active reader for some time and know that you take public transportation to work – efficient public transportation does not exisit, you will have to consider the cost of purchasing another vehicle, though that is honestly a must in Texas.

  • SO EXCITING! My vote is Nashville, TN! The food scene here is incredible! The cost of living is great, and there is still a lot of affordable housing!
    On top of that, the job market is crazy good! My husband lost his job, then got his dream job two days later as a data analyst! With no experience, connections, or anything. Employers here are hiring like crazy.
    AND, there are so many good colleges here for when the kiddos are ready 🙂 or if mr.FaF wants to teach.
    Nashville is definitely one of the most underrated cities. You guys would love it!
    When you do come visit, check out Franklin, the 12 south area, east nashville, and the gulch. It’s easy to stay on Broadway, and get suckered into cowboy boots and people saying “yee-haw”
    Those people are toursists haha.

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