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Sunday, 11 March 2012


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You know you're a photographer when...

...you look at photos of a 1910 Craftsman-style house and can't help but notice the barrel distortion :)

Since it is just a fantasy anyway: How about relly move, to a different country? That's the kind of move that can really change your cost of living for the better, and you would not lack for either new photographic experiences, nor eager visitors.

I live in Japan now, a continent away from my native Sweden. Perfectly doable, even though I didn't even speak a word of Japanese when I first came here. If I were to fantasize a bit, I'd consider Thailand, perhaps, or Spain; Barcelona is a spectacular city. Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam is wonderfully relaxed, but you'd have to be comfortable with a dictatorship of course.

I like the stained glass windows in the Craftsman house, and it does seem very nicely made. I get the impression that most American houses have their front doors several feet above ground level and that there's always a short flight of steps before you reach the door. Is this the case?

What do people do if they have trouble walking, or are in a wheelchair, if their home is like this? I moved from a flat that had a full flight of 13 steps between the street and the front door to a bungalow with the external doors nearly at ground level because I had come to dread returning home to the struggle up to my front door. I have a dodgy foot.

My ideal home, if already built, is a 1950s to 1960s local council-built house. They are of solid construction, reasonably sized and usually have a decent sized garden. The windows are now double glazed, there's cavity wall insulation, and plenty of loft insulation. My council bungalow was built in the 1960s and has all these things.

If I could build an ideal home, it would be of solid construction and super insulated to cut fuel use to a minimum. There would be room for friends and family to stay, a darkroom and a big garage/workshop.

they give you a 'zestimate' *snickers*

You need at least two homes, meaning one home base and one or more alternative residences. Head to Bisbee, the Panhandle or Fort Collins for half the year -- choose a different location each year if you want -- and take advantage of all the variety, scenery and weather the country has to offer. You'll find inspiration, new friends, old friends. You'll get out of any ruts you might be in. Choose a permanent residence that suits your business needs. Choose temporary (rental, house-sitter, borrowed, RV, whatever) residences that suit your other needs.
(By the way, I am informed by my juniors that the recent economic difficulties have made home ownership "old school." I don't fully agree as a general matter, but it does look less attractive.)

In a similar vein to "The Omnivore's Dilemma" is this TED talk by Barry Schwartz, "The Paradox of Choice," that I keep pointing people to: http://obblogato.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/594/ (the reference is to my blog - it was faster for me to locate than the original on TED).

" ... maybe ... I'm better off staying where I am."

There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like ...

What does that stuff about California, tax and Amazon mean?
Of the less than 24 hours I've spent in the US, a few hours was at Miami airport. They had Back Porch Burgers, I remember that. All else I know was from John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels. I can sort of see you operating from The Busted Flush houseboat.

Sounds like you've given up too easily, or that maybe that was the point of it all?

From a regular correspondent to my own blog, looks like the Hudson River Valley is where it's at. Seems like you can buy a haunted 19th century 100 room rotting hotel (The Shining style) for a few cents, and it's near some kind of water right? All your international and US friends could visit and it's as photogenic as all get out.

I know some people don't like off-topic posts, but I do. It's probably because I think you write very well, especially when you write from the heart.

Mike, I'd continue to consider Florida. It's a very big state. I was never interested in it, but a bit over a decade ago I had a job with a North American sales territory---all of NA. So I got to see a lot. And I managed a road trip that was a near circumlocution of Florida (but not the panhandle, unfortunately) and included traverses of the "interior". I was actually amazed. Now, new Florida can be as gross and sad as you've heard. But "old Florida"? wow. Seriously funky/cool. If I had to pick a place to go i guess it might be around J-ville, just because of the convenience of it, and the road trip ease. If you found yourself jonesing for a little winter, The Smokies/southern Appalachians are reachable by car, and are really beautiful any time of year. And there's a lot of old U.S. history within easy reach of J-ville. Not keen on the city itself, per se, but it is a city, and all that pertains, benefits wise.

Based on some of your criteria, my next suggestion would be Albuquerque. AZ is a bit messed up, imo. Tuscon is nice, but way down there, SF is fine, but it's got a winter I think. Phoenix/Tempe is....well, don't go there. And the summer is....psychedelically hot.

Good luck with your decision!

Are you only focussed on the USA (I can certainly appreciate the attraction of language, culture, the legal framework, etc). British Columbia is very nice, but I don't know current prices. I took a 3 day drive south from Vancouver to San Francisco and also enjoyed the Washington State and Oregon scenery and weather. I'm not sure about the political stability or safety of Mexico these days.

If I was in possession of a Green Card and an unencumbered life (which I am not), I'd be heading to one of the Rocky Mountain states or just to the east. The sort of scenery that you get in Legends of the Fall or A River Runs Through It works for me, as does the fantastic fishing. Wyoming, Idaho or Montana. I was lucky enough to be based in southern Alberta for six months at a British Army training base, and used to drive my ancient 15th hand car down to those states when we had breaks in between exercises. Absolutely beautiful.

Be grateful you're not living in Canada. There are no places to go for warmth year-round and very few places that get you out of winters. And the real estate market never took a hit. In fact, it keeps going up as if nothing bad is happening economically. Our 1,000 sq foot 50s bungalow (three bedrooms, one bath, un-rennovated, nice yard, central but not downtown) would sell for $150K more than the craftsman you linked to. That's the state of things up here.

I can understand wanting to be by the water. But boy do I love the desert. Whenever we visit the states I can't get enough of it. California, Nevada, Arizona. Fantastic. I'm particularly in love with Arizona after last year's visit. Sedona is where I'd love to be if I couldn't live in California.

"One website singled out Naples, Florida, as one of the most undervalued real estate markets in America. Really? From the looks of the Zillow map, you can't smack a tennis ball in Naples without hitting a million-dollar-plus house."

Undervalued doesn't mean cheap, it means that the going prices are low in relation to the (largely theoretical) actual value. But having grown up in Florida and in the South, you couldn't pay me to live in the Northern part of Florida... I'd want to live in the Southern part, up near the FL/GA border. To explain: The geographically southern portions of Florida were largely colonized post WWII by retirees - it's Northern in culture. The geographically northern portions remain fairly Southern in culture.

That last house is gorgeous, it feels alive. I'm always discussing this almost philosophic matter with friends: can you buy warmth? It has to do with what you say, you can buy artificial surroundings that mimic what you think of as "warm", but living is the only way of filling them with actual feelings. That's quite a job, a lifetime job, if you`re a sensitive person, and as you seem to have guessed already, it's a job you've already done right there where you are.
Lots of people don't have and don't need roots, but if you have them, it's a good thing to accept them and excuse yourself from following the pre-established patterns, it will sweeten things up for you.

In picking a (semi-?) retirement location, from personal experience, strongly consider convenience of medical facilities. And, stairs!

Hi Mike, I traveled the US with my job between 1985 and 1995 and, having a rental car, used to spend my weekends exploring.

Mid-sized towns give you a feel for the heartbeat of a place. There were many I liked and many I forgot but I do remember La Crosse Wisconsin, Olympia Washington and Wilmington NC as being exceptionally nice places to stay and explore for a couple of days.

However the best house I actually came across belonged to a friend of mine who worked in Rochester Minnesota: A lakeside wooden house on lake Zumbro with a large deck and a jetty. I guess they are more expensive now, but at the time I could not believe how cheap it was. I learned to water ski there!

Despite the atrocious winters I can understand the appeal of the mid-west. Low crime, high SATs and decent property prices mean a pretty good standard of living. Just them winters!

But you could take a leaf out of Jake's book. I worked with Jake until he retired early in 1992, aged 50. He didn't want to move house and leave his friends, so he bought a camper. In the winter he headed south with up to three friends.

These days you can be fully wired for sound so next November you could be blogging from Monument Valley.

Well, Mike. I feel your pain in the inability to afford most of the places I'd want to live. We found a good compromise, I think. We have an RV alongside our small, inexpensive house in central AZ. It is at an elevation of 4500' so has milder weather than Phoenix. We can day-trip to the Grand Canyon and many places are within two days drive in the RV. We can spend a couple of weeks on the CA coast, the CO mountains, the 4 corners, etc. without having to travel too far. We were also able to afford our 4 acres of desert ($200k with house) so that we're not boxed in.
You might make a list of the things you most want and search for a place like that - then worry about the house. (BTW, I love the house you showed.) This would not be my first choice of where to live if I had unlimited funds. But, it is a really good compromise for my lifestyle, and is close enough to many places I can "live" for a few weeks when the urge calls.
Good luck.

I have a similar pipe dream, only I'm looking for a cheap place in a sunny snowless city where I can get by without a car. Hard to find in this hemisphere.

And thanks for the pointer to Zillow. Didn't know about it.

Good luck.

How about Bend, Oregon? On the sunny side of the Cascades--high desert climate. Beautiful and very outdoorsy. Fairly affordable. No state sales tax. Here's a photo I found on the Web:


As someone who moved across the country to live in a place we loved (Hood River, OR), your post made me smile. Firstly, I think that most people do, in the end, like where they live. Kind of how we mostly like the country we are born in. After all the definition of patriotism is thinking your country is the greatist because you were born there.
Secondly, If you move to a far flung place like Hawaii, you may not have as many visitors as you plan. Some people will be scared to fly over the ocean. Some will have kids that don't travel well. Some will run out of money for that kind of trip. And so on.
Lastly, Even if you move to paradise like we did. There will be something preventing total happiness. For us its the decidedly gray, rainy, long winters. If only we had a sunny spot to go for a month or two in the winter. Maybe a little casa in Baja Mexico. It's a slippery slope....

I have the impression that you don't mind having neighbors. If that's the case, have you ever considered building something the size of the Topsider house someplace other than the beach? My own residence is in a beautiful location, but it's 169 square feet, and I have to drive somewhere for fast internet, so I've spent a fair amount of time looking at real estate online. I've seen a lot of relatively inexpensive parcels in sizes smaller than 5 acres. My own current fantasy is building an ICF home on this larger one, but past experience leads me to doubt I'll save up that kind of money without using it to attempt to solve someone else's problems first.

Good lesson to learn.

Couple of points... With regard to hurricane coasts, I'd be less concerned about wind than about the ground underneath me disappearing. Same with climate change; if predictions are accurate, coastal areas might eventually be under water. How long do you plan to live? :)

I lived in Santa Fe. Yes, potentially quite expensive, but depends where you live. There are outlying communities at lower costs. But remember that it's 7000 feet up in the sky (33% higher than Denver), and it snows there. Not exactly Florida.

"You know you're a photographer when... ...you look at photos of a 1910 Craftsman-style house and can't help but notice the barrel distortion :)"

You see what I mean about too many bad photos at once!


My "one and only wish" would be that I could speak all the world's languages fluently.

Howdy Mike,

I'll say probably the smartest move is usually to not move at all but to rediscover where you're already at.

Having said that...I'm of course going to throw some ideas in the ring. Well you may not be able to move to a town with all your family and friends, what about a town they all go to with some regualarity. I think Vegas is more you than you realize, once you leave the strip, but that's not actually what I'm suggesting. What about around St. George, Utah? (Conflict disclosure, I want to move to this area I'm suggesting.)

St. George is about two hours outside of Vegas so you could come into Vegas whenever anyone was in town for a conference for another. The town of St. George itself is really nice, pretty and just nice people. Lots of festivals, and community events in the summer. And the landscape is stunning.

If you're thinking more rural take a look at the Kolob Terrace. It adds some time to get into St. George, but gets you right into the beauty of nature and the mountains.

It's a thought.

We are in the process of buying a house and I know what you mean about the photos. Too many look like they were shot with an old cell phone or a $29.99 Walmart special. That would probably be okay if the agent actually knew anything whatsoever about using it but they clearly don't. The agent's photos of the house we're buying made the kitchen look like a "galley" style kitchen. It's actually a huge country kitchen. The weird thing is, when you say anything to an agent about the quality of the photos, they don't get it. They think they are good.


One big advantage Florida has that you may want to consider, is that there is an abundance of single women in your? our? age group.

Yes, Naples has a ton of stunning, high dollar real estate. Ever hear of the Busch or Falstaff or Schlitz brewing companies or Aetna Insurance to name a few...the owners have wintered in Naples for a very long time. You can see the private jets on approach to Naples airport daily during the winter.

The affordable real estate in Naples is in the north and east of Hwy 41 away from the Gulf. You need to research north of Naples towards Bonita Springs, Ft Myers, Punta Gorda, and Venice. I think Venice is perhaps the coolest beach town on the whole SW Gulf Coast. Just remember that the housing prices tend to diminish as you travel east away from the Gulf.

I live in a golf course community in a town called Estero which is mid-way between Naples and Ft Myers. If you're looking for golf, there are about 100 courses between Collier and Lee Counties...mostly private.

Lastly, SW Florida has a high seasonal population explosion...so January through March it gets somewhat congested. But once April rolls around, the snow birds start heading north. By Late April, early May the migration is about over...and SW Florida roads, highways, and restaurants are ideal.

Then there's the weather. My wife and I have a mantra for the hot weather...get in the water, get on the water, or get into A/C. We usually opt for in or on the water.

There you go. Good luck with your search!

Topsider? Selling your books, then?

Being a total contrarian, I think there's a lot to be said for staying in the Great Lakes rustbelt region.
I mean, think about it. Housing prices are rock-bottom, mostly because they never inflated very much in the first place. Most of the region actually has at least marginally functional State governments, which is more than can be said for Arizona. Some time in the next two decades, most of the U.S. desert southwest is really truly going to run out of water- as in, turn the tap and nothing comes out. And when global warming really kicks in, places like Cleveland or Buffalo are going to be a whole lot more livable than Tucson or Savannah.

"Topsider? Selling your books, then?"

Yes, there's that to think about.

I can't find it, but there was a wonderful cartoon in The New Yorker a long time ago. A squat tycoon-type man and his leggy dolled-up wife are standing in the doorway of an empty apartment with a real estate agent. The room is completely lined with empty bookcases, and the woman is saying, "What kind of people lived here?"

It's been interesting, in poking around on Zillow, how few books and bookshelves you see in most houses for sale.



Build yourself a Tumbleweed Tiny House, then either put it on a lot of your choice or tow it to your various friends' homes to visit at will. On the other hand, live on the beach in Hawaii (north or west shore of Oahu) for free as do hundreds now. Just bring your tent, tarp or old VW camper. Finally, contract with a mail forwarding service in a friendly income generating state to use as your permanent address in the same fashion as do tens of thousands of full-time RVers. You get the best of all worlds. Life is good!

Forget about US, move to Europe.

"Since it is just a fantasy anyway: How about relly move, to a different country?"

I just fantasize about traveling to a different country. That's far enough from the realm of the likely. [g]


Perhaps an entirely different approach... Oxford, Mississippi. Worth a close look. The advantages of a life in a relatively small town with a state university. Blues, literature, arts, good food, nice people. Close to Memphis.

"I get the impression that most American houses have their front doors several feet above ground level and that there's always a short flight of steps before you reach the door. Is this the case? What do people do if they have trouble walking, or are in a wheelchair, if their home is like this?"

Sometimes you'll see wheelchair ramps, mostly temporary, up to peoples' doors. The house I live in had a wheelchair ramp from the garage to the deck when I moved in (the previous resident was a gentleman who had died aged 82). I've since removed it...I didn't mind it, but it deteriorated in the weather.

My friend Jim Schley edited a book by a man named Sam Clark, called The Independent Builder. Sam is very big on building homes that were old-age friendly from the get-go...he has some very interesting ideas. His impetus was the observation that old people overwhelmingly want to stay in their homes, so why not build houses as though that will be the case?

Good book.


" A much more sensible scheme for me would be to plan to get married and then leave it to my wife to decide where to live. "

Sensible? No wonder you're a dreamer ;-)


On a sunshine vacation a couple years ago, my wife and I found Bisbee to be painfully New Age and overrun with tourists. We canceled our stay there and moved on to pedestrian Douglas, Ariz., right on the Mexican border, where we could hike in the US desert (though surrounded by millions of Border Patrol agents) and walk into Agua Prieta each day for excellent meals. If we did it again we would get our hotel in Agua Prieta.

Better the terrors of the drug wars than an overdose of crystals and incense...


I can't imagine living anywhere in the U.S. but Austin, Texas. I set down roots here in the early 70's bought my first house here in the early 1990's and found my dream house at a very good time. Sixteen years later there's no way I could afford to buy the house I own. Along with my studio and office. The schools in our area (Westlake Hills) are superb and my swim club is less than a mile from my house.

Austin is so vibrant. Filled with artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers and scholars. And it was recently listed as one of the top places to retire in the entire country. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/the-10-best-places-to-retire.html

I feel like I've been retired and just playing around since maybe 1985. The only real downside is the heat during the summer. But that's offset by really mild winters.

Did I mention that the Helmet Gernscheim Collection of Photography is housed at the Humanities Research Center at UT? Along with the world's first photograph? And the Magnum Print collection. And...

See, you're one of those guys I was talking about. [g]


I grew up in Green Bay, still a Packer fan and shareholder, but for the past 35 years have lived in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. A great small town with a big lake on the Colorado River. It's a town that everyone likes to visit and the cheapest flights in the country are into Las Vegas which is our closest big airport. Lots of great photo opportunity close by in Northern Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Check my blog http://jimhamstra.blogspot.com/ for area views during our annual balloon festival.
Cheers, Jim

Hi Mike,

Don't know if anyone else has mentioned this, but zillow's home values are notoriously over-stated. Therefore, I wouldn't rule out a place simply because zillow shows homes out of your reach! Probably be better off contacting a realtor in whatever area to get the real skippy.

That said, I don't understand all this talk over the past couple of years that the home market has tanked. I have a friend that lost his job in Arizona and had to venture as far as Los Angeles to get a job; his wife stayed in AZ. They visit each other every couple of months! They looked at a "fixer upper" in that area--1,200 sq ft home for $980,000!! Who's buying these places?

If you are seriously looking to move, there are a number of things to consider before cost. As "high priced migrant labor" for over 50 years, I have lived all over the U.S. Things to consider include:
Weather- Fla. is very hot and humid for over half the year. Me, I hate it! I much prefer upstate NY and the Colo. mountains, with temps down to -30F and little need for A/C.
Environment-do you prefer urban, suburban, small town or rural life? All very different in access to things, services, interpersonal relationships with neighbors and friends, activities, costs, and just about everything else. This includes access to RELIABLE high speed internet.
Neighborhood - Small mileage differences make big differences in cost. I love Santa Fe, but it is pricey. However, 10 miles outside town, there are good homes at much lower cost.
Access to friends and family. Importance varies with family relationships and degree to which friendships are personal contact or mainly by phone and email.That is why when (if ever) I retire it won't be to Santa Fe, but to southern Va. And if you need educational facilities, that too is a consideration.
Believe me, moving to a different part of the country has a lot of issues and surprises. I speak from experience of of over a dozen cross country moves...


If Santa Fe is too rich for your blood, you might consider coming down the road apiece to Albuquerque. It's considerably less toney and has a slightly milder climate. Yet all the beauty of the nearby mountains and desert are just as readily at your disposal.

"...housing is—abstractly—one of my interests..."

Michael Pollan's A Place of My Own. Not housing, per se, but shelter none the less. Think of a structure built out of...photography books.


Life is too random to figure out how I came to live where I do. A series of unrelated events with a thousand worlds of 'if' have brought me here (south Puget Sound, Washington state). Never really planned to move from southern Indiana, events just worked out that way. The missus and I wanted to retire to Vancouver BC, she was born there, but the prices are just too high so it appears that Olympia will stay our home and I don't really feel bad about that.

Re; Kirk Tuck's comment about Austin, TX.
Sounds like a nice place but 100+ degrees F for over 100 days! Yikes and double yikes! That's just too scary to even think about.

I really did want to know about your California comments. You are saying... what, you can't earn money as a blogger there? I don't understand what you mean.

Consider Europe. In 2004 I bought a cottage in France and never looked back.

Why don't you have a Donate button? Ken Rickwell asks for a donation in every post.

My mother lives near Bisbee in the retirement town of Green Valley and I can tell you that you can afford something in that town. Prices are very depressed. I visit her a couple of times a year and the photo ops are just crazy down there. Oh and the weather is great! Sure it gets hot during the day but at 10% humidity, you barely feel it. Plus, isn't there something called the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson?

Have you considered becoming a snow bird - buying or renting a mobile home/condo/etc. in Florida for four months and returning home when the weather improves? My Dad has so many friends from Central PA that live in Florida for four months.

Just a thought

I spent two weeks in January meandering from Lake Charles, LA to Tallahassee, FL. I guess I could give you tips on what I liked, Ocean Springs and Gautier, MS and Apalachicola, FL. But you would probably do better to do the meander yourself.
And the more time you spend the better it is.

As naught but a lowly visitor to Hawaii, I can openly say I would give quite a lot to be in the position to relocate to Maui. I would say that the rural/urban existence on that island would fit great with Mike’s photographic style. Also, as a fellow cold weather aficionado (Waukesha sounds an awful lot like Edmonton) I can’t help but admire people who live in temperate conditions year-round.

I’d say with some careful looking you could make out quite well with a place in Kahuluhi, though somewhere like Paia or Makawao might appeal to your rural/artistic sensibilities a little more.

BTW, I know you said no California, but every time I'm out their on a job, I fall more in love with Petaluma....even the name sounds romantic...

If you are open to moving out west, Sedona is considered to be a very nice place, probably a little pricey though. The nice thing about being out west (I'm in Denver) is it's sunny most of the time, and the winters aren't that bad. Plus we have scenery all over the place.


Sean's featured comment has a British subtext to it that is masterfully understated, and your own undoubted knowledge of that subtext even more masterfully understated (masterful understatement being a peculiarly British ability, so you are doing brilliantly).

Geography being what it is, you in the US are very used to moving on a continental scale to new jobs, colleges, what have you, and making your new life where you end up. Geographical mobility is easier in the UK, so even if (as I do) I live in Cambridgeshire for work reasons, I still think of my home as rural Wiltshire, and I go back about once a month. It's only 130 miles with some good roads between the two places. Easy. There are probably tens of millions of Brits who could say something similar.

Social mobility is an altogether more politically charged construct, and our politicians regularly beat each other up about it. It's complex, and not my expertise, but a lack of social mobility is not a good thing. Being as ancient and class-ridden as we are it can be very difficult for people moving into a different geographical area to break into new social circles. Sean's comment to me is a lament, not a cause of any celebration.

Bisbee is quite expensive as for property, houses, etc. The most we could afford there were a couple of nights in the delightful all Airsteam trailer motel.


thanks for the reply on wheelchair ramps. Since 1 in 12 is a reasonable slope for such a ramp, I had visions of huge contraptions on the front of houses. As for temporary ramps, I once made a short wheelchair ramp designed to last for one weekend. With no other way to fix it I had to nail it to the lawn. It lasted four years!

Sam Clark has the right idea. I think that houses should be as flexible in use as possible. That's not necessarily the same as being a big house, just big enough.

Your comment about "hurricane proof housing" brings to mind a very powerful editorial photograph made in the late 60s (or early 70s), on the gulf coast of Alabama (if memory serves me).

Shot from a low angle in B&W, it is of a set of heavy concrete stairs with a bent piece of metal railing attached, set at an angle to the leveled lot behind and leading upward toward vacant sky.

The photograph was made in the aftermath of (Opal?) one of the ferocious hurricanes that tore through the gulf coast that year, leaving little in its wake.

The story behind the photograph that made it so poignant, is that its wealthy homeowner spared no expense in building a "hurricane-proof" mansion, that he boasted could withstand anything Mother Nature threw at it.

And so on the eve of that massive storm, he threw a 'hurricane party' and invited all of his friends to ride out the storm in his house, experiencing the thrill while celebrating with libation and great food.

In the days after the had storm passed, all that was found where his mansion had been was a lot swept clean, except for those concrete stairs, leading to nowhere.

None of the celebrants were ever seen again, nor found amid the debris...

...and the photograph haunts me to this day.

I only visited Pensacola for a short time, a decade ago. My superficial impressions from a brief stay include unbelievably gorgeous bayou scenery and wildlife, and stupefyingly ugly strip-mall highways; magnificent skies dominated by C-5 transports; beautiful beaches littered with tar balls and beer cans. If I were thinking of moving there, I'd want to know about the current state and trend of that mix.

Mike, my work kept me on the Gulf Coast (in Texas) for over 30 years and we hated it. Florida Gulf coast is no different. Hurricanes, tornadoes, mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds, constant heat and dreadful humidity. I had to run the A/C 300+ days a year (although the heating bill was low). Also no basements (or very rare).
I've been in Colorado for over a year now (Durango) and every day I think I have ended up in heaven. This is a small town and there are 4 pro photography shops on the main drag. The local photography club has over 100 members.
Bottom line - quality of life should be the top priority. I wish I'd learned that 20 years ago.

Lazy (and others):
The short-short version: WalMart, Best Buy, and the other big-box stores are waging a battle, through State legislatures, to compel Amazon to collect sales tax. The law is very clear on the issue: Amazon doesn't have to as long as it has no "physical presence" in a state. As an end-around, legislatures are deciding that the presence of Affiliates (like me) in a state constitutes a "physical presence"--even though I am not an employee of Amazon and have no formal connection to it at all. So they're passing so-called "nexus laws" compelling Amazon to collect sales taxes in states where it has Affiliates.

Amazon is responding to these laws by simply cutting off all its Affliates in the affected states. No Affiliates, no physical presence, no taxes. It's a countermove. Affiliates (like me) are simply pawns in the larger battle.

When California's nexus law goes into effect, thousands of Affliates will have their income cut off or reduced. The biggest ones were forced to move out of the state (Ken Rockwell, for instance, quickly relocated to New York).

There's a proposal to institute a national sales tax under the federal umbrella, so that all retail entities will collect sales tax equally, whether they are bricks 'n' mortar stores or online merchants. If that succeeds, then I will be out of danger because I will no longer be a pawn. In the meantime, it will continue to be an issue. So far Wisconsin has shown no sign of passing a nexus law, but our neighbor to the south, Illinois, did so with little warning. We have a "true-believer" ultra-right-wing Governor now, but he's embattled with ethics allegations and a recall campaign, so presumably he's got bigger things to worry about for the time being. Still, it's quite possible I could be forced to move in a hurry.


Joe Boris,
That is a haunting story. Perhaps the better term is "hurricane-resistant"...I would still evacuate, but I would hope to find my house standing when I returned. Several Topsider houses have indeed survived direct hits by hurricanes. As you suggest, though, that's no guarantee that all of them will in every instance.


Baja CA, Mexico.

Mike...the governor of Wisconsin may be a right wing flack and Koch brothers puppet, but that's not going to keep him from passing any laws that will aid the state in picking up taxes they think they deserve.

My cigar supplier delivers product to my door via U.S. Mail because UPS will rat out the deliverees of tobacco products, to the state, and they'll send you a letter trying to collect state tobacco taxes as well as sales tax.

The people I know who are small to medium retail business owners, and very right wing, are all for the governor doing anything possible to 'level the playing field' between them and outside e-tailers, including going after people for unpaid state sales tax, and suing Amazon, so I'm pretty sure you can expect it in Wisconsin, I know there's people petitioning him to do it.

Just goes to show you, it's not about less government for the right wing business owners, it's about government that works to their advantage.

If you want warmth and water at a bargain-storeprice, the Southeast is worth a good. With all due respect to Oxford, MIssissippi, I'd prefer Asheville, NC. It's pursuing the identity of an arts mecca for the New South. Plenty of subject matter there, from the Smoky Mountains to the TVA lakes to the downtown's profusion of Art Deco buildings.

Sounds nice. But I grew up in the South, and never felt comfortable there. I like Malcom's choice: southern Colorado. Or the Hudson River Valley, that's a nice one, with easy access to anything NYC or Montreal has to offer.. wait, we're back to winter.

When it comes to regional choice, I believe in the Law of Conservation of Awesomeness. Beautiful places tend to be too crowded (California, the eastern beaches) or too remote and lonesome (Wyoming). The Sunbelt brings you to the usual Red-state attributes of high crime, low educational levels and a lack of community outside the churches. Iowa has great schools and presidential candidates showing up at your doorstep, but if the tornadoes don't get you, the pollen will. Even Hawaii, for all its pleasures, has a catch: once you're there, you're stuck, and it's a big deal to wander elsewhere.

So no place is really better than another. You just pick your pleasure, and your poison.

Since you're a Howe Gelb fan, Mike, you're probably familiar with Calexico. Bisbee Blue is a pretty little song of theirs (this is a listenable online version, anyway).

To add to Geoff's comment: if you're interested in being near water, what about Michigan? Cheap real estate right now (relatively speaking, for stuff near the water), generally milder (but grayer) winters than in Wisconsin, latitude-for-latitude, although it is still winter.

Also, on the outside-the-U.S.-fantasy theme, what about Belize? Although it's not the most widely-spoken language, English is the official language. Note that I know nothing about the cost of living or real estate there, but I assume it's generally cheaper than in the U.S.

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