Rightsizing: A Late-Life Migration

Though we’d always fantasized about moving to the West Coast, we began considering the Hudson Valley—somewhere near the train into the city. Then we could have it both ways: quiet at home with some walkability, but within easy access to New York City and proximity to our older son.

We spent several weekends that spring looking at houses in and around Beacon, New York. Nothing there felt right. All of the houses we looked at felt cramped. They weren’t particularly close to town, either. In addition, while housing there was inexpensive compared with Boston, the property taxes would have equaled another mortgage payment.

We were driving back to Concord at the end of one particularly discouraging trip, when my husband said, “We could still move to Portland.” The mood in the car instantly changed from dreary to dreamy.

Ah, Portland, Oregon. We’d spent a few weeks there during the summer of 2014. I loved that it was a city, yet it was divided up into neighborhoods with shops located on the main thoroughfares, while houses of all shapes and sizes were sited on the quieter side streets.

We agreed to give New York one last chance by renting a place there that summer, and if we still weren’t convinced, we’d give Portland a try. Our acquaintances decided to buy our place. And in July, we packed up the house and put most of our belongings into storage.

Month-to-month rentals weren’t easy to find, but we finally landed one in Kingston, New York, which has a charming downtown and a vibrant artistic community. The catch was that our rental was nowhere near town and even our morning dog walk was a twenty-minute drive away.

We also went into New York City a few times. And as much as I’d love to explore and master its many areas, its sticky summer streets weren’t much of a selling point. Plus, I hadn’t been there for more than five minutes on one trip when I nearly fell prey to a charming con man.

While I spent most of my twenties living alone in Boston, it was pretty clear I’d have to brush up on my city demeanor. Both of my sons advised me to adopt a slightly annoyed vibe, and to look as if I knew exactly where I was going. While the former would be easy, it would be a long time before I could project the latter.

We agreed that neither the Hudson Valley nor New York City was the right fit. In mid-September, we packed up our van and headed west. While we were reluctant to move so far away from our older son, we were thrilled when our younger son announced his intention to stay in Seattle, just three hours north of Portland.

In the six months since our arrival here, I have cherished the luxury and privilege of having this new beginning. I feel lucky that for now at least, I have the opportunity to craft a daily life that I love. Every morning we walk our dog to one of two nearby parks. Several cafés, award-winning restaurants, and a grocery store are all an easy walk from our new house.

The house itself lacks “curb appeal” and needs some TLC both inside and out. We agreed that we didn’t want to buy a place that was already “done,” preferring to create our own updates in our own style, and by doing most of the work ourselves.

On the upside, what the house lacks in aesthetic charm, it more than makes up for by having loads of space and natural light—essential when living in a perpetually overcast environment.

I look forward to becoming politically involved with my new city and to trying some classes at the yoga studio down the street and at the photography center across town.

Familiar, but not limiting, urban, with loads of green spaces, and mountains, forests, and the Pacific coast just a car ride away, our new neighborhood—ironically named Concordia — feels just right.

Home again. (Photo by Martha Nichols)

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  • Maggie q May 12, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Having lived in Brooklyn most of my live – and Brooklyn was not cool, I wanted a place that I could walk around and have different people around me. I am in Asbury park now. Besides the ocean and the boardwalk, I never know if there is a zombie walk or a tattoo festival going on. I’m so enjoying walking in peace or with so much going on. Having gone from larger homes I’m now in a smaller apartment (also my Brooklyn life). I always knew that didn’t make a difference. I’m also close to family so I’m hoping this is my forever place. I gave it a lot of thought and hope it’s “the” place.