Where to Find Hidden Clues About Where to Move


When you’re wondering where to move to retire, it can be tempting to search online for direction or to seek advice from friends and family. The problem is that this approach does not take into account how deeply personal your relationship to place is. It also disregards the fact that the most reliable clues about where to move are hidden in plain sight.

So, where do you find hidden clues about where to move? You travel back through time and dig them up!

Let me show you what I mean. Hop into this time capsule with me and fasten your seat belt. We’re about to travel waaaay back over a lifetime of moves to illustrate where to find hidden clues about where to move.

San Francisco, California (Part 1)

I had a ton of freedom and independence growing up in San Francisco during the 60s and 70s. My parents rented this amazing flat in the Richmond district right next to Mountain Lake Park until they bought a house when I was 8. I was kind of an odd loner kid and spent most of my time making up imaginary games in the playground and exploring the park on my own. Growing up in S.F. was both a gift and a curse. A gift, because I got to experience the awesome public transportation, cool old architecture, amazing food, the Golden Gate Bridge, beaches, steep hills and breathtaking views, fresh ocean air, and the melancholy sound of fog horns. And a curse, because as an adult I learned that these perks came with too high of a price.

Upper Montclair, New Jersey

I left San Francisco to attend New York University when I was 18. My boyfriend joined me and, after many bizarre attempts to find an apartment in Manhattan, we ended up moving in with his parents in New Jersey. I didn’t like living in the suburbs and commuting into the city every day. But I was also overwhelmed and repelled by the prospect of trying to live in New York City. At the time I was a classical guitar performance major, so I applied and was accepted to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. We moved back to S.F. the following semester.

Hidden clues: I learned that I don’t care for the suburban commuter lifestyle. Also, although I like city living, NYC is too much city for me.

San Francisco, California (Part 2)

The old adage that you can never go home again definitely applies to my experience living in San Francisco as an adult. I went to music school for one semester, transferred to S.F. State, and dropped out after a year. Then I worked a string of shitty bakery counter jobs and briefly as a file clerk at a law firm. My boyfriend and I were renting a small, cheap railroad flat in the Sunset District directly across from the enormous, stinky sewage plant in Golden Gate Park and two blocks up from dead-rat-strewn Ocean Beach.

The neighborhood was so desolate and remote, it didn’t even feel like we were in the city. So, when we were both offered jobs at a nonprofit arts organization in Marin County, we leapt at the chance to move 15 miles north.

Hidden clues: I learned that living in an amazing city isn’t nearly as fun when you can only afford to live on the outskirts

Larkspur, California

For the next two years we lived in Larkspur in a tiny ground level unit in an old triplex. The building was so damp and rotted out, giant banana slugs would slime their way in through the plank floors and we’d step on them in the middle of the night. I worked part time at a bakery and part time for the nonprofit. After both jobs fizzled out, I got a job as membership assistant at the California Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit that rescued, rehabilitated and released beached seals and sea lions. (They still do!) We celebrated by leaving the banana slugs behind and moving a few miles up the road.

Hidden clues: Crappy rentals are everywhere, not just in the city.

San Anselmo, California

In San Anselmo, we lived in a cramped apartment that was part of a converted dairy farm next to a natural area–a major improvement over the sewage plant! My favorite memory from those two years is of my early morning commute through the Marin Headlands. The road started at the Golden Gate Bridge and curved up and around to provide a stunning panorama of the skyline before winding through the natural area. I loved the feeling of being close to the city and out in the wilderness at the same time.

I mostly enjoyed working at the Center, but it was yet another low-paying, dead-end job. So, we bought an old Plymouth Volare for $225 and embarked on a 10,000-mile cross-country road trip to find a new place to live. Shortly after returning to California, we sold all our belongings and moved with our two cats to Austin, Texas. 

Hidden clues: Living in the suburbs is similar to living on the city outskirts, except even less convenient.

Austin, Texas

I loved pretty much everything about Austin: the hills, rivers and lakes, Barton Springs and Deep Eddy, fun and interesting people, awesome cheap Mexican food and margaritas, live music, and the laid-back vibe and affordable cost of living. Austin was a sleepy city in 1990 but it seemed to hold limitless possibilities. Within months of moving, my boyfriend and I split up and I started a business.

Over 22 years, I raised one lovely daughter, built a successful business, bought a house close to downtown, married twice and divorced once. Austin also went through big changes during that time, not all for the best. By the time my daughter graduated from high school and my husband took a job working for a tiny town in West Texas, I was ready for a change. 

Hidden clues: I love the perks of city living; however, I prefer to live in a city where I can afford to enjoy them.

Brownfield, Texas

Moving from Austin to Brownfield was like dying and going to hell. It was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but flat, dusty, colorless, windblown, tumbleweed-strewn ugliness. The town was depressed and insular and I was uncomfortable and unhappy living there. Within two years, my husband and I divorced and I moved to the closest city. 

Hidden clues: I’m not meant to live a small, remote farming town. (I inexplicably ignored this clue a few years later and paid dearly for it.)

Lubbock, Texas

Lubbock turned out to be a more populated version of Brownfield. Housing was affordable. But the people were surly, the landscape was hideous, the food was awful, and the crime rate was ridiculous. Not only that, the closest city with anything going on was hundreds of miles away. I’ll give Lubbock some credit though. I met my current husband there. After road-tripping on honeymoon around the Midwest, we decided to put Lubbock in our rear-view mirror and move to Iowa.

Hidden clues:  I’m most at home living in a medium-sized city. It’s just that Lubbock is most definitely not that city!

Washington, Iowa

Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Sadly, in our rush to escape West Texas, we ended up in a place just like it. I realized that part of our problem was that we hadn’t done any substantive planning, research or deliberation. All the warning signs had been there. We’d simply ignored them. Had we taken time to reflect before plowing ahead, we would not have ended up in a small farming town in Iowa and we would have avoided a lot of heartache.

Olympia, Washington

In 2022, we finally found and moved to our perfect retirement location, Olympia, Washington, using my signature Spark System. Unearthing hidden clues to your perfect retirement location is a key step in the Spark System, which I created to help retirees and almost retirees decide if they should move, as well as find and navigate the move to their perfect retirement location. 

Let’s find your perfect retirement location together!

Why embark on your quest alone when Your Place Finder can help you find your perfect retirement location quickly and cost effectively! With the PlaceFinder Program, you’ll get a professionally-researched, interactive Custom Place Prospects Report detailing locations that best match your specifications, along with easy-to-use tools and consulting/coaching support to guide you in choosing the location that best fulfills your vision for retirement. Learn more about the PlaceFinder Program here.

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About the Author

I founded Your Place Finder in 2017 to help retirees and almost retirees like you anticipate and overcome the pitfalls and challenges – and reap the rich rewards – of finding the perfect location to move for retirement.

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