Monday, February 24, 2014

My love/hate relationship with Austin

It is no secret that I have struggled to embrace life in Austin. The summers are hell. It's in Texas. And it's a big city.

But. But. There are so many aspects of our life here I love. I know I will forget the positives in a few months when the heat of the summer is upon us, so I best write it out now while my heart is full of love for this place.

So here it is. What I love, and hate, about life in the Texas capital.


The winter. It's blissful. The past two weeks have been in the mid-seventies, sunny, breezy. Perfect park weather. Perfect biking weather. Perfect everything weather.

The food culture. There are farmers' markets at least four days a week all year round. We live less than three miles from four urban farms. There is a local, seasonal, bulk only grocery story. A cooperative grocery with two branches. More food trucks and restaurants that I could ever hope to try. Even though we rarely go out to eat, we are glad to live in a place that has so many options, many of which are focused on local and seasonal foods.

Our backyard. HP spends at least an hour every day exploring our backyard and the parkland beyond. We usually meet Neil in the driveway on his way home from work. I'll take Neil's bike inside and work on dinner while they head out back to run down the path, throw rocks in the creek, climb the hill to the bridge, and explore the boulders at the bottom of the stream below. Besides the obvious benefits for engaging a toddler, we have space to hang up our laundry, grow a garden, and look out our back windows and see nature, rather than concrete.

Our house. The major repairs are almost done and we will soon be able to kick back and enjoy the fruit of our labors. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. The size of our house is just right for our family (1300 sq ft including an enclosed garage we use to store our bikes, tools, strollers, etc.). If anything I would say it is slightly too big. The mortgage is affordable, which in Austin's real estate market is becoming harder to come by.

Community. After a low point last summer, I stopped making excuses for not getting out of the house and made socializing a priority. It has paid off and I am significantly happier now than I was a year ago. Austin is a young city full of transplants, which makes it easy to meet people once you reach out.

Neil's job. He likes the work he does, has coworkers he enjoys being around, and is making a meaningful contribution to the world. It's hard to complain about that combination.


The summer. I am terrified of the summer. Yesterday HP and I were down by the creek while Neil worked on replacing outlets in our house. We had on long sleeves to block out the sun, hats, and suncreen. The heat was uncomfortable. Not unbearably so, but still a notch above pleasant. It's February

The size. It's a big city and we are not big city people. Austin is not a dense place; if it were, the large population would be less of a problem. Almost anywhere we want to go requires a minimum three mile bike ride, usually closer to five or six, and sometimes more than ten. Not terrible, but not amazing. Besides the inconvenience of a large land area, the air quality is terrible and borderline non-compliant.

Cost of real estate. Ideally we would live in a more central, walkable neighborhood. I love our house and yard, but I wish we could walk down the street to the library or to grab a coffee with friends. Simply put, we are priced out of those neighborhoods. I try and pretend we're not and frequently browse the listings, but when I stop and do the math I have to admit that it's not going to happen.

The politics. I know crazy stuff happens in all parts of the country. My native Missouri (home of the infamous Todd Akin) is no exception; I am always horrified when I read the local newspaper and discover what the state legislature is up to. But Texas is its own special brand of crazy. Austin is somewhat isolated, but we are still governed by Rick Perry and have to follow the curriculum decided by Texas State Board of Education. (If you had any doubts about the incompetence of the Board of Education, please watch this documentary.)

The lack of nature. There are some beautiful parts of the city and state, but it's no Oregon or even Arkansas. I miss having beautiful hiking trails and mountains nearby. There are always vacations...

Austin is likely not our "forever" place, but even taking into account the negatives, it's a good place to call home.


  1. Sarah, I get it. We live in Phoenix, which is a much drier, but somewhat hotter, place to live in the summer. If I listed things out as you have, the pluses and minuses would be very very similar (in particular, politics: to the chagrin of our friends here and in Texas, I attempt to compare the crazy between the states...they're competing hard to be number 1 in nuttiness).

    1. Just out of grad school there was a possible job opportunity in Tucson. I remember us asking ourselves, "Can we live in the desert?" For me it is such a mental challenge to deal with the lack of water. And crazy politics--there are too many places competing for that title!