One of the biggest challenges of adulthood comes with the realization that there is no fixed “end” to our journey. As we age and experience new challenges and victories, we begin to understand that the only true constant is change, and that instability and discomfort are often simply the growing pains of a more beautiful future.
We shake our lives up in countless ways. We leave jobs, friendships and lovers when they no longer suit us. We learn new skills. We make mistakes, and figure out ways to forgive ourselves and grow from them. Sometimes, life makes us so uncomfortable we have no choice but to start over entirely. Other times, we know we’ve hit the capacity for growth where we are, and a change of scenery is in order to evolve into a better version of ourselves.
Whatever the case, a move to a new city marks the start of a new chapter. We find ourselves with everything behind us and everything in front of us, capable of being anyone and doing anything. And while it’s possible to reinvent in a new place, we should consider that it’s easier to reinvent if we know what the landscape looks like where we’re going.
Nearly half of college graduates end up living in a state other than which they were born, and between 2015 and 2016, one in ten adults move to a new city. Americans are becoming increasingly mobile. Is it necessary? Is it possible to reinvent where we are? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on who and what we want to be.
Before you make the leap, consider whether you’ve done everything you can to maximize your growth where you are. Have you connected with others in your industry? Are you involved in your craft’s local community? If so, and you still feel stuck, maybe it’s time to consider a move somewhere else.
But where to?
Depending on your industry, consider the following list of well established and fast-growing creative cities for direction.
Los Angeles is known as the ”Entertainment Capital of the World,” leading the world in the creation of motion pictures, television production, video games and recorded music. It is estimated that one in every six of the city’s residents works in a creative industry. They have more museums per capita than any other city in the world, and there are over 2,000 musical, theater and performing arts groups.
Seattle, Washington, although not a destination for big budget movies yet, is known for small, independent films. The city has a great creative demographic, supporting 5,000 film jobs that generate over $470 million in contributions to the city’s annual economy.
North Adams, Massachusetts is chock full of creativity, and you don’t have to pay New York or Los Angeles rent to get in on it. Averaging at just $450 per month for a two bedroom apartment, the city is home to painters, pop-up performances and one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Austin, Texas, home to South By Southwest and Austin City Limits, is known as a place to live simply and modestly. The city’s unofficial motto “keep Austin weird” says a lot about the city and its creative inhabitants. Though the city’s tech and food industries are growing (with over 1,000 food trucks), the primary industry in Austin is music.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, once one of the country’s dirtiest industrial cities, now boasts a vibrant art community with small-town appeal. Artspace and Artsbuild are considering plans to turn abandoned buildings into low-income housing for Chattanooga artists. Chattanooga is also on the leading edge of the sustainability and green initiative and is notorious for LEED-certified buildings and new construction.
Post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana offers a flamboyant art scene in neighborhoods like the Bywater. During Mardi Gras, the Society of Saint Anne Marching Krewe starts their procession in the morning in Bywater. This walking parade of local residents, artists, and performers is preceded by the Bywater Bone Boys Social Aid and Pleasure Club, an early-rising skeleton krewe made up of writers, tattoo artists, painters, set designers, musicians, and numerous other creatives.
Detroit, Michigan is in pretty bad shape, but even though entire blocks of houses can be purchased for as little as $30,000, where there’s space, there’s room for growth. Art hubs like the Detroit Institute of Arts and organizations like Art Detroit are boosting their efforts to drive the local art scene, and creative types are taking note. With a little money, a young person can start a local art flex or studio for themselves and others while not breaking the bank on rent.
Nashville, Tennessee, though traditionally known for it’s country music celebrities and hall of fame, is also home to East Nashville, an art hub tucked away “across the river,” just two and a half miles east of downtown. Thriving and eclectic, the neighborhood has become one of the city’s most-desired areas to live and play and has attracted many musicians and visual artists.
Miami, Florida has more to offer than Cuban food and nightclubs. It’s home to the enormous contemporary art festival, Art Basel, and Wynwood, a neighborhood with the largest collection of street art in the country. The city also has a warehouse district that houses art galleries, coffee shops and restaurants, all decorated by some of the world’s most respected street artists.
Oakland, California, New York, New York, Boston, Massachusetts and Chicago, Illinois should also be named, among others.
It’s important to consider the factors of cost, quality of life, employment rate and potential for education just as much as it is the location. If you’re seriously considering moving to a new city, indulge your curiosity by exploring travel guides, online forums, and a city life tool, where you can compare cities according to various qualities. Finally, take a trip and try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who lives there.
We can truly only bloom where we’re planted, but before we throw a dart and go where it lands, we should be smart enough to pick our plot.
Ashlee Schultz believes in living and writing with a positive mindset. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.