Time To Make A Move

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by Suzie Gruber, Peak Prosperity:

This next contribution in our new Resilience Spotlight series, featuring stories from Peak Prosperity readers, comes from reader suziegruber. She recounts here the process she followed in making the decision to relocate to a location better suited to her resilience goals — one of the topics PP readers express the most interest in receiving guidance on.

For the last 10 years I have lived in a very resilient although temporary living situation on a beautiful country property just outside Sebastopol, CA.  During my time there, I created water, heating, electrical, and food resilience, all without knowing how long I could stay.  I had also become part of a wonderful community of Peak Prosperity folks, meeting every Saturday morning for coffee, talking about everything from raising pigs to economic theory.  In many ways my situation was ideal, except for that small detail of being temporary, while the housing market around me went ballistic.  I had constructed “resilience” on a shaky foundation.

For many reasons personal, local and global, I became increasingly motivated to make a move.  I woke up one morning in June and realized that although I preferred to stay in Sonoma County to preserve the community I had built, I knew I could embrace moving to a new area where I could start over with a solid foundation under me because during those 10 years in Sebastopol I had learned a lot about my values and how to create family of choice, aka social capital.  Given the world scene, I decided I needed to move quickly to begin this reconstruction process.  I didn’t want to be a day late in making the move.  I had a nest egg sufficient enough to escape the uncertainty of renting in most other housing markets.  I’m also blessed by the flexibility to move quickly because I am single and I can work anywhere with a good internet connection.

In July 2017 I started by asking two dear friends of mine for strategic help.  One of them, an expert in finance and big picture thinking, helped me assess my finances so I could decide what I could conservatively spend on a home.  He also helped me sanity check how I was thinking about this huge decision.  The other friend, a real estate expert, helped me understand how to assess regions, specific neighborhoods and specific homes.  As a firm believer that dislocation looms sooner rather than later, I also read two books to help me assess specific areas: Rawles on Retreats and Relocation by James Wesle Rawles (out-of-print; I borrowed Adam’s copy) and Strategic Relocation by Joel Skousen.  These books offer a hard-core survivalist perspective.  While I decided that as a single woman, I wanted to live in a town rather than a defensible country property (too much isolation, work, maintenance cost), I value their diverse, detailed regional assessments including categories like sufficient growing season, nuclear threats, population density, distance to major metropolitan areas etc.  To this I added requirements of alternative healthcare acceptance (my line of work), a grocery co-op as an indicator of community cooperation (thank you Becca!), a good regional airport (elderly mom lives in Los Angeles), state fiscal health and a nearby REI (presence of outdoor loversàsocial capital).

I quickly eliminated being east of the Mississippi River due to urbanized population density and distance from my mom.  Using both the books I mentioned above, I began assessing specific areas by creating an Excel spreadsheet with additional categories like median home price, property tax rate, right to die allowed, snowfall (less is better for me), population etc.  I eliminated staying in California due to its poor fiscal healthcrumbling infrastructure, personally invasive policies and tendency towards taxation.  I quickly zeroed in on Southern Oregon and jumped in the car.

I learned two important things about myself on that first trip north.  First, as a 52-year-old single woman rebuilding my tribe, I realized that I want to live in the middle of my community rather than in the outskirts or in a nearby town.  As things come apart, I am trusting I will be able to barter skills for what I need.  Second, although I have the skills to manage a country property, I want to focus my life energy on my life’s work and my community and not on building a homestead by myself.  I also knew I would feel physically safer.  I chose to sacrifice significant physical resilience (water, power, natural gas provided by utility companies) for emotional resilience (physical security, community).

I synthesized all of this information together and chose Ashland, Oregon.  Why Ashland?  Ashland Co-op, REI Medford, good regional airport, strong & aware community, active local agriculture, housing in town I can afford, good distance from major metro – Check!  Downsides: fire danger, questionable water resilience, local economy dependent on tourism, Oregon’s fiscal troubles.  Yes, those are big downsides.

I bought a cottage with a small garden and moved to Ashland on October 18th in the middle of the Sonoma County fires.  Phew!  It turned out I was only a handful of days early in my decision to move. The housing market in Sonoma County has inflated even more over the last month. 

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