[Opinion] How I think of US Cities as a Tech bro

This post is about the pros and cons of living in different US cities for a single mid twenties programmer (myself.) These pros and cons are personal and they most likely won’t translate to your experience, but it is an explanation / worksheet I am using to determine my next move.

Quick overview of my values: I am a tech guy who values career growth over stability. I value good/consistent weather over crazy variations. I am very laid back. My favorite things to do are rock climb, hike, and surf.

How I think about everything.

WARNING: Keep in mind this article is full of generalizations. This is simply how I perceive various locales and does not always reflect hard facts.

 

The Southeast

I have never lived in the southeast. There are plenty of green trees and the people are generally very warm, friendly and polite. The tech industry is extremely sluggish in the southeast. The coastal access is very spotty and there are no very large/interesting coastal towns. I can’t see why any young tech person seeking excitement would want to live here

 

 

Texas

Apparently lots of techie millenials are moving to Dallas and Austin. I get it. Mild weather, good tech scenes, decent cost of living and tax situations. But there are no mountains and no (good) surfing. West texas is nasty. Austin is cool, though. The whole “texas pride” thing weirds me out.

But I couldn’t live somewhere without mountains.

Also, car culture.

Midwest

I already have enough trouble keeping my drinking under control, I don’t want to move to Wisconsin. Brutal winters. No great tech scenes. Good cost of living. Not many mountains. Car culture. Why would I live here?

Florida

I grew up in Florida. The cost of living is extremely low and there are beaches + “good weather.” I’m writing this from Florida, and it’s 75 degrees and rainy in mid-june. However, Florida does get quite hot. Beyond that, there are no mountains, the waves are bad for surfing, and there’s a huge car culture here. It’s very hard to find a walkable downtown or passable public transportation here. The universities are generally not competitive with the rest of the US. The winter is beautiful, but the hotter seasons can be quite miserable for an avid hiker such as myself.

Wouldn’t live here… except to be close to my old friends/family. Surfing is the only way to avoid going insane in this shithole.

The Northeast

The temperature varies a lot in the northeast. Very cold and snowy winters, beautiful springs and autumns, and some pretty nasty summers. Lots of sunlight. Very expensive. Very old world-feeling, which is not for me. Although there are some serious tech scenes and educational powerhouses, there seems to be a lack of the kind of massive natural landmarks that dot the west coast. Tame mountain ranges. Not a very big surfing or extreme sports culture. Huge sports culture, bleh. Less tech focused. I’m not cultured enough to enjoy living in NYC.

Props to NYC’s public transportation system and epic lack of car culture!

Wouldn’t live here for a long time… too exhausting.

Desert Southwest

I lived in Tucson for a while. It’s actually gorgeous. The desert southwest does have a special place in my heart. As someone who grew up in the green tree lined streets of the Southeast, it was hard to convert me. But the sunsets in the desert are fantastic.

The high elevation places (Flagstaff, Santa Fe, Park City) are rad. I would maybe move to Flagstaff if I were 30-40 and had a family. The tech scenes in the desert southwest are pretty below average in my opinion. There are mountains, no surfing, a pretty serious car culture and it’s very hot. Utah has cool outdoors but there is an aura of weirdness around it. Even so, the inversions are disgusting in SLC.

 

Southern California

I always wanted to live in Socal growing up. However, I never was able to actually enjoy LA. It’s so sunny! And crowded. and sprawling. It’s cool that it’s an entertainment hub and there is epic surfing all around Socal. The mountains and surrounding areas, being desert, are a little boring for me. It’s not as beautiful as Arizona desert for some reason.

Never been to San Diego, heard it is pretty cool, but once again the tech scene there is pretty second class.

Portland

Economy is meh. Startup scene is meh. Rains just as much as Seattle. Less mountain-y. It does seem to produce cool bands (the Decemberists come to mind), and seems to share a lot in common with Washington. The main reason I’d want to not move there is due to the lack of tech jobs and less mountains. Apparently the people are a little friendlier than Seattle. I’ve heard it compared to a cross between Denver and Boulder. Apparently a pretty solid bike culture and people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Cheaper than Seattle, but once again lower salaries.

Colorado

I lived in Boulder for a while. Denver/Boulder/Fort Collins are really cool towns near some fun mountains. Great for outdoors enthusiasts. No surfing. Winters are great but not snowy enough – everything starts to look pretty brown and ugly when not covered up with snow. Snow melts too fast. The Denver air inversion is gross. Denver has a great cost of living ratio and a great tech scene – so I give it a place of honor in my comparison, coming in #3, right behind Seattle and SF.  One thing that irks me: living on the plains. 1/2 the time it feels like Kansas (like, whenever you’re looking east.)

Nederland, Vail, and other mountain towns are great – just not somewhere to move to unless you’re a semi retired family from southern california that really enjoys snowsports.

Decent bike/sustainability culture here!

 

Seattle

Great economy. Startup scene on the upswing. Real estate on the upswing. Not much surfing. Apparently the dark winter months can cause depression pretty easily. However, some people might enjoy the lack of sunlight, so it’s not necessarily negative. Extremely green. Snowsports and mountains nearby. Lower cost of living than SF which makes it a “better deal” overall, financially.

San Francisco/South Bay

Epic tech economy. Startup scene is the best around. Career growth is at its peak here. Real estate is un-buyable, which means you have to go big or go home. Weather is amazing all year. Green. Near all sorts of mountains and lush forests. Lots of outdoors variety. There is a car culture here. Benefits of being an extremely large city. Snowsports are kind of far away. You can surf here, and it’s good, but it’s a bit of a hike to get out there.

South Bay is a suburb and SF is a city. They are completely different. I am personally more interested in the South Bay life because I don’t like the types of startups that are in downtown SF and I like having a bit more space. The car culture down here is just something I have to learn to deal with.

Overall Winner: SF/South Bay

It’s no secret that SF is the winner here. At my point of life, I’m not optimizing for money/cost of living. If I were, I would avoid SF with a ten foot pole. In fact, this is the main reason I have avoided it so far. But if you’re seeking a place where you can be surrounded by like minded individuals in a world class setting, with lots of access to outdoor activities, SF is the place to make your grind.

 

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I’m going to go surfing on the east coast of florida… and, decisions.

For my sister’s birthday, we went for a beach weekend on the gulf coast at a resort. After a month of hanging out at my parents house, getting really ready to go do something, when I got there, my wanderlust kicked back into full swing.

So, I began to really crave travel.

Lately I’ve been thinking. I want to do something meaningful with my life. I want to live with no regrets. And my options are to find a town in America to settle down in and get a job. Buy a house. Make some friends, and engage with a community. A beautiful town, mind you. With nice people.

My second option is just to travel the world because, why not. Instead of settling down, I will practice my favorite skills (surfing, hiking, climbing, snowboarding), and instead of getting to know my neighbors I’ll be getting to know fellow travelers and locals. I’ll be attending meetups and nomad startup events.

I’m 27. I’m really hitting the ripe age for solo travel. I have always made decent money working remote, so the working thing is totally covered. My only question is, will I enjoy it.

If I use NYC for 3 months earlier this year as an example:

  • I didn’t attend many events (except in the first 2 weeks)
  • I loved exploring
  • I got bored after 3 months
  • It was a little too expensive
  • Living out of a backpack was interesting and not an overly negative experience.

If I use living in Boulder, Co. for 3 months last year as an example:

  • I attended plenty of events
  • I didn’t snowboard, even once.
  • I loved the coffee shop scene.
  • I met a bunch of cool people.
  • I got bored after 3 months
  • It was a little too expensive.

Truth is, I’ve never lived away from mainland USA. I think a 1 month commitment is plenty for any spot, and I’d want to make sure I can either Hike, Climb, Surf, Skate, or Snowboard every single day. I’d also possibly prefer to be with a group of people to avoid social isolation. But being by myself can be fun, too.

So, since my home base is Florida, and I have a wedding to go to in 20 days, I’m going to pack my bag in my car, go to the east coast of Florida, and go surfing. I’m going to head up and down the coast between Miami and Jacksonville, stay in AirBnBs (and hostels in Miami), and if I’m stoked after a week or two of surfing, I’ll head up to Asheville, NC to do some hiking and stay in hostels. Thats my stretch goal, I doubt I’ll get farther than Asheville in 3 weeks.

During this time, I’ll be exploring what it means to be a nomad in America. This is much different than being a nomad in other countries because it is more expensive and I have my car. But the similarity will be the novelty of being in changing surroundings on a regular basis, hostel living, and focusing on what I love (surfing and hiking.)

So, it’s another test, similar to NYC.

At the end of those 3 weeks I’ll be heading to a friend’s wedding in Vegas and then I’m free to either move to the west coast & get a job or to set my first destination for my travels.

AIP Day 19, Tuesday

Well over the past few days I took kratom again for some reason, which caused me to get kind of stressed out. I took it on saturday and sunday and I can still feel the residual stress. As my sleep patterns get back to normal and I decompress, I feel myself returning to the “new normal” state.

Still doing chi gong multiple times a day. I cant feel the chi. I can feel a slight improvement and relaxation with each time I do it. It isn’t like lifting weights where you immediately feel amazing and filled with endorphins. Or it is but I’m just not there yet. All I’ve been doing is the eight brocades practice. It’s time to move onto a new practice.

I did find that doing chi gong is much more pleasurable outdoors.

AIP Day 16, Saturday, In shadow of mount hood

Woke up and recorded this:

I just like making little diddies in 1 take on garage band


I think my depression is going away because I seem to enjoy doing things I used to do – programming, playing guitar… reading. I still have no interest in being social. Shrug.

I’ve been thinking a LOT about moving out west. For one thing, I absolutely can’t stand hot summers. I love cool weather, darkness, and rain. As much as I care about my family and friends in Florida, I don’t see a future here. There is not much tech industry, there’s no bicycle-friendly streets, it’s just suburban sprawl.

I used to think maybe I could live in Orlando and surf. And that’s my #1 option if I stayed in Florida, but it feels like death. I think I’ll take tree cover, mountains, and the pacific ocean over that.

Only thing that bums me out is, I’m not a huge fan of big cities. Boulder Co was perfect size for me. I’ve looked into Bend, but I am not willing to live on the “other side” of the mountain range where there isn’t so much precipitation. So that leaves me to explore the willamette valley, portland, seattle and Tacoma. Tacoma looks the most promising because it’s not as expensive as seattle, you can still commute to seattle in a pinch, and it has a climbing gym and art house theater as well as multiple museums and a UW campus.

So its a small little city where I can actually buy a house, and it’s in the PNW. Most likely in 10-15 years it will start growing, if Seattle becomes the next SF it could be the next Oakland. Maybe.

Anyway, that shit’s been wearing on me. Where to live? Do I buy real estate? blah blah.


 

Climbed at the gym today. Realized it’s 3 PM and I only had 50 mg of caffeine. I could take a 25mg to finish the day and feel fantastic. Im going to take like 10mg and I’m sure that’ll be great.

I definitely have a mental attachment to caffeine. Even at the 50/75mg level I’m fiending for that one HIT.

I have an addictive personality. I love modifying my body. I suppose this is fine as long as I find healthy ways of doing it rather than using drugs/alcohol/bad food/coffee.


 

AIP Day 15, drank last night

Welp, drank last night.

Had 4 angry orchards.

What happened is: I ate too much THC oil, got really high, and decided alcohol would calm me down. It worked. I was reaaally baked.

Glad to say that I feel good today still. Don’t feel hungover at all. Did my chi gong twice today already, still taking 75 mg of caffeine and eating a healthy diet.

I expect my body to take a little bit of a beating from this event over the next couple of days, but I am sure I will bounce back. It’s definitely something I’m not going to do again. If I take THC oil, I will make sure to take a small dose and not (literally) bite off more than I can chew.

That’s the problem with edibles.

Aaaanyway,

This was an exercise in mental, emotional, and physical resilience. I am not beating myself up about this, I’m learning a lesson.

The chigong as well as the diet seem to be doing wonders for my anxiety, energy, and focus. I am able to work a full workday with a few breaks for chigong, food, and just relaxation. I am noticing that when I work I don’t breathe right, so I’m looking through possible biofeedback solutions to this problem.

Basically, my goal is to “go back to work.” I want to get healthy enough that I can work a 40 hour workweek, in an office, and not feel like I’m slowly dying.

Truth be told, I like my career, but it has been impossible to pursue while unhealthy and erratic.

I see this diet as “calming the stormy seas” of my mind and body. My goal is for balanced focus and energy, independent of external stimulants (caffeine, drugs, alcohol), powered entirely by healthy foods. I want to work for at least a couple more years

Today, at the halfway mark to 30 days, I can say that so far the results of this exercise have been worth it. I feel much better than I normally do. That much cannot be argued against.


Recorded a bunch of covers today, “he doesnt know why” by fleet foxes

https://soundcloud.com/unstimulated/he_doesnt_know_why

 

AIP Day 14, Calm after the storm

Two weeks of AIP today! I started out my morning with chi gong, 50 mg of caffeine, and some spaghetti squash!

An update on how I feel right now:

  • currently (at this second) my stomach is functioning much better than it was a few days ago, and much better than before.
  • I am able to work again (I can focus on my work with 50mg caffeine.)
  • I am less depressed, more excited about the future.
  • I am worried that I may not be able to keep this diet up outside of the house… sometimes I fret about prep time…
    • But it feels like something I can handle. Something that needs to be made a priority
  • I’m off the sleeping pills.

There has always been a lurking feeling that I am “oh so very tired” on the inside, even when I feel stimulated. I always called it my “energy drain.” It severely affects/affected everything I do, the way I live my life. I don’t live my life with an “abundance” mentality in terms of energy, I am always “conserving” energy as if it were finite.

The goal of this project is to make energy feel free and infinite, so that I can use this energy to build beautiful things and make the world a better place.

I literally can’t make the world a better place being tired and sick all the time.

I feel that a corner has been turned, as slow going as this is.

I still get a bit sleepy in the afternoons/evenings… but I do have faith. This can get better.

And thats why I’m doing chigong.

AIP Day 13, Thought I was having a heart attack today

Woke up to jolts of energy going through the left side of my chest this morning. Didn’t go away for an hour. Guess at that point I must’ve started getting more anxious because I had difficulty breathing. Went to the doctor, got an EKG and some bloodwork. EKG came back fine, blood pressure was 160/82. He was pretty concerned about that blood pressure, but reassured me that I wasn’t having a heart attack.

So, 160 is the highest my BP has ever been. The doc says this can have to do with thyroid disruption or other things. It could also be elevated due to anxiety and stress from being in a doctors office. But either way, it was way too high. So doctor’s orders, I gotta monitor my BP at least a couple times a week.

Came home and did Chi Gong (eight brocades practice)

I am trying to get the 8 brocades in 3 times a day. Morning, afternoon, and evening. I only had 50 mg of caffeine today and I’m definitely planning on getting off of it ASAP.


Reflecting upon today, I realize that planning on going to seattle in 1 month is too short of a timeframe. I really don’t want to rush this healing process. It may take six months or even a year. Either way, I decided to not drive out there, and to instead focus on resting up at home. Maybe I’ll make a trip out there for a day or two later this summer, but I’m going to spend the rest of summer in Florida.

I have a bunch of friends in Orlando, where I went to college, and I’m thinking of perhaps staying there for a couple months. Seeing if I still like it. I used to live an hour from the beach and surf three times a week. Maybe that’s better for me than moving all the way across the country. I really don’t know.

What I do know is that i’m not going to rush anything.


6 PM

My best friend made a video of the past year  in California. I was featured in the video like multiple times and it felt really great to be part of his life, even though we get on each others nerves all the time. We’re good friends.

He’s thinking about maybe moving back to new york to get a nice job, but he might also stay in california. I think I will go out to the west coast after all and hang out with this guy…

I wasn’t very hungry today. I only ate some veggies, steak, and turkey. But I had lots of energy and only consumed 75mg of caffeine. I think I can do 75 for a couple days… looks like I’ll be off caffeine soon after all! This isn’t so bad.

I think I am getting to the point in the diet where I have energy and clarity. I’m not like, speedy or anything, but I also don’t have that lurking “tired/depressed” feeling that’s usually in the back of my mind pushing me to use stimulants. Rather, if I need to do work, I can do it (but I’d rather not.)

I’d say this is what I normally feel like after my morning cup, except I haven’t had caffeine in 7 hours.


This evening, I took my blood pressure several times and it was within “high normal” ranges. I don’t know how it was so high this morning. Will continue to monitor.

AIP Day 12, Why my blog is called nick is dead

Decided to have informative titles in my posts so people know what they’re reading. First off this blog is just a journal. Second thing: Nick is dead started as a morbid joke and a catchy phrase I bounced around in my head. But this blog has come to signify a rebirth.

The “Nick” that is dead is the one I grew up as. The person who lives an unhealthy, unbalanced life, and isn’t very open minded. He was not the best person to be around.

Recently, I was driving through “Van Ness” california and the name Ness coalesced in my thoughts. I have some sort of interest to the Nintendo character Ness, from my days growing up playing Super Smash Bros and Earthbound.

Ness is a white kid who is a little weird (has psychokinetic abilities, wears striped shirts and shorts and tennis shoes with high socks.) I guess he reminds me of myself. So I kind of decided to take his name.

I’ve taken Ness as my new nickname, which I call myself. I like it. Has a ring to it.

Nick is Dead -> Ness Lives.

~ 12:30 PM, had 100mg of caffeine already, 75 upon waking and another 25 an hour ago. I am feeling able to focus on my code, which is great, I’m making the most of it. At least there are a couple of hours during the day when I can focus right now.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be able to focus for 8 hours a day.

I think I have a slight “headache” and a bit of “nausea” today. I don’t often get these symptoms, so they’re a little weird to me. Most likely low carb flu stuff. It’s not bad though, ever-so-slight.

3:30 PM,

Been working for the past 2 or 3 hours. That means I got in like a three hour workday! This is insane. I never thought I’d be able to work again. I just kind of sat here and wrote some code. It’s been really nice!

I am feeling relaxed today. My stomach is feeling good. I can tell a lot of the bloating is gone. Excited to make a doctors appointment within the next couple of weeks. The goal being to see a GI doc and have him tell me I’m not going to die.

Honestly, most of my GI symptoms have gotten better, which is why I’m betting on “not going to die” versus “terminally ill.” But we’ll have to see. :praise hands:

9 PM,

A friend messaged me today and he was super stoked on playing music. I used to play a little bit, but I told him I haven’t done anything in a couple years. He was sad to hear that and suggested I make something. I decided to pop a little cover out of garage band… with my djembe and acoustic nylon guitar, recorded on a macbook pro in about 20 minutes, so its not like… “finished” or anything. But im cool with it. lol.

song: Boomer Etc. by  Walter, Etc.

I cant bring myself to try to really perfect any music I work on.. but garage band is pretty cool for throwing something together.

AutoImmune Protocol | Day 11 / Monday

Woke up, slept in, did chi gong, had 75 mg caffeine. Felt pretty good.

Had stomach issues again, no idea why. Perhaps due to still eating fruit and raw vegetables. I am not going to “get rid of them” until after I go like 30 days and still don’t see improvement. After 30 days, i can cut out the fruit and raw stuff, but who knows, may be an adjustement.

Going to do my second chi gong exercise of the day. I like chi gong way more than yoga. Don’t ask why, I have no idea, but I resonate with it.

Noon,

It’s noon and I feel absolutely hyped in comparison to my normal state of being. Feel like I just drank a ton of coffee, but I didn’t. In fact, I’m going to go work from a coffee shop (and have an herbal tea.) just to get out of the house and enjoy the bright sunshiney day.

Not sure if I’ve reached the promised land of “unlimited energy” / come out on the other side of “low carb flu” / adjusted to this diet. Or maybe it’s just beginning. Either way, I’m really happy for some relief. Side note: did not have any CBD oil today (that stuff may have made me a little sleepy actually…)

1:30 PM,

Damnit, I’m sleepy. I went for a drive and instead of going to the coffee shop I just got groceries and came home. It’s so damn hot outside that I just feel like sleeping. Had another 25 mg of caffeine to finish off my daily caffeine dose.

Still havent started working for the day and I’ve been up since 7 Am, LOL! Where has the time gone? I am completely 100% useless these days. ugh. Will I ever be able to work again?

730 PM,

Welp, sad to say that I got about an hour of work done. Maybe less. I just dont *feel* like working. I am getting a little scared that I’ll “never” get better – but then I think: gee, the brain is very resilient, and someone cant suddenly “lose their magic”

It’s like in Kiki’s delivery service where she can suddenly no longer fly.

She gets it back, and I will too, one day…

Autoimmune Protocol | Day 10 / Sunday

Eat more food. Hold on to your butt.

This is the solution I’ve settled on for my tiredness in the middle of the day. From my readings, it can take up to THREE weeks to adjust. And there is a story of a guy who gave up caffeine and it took him TWELVE weeks to adjust.

I’ve gone full AIP from a pretty nutritious american diet, and I’ve gone down from 400+ mg caffeine per day to ~100mg caffeine per day, over the last 10 days.

So I will excuse myself if I don’t feel full of energy. Gotta think of the big picture.

My yoga practice is progressing very slowly. I am feeling very achy and not very flexible. Usually I am more flexible. It’s weird. My meditation practice is similarly bumpy. First thing upon waking up, my body and mind are just not in the mood to do anything.

I do miss Central Park, and hiking through it for 4 hours… climbing boulders. I felt so at peace there. So I went to the climbing gym yesterday. I kind of didn’t enjoy it, because there is a certain natural beauty to climbing a real boulder which is just lost to indoor climbing. I hurt my fingers doing holds that were too small for me (since I’m out of practice), and it feels like I’m really straining my body when I climb indoors. Meanwhile, when I climb out of doors, I don’t really think about grades and I can play all day on V0’s and have fun.

One of the biggest problems of Tampa and Florida in general is that there’s not much to hike. There are some trails, but it’s flat, hot, and there are no boulders. 😦

A friend invited me to his wedding in Vegas in July, so I think I will drive from Florida to Vegas to see him, and then go from vegas to LA to meet up with my best friend. Then, I want to drive up the coast to Seattle, where I will stay in a temporary AirBnB, hang out at the coworking spaces, and see if I want to get a place there. I will be passing through portland too, so we’ll see if I somehow fall in love with Portland.

I’ve been to Seattle before, but not Portland. Although the Decemberists hail from portland and they’re one of my favorite bands, Fleet Foxes, built to spill, and the microphones are all washington bands. Well, built to spill is from Boise…

I will also check out Tacoma, Vancouver WA and Bellingham as potential low cost of living towns to spend some time. It all depends, because I do want to get a job at some point.

Just to catch everyone up, I’m currently a software freelancer. So I’m more inclined to live in low cost of living areas compared to expensive metro areas. But I miss the camaraderie of working on a big team. The last company I worked for was like family to me. So I’m really thinking I might be able to just settle down in a nice place, join a company, and integrate into society again (rather than being this weird guy who just writes blog posts about his diet every day.)

For breakfast i’m eating a gigantic salad with avocado and some left over ground meat sprinkled on top and olive oil sprinkled on top of that.

I took my blood pressure yesterday. This was directly after working out. Now I definitely have white coat high blood pressure (where you get freaked out when you have it measured.) According to the machine my pulse was very high (over 100) (due to being mid panic attack.) And the reading was 138/84.

That reading may sound bad to you, but keep in mind I was acutely stressed. I usually have numbers above 140 systolic and 90+ diastolic. So it seems that my BP might be trending in the right direction. I will keep taking measurements a couple times in a week. Goal is 120 systolic. I CAN DO IT!

Stomach-wise, let’s just say a lot of the acute stomach issues I’ve been plagued with appear to be lessening.

The only real gripe I have right now is anxiety/depression/low energy, which is normal but I usually self-medicate with caffeine to make that stuff go away. Once again, I’m just eating a TON more food than I think I need in order to really fuel my body, because this diet is very easy to not get enough calories.

Now it’s noon, and I have to say I looked up some chi gong on youtube and did two new exercises, “push hands toward the sky” and “draw the bow”, holy crap. I’ve never felt so weak before. But I also feel quite energized from it, so I will continue.

I once bought “the idiots guide to tai chi and chi gong” and it really turned me onto the stuff. I’ve always done yoga as my “healing art”, but I think the pendulum may switch to tai chi / chi gong. I find them more fascinating and more energizing than yoga.

1:30 PM, getting more creative with how to raise my mid-day energy. For the past couple of days I brought out my djembe and I’ve been jamming to music really loud in the living room. Today I’m jamming to tycho, and its bringing up those mid-day vibes.

Funny how even though I can’t focus on work, I can focus on euphoric activities like drumming. I’m just going to focus on those.