Where are you based? Return to Austin
Earlier this month I moved back to Austin.
People often ask where I’m based. My location history over the past few years has been a bit odd. This blogpost is an attempt to record this history in an effort to avoid repeating myself.
I was based in NYC for several years, mostly due to my partner moving there at the time. NYC is a fantastic city, but not great for those who prefer nature to people.
Visiting California while starting NVIDIA
In 2019 I started a new position at NVIDIA. When starting out I decided to fly to California in order to on-board and get to know the company a bit better. Officially starting in California also helped me get a slightly higher salary (location-based pay is strange for remote workers).
However, the NVIDIA HQ is in Santa Clara, a city where I knew virtually no one, while most of my friends and family were in the Oakland/Berkeley area. As a result I stayed in Santa Clara during the week, and then on Friday I would ride my bike to the train, ride up to Berkeley, and work from there for a day with the OSS crowd on the UC Berkeley campus.
This behavior got me into the pattern of living out of AirBnB using mostly a road bike and Amtrak as transit. This was surprisingly ok.
Deciding to leave NYC
Being in California for a month made me realize how much I was missing being around nature. In NYC I didn’t have much to do other than work and socialize with people. After being in California I picked up many of my old physical hobbies and generally felt much happier as a human.
I decided to leave NYC permanently, but wasn’t sure where to go.
Exploring LA and Austin
I knew that the SF Bay Area wasn’t for me (I had lived there for many years earlier, and knew that it wasn’t ideal). I then spent some time in LA (thank you again Amtrak+Road Bike) and Austin to try them out.
I had a couple of friends from childhood in LA, and several work colleagues in Austin. Both are sunny and warm year-round and generally relaxed places to live with nature near by.
Austin had an interesting confluence of traits that made me enjoy it.
- It’s entirely walkable downtown
- It has excellent bike infrastructure
- It has excellent scooter infrastructure (people love or hate these, with reason. I was disabled at the time, and scooters were A lifesaver).
- You can bike to a high-tech business scene, or to a swimming hole in about ten minutes. This rapid fall-off of city-to-nature fit my personality well.
- It’s socially progressive
- But maintains Texan character (arguably SF fared less well here)
So, I flew back to NYC, packed my things in boxes, and shipped them to Austin, where I took up a lease.
Business travel then took over
This was pre-covid. I was onboarding and managing a highly remote team, and also at conferences 1-2 times a month. Eventually it made more sense to live somewhat nomadically. I did this for about a year, living out of a small “fits under the seat in front of you” sized backpack. My life became very compact.
And then COVID hit, making that lifestyle reckless.
Quarantine in Southern California
Like many single millennials during this period, I fled back to my suburban birthplace and sheltered with my parents.
This was actually pretty awesome. There is stigma in North American culture about living with your parents. People who do this are sometimes considered unsuccessful. As someone who, by some metrics at least, is seen as somewhat successful, I’ll happily wave the “live with your parents” flag. It’s great.
I had spent prolonged periods with my parents before. As the youngest and least geographically constrained child, I’m often the one who swings by to handle things when necessary, but I had never stayed with them this long. Cross generational relationships are probably things that we should cultivate more in our society. My relationship with my parents has evolved considerably during adulthood, but a prolonged duration of living together helped us all achieve a deeper growth that benefited all sides I think.
But eventually, it was time to move on
Earlier this month my parents were vaccinated (woo!) and I was feeling restless.
On February 5th I decided it would be a good idea to return to Texas. On February 8th I got in a car and started the drive. On February 10th I arrived back home in Austin. I think I actually was looking forward to two days of the drive more than anything. There is something very satisfying right now about a large-but-simple task that doesn’t require much brain power or decision making to make progress.
It was cold when I arrived, but a week in I discovered that my return was ill-timed, and Texas endured a crippling winter storm. This was hard for many, I emerged a bit thinner, but mostly unscathed.
I’ve been in Austin a few weeks now. It has been great. When not sheltering from arctic temperatures I’ve enjoyed walking along dry riverbeds, paddling in wet ones, and seeing old friends.
I’ve moved back into my building, picked up stuff generously stored at friends’ houses, and am looking forward to being here again. Excitingly, I’m less disabled this time around, and excited about exploring the nature that was only semi-accessible before.
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