1. The cost of living is low.
Beer? Cheap. Food? Reasonably priced. Apartments? Let’s just say I don’t spend 99 percent of my monthly income on rent, coughcoughNewYork. For a lifelong yank like myself, Texas prices were a revelation. Four dollars for a six pack? What is it, 1940? Is there a catch? Do I have to open the cans with one of those metal hole-poker implements like it’s a cylinder of Juicy Juice? No, you don’t. The cans work normally like a modern can should. They’re just cheap!
No state income tax, less expensive gas because it’s made around here or something, and cheap beer as far as the eye can see. Your money has a slightly easier time staying in your pocket around here, which leads me to number two.
2. There are jobs.
In my (entirely non-scientific) survey of the job market in Austin, things are looking pretty rosy. Austin’s become a bit of a tech/corporate hub in recent years, due to the constant stream of young employable talent coming out of the university (…of Texas, which is here) and arriving from elsewhere for all the reason’s I’m laying out right now. It’s a self supporting loop; The conditions beget the jobs, the jobs beget the conditions, on and on and on. I don’t see my friends struggling with un- or under- employment as much as I did elsewhere. We’re not all working in our dream field, and people do go without from time to time, but it’s not a depressing wasteland of everyone trying to get a service-industry job and failing. I have benefits!
3. People are friendly.
I do not blame you if you think this sounds hopelessly naïve. I wouldn’t believe me either, probably. But I’ve had this confirmed by multiple outside visitors: if you come from either of the coasts, you’re going to find the middle of the country almost disarmingly welcoming. People you don’t know wave to you. You can strike up a conversation with essentially anyone. Accidentally making eye contact with a stranger isn’t an awful stare-down that leaves you feeling dried out and steely; they’ll probably just smile at you. It’s the sort of thing you notice right away, in all sorts of subtle ways –- the people are just friendlier. It’s contagious, as well. I hate to use the phrase “Good Vibes,” but, uh, good vibes, dude.
4. There’s weather!
Central Texas has two seasons — summer and spring. It doesn’t have the maddening consistency of California: it’ll rain once in a while, it’ll get down to like 40 for a week or two in February, it’ll spike up to 100+ in the summer, there are clouds and such — but most of the time, the word I would use is “balmy.” It’s balmy.
5. There’s stuff to do.
This is probably the one people think of as being Austin’s big draw — SXSW, Austin City Limits, film festivals, etc. It’s the cultural center of Texas, that’s for sure. No one’s going to Houston for much of anything. (Houston sucks. Sorry Houston, real talk.)
On a day-to-day level, there’s always something to do. Personally, I got involved in the improv comedy scene down here, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I stumbled into an open-minded, funny, caring, tightly-knit group of people doing excellent work seven nights a week. There are communities like this all over town.
Oh, sidebar, a little secret about SXSW — No one gets into the good shows except the media. For the average attendee it’s just standing around in lines waiting for something to happen, and if/when that something does happen, the sound quality sucks and no one bothers to stop talking.
6. It’s livable.
This one’s kind of an amalgamation of the other five, but I think it merits its own discussion. I’ve never lived anywhere I didn’t immediately start planning my departure from. Everywhere else, I was thinking down the road, where I would be going next, what the exit strategy would be. I don’t have one of those here. I could live here forever, I think, and that’s goddamn terrifying, but it’s also really lovely and comfortable. It’s not a place where you’re going to get famous, probably, but who cares? When has fame ever made anyone any happier?
Austin’s the sort of place you can settle into, the kind of place where you stop worrying so much about that kind of thing and revise your concept of success a little bit. In 30 years or so, I’ll be an old guy on a bike, a true Austin trademark. The weather’s balmy, the people are friendly, and oh yeah, the tacos. The tacos are real good.