So, you’re thinking of moving to Austin, right?
Welcome to the club.
You’re probably moving to Austin to leave behind the rat race of LA or NYC, looking to calm your head and to search for a simpler life that still offers opportunity and cultural diversity.
You never could have imagined moving to Texas with its cowboy boot-wearing conservative leaders and 1950s ideology on women and minorities, but here you are, desperately wanting to move to the capital city of the Lone Star State. Years ago your friends would have laughed at you, but now they ask if they can join along for the ride.
Maybe you’ve visited Austin before during one of its major festivals like SXSW or ACL, or maybe you’ve never been. Maybe you’ve been reading all about this wonderous land from the plethora of top ten lists it’s featured in.
At this very second, you’re ready to move to Austin and have her change you.
But what should you expect? Do you know what life in Austin will really be like?
Here is a typical day in Austin, albeit geared more for the 20- to 40-something childless.
You’ll wake up in your apartment or house, but most likely your house. If you’re renting, sharing a house is no more than renting and if you’re interested in buying a house, Austin real estate prices are still substantially cheaper than most major cities (median price is $221k- of course it depends on what area you live in).
It will be sunny outside when you open your blinds.
A. Drive to work. Your work probably won’t be too far away- Austin is still relatively small- unless you work for a big tech company out in the ‘burbs. If that’s the case, you’ll have to deal with traffic. It’s not LA or NYC-size traffic, but it’s getting close. Texas is trying to make up for its wonky highway system with a lot of construction.
B. Ride your bike to work because you had dreams of living in a city where biking was your sole mode of transportation.
C. Work from home, with the occasional visit to the nearby coffee shop.
Other forms of public transportation are available, but pale in comparison to cities such as New York or Washington D.C. It might be disappointing at first, but remember: Austin is changing.
During the day, unless you live up in Techville, you’ll have the option to eat at a slew of local eateries. This is part of what makes Austin special and it will warm your heart. If you’re from California, you’ll be happy to know that In-n-Out Burger, Trader Joe’s and Pinkberry are open or are opening in Austin. If you’re from California, you’ll also learn that many people will not like you. They put you in the same camp as the developers and rich folks who buy condos they don’t live in. You might see a bumper sticker or two that tells you to go back to California. Don’t let it deter you; just assure us that you are in Austin to do good (unless you’re not- then go back to California!)
You’ll probably like your job, whatever it is, but you might not get paid as much as you did in LA or NYC, or you might get paid more if you’re from a smaller town. Whether you work in retail, food service, tech, medical, law- you name it!- you’re probably going to like who you work with and for because people who live in Austin are generally open-minded and kind. That’s not to say that you won’t encounter the occasional arsehole, but there is a certain level of respect here that is not always seen in cities like LA or NYC. Now, if you thrive in a fast-paced environment with high stress, you should probably go back to where you came from.
After work, you’ll be confused as to what to do with yourself. There is so much activity in Austin that it will hurt your head to think about it. In the summer there will be a marathon every weekend, in the fall there will be a festival every weekend and in the spring there will be any combination of the above every weekend. Heck, there’s even stuff to do in the winter because the winter barely gets below 30 degrees. Once in awhile we’ll have a dusting of ice or snow and the entire city will shut down. New Yorkers, that doesn’t mean you can’t use your beautiful wool coats and scarves in Austin- you’ll still need them. Californians, you’re going to finally need to wear pants.
If music is your thing, you’ll probably check out The White Horse for country-western, The Mohawk for rock n’ roll, The Elephant Room for jazz, Continental Club for old-school Austin or Emo’s or Stubb’s for the larger acts. If you like movies, you’ll probably be at one of the Alamo Drafthouse’s themed nights like Terror Tuesday or Weird Wednesday, or you might be excited to catch the latest indie film at Violet Crown Cinema. If you’re a foodie, heck, you’ve definitely come to the right place. Austin is joining the culinary ranks of cities like LA or NYC, but Austin’s true magic lies within its old Austin mom & pop eateries (Texas Chili Parlor >Uchi). If you’re a fitness buff, we’ll definitely see your tight buns running along Town Lake or the Greenbelt. Maybe you swim at Barton Springs or climb Mount Bonnell to clear your head. Always remember: sunscreen and H2o. If you like sports, you’ll join the 99,999 others at one of UT’s Longhorn home games or you might check out Austin’s new F1 racing track (Austin pro tip: F1 isn’t really Austin). If you’ve come to Austin to get your freak on, then we’ll probably see you riding around on your bicycle in a thong or creating art out of a pile of trash. P.S. we need more of your type here.
At the end of the day, you’ll cozy up in your house and watch Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black like every good middle-class urbanite does and not think about how relatively easy your life has become. You’ll forget why you moved to Austin because you fit in so seamlessly. You’ll begin taking your new life for granted, though you shouldn’t. You should feel thankful for Austin’s acceptance of you, and you should return the favor by being active in the local community and politics.
That’s not to say that this charming city is perfect. Summers are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced (unless you’re from Arizona). Forget hairdos, make-up or that fresh out-of-the-shower smell: you’re going to have some serious momentary questioning as to why the hell you moved to Austin. The grass is brown, the fire ants will hurt and you’ll sweat in areas you didn’t even know existed on your body. Though we have quaint watering holes, we’re still four hours from the ocean and that ocean is something to sneeze at. Sometimes people feel monetarily stifled by our low, beautifully-painted ceiling. The aforementioned politics can be difficult to stomach. Austin in particular has pretty liberal views, but there are only so many rules and regulations that the mostly open-minded officials of Austin can enforce. Austin will butt heads with the state of Texas, and your heart will often be broken by your new home state.
You’re going to watch as your beloved Austin changes right before your eyes, and you’re going to have to be OK with that.