I am thinking about home all the time these days!

If you’re new here, you should know that I’ve been living on a ship for the past 3 years. Yes, a real ship with portholes, toilets that make loud sucking noises, and watertight sliding doors (like in Titanic). Three years and this season is coming to an end.

Even though I only have two months left, I’ve done barely anything productive to prepare. I’ve spent a lot of time on Reddit (looking for the truth about nursing in Florida), Google (looking for how to build a community from scratch), and Pinterest (looking for all the travel and transition hacks).

Even though I’ve done more tangential Google searches than practical, I’m sure that the resources I’ve piled away in my Evernote notebooks will help you! So, here I present the first of a series all about moving home.

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Check out the rest of the series:

Moving Home: Choosing a New City (You’re here now!)

Moving Home: Using a Capsule Wardrobe to Simplify

Moving Home: 4 (Cultural) Keepsakes to Treasure


Time to make a move!

I grew up in Rochester, NY, a mid-sized city in Western New York. This city wasn’t always my favorite, but once I left the first time, my appreciation for it grew! I’d be bold enough to say that those who have never left Rochester are a totally different breed than those that leave and come back. I’ve been gone for a few years, but coming back is always a highlight for me.

However, I probably won’t be moving back there in the near future. Only God knows the future but that’s the plan for now.

Now is the time for dreaming and exploring so we can find our next “home”. We’ve done this online and in person by driving through cities and towns in Florida. We have family in several of the major Florida cities, but there are so many options; how in the world do we choose?!?

choosing the right city

There’s more to consider than looks or reputation when you are choosing a place to call home. In fact, some  I was talking to a friend the other day who told me she was from Silicon Valley, and that she would never say that she loves that place deeply. As she described the vibe and values, I realized that no city is awesome like Rochester no city is created equal.

If I have expectations of what my life at home will look like, and I move to a place with opposite values, I will be setting myself up for major breakdowns. I’m looking for a city that lines up with who I am and that means I have to dig.

So what do I value most after spending 3 years doing volunteer work and living off donations?


Community: a group of people living in the same space or having similar attitudes and interests.

I know there is no other community like the one on the Africa Mercy; I’m not trying to replicate that. Nor am I trying to replicate my experience and community in Rochester. However, I’ve seen more than once people who come together to support, share, and live with each other. I’ve seen it in enough settings to know that it’s possible.

There are people who chat to their neighbors on the sidewalk. There are friends that choose to live together to save money and to fight the pervasive isolation present in Western culture. There are families that have open door policies to anyone on a Sunday night for dinner. There are church members that actively serve their neighborhood. Local grocery shops exist where the clerks know you by name. Cafes where the barista expects you on Fridays at 4:30.

Some cities/neighborhoods do it better than others. Some communities attract people who prioritize friendliness, but not all cities are aiming for that. I’m looking for a place where I can carve out space for me to be who I am, a place where waving at children and saying good morning isn’t weird.

Yes, I had this in Rochester, but I’m not looking for a replica of Rochester. I’m just looking for a place where I’ll thrive (eventually… once I’m finished crying about how much I miss the Africa Mercy). I can’t deny that Rochester allowed me to live in accordance with my values in many ways. Since I don’t want to set my values aside, I’m looking for somewhere new that works for me.

StreetAdvisor gives you insight into different neighborhoods, even individual streets, so you can see what vibe different places give off.

Walk Score lets you type in the city you’re interested in and will rate that city on how bike-friendly, pedestrian-friendly and transit-friendly it is. (There’s also Drive Score.)


Diversity: variety; multiformity; the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic strata, sexual orientation, etc.

Suburbia is not my thing. A sea of monochromatic faces wearing leggings, Northface, and Uggs. Maybe this has to do with all of my sisters going to schools in the suburbs (even though we lived in the city) through a program that brings minorities into suburban schools to diversify them. Maybe this has to do with the church I grew up in which is located IN the city, filled with people who either LIVE in the city or LOVE the city. Or maybe it’s because I know I don’t fit in with those who grew up comfortably with annual family vacations and houses in the suburbs.

If I’m totally honest, I want to live in the poorer areas. I want to live with people who Jesus has commanded us to love. I love cities because it’s where people from different countries and different economic backgrounds can be found. I want my neighborhood, my church, and my workplace to have more dimension than white, middle-class suburbia can give me.

City-Data has tons of statistics to help me make sure that the area I’m looking into is safe enough for me to actually live there. They also have information on specific neighborhoods, crime, schools, and weather.

ability to thrive

Enough dreaming. I won’t be offended if you’re a little skeptical about all the idealism going on in this post. Yes, I can be very idealistic, but I promise I have a practical sense. Will this city be a good place to further my career? Will I be able to make enough money to ward off desperate phone calls to my mom? Will I be able to buy a home when the time comes?

I’m already on these sites folks. This stuff is so helpful:

How Much is $100 Worth in Your State?

Long Commutes Are Sucking the Life Out of You.

Best and Worst States to Make a Living

The Most Prominent Jobs by Salary, State

What I’m Considering

You might think I’m asking too much, but here’s why I disagree. My country is way too big for me to stay in one corner or just take what I’m served. If there’s a city in Florida out there that meets my criteria, I don’t want to accidentally move somewhere hundreds of miles away. If no such city exists, then at least I tried. I’ve been really surprised at the feedback I’ve gotten from those who live(d) in Florida. The naysayers are consistently present telling me that I will never find a city with everything I’m looking for. Yet, I keep hearing names of places friends and peers think I’ll love based on what I’ve mentioned.

So what do YOU want from your next “home”? Even if you have no control over the city you move to, some of the resources I listed above have great data on individual neighborhoods. What qualities do you want to feed in yourself by finding a community of like-minded people?

Related Post: My Plan After Mercy Ships? Swim Upstream

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Choosing a New City: Things to Consider; Provocative Joy; Moving Home Series

3 comments on “Moving Home: Choosing a New City”

    • Daniella, some of the links I shared definitely helped, but there are aspects that you never really know until you actually move there. That makes it harder for me too!

  1. It’s so interesting to hear how you’re thinking about finding your next home! My husband and I both grew up in small towns and we just bought a house in a town that is triple the size, which seems so big to us! It’s interesting how you see it differently, being from a city first! I think it’s awesome that you’re putting so much thought into finding the right place to live!

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