Sixteen months into our road trip journey, we feel comfortable making some conclusions about our future.
- We like our vagabondish lifestyle far too much to give it up anytime soon.
- Continuing to pay rent on our storage unit is a waste of money.
- We want a home base. Even a small cabin on some acreage will do. Somewhere we don’t have to pay rent. A spot of land that we can go back to in-between our seasonal workamper jobs.
- Our goal is to close escrow on something, somewhere, before March, 2009.
With this in mind, our travels are taking on more of a sense of urgency these days.
We’ve been wandering around the Northwest, taking serious looks at places we’ve been curious about. Based on what I’ve heard about Missoula, Montana, it always sounded like a great fit for us, and consistently makes “Best Small Towns” lists. Recently, we visited to learn more for ourselves.
We stayed at this RV park just outside of town. A great park, with a great name; Jim’s parents were also “Jim and Mary.” The days were getting cold, so we only spent a few days there, looking around, talking to economic development people, and getting a feel for the area. We were so busy I hardly took any photos. Here’s what we learned.
Good Things About Missoula:
- Locals are friendly. Nobody seemed like they were in a hurry, even at rush hour.
- With a population of 100,000, Missoula still feels like a small town. But it doesn’t have any of the small town sacrifices. There’s tons of character and uniqueness, but still has everything you could possibly need (i.e., killer locally owned organic grocery stores along with big box stores).
- Because the University is there, it has an exceptional entertainment scene, one not just for kids either.
- The large downtown area is alive and well, and the business community seems very strong and supportive.
- There’s lots of activities for everyone, all year long, not just summertime. Skiing, biking, kayaking, you name it, it’s all within a few minutes of town.
- Bikes and pedestrians rule.
- Residents are very eco-conscious, but don’t come off as uptight eco Nazis.
- You can still get a great house there for around $250k.
- The university plays a huge role, but doesn’t consume the whole town, unlike the way Virginia Tech consumes the town of Blacksburg, which we visited last year. My impression is that if you don’t have anything to do with the University, and you’re not into football, that’s OK, you won’t be an outsider and there are plenty of other things going on.
Why We Aren’t Going Back
If we had been to Missoula before falling in love with Eureka, back in 1998, we probably would’ve moved there instead. It’s right up our alley, and has all of the features we always wished Eureka had. But, after all that we’ve been through since then, here’s why we are crossing it off our list:
- It is not a true “small town” to us. Way too many people.
- Housing is affordable, but land is expensive. We couldn’t pay cash for anything.
- Because it lacks nothing and has so much to offer, materialistically speaking, we’d easily get sucked into the consumer lifestyle/rat race again.
- We don’t want to be surrounded by the cultural void that is the rest of Montana and rural Northern Idaho.
- Their weather is so sucky and overcast all year, that a regional “Sunshine Predictability Scale,” indicates that in January, you only have a 20 percent chance of seeing the sun. And in July, just an 80 percent chance. In July!
Jim and I both agree that if we wanted to live exactly as we did back in Eureka, (i.e. running a business and getting heavily involved with the community), we would definitely pick Missoula.
But at this point in our lives, we aren’t out to be upstanding, business-minded citizens anytime soon. Nope, instead we just want to live simply and stay away from debt. We want to lay low until this stupid economy picks up, base ourselves somewhere quiet and rural, and keep on truckin’ in our RV from workamper job to workamper job. For a while, anyways.