#1. Dallas TX
Sarah Hepola, 45, writer
How Long I Lived in NYC: 6 years
Where I Moved: Dallas, Texas
Why I Left NYC: NYC was a good place to push myself and my career, but after years of stretching myself thin, financially and mentally, and working so hard just to stay in place, I couldn’t take it anymore. By the end, I was living in a tiny fourth-floor walkup that had little room for anything besides a queen-size bed. I just walked into my room and flopped on the mattress.
Rent/Mortgage and Square Footage in NYC: I lived in four different places in New York City, and each was a different size. All of them were between $1500 and $1,800/month, ranging from an 800-square-foot loft in Williamsburg to a 350-square-foot studio in the West Village.
Rent/Mortgage and Square Footage in Dallas: I pay about half of what I used to pay in New York, and my place is around 800 square feet.
Most Pleasant Surprise About Relocating: The first time I went to the Whole Foods in the middle of the day, it was gloriously empty, and I wanted to lie down on the glossy cement floors and make snow angels. Nobody was there! And I could pile up groceries in my cart and put all those bags in … my trunk! I didn’t have to carry everything home and walk it up four flights. Also, I rediscovered the joys of chatting with strangers. Jawing with the barista, saying “hello” to people as you pass them on the street, a general air of goodwill about people you don’t know and will never see again — it’s the nicest thing. I didn’t realize how much that NYC force-field of silence and indifference had gotten me down.
Favorite Thing About Dallas: It’s just very easy: Getting groceries, meeting friends for dinner at a new restaurant, making rent each month, going to the doctor, taking a walk around the lake, etc. I never appreciated “easy” until I left New York. I grew up in Dallas thinking it was boring, but now I understand there is an upside to boring, because hectic-frantic-stressed is so hard. I felt like I gained three extra hours a day when I moved back to Texas.
Thing I Miss Most About NYC: The people. I miss being around people who are so driven, so ambitious, so hard-working, and everyone is working at a high level, whether you’re talking to someone in publishing or driving a garbage truck. It’s just such an intense place, and everyone has to step it up a level. It makes them stronger, smarter, tougher. I love that.
Advice I’d Give to Someone Else Thinking of Moving to Dallas: The rap on Dallas is that it’s shallow and image-oriented, and you can certainly find that. But I’ve also found many pockets where people are warm, easygoing and surprisingly eclectic. Seek out the less traveled paths and explore the artsy neighborhoods. Keep an open mind, and you will find your people.