Place matters to young adults. So much so that they are building their lives around the cities and neighborhoods where they want to live—not where they need to live for a job. In fact, just 11.9 percent of millennials cite a new position or a work transfer as their reason for a move.
What draws them to their ideal city? Our data show that for millennial homeowners, what’s happening outside their door—like shopping, dining, and community events—factors into their home-buying decisions more than the older generations.
Moving to a city for the lifestyle it offers and building a life and career around it requires a little bit of guts and certain amount of strategy. Here are five people who did it—and how they pulled it off.
— Los Angeles, California
What Tara Mackey did seven years ago—quitting a prestigious job at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City to drive cross-country to California with no job and $300 in her pocket—might sound unwise at best. But, Mackey, 31, had chronic health problems for which she was taking a staggering 14 prescription medications a day. The sunny Los Angeles lifestyle called to her.
“I wanted to learn about alternative therapies, from herbs to Ayurveda, and to study yoga and meditation,” she says, “and California seemed like the perfect place to do just that.”
Quickly, Tara was able to find holistic solutions to treat her illnesses, is now prescription-free, and has since started a wildly popular blog, The Organic Life. She’s also written two best-selling natural-healing books and launched a skincare line—all of which she attributes to wisdom she’s gained in her adopted home.
“It was so much better here than what I was expecting,” Tara says. “Imagine feeling sick for 25 years, and then finally finding a solution and regaining your health? Every single day I wake up and it is sunny and beautiful—I get up, I take the pups on a hike, do interviews, email, write. I am such a hippie, and it suits me here.”
— Bushwick, New York
A native of California, Taylor Griffin went to college and lived for a few years post-graduation in the Pacific Northwest. But it just wasn’t the right fit for him. “I had long been thinking about NYC as a dream—and I was 25, and I thought, if I didn’t do it now, I never will.”
He did it—with a duffle bag in tow, and with the help of friends who shared their couches while he found a place. Why was the move worth it? New York City’s active comedy scene. “Improv is my jam—basically my whole social scene is based on people I’ve met at UCB [Upright Citizen’s Brigade] classes,” Taylor says.
By day, Taylor is an Apple store manager in Manhattan. The job covers his bills in an apartment that he shares with two roommates in the popular Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, which offers the fast-paced, access-to-everything, NYC lifestyle he wanted
“Hands down, my favorite part of living in New York is that there is always something to do,” Taylor says. “You could live here a lifetime and still discover new things to do, see, eat, smell, sit on, fall in love with, get mad at, wait in line for. It’s an entire world just a $2.75 metro fare away.”
Taylor’s big move and the pursuit of his craft are paying off in the city he has come to love, as he is now working on a comedic web series with his improv friends.
— Atlanta, Georgia
Now 30, Ni’kesia Pannell grew up in Orlando, Florida where she got her Master’s degree in creative writing for entertainment. But Pannell set her sights on a place bigger than her hometown. At nearly twice the population, and with energy and culture to spare, Atlanta would be the perfect city for an entertainment-loving, style-conscious creative like herself.
“I called my mom to tell her I was moving, and she said, ‘What part of Orlando?’ She didn’t really believe me,” Ni’kesia says. She moved to the Northlake section of Atlanta in 2013, and she found her apartment—remotely from Orlando—by searching online and having a trusted friend go to check out apartments. However, despite her prestigious degree, once she got to Atlanta, finding a job wasn’t as easy as she’d imagined.
After bouncing from gig to gig for three years, she realized writing about her Atlanta lifestyle—music, relationship, and her faith included—was her passion. “I started my blog in 2014, and it changed everything for me,” she says. Soon after, she was in New York for Fashion Week and arranged a meeting with an editor at Essence. Now, she’s the magazine’s food and travel columnist.
“I love the culture in Atlanta—you can’t get any of this, from music and fashion, anywhere else,” says Ni’kesia. “I go to a little spot called Cinco, just down the street from my apartment,” she says of her favorite restaurant. “I go there every Friday, and bring everyone who visits from out of town.” Today, Ni’Kesia lives in Marietta, which is five minutes outside of Atlanta proper. “My neighborhood is bustling,” says Ni’kesia, “I’m just a few minutes from Cumberland Mall and The Battery, where the spectacular new Braves stadium and lifestyle plaza has been built.”
Atlanta has even found its way into her professional work—Marietta Square in particular. “[It’s] where I go a lot to do photo shoots. It’s a little quieter, there are great little antique shops and record stores, and it’s a perfect place to grab a bite to eat.”
— New York City, New York
Alana Esposito has lived plenty of places—including Greece and Paris—and has had plenty of jobs, from art-gallery administrator to freelance writer. But her heart has always been in the Big Apple.
“I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, but my mom was from New York City,” says 33-year-old Alana. “I grew up visiting relatives in the city, and my whole life I knew I would eventually end up here.”
“What I love about the city is that people feel free to be whoever they are, and, despite everyone seeming to be too busy to care about their fellow New Yorkers, people here do pull through for each other in dark times such as by volunteering to clean up and rebuild after Sandy,” Alana says.
She now owns an apartment on the border of Chinatown and the Lower East Side—it is a vibrant and culturally diverse area with global restaurants and magical little community gardens between the buildings.
Career-wise, Alana returned to her original field of study, international relations. “I work at a non-profit that is focused on the well-being of women around the world. Because of the time difference, I am sometimes on calls from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., but that’s New York, and the subway’s always running and hailing a taxi is easy!”
— Washington, D.C.
Just 25, Kate Brannen graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a dual major in PR and women’s representation in the media. She moved to Washington, D.C., soon after she got her degree, without any job prospects and not knowing a soul in the city, and ended up in the Vienna, Virginia area of Metro D.C. “It was super convenient because it was right across from the metro station and above a grocery store, and just a few blocks from the Mosaic District which has great restaurants, a movie theater, and shopping,” Kate says. From the beginning, she just knew D.C.’s career-focused, breakneck vibe was for her.
Brannen now lives in Arlington, Virginia‘s Courthouse neighborhood. “I love it,” she says. “People here work hard and play hard. Patios and rooftop happy hours are a way of staying sane. For me, it’s meeting friends in Clarendon for Wednesday night bingo, grabbing a drink at Courthaus Social or canceling out any workout with Fireworks Pizza.”
Sure enough, she eventually found just the kind of job she was hoping D.C. would have for her. “I started researching influencers online, and one posted a job,” Kate says. Her PR company does crisis counseling and marketing. Her favorite part of the job is the clients. “So many of them are involved in great philanthropy,” she says. “We work with the Olympics, we do a lot of pro-bono work, and that feels great.”
And the D.C. lifestyle is everything she imagined. “Living in Oklahoma, I had to drive everywhere, but here everything is so accessible,” Kate says. “I love that I can walk to work, jump on the metro for a short ride into D.C., and bike or run the miles and miles of beautiful trails that connect Virginia, D.C., and Maryland.”
How These Movers Made It Work
“Give yourself a good plan. Do your finances and stick to your home-buying goals.”
– TARA MACKEY
“Use every single network that you have—you never know who may have a friend or a relative with a place right where you want to be.”
– KATE BRANNEN
“Everyone gets happiness from different things. Pick something you have can control over. Things you can’t control? Relationships and jobs. Find something you are passionate about and focus on that.”
– TAYLOR GRIFFEN
“If you’ve moved to a new and unfamiliar place, and you’re supposed to be there, it will happen for you. Don’t let anyone, your family or friends, talk you out of your dreams.”
– NI’KESIA PANNELL