Where should she move?

By Catey Hill
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Greenville, South Carolina
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Dear Millie,

I’m 37, single and have lived in Atlanta almost my entire life outside of college. I’m fed up with Atlanta! The sprawl of the city is really getting to me—sometimes it takes me an hour to get to a friend’s house, even without traffic. I live alone so it’s important for me to be able to get out easily and see friends or go on dates.

I’m looking for a smaller, friendly city, ideally in the southeastern United States, where I can quickly get from place to place, and that has a good fitness community. It would be wonderful if I could go running outside on nearby trails. I don’t mind four seasons, but I do mind sustained cold weather.

I’d like the city to have a decent job market too. My budget? It’s not huge, as I work in education, so I need a place where I can live comfortably on about $45,000 to $50,000 a year. Can you help me?

Thank you,

S.B.

Dear S.B.,

This is a great question, because as this pandemic rages on, I’m hearing from an increasing number of people about how they hope to work remotely forever—and move somewhere more affordable and manageable. I think plenty of them want the same things you do: a decent job market, warm weather, outdoor opportunities and inexpensive living. (Can’t say that list doesn’t tempt me, too!) The good news: I have some cool options for you. 

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Though its music-centric neighbors Nashville and Memphis get most of the attention, Knoxville—a city of roughly 187,000 people—deserves some attention of its own. “With a booming outdoors scene, grand hotels and a slew of new restaurants, Knoxville is one of the South’s most happening cities,” writes travel magazine Afar. It also offers lots of outdoor recreation, including Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, which is within the city and has more than 1,000 forested acres and 50 miles of trails nestled along the Tennessee River. Median rent for a one-bedroom is between $750 and $870, the overall cost of living is significantly cheaper than Atlanta, and its smaller size means it’s easier to get from spot to spot. Plus, in non-pandemic times, the city has a pretty low unemployment rate. 

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Ranked #11 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best places to live, the so-called Rocket City (it’s best known as the home to the massive U.S. Space & Rocket Center) has recently undergone a cultural transformation. “Rocket City has become a new launching pad for craft breweries, restaurants and creative entrepreneurs, which has created a boom of new places to see beyond the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (even though we also think aero science is rad too),” Southern Living wrote of the area. The outdoors is gorgeous too: Nestled along the Tennessee River, this mid-sized city (the population is just under 200,000) offers myriad parks and greenways and is home to the 2,140-acre Monte Sano State Park, which has 20 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles of biking trails. The job market in normal times is good (there are a lot of engineering and tech jobs thanks to the presence of NASA, but plenty of work in the education field, too) and the cost of living is significantly below average. 

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You can score a one-bedroom in this friendly, small Southern city for just $750 (take that Atlanta!)—and with a population of just about 65,000, it’s far more manageable than Atlanta, too. You won’t get bored either, as Greenville offers “a wide-ranging (and well-priced) food scene; quirky boutiques; outdoor cafes on bustling, tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly streets; art galleries; bike trails; ample urban green space; a public art collection with more than 70 sculptures; and the fastest-growing population of any city in the state,” the Washington Post raved in 2018. Oh, and you’ll find that unemployment is generally lower than it is for the nation as a whole, and Greenville has plenty of parks to run in safely. 

Good luck, S.B.!

Millie

Readers, if you want to retire or move elsewhere and need advice, email AskMillie@millie.us.