Our first four months of living in Charlotte, North Carolina
This post is all about what our first four months of living in Charlotte, North Carolina have been like, after moving across the country from the San Francisco Bay Area.
The other day, I told Dave I couldn’t believe we’d almost been in Charlotte for three full months. He quickly corrected me that we’d actually been in Charlotte for nearly four full months. What? I was floored.
A lot has happened in the last four months, and although I regularly share stuff some Instagram stories in real-time and share tidbits about what’s going on in my weekly current faves post on the blog, today we’re going to dig in.
Our first four months of living in Charlotte, North Carolina
In case you’re new around here, Dave, Brady and Rudy and I moved to Charlotte from the San Francisco Bay Area. We lived in California for eight years, having moved from Orlando, Florida before that. I was born and raised in Florida, and when we moved to San Francisco, it was my first time living outside of the state. Dave grew up in Maine, but had been living in Florida since college. We met in Orlando, were married in Orlando, then moved to California shortly after getting married.
Nonetheless, because we technically came from the East Coast, I think our transition back to the East Coast has gone better than it may for people who had never lived on the East Coast or in the Southeast either.
Here’s what’s going on with us …
The transition to living in Charlotte …
Let’s be honest, we arrived in the dead of winter, during a global pandemic, without really knowing anyone. Dave and I had only ever visited Charlotte one time for a total of about 38 hours. For real. But we had a gut feeling this was the place for us. And although it would be very premature to declare that after only four months of living here, we both still have that gut feeling that this is the place for us.
While I have never regretted our decision, it hasn’t been totally smooth sailing. I didn’t enjoy much out of the first month or maybe two. It was hard being in a new city where we didn’t know anyone or anything, while not having many of our personal belongings, having a toddler and a dog, and also being nervous about COVID, with many things still closed (and with daily rainfall and darkness coming around 4:30 p.m. to hinder our outdoor time, as well). Brady was not in preschool for several months as well, during this transition, so I didn’t get much of a break from momming. Not to mention, I think I was still feeling a lot more pain back in January from all the tough stuff I dealt with at the end of 2020 (the loss of my dad, the loss of a group fitness job I held for eight years via email, and some other stuff). I still think about those things, but they don’t have as much of a sting, if that makes any sense. Time sure does heal.
I was sort’ve a wound-up ball of stress for about five months in a row maybe October through February preparing for this move and handling all the other emotional things, and I can honestly say that feeling is officially gone now. It’s a weight lifted. And I truly feel lighter. Even if I still think about my dad on a daily basis. And he would be so happy to know we’ve settled back on the East Coast (something he had always hoped for).
Our house and neighborhood …
We found the house we wanted to buy within our first five days of being in Charlotte. We started out in an AirBnB, which we had reserved for 30 days, and only had to extend it by a couple of days before moving into our home. It was a little risky showing up here with a family and only having a place secured to live for 30 days, but it worked out. We drove around in a rental car while we waited for our cars to be delivered, and we had our belongings sent straight to storage, where they lived until we moved into our new house. It was a lot of logistics, that’s for sure.
We did a lot of online research before moving to Charlotte and knew we wanted to be in south Charlotte. We had a few neighborhoods in mind, but ended up finding one we didn’t even know about. The inventory here was really low, and we’re so pleased things worked out for us.
We live in the Ballantyne area, which is south Charlotte, and we’re pretty close to the South Carolina border.
We actually felt like the process of finding and securing the house was super easy compared to our first time buying a home in California. To contrast, previously, we made 10 offers on homes in the East Bay of San Francisco constantly getting beat out, before we finally found the home for us there. We loved our California home, and it had everything we needed. However, our house in Charlotte is bigger and nicer. Also, it’s a fairly classic Southern brick home with columns, which is something I had always wanted and wouldn’t really fit in in the Bay Area. We do have some extra space, and with Dave working from home, me teaching classes and working from home, and Brady being very active — we’ve managed to use nearly every inch — outside of the dining room, which is our only empty room, but our dining room table will be here in July. (Quick side note on furniture: We sold a lot of stuff before moving and have had to get many new things. Furniture takes a long time to get here, especially tables.) As far as decorating, I like picking things out, and although my choices may not be perfect, I think they are perfect for us, and I’ve been having fun doing it.
Our neighborhood is great and has a lot of trees and sidewalks, and it is totally walkable. We even have a neighborhood park we can walk to in 10 minutes, which has been perfect for our daily outdoor outings. We spend a lot of time outside, and the ability to do that safely and in a good spot, is imperative for our daily quality of life.
But, once again, it hasn’t been all rosy with our house. Our house was built in 1999, and although it’s a great house, we’ve had a host of problems (and we want to do some more updates on it down the road too). We found out on the second day that the dishwasher was broken (yes, even after getting thorough inspections), and it took a month of repairmen visits to get it fixed, so we hand-washed all our dishes for a month. The outlets in our master bathroom weren’t working for a while, so we had to have an electrician come and fix that. Then, just last month, while having our first guest stay, we found out there was a leak in the guest bathroom bathtub. We found it out, because I was downstairs when I saw water lines forming on the ceiling above the kitchen table. That was a fun one to discover. We had a plumber cut a hole in the wall to repair the leak, then had to have a drywall person come in and fix it. In addition to this, we painted the entire interior of the house, which took two painters about a week-and-a-half to do. And although I got three quotes and found these painters on a referral, we’re noticing all sorts of flaws in their work, and so both Dave and I have pulled out the extra paint and paintbrushes to go around and do touch-ups a few times. These are just small home-owner problems … of course, but I’d rather have less problems than more, and it seems like we’ve had a steady stream of people in our house working on things. Thank goodness for home warranty, which covers a lot of the costs during the first year. Wow, I didn’t plan on mentioning all of that, but as you know, once I start writing, I just start writing.
Overall, the house is amazing. I’m in love with it. It’s turning out just how I want it, even if there have been some annoyances along the way. Also, cost of living is much more reasonable in Charlotte than in the Bay Area, which is great. It seems like mostly everything else costs about the same though.
Brady in Charlotte …
Brady has done so well with the transition. He went for almost two months without going to school or having much interaction with other kids or people, and I could tell he was ready for some of that, especially during the cold winter, when we barely had anything to do. That seems like a distant memory though, because now he gets a lot of play-time with others.
But, one thing we didn’t anticipate, but it needed to happen anyway, is potty training. In fact, we had to get Brady potty trained shortly after moving here, because we found out it was required in order to be in 3-year-old classes. For schools, I asked for recommendations and did a lot of research, we placed Brady in a super cute church preschool for three mornings a week for the remainder of this school year (thank goodness they had space for a mid-year enroll). Once again, Brady’s teachers have been so good to us, and Brady loves going to school (which you would know if you see my Instagram stories, because we always take his picture before school, and he’s always super pumped). Next school year, he will go to school for four mornings a week and even bring his lunch, which will be a big step for us.
Brady’s preschool is about 10 to 12 minutes away from our house, and I drop him off and pick him up each day (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, to be exact), and watching him in the parent pick-up line with all the other kiddos is seriously the cutest. I can always tell the exact instant he sees my car, because he points and tells everyone: “There’s Mommy.” So sweet.
I’m super proud of how adaptable he is, and he’s had no problem adjusting to our move, our new city, our new house and our new everything. But let me tell you, the tantrums at 3.5-years-old may be the worst tantrums we’ve seen thus far — but they are not moving related, they are just toddler related. 🙂
Working in Charlotte …
Yes, we work!
Dave is working for a new company and is working from home. He’s super excited about his job, and he may be going into an office in a few months. But, to be totally honest, it’s not ideal to start a job virtually — that’s for sure — and he looks forward to in-person meetings and work-days again. He’s no longer working directly for a team though, so that means no more game nights. Yay!
As far as my work, that’s been a blessing for me (while at times, as anyone who works for themselves, I question everything and have things that don’t work out at all, even when I put a ton of work into them). Throughout the move, I continued working as I normally would. Writing the blog, doing Beautycounter and even teaching virtually for Motus, within Google, twice a week. I took one week off teaching virtually during our move, then had my equipment shipped to me and picked back up, even filming from our AirBnB (which was a little dark and dreary, but it still served its purposes). I still thoroughly dislike pulling out all my equipment and dealing with technology, but I swear my twice weekly virtual classes have kept me sane, even when other things were driving me mad. I’ve had some of the same virtual class members for a whole year of virtual teaching, and we have a great thing going together over the inter-webs.
I definitely don’t have as much time to work as I’d like, but I put in several hours every single day of the week, no matter what, and that’s all I can do right now. While I had some big professional goals for 2020 that I was somehow able to meet, I don’t have any big goals professionally for 2021. I want to maintain, keep a really good quality of life, and enjoy what I do. I’m grateful I don’t have to go into an office, and I don’t take that for granted. But I also know that there’s a lot more to life than work, and I’m not interested in getting myself in over my head with projects again. I used to do that all too often. As far as renaming the blog, I felt a strong pull to do this before the move, but now I’m wavering. What do you guys think? I have a good name, but just haven’t begin the big switchover process.
I do have some good news on the job front: I was just hired to teach in-person classes at a really nice health club, called Life Time. (And if you remember, I mentioned this club in my goals for 2021, because I had set my sights on it early on and was able to make it happen — yay.) It’s definitely the nicest gym I’ve ever worked in, and the onboarding process has been so fantastic so far. I’ll share more about that soon.
The people in Charlotte …
Let’s talk about the people in Charlotte.
Generally, people as a whole are friendlier here than they are in the Bay Area. If you are outside walking, people will smile and say hello — whereas, the majority of the time in the Bay Area, people mind their own business and don’t greet strangers. Here, the majority of people hold the door for you at public places, whereas I constantly had doors slammed in my face in California. And people are more open to chat here, even if they don’t know you. To be honest, this has taken some getting used to. Just as it took getting used to people not returning my smiles and hellos when I first moved to San Francisco, it has been an adjustment to turn my “friendly” back on, if you will. I like this. It’s a positive.
I’ve had several park dates with friends I’ve met virtually (one blog reader, one fellow blogger to name a few), but I’ve also met some people in our neighborhood, who I’ve done some walks with.
There is another family who also recently moved from California directly across the street from us, and they have a son a little older than Brady. Brady has never had a neighborhood friend before, and he’s played with this little guy a handful of times, which is so cute.
And listen to this: We’ve already been to two socially distanced outdoor neighborhood block parties and have learned the names and about a lot of people on our street. Literally, we lived in the same house for three years in California and we never met neighbors a couple houses down who lived there as long as us. That’s not the case here at all. Although I will say our immediate neighbors in Pleasant Hill were so sweet and amazing, so this isn’t a blanket judgment on people. But overall, people here are friendlier. That’s all I’m saying.
We definitely don’t have a new close group of friends yet (which I miss having), but that wouldn’t be expected only a few months in at the tail-end of a national pandemic. I have no doubt we’ll get all that going soon. But for now, it’s heading in the right direction, and everyone, everywhere has made us feel incredibly welcome. Charlotte isn’t super “Southern,” but this is real “Southern hospitality.”
Charlotte as a city …
Our neighbor just down the way said it best: “Charlotte isn’t the best at anything. But it’s really good at everything.” And after four months, I can pretty much agree with that.
Here’s the deal: Charlotte doesn’t have the cool progressive city vibe as San Francisco, nor does it have all the amazing restaurants or proximity to wine country and redwoods. But it has some great aspects, and I think we’re going to be very pleased with everything we can find here. Once again, I would be SUPER silly to think that I could judge this city after just four months, especially during COVID, when our ability to do stuff has been somewhat hindered. But we’re about 20 minutes from downtown Charlotte (called “Uptown” for some reason), and if we want a city feeling, we can go and get that. Otherwise, we’re good with our daily suburban existence. There does seem to be a lot of family friendly stuff, which is awesome. And we look forward to seeing more of that as things open to the public this summer.
So far, the weather is great (even though I know we have some hot and humid summer days ahead, which my hair is not going to enjoy, and I’m sure to complain about). The people are nice. Our neighborhood is beautiful. There are lots of great parks to take Brady to. And, we live close to Brady’s preschool, close to some good grocery stores (Sprouts and Publix as our main ones, with the occasional Whole Foods, which is slightly further away), and now I have a gym home too. These little things are what make up our daily life, and so they truly matter, even if they don’t seem all that significant.
What we are missing …
There are certainly some things to miss about living in California (being 45 minutes from wine country was a major perk, and I’m kicking myself for only going a few times a year). But quite honestly, there’s so much more good here living in Charlotte, that it totally outweighs the missing. Our daily surroundings and daily activities are better here than they were in the Bay Area.
We totally miss some people! Dave had some amazing coworkers, we had some dear friends, and of course, Dave’s sister, Gwena, lived nearby in San Francisco too, and we miss having her around. I have totally thought to myself I wish would could have some of those people over for drinks and to hang out so many times. But, that’s just what happens when you move.
Strangely enough, I also really miss the hiking we were doing for about the last year or so on the weekends around our house in California, like Acalanes. We have plenty of walking trails and parks here in Charlotte, but the ground is totally flat. You have to drive a bit of a way to get to some incline and views, and I liked having that in my backyard. But that’s a very small thing.
When I told Dave I was writing this post, and I asked him his thoughts, he agreed with me on all my points, but then he also added that he misses our outdoor brick pizza oven that we had in California. Not only did he like getting out there on Sundays to build the fire and make the most delicious home-made pizza, we had so many great pizza parties with friends there too. I miss that too.
One small point: We had more healthy lunch restaurant options nearby in Pleasant Hill than we have here too, but we’ve found a few good ones. I miss Mendocino Farms, True Food Kitchen and Urban Plates, to name a few. The food here is pretty good, but not to-die-for. I was worried that we’d be let down by the healthy food options and the produce too — while it’s not as abundant as it was in the Bay Area, it’s decent. We regularly go to Smoothie King, Mahana Fresh and Chopt Salad for our easy healthy weekend lunches now, and I like them all. But we could use another good option nearby — maybe one will be built. Once again, small complaint, for sure.
Another note: We lived across the street from Starbucks in California, and we had gotten so used to popping over for way too many overpriced lattes several times a week (literally, toward the end, we would go twice a day, which is so bad, calorie-filled and expensive). We now have to drive about five minutes to get to a Starbucks, and don’t you know, we have not even had it one time since we moved. I guess we didn’t really need those lattes after all, they were just so easy to get. Now, that we are living in Charlotte, we make them at home.
It also needs to be said that I’m excited I know my way around to all my essential stops without using my GPS now, which is big for me.
(My leggings, lipstick and sneakers from these pictures.)
Overall thoughts on our move and living in Charlotte …
Overall, we are so happy to be on the East Coast. We know in our hearts this was the right move for us, and the fact that we’re driving distance to our families and have several trips on the horizon to see a ton of our East Coast people within the next couple of months is amazing. My mom has been up to see us twice, and knowing she’s a drive away is comforting on so many levels. Also, my brother, Matthew, and his wife, Stephanie, are under four hours away in Atlanta, and although we haven’t seen them yet, they are coming up for Memorial Day weekend — which is going to be great. And Dave’s sister, Gwena, is flying out in July (and while she’s here, Dave and I are getting away too, which I’ll fill you in on soon).
We’ve definitely put so much of the tough transitional work behind us, and that feels darn good.
Here’s to making a big move, with some rough patches, but coming out the other side and finding a great spot to call home. And as the darkness that was COVID starts to lighten up, I know things will just keep getting better.
Thank you for reading this long one about living in Charlotte. Come say hi to me on Instagram! xoxo
Other posts you may like …
- We’ve got news: We’re moving!
- My best memories from eight years in California
- You asked: Here are answers to the most common questions I get
Questions of the day …
Where do you live?
Have you ever made a big move?
Have you ever been to Charlotte?
Charlotte it absolutly the best place to live. I’m in Ballantyne (for now) just bought a place in Indian Land. That Publix & Sprouts are my Publix & Sprouts too. The Ultra Nail Bar right next to Publix is AMAZING – so good at what they do. Anywho – Congrats on this move!!!
Hi Deepa! Hello neighbor! I have not tried the Ultra Nail Bar, but thanks for the tip. And also congrats on buying a place — I hope your move goes smoothly. Have an awesome week! 🙂
Where do you live?
We also live in South Charlotte and love it! We both grew up in a bigger city and our family/friends are all there but I can say we have found our new home. We moved at the end of summer.
Have you ever made a big move?
Yes, we’ve had a couple moves in the last few years before this one!
Have you ever been to Charlotte?
We had visited a few times in the past and that helped us get a good feel of our potential new home base.
Hi Joanna! I know I always say this, but I LOVE how you answer my questions. Yay for South Charlotte! It’s a nice place to be, that’s for sure. Enjoy your week! 🙂 xoxo
I love the name of your blog now, but am also curious what your new blog name would be! Have a beautiful week Ashley!
Hi Shelby! My new name (which I don’t want to share yet heheh), would be a bit more about wellness than about where I live. But I still need to think about it. Happy Tuesday! Thanks for saying hi! 🙂
Hi Ashley! I am glad you guys are enjoying your move to Charlotte so far. I live north of Charlotte and have lived somewhere in the surrounding area almost my whole life but my sister is in CA (currently Santa Rosa but lived in the San Fran area for several years). I know just how different Charlotte is compared to CA and can imagine it would be a big adjustment. But I wanted to give two suggestions for our area:
I know you mentioned hiking and you should take a day trip to Crowder’s Mountain. It probably won’t compare to CA hiking but I do enjoy it hiking there! Pisgah national forest is farther away but I love going there to hike too.
Also, you should check out Discovery Place Kids in Huntersville. I do not have kids yet but have plenty of friends with kids who love to to go there. The Discovery Place in uptown is also great but the one in Huntersville is more geared towards Brady’s age 🙂
Have a great day!
Hi Hannah, thank you so much for this! I’ve heard someone mention Crowder’s Mountain before, so clearly we need to check it out. Also, we have been thinking it’s time to take Brady to a museum, so we needed that tip too. Have a wonderful week! 🙂
Great post! My husband and I are considering a life changing move so it’s good to hear all perspectives (good and bad!). There’s always tradeoffs. Just as an aside it bothered me that you called the COVID-19 pandemic a “national pandemic”.. since it’s actually a global pandemic and has affected absolutely everyone in this world, not just the United States.
Hi Victoria – Yes, COVID is a clearly a global pandemic, and that’s how I’ve always referred to it – however missed this reference. With 4,000 words in this post, there’s bound to be something off, so I updated the use of “national” to “global.” Sorry that bothered you. Good luck with your move, if you end up deciding to go for it!
I live in Texas now. I moved 7 yrs ago from San Diego. It was a big adjustment for me. I still miss the scenery, beach, the things to do (pre-pandemic), the food and the weather. My husband was in the coast guard for 4 yrs so we had lived in the Bay Area as well and the Oregon coast for 2 yrs.
I’m glad things are better for you with the move and you’re starting to enjoy it! Hope you continue to meet more people and feel “at home.”
I’ve never been the Charlotte but hear it’s a nice place to live:)
This post is so good Ashley! You so thoroughly described Charlotte and being from the Bay Area your comparisons are spot on. I’m sending it to my mom and sister to read in hopes that it’ll help convince them to move here too. The longer you live here the less you will miss the Bay Area too (at least that is what has happened for me)! So happy you are loving it here and Eli and I have so enjoyed hanging out with Brady and you a few times too!
Hi Amy!! Ohhh thank you so much!! I’m glad you agree, and let’s hope you can get your mom and sister to move – wouldn’t that be nice. Hope you have a wonderful weekend and a happy Mother’s Day! 🙂 xoxo
Hi Ashley. I’ve been so bad at keeping up with my favorite bloggers this past year but you crossed my mind and I was so surprised to see you had moved to Charlotte! Congratulations! I lived my whole life in the North Bay (Santa Rosa & Petaluma) but moved to Idaho in April 2020. I was so happy to get out of California. Sometimes I miss the scenery but I feel that the quality of life here is so much better than it was in CA. I agree about how friendly people are. I strike up convos with people at the stores here or parks so much easier. I’m excited for the pandemic to be over so that I can really see how life will be, though I have to admit life is much more easy going here than in Ca. 😉
Can’t wait to read more about your life on the East Coast now!
Hi Kelli! Congrats on your move — and wow, you also made a big move during the pandemic. We’re not the only ones leaving California, and I’ve heard of so many others making their exit. I figure we can always go back and visit for some delicious food and pretty scenery, but daily life on the East Coast is beating what we had there. Thank you for stopping by to say hello! Hope all is well! 🙂