What life is like when you move out of the City

This is always a bittersweet time of year for me. You see, it was three years ago that I made the big move from Orlando, Florida to San Francisco, California. And if you’re new around A Lady Goes West, perhaps that thought will help you to better understand the name of my blog.

From a San Francisco journal to a healthy-living blog

When I first started writing A Lady Goes West, it was more of a weekly journal, which I shared only with friends and family about what my (our) life was like once I (we) moved. I shared photos of our first city apartment, talked about my first time riding the BART (subway) alone and all of the other little things that were new and worthy of documenting to people back home in Florida. Over time, I started to share less and less about those types of activities, because they became part of daily life. And of course, this blog has turned into something a little bit more than my journal, as I gained new readers and began sharing more about healthy-living and my insights as a person working in fitness.

But today, to mark this significant time of year, I thought I would take a trip down memory lane and go back to that “rambling journal” style that I once relied on and was never embarrassed to post. It was at times emotional, because so many hard moments appeared not only during the initial moving process, but also continuing on each day as the reality of living so far from my family reared its head. (And if you didn’t ever get a chance, please check out my “What I’ve learned from two years in San Francisco” post.)

Ashley and Dave on Golden Gate BridgeJust a couple of kids biking the Golden Gate Bridge with friends on a beautiful day more than a year ago.

This year’s reflections are a little bit different, because six months ago, Dave and I moved out of downtown San Francisco, across the Bay and a new set of changes have taken place. That’s why, today, I’m talking about what life is like since we moved out of the City.

What it’s like to move out of the City to the ‘Burbs

Dave and I left our little 550 square-foot apartment in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco of February 2015. We lived in downtown San Francisco for two-and-a-half years and soaked up just about as much as we could in the City. We created some of the most fabulous memories and used up every single weekend to the fullest to explore.

However, once we hit about two years in the City, I started to grow a little bit tired of walking everywhere I needed to go. I also grew tired of the steep hills leading up to our apartment, the countless stairs, the small spaces, the crowded sidewalks, the construction outside of our window, the dirty City streets and smells and so many other things. I saw it coming, but then it really started to hit me all at once, and I knew I needed a change of scenery and more normal comforts like we had in Florida. I loved the activities of the City, but I was very much ready to step out of it.

We discussed moving to the “East Bay,” which is an area just across the Bay from San Francisco and finally started to look around in areas where we knew people who had also moved out from the City. We quickly found the perfect rental townhouse in Walnut Creek and signed a lease to move without much hassle at all. It was meant to be. Right after moving, we got new furniture, a grill, I got a car and we got acclimated to a totally different lifestyle in an area much more suburban.

Ashley and Dave at the partySettling into ‘burb life with a picture in our kitchen during our housewarming party.

Now that it’s been about six months in the “‘burbs,” i.e. not in downtown San Francisco, I figured I’d share my biggest reflections on what it’s like to leave behind urban living, because there are certainly some changes I didn’t expect …

  • If you have extra space, you’ll start collecting more junk. And that’s not always a good thing. We were so excited to have our own closets once we moved to Walnut Creek, and at first we hardly filled up the cupboards in the kitchen because we had been living so minimalistically in San Francisco. But as the weeks and months have gone on, our garage is now full. The second bedroom, which was supposed to be an office/guestroom now houses a ton of fitness equipment, an ironing board, etc. and we’re always picking up new things. We didn’t have the space for even an extra fork living in the City, so we’ve gone in the other direction now and seem to say yes to far too many material things. We’re accumulating junk, and quite honestly, I don’t like it and think we need to be more careful.
  • If you have a place big enough to host, you’ll host. And that’s a good thing. When you live in big cities, most of the time you and all of your friends have strange and small apartments, so you don’t really get together at each other’s houses all that much. In fact, you tend to always meet up at a restaurant, a bar or a park instead. That makes meeting up a little more difficult, requiring restaurant reservations, the need to get dressed in normal clothes, etc. These days, living in the ‘burbs, Dave and I hang out with friends a lot more often. We go to their house or they come to ours, and it’s so much easier to sit back and be relaxed. We had a housewarming party, a Fourth of July party, a Labor Day and there’s plenty more to come. It’s just more simple, and I really like it.
  • If you have a car, you’ll walk less. And that’s not good. I was so incredibly excited to get a car once we moved, because Dave used the only car we had as a couple each day for work, and I was on foot relying on my own legs to get me places, public transit or Uber. There were days when I would walk eight miles going around to the all the places I needed to be. And although the weather was cooler, my legs got tired, and I was over it. I wore out so many sneakers, and I stood at so many street corners waiting for my right of way, staring longingly into the windows of cars. I began to loathe the fact that I was a pedestrian, even though it was so good for my health. Well don’t you know what I would say is the number one thing I miss about the City? Walking. While we can walk to downtown Walnut Creek and to a few places, we never do. It’s been too hot and it’s just not a walking environment. I miss walking so much. I resent getting in my car to get where I need to be, even though I used to wish nothing more than to be able to drive to my destination. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?
  • Errands are significantly easier, but the novelty wears off. Dave and I had our groceries delivered in San Francisco, got the car washed by detailers and had nearly every service automated. Well once you move to the ‘burbs you can handle many more tasks on your own. I will admit my first few trips to the grocery store via car were amazing, because the grocery stores outside the City are so much bigger, but those everyday tasks have soon become mundane. These days, when I go to Target to get large packages of things like toilet paper and paper towel (which we couldn’t store in the City, thus only bought in small quantities), I like to remind myself that I used to have to carry whatever I bought home with me through busy neighborhood sidewalks and up a steep hill. So yes, things are much easier now, and that’s awesome, but errands are still errands and you just have to get them done no matter where you live.

Overall, everything is a little easier to do in the ‘burbs, including showing up to a restaurant without a reservation on a weekend. But a big part of me misses life in Nob Hill and in the City, especially our sweet little apartment, which we’ll never forget. Walnut Creek has been good to us, and there are definitely more pros than cons, and we’re just a short BART-ride away from the hustle-and-bustle of our old stomping grounds and can go back any time we like. In fact, I’ve got quite a few events coming up that will bring me right into our old ‘hood, and I’m really looking forward to them.

Ashley and Dave Tour de FatWe’ve never met a festival that we didn’t like … especially in Golden Gate Park.

When it comes to the bigger picture of life in California, as time goes on and we enter our fourth year living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I still miss my family and Florida people every single day. I dream of those six-hour flights home a few times-a-year to sit in my parents’ kitchen and have also been offering up that second bedroom to anyone who wants to visit. Any takers?

And that, my friends, concludes today’s rambling. I hope you enjoyed this little adventure away from the usual, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for a short post with pictures of food.

What's life like moving from the City to the 'Burbs? Check it out ... #SanFrancisco #BayArea #moving Click To Tweet

Questions of the day

Have you had any reflections on life lately?

Do you live in a city or a suburb?

Have you ever made a big move?

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88 Comments

  1. I live way out in the country which I absolutely love! But, as with anything, there are pros and cons. I am 30 minutes away from anything, so there’s no coming home then running back out “real quick.” Once I get home, I’m home. And, I do think it would be great (and healthy!) to walk everywhere! But, honestly, I wouldn’t trade my home in the country for anything….it’s so peaceful all the time!

  2. I have lived in a,small beach town on the water all my life . I occasionally visit SF as I am only an hour away. But I do not stay long and cannot stand being in a big city even for an hour.. I prefer the quiet of nature, small towns and no hustle or bustle. Where I live we see dolphins, whales everyday and much bird life which is sometimes the only sound I hear. It’s peaceful and calming. The Bay area is so environmental beautiful and unique we are so fortunate to choose where to live that suits us. Walnut Creek is to much for me (the traffic!) but must be fun for you to be in the Burbs after dealing with life in that city.

    1. Hi Lexie, That’s great you are close enough to come into SF if you need to. And yes, Walnut Creek is actually still a little bit urban, so was a good step from us after the City! πŸ™‚ But yes, there is a lot of traffic EVERYWHERE around us! Have a great day! Thanks for saying hi:)

  3. I decided to live in the burbs right off the bat when I moved to Atlanta and I have to say I love it! I realized I’m more of a small town girl but having the city at my fingertips is also such a great thing! Glad you love it too!

  4. I recently moved from a suburb to a city..so as i read through your list i am doing everything just the office. i have limited space for everything and i think twice before purchasing things and also the fact that if it fits in the elevator and my small apartment. Walking to a restaurant is so new to me and i am loving it πŸ™‚

    Its so interesting to read other peoples life – thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Dixya! I SO miss walking everywhere, and I think we’ll get back to walking once the weather cools down, because we can walk to downtown Walnut Creek, where all the restaurants are. Enjoy your new place!! City living is awesome! I do miss a lot about it!

  5. I think that the one aspect of living in the midst of the city that Alex and I will look back on and feel like we missed out on is taking advantage of the other neighborhoods. I don’t want to explore or spend money just on myself, so when we don’t have something scheduled, we’ve become more reclusive–we were much more outgoing when we moved here. I know exactly how good I’ve got it in the city, though, and I already accumulate junk, thanks to the blog! I don’t think I would accumulate quite as much otherwise!

    1. SO true, Susie! I can completely relate, because I didn’t do too much exploring without Dave when he was working either. But you’ve got to go see the other neighborhoods and enjoy them. Maybe even a blogger lunch date in another ‘hood will do? hahah! πŸ™‚ And over time we all get more comfortable and less outgoing — we did that too!

  6. As a suburb girl my whole life, I have dreams of living in the city one day (even if it’s just for a year). I would love to be able to simply walk wherever I wanted to go instead of driving. The downside to that would probably have to be grocery shopping. I can barely carry all my bags from my car to my house.

    1. I hope you get to try out living in a big city one day, because it’s pretty awesome! You can always order your groceries online to be delivered in the city, like we did heheh!:) But for now, enjoy your car and comforts!

  7. I recently made the move from the city to the suburbs as well, and it was quite an adjustment! Some things are more convenient, but I miss being able to walk places. I also don’t like having to commute to work! Also, it’s so dark here when I go running in the morning! But it’s nice to have more space and be away from the busyness of the city.

    1. It’s nice to have the quiet, but you miss the proximity to all the good stuff, right? And commuting is never fun. Our traffic into the City is awful nearly all day long! πŸ™

  8. I wish I could have been as brave as you guys were and experienced city life, but I’m just a small town girl πŸ˜‰ I do really enjoy visiting the City though and try to get out there as often and as we can. My hubby is and as HUGE SF Giants fan and has always talked about getting seasons tickets if we ever move back πŸ™‚ My brother loved being in the City too so he made a nice tour guide which I think is essential in a place like that for a girl like me πŸ˜‰

    1. Yes, living in the City is not for everyone, and I’m SO glad we did it for a couple of years. But it’s also great to visit, so take advantage of that. And the Giants stadium? SO PRETTY, but SO COLD most of the time heheh! πŸ™‚

      1. haha, right?!?! Needless to say the first time I visited I was not prepared for how cold it got and had to buy myself a $50 blanket and a shot of whiskey to stay warm πŸ˜‰

  9. Moving from the city to the burbs is a huge change. I lived in and loved being in downtown Philly for 6 years before moving to the suburbs. I like the balance that I’m still close enough to see the skyline from major highways, but without the hassle. I’m still close enough to visit/daytrip/etc and that helps.

    I do take my car for granted though- thanks for the reminder that I need to walk more πŸ™‚

  10. I really like the idea of living right in the heart of a big city, but I’m not sure I would like it. Maybe I would like to try it for a couple years, like you, then I’d be over it. I guess you could say we lived right in the city in Blacksburg, VA, but it was such a small town, it doesn’t really count. We usually live in the suburbs wherever we go. My reflections on life recently have been that I am SO tired of having my husband gone and being a single mom to 3 kids. I really, really hope that after this next 2 year tour we retire and can have a “normal” life. Big moves? Yeah, they’re kind of my forte πŸ˜‰ Happy Tuesday, Ashley! I’m teaching BODYPUMP tonight!

    1. Hi Melissa! I bet you are ready for a more normal life with your hubby around. I’m sure these times have made you stronger though! Yes, you are definitely a MOVER! Hope you like the next spot overseas! πŸ™‚

  11. I can’t believe it’s already been so long. We moved to the Detroit area just around the time you guys moved west. In fact, I saw a time hop photo of our cat playing in our boxes while I was packing four years ago. Time certainly flies! I think you guys did it right. You experienced the City life and now enjoy more comforts of Suburbia. Wherever we end up, we will most likely be “just” outside of the city if it’s a big one. πŸ˜‰ Fun post!

    1. Hi Heather! I really love city living and am not 100 percent sure we will never do it again. Our suburb is still so close to an urban area though, so it keeps me sane heheh. Yes, we both moved right around the same time — so crazy how that happened. I hope you guys end up the PERFECT spot for you soon!

  12. Really interesting reflections. I moved from Center City Philadelphia back home to the suburbs of CT. While I now live in a “city” and I can walk places, I do drive my car too and from work, as well to the grocery store and for errands. While I like the freedom of being able to walk when I want or drive if needed, I do miss exploring on foot, having access to a ton of different restaurants and being able to be totally immersed in the community – all things that come with city living. While I do think I’d love to make a big move, I’d like to move to a city first. Hopefully one day soon πŸ™‚

    1. City living has SO many benefits, so I miss a lot of that. And the walking portion is so good for you. Maybe you’ll have your urban adventure one day… πŸ™‚ Have a great day, Jamie!

    1. Hi Sabrina! NOT nearly as often as I would like. In fact, I need to start going more at least to hit up the great restaurants. Traffic isn’t always easy during the weeks to get into SF, so that has slowed me down! πŸ™

      1. Thank you for replying.
        I feel like if I moved out of SF I would never return.
        Especially with the rents!

        What other areas did you like outside of the city? Like Lafayette or Orinda?

        Have a great day

        1. Yes, the rent is so high in SF, but it’s actually not that less elsewhere, you just get a little more space for your money. I love the feel of Lafayette, but most of the houses are not for sale or rent there. And Orinda is a little bit sleepy for me! Overall, the Bay Area is just gorgeous. πŸ™‚ Where are you located, Sabrina?

          1. I live in SF!
            Native born, went off to college, moved to Boston in 2002 and back to SF in 2008. I couldn’t stay away!

            I just spent the weekend in Martinez and really enjoyed the Main st area.

  13. I’ve lived in a bigger-ish city my whole life, but I’ve always dreamed of living out in the country… or at least somewhere less crowded. My city has been getting a little too crowded in the last little while, and I find myself avoiding going out during certain hours just to avoid getting stuck in traffic or lines. Ideally, I’d love to live up in the mountains, but it would be hard to leave my family!

    1. So you’re right in a city too, Amanda? Do you walk everywhere then? Live in a high-rise? I so miss the walking everywhere so much! And wow, mountain living would be TOTALLY different! I guess you can appreciate the visits there for now! Have a great Tuesday, lady!

  14. Aww Ashley.. You sound as homesick as I feel. My family lived in Dubai (and now lives in Bangladesh ) when i first moved to SF 5 years ago. The travel time is 23hrs+ and i barely get to see them once every couple of years. That said, the bay area does have a way to make everyone feel at home in its own way.

    1. Yes, Radeema, that’s the beautiful thing about living in the Bay Area is that SO many people have left their homes to live here, so we’re all in that together. πŸ™‚ And WOW, you are very far from home!! πŸ™ I hope you get to see them soon!

  15. I grew up in the Bay Area and really loved this post!

    My husband and I recently lived on the peninsula where I grew up (palo alto) for 3 years, but most of our friends were in SF. We moved to Boulder partly because we just couldn’t figure out where we wanted to be (And could afford!) in the Bay Area.

    Do you find it’s easy for SF friends to come out to Walnut Creek with BART or do you see them less? Did you consider any other places like Berkeley?

    I love the Bay Area but navigating SF was a little too intense for me, especially with a big dog!

    1. Hi Anna! Funny you should ask about that … we see our City friends WAY less, but some of them did come out to our pool during Labor Day, since it was so much hotter and sunny in Walnut Creek than SF that day. But it’s not easy. We haven’t been very good about going to SF on weekends either, staying in WC, so we need to be better. I definitely miss the vibe of living in Nob Hill out here! πŸ™ We looked a little closer to the bridge, but the places to rent in Berkeley were old and small and just NOT what we wanted. It’s cute there though! I hear Boulder is great!

      1. Thanks for the reply. Sounds like our Palo Alto experience a bit (you have a great space, but you miss friends/city energy!).

        Totally agree about Berkeley- I really want to like it there but I lived there for a summer and for what I was paying, I was not impressed.

        Thanks for sharing

  16. I’ve always wondered how life would be living in the city. We’re about 25 minute away, which is nice, but I do wish we had access to just walk places. I could see how that would get annoying though, especially with grocery shopping! I can’t imagine carrying things home, haha.

  17. I live just outside Kansas City, but it’s not a huge city… but I really like it πŸ™‚ I grew up out in the country and like being closer to more stuff. No giant moves for me…. although going somewhere brand new does sound appealing.

  18. I’ve always lived in suburbs, which I enjoy, though I will say cities freak me out a little and make me uncomfortable, but that’s probably because I’m suburb brainwashed. I like day trips, though. I definitely agree that the most space you have, the more junk you have. We moved into our house that was actually smaller than our old apartment, and we had to get rid of so much stuff! We have a lot less than other people, but not because we can’t afford, but because we don’t have the room. It forces us outside a lot more too I like it especially since we have a 16 month old, and I like the idea of raising him without a ton of “stuff”.

  19. I’ve never lived in the heart of a big city … always in the suburbs outside of them (both in Phoenix and Los Angeles and also Salt Lake City, but I wouldn’t consider SLC a huge city), so it’s interesting to hear how different life is when you live the city life. When we went to New York City back in February, I remember thinking the same thing … about how all these city folk live such different lives than I do. It’s so interesting from you firsthand about your experiences!

    1. It’s SO fun to live in a big city, and I miss the urban excitement and the noises and the energy and activity. But it’s not something you want to do forever! Visiting is fun too! πŸ™‚ Happy Tuesday, Ash!

  20. I have made the move both ways. I know live in a small town/ village in Northern Ireland, but used to live in a city in England. I guess they both have their pros and cons. I used to love being able to go out and meet friends any night of the week, and getting home was always easy. But I really don’t miss all the walking, especially with groceries..

    1. You don’t miss the walking, James? Well, no, it was tough, but felt so good to put your feet up at the end of the day knowing you used your own body to do everything you needed hehehe. Right? I want to visit Northern Ireland!! Never been!

  21. It’s funny. I live out in the country, and so we’ve always driven to things. When I got to go to England and the rest of Europe for the first time, I realized how much fun and yet how exhausting it is to walk everywhere. I think I realized that there is always an up and a down side to every form of transportation. . . πŸ™‚

    1. You are so right, Emily! When I walked, I wanted to drive. Now that I drive, I want to walk. That’s life! Glad you got to experience it a little in Europe! πŸ™‚

  22. San Diego is such a strange big city because it’s actually big. It’s so sprawling that I think very few in San Diego would ever experience “city life” the way you would in SF (or NYC and such…). That said, I’ve noticed a big difference in just my 2.5 mile move from an uptown neighborhood to a little bit east. I used to be walking distance to several restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and could even manage to walk to work if I really wanted. Now, there are no restaurants, bars, or grocery stores walking distance (unless you count Jack in the Box). I miss it!

    1. I totally understand, Breanne! I bet you didn’t think you would miss it, right? I like San Diego, but it is VERY different from SF! And no … let’s not count Jack in the Box hahaha

  23. love the pictures! you and your man are too good looking and i LOVE your yellow pants! wish i could pull those off. I too have made big moves across the great white North haha, from Calgary to Vancouver and then all the way to Toronto. I definitely am jealous of your ability to go to those massive grocery/supermarkets, but at the same time love living in the city.

  24. What a timely post Ashley! I was just thinking about this topic this weekend. I have lived in busy cities and in rural areas and both are very different and have pros and cons. Since I constantly move for work I have been forced to live with minimal belongings. It is surprising though how easily it is to accumulate things! I have actually been looking at my next job posting in the SF area and debating ironically between the city vs Walnut Creek, Concord, and Palo Alto. If things work out I may be checking out your blog for tips and hints or area finds πŸ™‚

    1. I highly recommend Palo Alto! It’s pricey, but definitely gives the “young city vibe” with the convenience of a suburb! πŸ™‚

    2. Hi Kate! Yes, for sure. Concord is fairly close to Walnut Creek. That’s awesome that you live minimalistically, because it’s not a bad way to be. And how cool your work moves you around! Best of luck with the decisions and let me know if I can help! πŸ™‚

  25. It’s so true that you grow into whatever space you live in! We just moved to Palo Alto where there is a ton of 500 sq ft apartments, but it would be so tough to pare things down to that size after living with more square footage! I sometimes get “SF envy” and wish we were city people, but in the end it’s so much easier in the burbs!

    1. Yes, I know, it’s easier in the burbs. But I miss SF WAY more than I thought I would. I’m glad you’re loving Palo Alto!! πŸ™‚ I need to visit … believe it or not, I’ve not been.

  26. Though I’ve never lived in the ‘burbs’, I grew up in the city and was lucky enough to find a great house near downtown when we bought our first home, the city I went to school in for University was much smaller then the one I live in now and I could walk every where! I lived downtown and it was unusual for people to have cars, we just walked!!! It was awesome. When I moved back home to Ottawa (my hometown) the first thing I did was buy a car so I could get around but man do I ever miss the ease of just being able to walk! That being said I have a lot of friends that live in the ‘burbs’ and though they have their own little cities there I wouldn’t trade living downtown for the traffic to get out there!

    1. Hi Kersten! Thanks for reading and for saying hi! Living in the City is such a wonderful experience, so if you can give it a try, I would! πŸ™‚ Hope you have a great day!

  27. I am a Florida native and have never moved. I grew up in the suburbs, and though I have visited a bunch of big cities I think I would like actually living in the suburbs much better the city. I really want to visit California! I feel like I would love it.

    1. Hi Sarah! Yay for Florida. Where are you in Florida? Hopefully you get to visit California one day – the Pacific Ocean and mountains are beautiful. πŸ™‚

  28. Welcome to the burbs, haha! there are definitley times that I miss living in the city- being able to walk everywhere and having fun resteraunts so close. But with a baby and all, it’s better for us to have more space and live in a quiet, safe, kid friendly town!

  29. Agreed! I did the city-to-East-Bay move shortly after you did. I thought I’d miss the city, but … TREES! And I don’t miss having to cart 2 small children down Mission St to grab all the groceries we could carry which would last us like maybe a day. I’m still kind of impressed we lasted as long downtown as we did with a family. Not many people can pull that off!

  30. I love this post! It’s funny as I can relate, but not in the way you may think. I have always lived in the ‘burbs, and still do (also in the Easty Bay!), but I commute daily into San Francisco. So I get a little taste of both.

    I completely agree with all of your statements about the extra space (good and bad!) and the lack of walking when you aren’t in the city.

    I hope you continue to enjoy Walnut Creek and it looks like you get a good fill of the city too – you’re so close!

    Have a good week. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Sarah! Yes, I think commuting into SF regularly gives you a good feel for both areas. If I went into the City more often, I likely wouldn’t miss it as much! πŸ™‚ Thanks for saying hi, fellow East Bay gal!

  31. It’s funny. I live out in the country, and so we’ve always driven to things. When I got to go to England and the rest of Europe for the first time, I realized how much fun and yet how exhausting it is to walk everywhere.

  32. While shifting most of the people just forget to follow these necessary tips that leads them to face difficulties at-last. Thanks for sharing this valuable steps, Ashley.

  33. I really enjoyed reading this! Moving out of the city can be bittersweet. It is nice to be able to be in the heart of everything, but like you said, you can do so much more living out just a little ways. Thanks for sharing!

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