Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Commuting Dilemma: Fun Trumps Work (For Once)

As mentioned in an earlier post, my family very much enjoys the nomadic lifestyle. Once we are notified of an imminent move, we begin picturing life in our new home with new friends and enjoying new adventures. (That is not to minimize the adventures, friends and memories we created in current and previous stops.) While fantasizing about our future, I begin researching places to live and the house hunting commences. The search usually focuses on a combination of three attributes (in priority order):

- Proximity to work
- Affordability
- Safety

Whether it was San Diego, Italy, Maryland or Tennessee, those three criteria drove our decision. As we began exploring life in Pensacola, we decided to add a fourth attribute and move it to the top of the list...proximity to fun. Most people consider these very attributes and parents will likely trump everything for the "right" school, so I see nothing unique about our original criteria. (Note: I only pay attention to school district as a means of measuring quality of neighbors and resale value, because a "blue ribbon" designation hardly a good school makes, but that is a separate discussion). The fact that my current commute of 16 miles to work is my furthest since 1998 demonstrates our commitment to the "life is too short to spend it commuting" mentality.

So why did we embrace the "long" commute and modify our housing decision algorithm?

I am not one to hide from my many flaws and within my immediate family it is no secret that on any given day I can talk each of us into believing we shouldn't go somewhere fun because "it's too far away." On the other hand, I can never talk myself out of my responsibilities at work and always find my way to the office regardless of the obstacle. So our thought this time around was to "live close to work, but closer to fun." We have only been here six weeks and I can honestly say we have created more family fun in that period than we had in the last year. Maybe that speaks more to my failure in the last year than any recent success, but I am not looking back. You can bet that I will be at work when I need to, but my family can be equally confident in my willingness to not only participate but even drag them to the fun by which we are surrounded. Thus far we have walked to the beach almost daily, we journeyed two miles to go parasailing and ride jet-skis, and we got closer to a Blue Angel Air Show than ever before. Sure, I could have cut the commute to work by more than half and even saved a few bucks by doing so. However, if proximity to work remained our most heavily weighted decision input, our experience in Pensacola to date would be so very different and the continual smiles on our faces might not be so prevalent.

I have no doubt that adopting this philosophy earlier would have changed at least a few housing decisions in our past. More importantly, it will influence future decisions. As long as I am able to maintain True Wealth, our days in suburbia are behind us and proximity to fun (or at least our definition thereof) will trump all other criteria.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting idea and it rang true for me.

    In my two tours in the DC area, I have developed a sort of "conservation of distance driven per day" theory. On my first tour, we lived an easy 15 minute drive from my office. When I wasn't at work, we drove ALL OVER THE PLACE to go out to dinner, to go shopping, to go sight seeing, to do all sorts of things.

    When we came back to DC, we wanted to live in our same old neighborhood with friends and church nearby, but it meant a longer commute (45 min driving / 55 min public transit). Now, we never go anywhere. I never want to get back in my car. If we go out to dinner or shopping, it's a quick trip 5 minutes down the road to someplace close and convenient. We never go to any of the restaurants or stores we used to enjoy because "they're too far away."

    I like your idea of living close to the fun, because you won't ever decide not to go work. You WILL decide NOT to go to the fun places because it's too long / too far to drive. What a great idea.