I Lived in 6 Cities This Year and I want to talk about them

Since the beginning of this year, I started to live in a lot of different places and I want to share my experience with you.

The 6 Cities

1. Bombay Beach, CA

Cost: $500-600, $350 rental for the Airbnb in the town, hardcore van/trailer people can live there for free. $100 for food, super low cost of living, since Bombay Beach is one of the poorest places in the U.S.

Living Condition: The earth is your bed the sky is your blanket. Nothing but spacious. No need for dryers, we sun-dry our clothes. Food is cheap and delicious. Heard that 75% of winter produce came from this area.

Weather: Alternating between hot and cold and a few golden hours in between. Summer is non-livable hot. Sandstorms here and there, rarely rains, no trees.

Transportation: Unicycle/Bike, Car is needed for grocery shopping. It has a cheaper than Costco wholesale place called Winco (it's employee-owned, which is a very interesting business structure) but it's about 45 mins drive away.

Optimal Length of Stay: Jan. to March. The weather starts to get super hot during summer.

Diversity/Inclusion: Mostly Caucasians. A unique hybrid between liberal hippies and conservative racers with amazing Hispanic cooks in between. At Mars College, it's more diverse but still mostly Caucasians with few African Americans, and a good amount of amazing Asian women. The existence of Asian males remains a myth.

I went to Bombay Beach to participate in a high tech low-cost program called Mar College. It's another story I might mention later. But I was surrounded by a bunch of people with brilliant minds from different backgrounds and ethnicity.

Nature is just purely stunning. Imagine laying down in the hammock and looking at the vast sky and boundless desert with giant mountains in the distance. The sunset projects orange colors onto the clouds, the mountains, and people's faces. We can have interesting or deep conversations with the people around us at any time.

We had sunrise yoga, where you close your eyes, sit on a bus top and look at the horizon and wait for the sun to come up for the day. When the time comes, a strong and intense stream of photons hit the eyelids. That was transforming. During the night, the stars are so visible, and the moon is so bright that we don't even need a headlight to navigate in the lampless desert.

When I was in that spacious nature I was so stress-free compared to when I was living in NYC. People always showing off when their $2000+/month apartment has a good "billion-dollar-worth" of a night view. But for me, the landscape in the desert is the best view I have ever seen and it's free.

Nature is so abundant, and we make it so scarce in the big city. Conversely, we need within-reach deep conversation and empathetic communication / nurturing environment so much, but it's a rare commodity in the city.

Local Gems:

  1. Slab City Hot Spring: Natural and free. It's in the hippie neighborhood called Slab City. One of the few places where I can actually relax and feel safe being naked. It may appear dirty at first look but is totally clean. Jumping from the edge of the hot spring and completely submerging your head can wash away days of tiredness. The night can be a little bit tricky, better go with a group of people than alone. There is a border patrol on the way back, having some white faces in the car can save a lot of time.
  2. El Jumping Bean Taqueria: Best taco I have ever tasted. There is no other taco place that's comparable to this one. Their vegan tacos taste even better than their meat tacos.
  3. Joshua Tree: the world-renown rock-climbing hub just a few hours away, they also have a local hippie community called Garth's Boulder Gardens, much more organized than Mars College, tho of course less techy.

2. Austin, TX

Cost: $1000, $600 rental, $200 food, Low to Medium cost of living.

Living Condition: Medium-large space for living.

Weather: Hot and Dry

Transportation: Car

Optimal Length of Stay: Long-term feasible.

Diversity/Inclusion: So many Caucasians, everyone is surprisingly warm. Strangers will talk to you out of nowhere.

I stayed at my friend’s home so I didn’t pay anything.

Local Gems:

  1. Terry Black's BBQ: Heard that it's the best BBQ on Yelp
  2. MoFe (Mo Festival): Music festival on a private ranch
  3. CabinDAO: Their node is about an hour away from Austin. Spent a pretty awesome day there tho they seemed to pivot toward a more rich tech bro retreat service.

3. Orlando, FL

Cost: $1000, $600 rental, $200 food, Medium cost of living.

Living Condition: Medium-Large space for living.

Weather: Hot and Humid

Transportation: Car

Optimal Length of Stay: Long-term feasible.

Diversity/Inclusion: Mostly Caucasians.

I lived in my mom’s home so I didn’t pay for anything.

Local Gems:

  1. About an hour away to almost any springs. Best for snorkeling, scuba diving, or fishing.
  2. 145F Seafood Boil for best market price King crab legs with butter. Never want to taste other types of crab legs again.
  3. Lee & Rick's Oyster Bar for the best oyster and cheapest price. The oysters are gigantic when in season. Remember to bring your own lemon.

4. Minneapolis, MN

Cost: $1200, $550 rental, $200 food, Medium cost of living.

Living Condition: Medium-Large space for living.

Weather: Golden time late May early June, Hot and Humid afterward, super cold during winter time.

Transportation: Car and Bikes (surprisingly bike-friendly city)

Optimal Length of Stay: Long-term feasible.

Diversity/Inclusion: Mostly Caucasians. A good amount of Asian artists. Artsy and LGBTQ-friendly.

I lived in a tent in my friend's backyard for two weeks, so I paid nothing for staying. Everything is within walkable distance from where I live.

Local Gems:

  1. Sonny's Icecream. Pizza Luce. Surly Brewery.
  2. So many lakes to walk around and Minihaha is super cool.

5. Richmond, VA

Cost: $1200, $800 rental, $150 food, Medium cost of living.

Living Condition: Medium to Large space for living.

Weather: Regular four seasons weather

Transportation: Car

Optimal Length of Stay: Long-term feasible.

Diversity/Inclusion: Mostly Caucasians. I have seen more transgenders here than in NYC. Artsy, LGBTQ-friendly.

I lived in my partner’s parent's home so I didn’t pay for anything as well.

Local Gems:

  1. Gelati Celesti: I didn't believe it at first but it is the best ice cream I ever tasted. And I have tasted so many decent ice cream shops.

6. New York City, NY

Cost: $2500, $1300 rental, $500 food, one of the highest costs of living.

Living Condition: Tiny room.

Weather: Regular four-season weather, poor air quality.

Transportation: Walk/Biking/Subway

Optimal Length of Stay: Short to Mid-term

Diversity/Inclusion: Probably still the best of all cities in the U.S. Diversity is like water here. Coming back from those rural places I feel much more like a normal person here in the city.

Local Gems: Too many

Relationship-Based Living

To be honest, if I were alone, I don't want to stay in any of the above places. Especially in the rural area. I moved to NYC because I have more friends and connections there. And I started traveling around with my partner after we finished the Mars College program (We met at Mars College). Having someone to travel with you made things a lot easier (a portable emotional safe net) and cheaper.

I also don't travel to the cities where I have no connections there. There is just simply no point to be at a random place. Having a friend connection can save a lot of living, transportation, and Wifi cost. They can also bring you to some amazing local places and introduce you to the connections they made there. It is just in general a much better quality travel experience.

Rural vs. City

So where should I live? To me, the optimal balance would be having a permanent home where I can retreat, jamming with people in big cities for a couple of weeks when there are huge events, and occasionally staying at my friend's place and connecting with them. NYC can be exhausting because it almost feels wrong that we pay such a high rent and don't go out every night, the FOMO is high. It's also not very suitable for two people living in the same room because it's just too small. I and my partner get into so many fights in NYC but rarely in rural areas. And then later we figured that it is because the room is too small and it affects our mindset so much when we don’t have control over our space. Now I and my partner are living in a spacious house with three floors and a basement and we never got into a fight anymore. Most of the day we stay on different floors and do our own stuff. And we concluded that everyone needs at least 1000 sqft per capita to live a decent, stress-free life. But most importantly, building a community might be the best strategy for living a happy life.

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