Nearly my entire life has been nomadic. Just since leaving home at age 18, I've had nearly forty addresses in nine states. Half of that time was in southern Arizona, in and around Tucson. Although the prospect of moving again now feels physically onerous, I don't see myself spending the rest of my life in Missoula. In regarding possible destinations, my short list includes places I've already experienced, as well as new places I'd like to explore.
Among the latter is Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sunday's NYTimes travel section featured an informative article on Santa Fe. It is one of a tiny number of U.S. cities which will soon be celebrating its 400th birthday. The attractions of living there include a lively arts community, a temperate climate, sweeping natural scenery, and the signature pueblo adobe architecture which the city adopted into its building code in the early 20th century. At an elevation of 7000 feet above sea level, winters are cool and summers warm, with neither tending to exremes. The city enjoys 300 or more days of sunshine per year. It is a wonderful place, with annual international folk art and indian markets, world-class opera and jazz, and a population almost evenly divided between Latino and gringo residents, with a sprinkling of other ethnicities. There is easy access to Albuquerque to the south, and Taos to the north. Santa Fe, and the Southwest in general, are steeped in history and culture. The Four Corners region is rife with ancient ruins and natural splendor.
One of my favorite references for learning about cities is the Places Rated Almanac. This encyclopedic reference examines nearly 400 U.S. cities within criteria which include cost of living, transportation, jobs, education, climate, crime, the arts, health care and recreation. Comprehensive tables make it easy to draw comparisons within any criterion of interest, as well as comparing the overall rating.
A useful online guide to individual cities can be found at city-data.com. Their entry for Santa Fe provides a quick, easy-to-scan overview of the city's features, comparable to the hard copy Almanac.
My short list includes other possible destinations, of course. My personal criteria for a livable place include a vital arts community, access to nature, a pleasing climate, a university, affordable housing, a decent airport with a first-rate flight training school, great restaurants, cultural and ethnic diversity, and ease of access to rail and air travel. Of course, PBS and NPR. Oh, a favorable ratio of women to men would be a nice addition as well. Hey, we all need a dream.....