10 Reasons to Live in the Desert

In the past few years, I have adopted Taos, New Mexico as my second home. This is a life event that I definitely would not have been able to predict five years ago. In fact, if you had asked me my freshman year of college if I would ever live in New Mexico, I probably would have been like “lawl why would I live in the desert?” This is because, as a rule, people who grow up in the Midwest and attend stuffy East Coast colleges tend to misunderstand the desert. We think it’s hot and flat and totally barren, not to mention home to scary things like rattlesnakes and scorpions.

So before I launch into all the reasons you should consider living in the desert, let me clear up a few things:

Desert does not equal flat. This, for example, is Death Valley, the driest desert in the US.

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Likewise, the desert is not necessarily hot. In fact, because there’s no moisture in the air, as soon as the sun goes down it can get DAMN cold. And if you live in the high desert, like Taos (~7,000 feet above sea level) it’s not even that hot in the summer.

So, now that we’re all on the same page, here are 10 reasons to live in the desert.

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1. Sunshine. Lots of it.

Now, growing up in Ohio, I had this idea that if I were to move to a dry climate, my soul would immediately shrivel up and crumble into a million tiny pieces. When I moved to Spain, I intentionally picked notoriously rainy Northern Spain because god forbid I end up in a sunny place and my voodoo-karma-whatchit energy get all out of whack. Like, seriously, how would I deal if I couldn’t curl up with a book and watch rain drip off the gutters while feeling all melancholy and pensive? Recently, I’ve been reevaluating that instinct. It turns out 360 days of sunshine is actually pretty darn nice. It means that, among other things, you can actually plan a picnic more than an hour in advance and you have a 99.9% chance that the weather will cooperate. IMAGINE THAT, PEOPLE.

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2. There are NO MOSQUITOES.

Ditto sandflies, gnats, no-see-ums, etc. Now tell me, would you rather have 5% chance of spotting a rattlesnake or a 100% chance of being swarmed by biting insects every time you step out the door? People in New Mexico leave their windows open without screens, just saying.

3. When it rains, everyone gets excited and it smells amazing.

And it does rain in the desert, people. In Ohio when it rains people don’t even notice. Or if it’s been raining for four days straight, everyone’s like “mehhhh.” But in New Mexico when it rains it’s almost required that you go outside and jump around in the rain and shout HALLELUJAHHHH. And desert rain smells incredible, like sweet dirt and freshly cut grass and dry air and basically God’s perfume if God wore perfume.

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4. Storms are way more impressive.

Think lightning cracks that look like they are going going to split the sky in half. There is so much sky here that you can see the lightning go from it’s origin all the way to the ground. It’s a little scary, but definitely impressive. The other good thing about having so much sky is that you get to watch storms move in for hours and it is beautiful. Also, walking rain, rain that evaporates before it hits the ground, is a thing.

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5. If you do somehow manage to get your shoes wet, they will be dry the next day.

And you can do laundry at the last minute before a trip and not use a dryer. ‘Nuff said.

6. No humidity.

You know how when you go for a run in the east you get those rivers of sweat running down your arms and legs and face? Doesn’t happen in the desert because your sweat evaporates before it can pool up and get all drippy. Of course, this means your water consumption has to be on par with that of a baby elephant, but still, it’s nice to not always be sticky.

7. Sunsets.

Best. Sunsets. Ever. Just imagine how much better your Instagram feed would be if you lived here.

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8. As far as yard plants go, the humble cactus is seriously underrated.

I find cactus fascinating, and you can’t deny they have much more personality than a patch of begonias. Before spending time in the desert, I had no idea how many varieties of cactus there were. And cactus flowers? Surprisingly pretty! Also, prickly pear fruit is, if you can manage to peal it without spiking yourself, delicious.

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9. Rocks, rocks, really cool rocks.

Red rocks, brown rocks, big rocks, small rocks. Rocks of every sort. As someone who really loves rocks (riding on them, climbing on them, taking photos standing on top of them), this is great.

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10. It’s really freaking beautiful.

This is one of those let the photos speak for themselves moments.

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Could you live in the desert? Share your thoughts below!

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Syd Schulz

Pro mountain biker.

Average human.

I write about bikes and life and trying to get better at both.

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85 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Live in the Desert

  1. If I wasn’t living in Boulder I’d probably be in Taos. My favorite place in NM, by far.

    Deserts are awesome. Technically I live in a semi-desert here in the Boulder area, but real deserts are pretty great as well.

  2. Love the declaration of love to our desert. Taos is very cool, I do prefer the backroads of Billy-the-kid around Roswell, NM and the fascinating Lincoln County with the historic towns and high mountains. Hope you all visit. Latest fan is Felix Baumgartner who jumped from the stratosphere in world record breaking speed back to Roswell ;)

  3. Indeed it is freaking beautiful! :) But you had me sold with #2 – There are NO MOSQUITOES. It must be nice living in a place without any of those little buggers. And #6 too – because the humidity is so high here in Taiwan (but then again, the humidity is also great for the skin – oh the conditions a girl lives in to look good ;) )!!

  4. Awesome, as always. Love your writing style. Informative and peppered heavily with humor & fun. My personal favorite line here? “desert rain smells incredible, like sweet dirt and freshly cut grass and dry air and basically God’s perfume if God wore perfume.”

  5. No mosquitoes! I hate those things! I also love the desert. I remember the first time I drove down from my home in Midwest, I was completely shocked at how different it was from what I had imagined. I mean, snow-capped mountains? I LOVE IT!

  6. I would so live there because of no mosquitoes and no humidity. Living at the beach in a tropical country means EXACTLY those two things and they are the worst parts. I’d love to live at the desert even just for a few months for a change of scenery!

  7. You are, unfortunately, incorrect about reason #2. There are all of those vectors and more in Taos and in the entire region. I live near the Rio Grande Gorge 12 miles from Taos and we have an abundance of no see’ums. Four years ago they were particularly abundant. This year as well but every year there are enough to make my life miserable from the middle of May to the middle of July.

    • It’s all relative….Of course, I don’t live by the river, so I don’t know what you have to deal with, but I can assure you that Seco ain’t got nothing on Ohio when it comes to biting insects.

  8. I did agree with you being from the East Coast and never visited a desert until college. However, I love visiting and hiking in them. The rock climbing is great and my gear stays dry. I head to the deserts of Washington or Oregon to get breaks from Seattle rain, warm weather, and rock climbing.

  9. As someone who just moved to Las Vegas, I whole heartedly agree with this post! Beautiful sunsets and the dry air is nice after living in Washington DC. Although I must say that it is heating up quick. It’s 105 outside today, which makes me scared for how much hotter its gonna be in July and August. eek!

      • I moved from the Kentucky/Ohio border to the California/Arizona border almost and it’s exactly opposite.
        No humidity here, in Kentucky it’s so wet and humid it was like a constant river of sweat flowing down the middle of my back no matter the season. Here In California no humidity it gets hot but don’t have a river running. I felt like I was always perspiring!
        The west is the best for many reasons. I have NEVER seen the sun as much. Growing up near dreaded Cincinnati the weather was bad way more than good. Too hot and humid in the short summer. The summers here are over 100 degrees but the evenings are beautiful! Fall or what they call fall In the Midwest all I know is it gets cold in September usually and it’s cold until May so yeah I feel like I am in paradise living in the high desert of Cali coming from that part of the country. This place will always be in my heart it’s perfect in so many ways and has changed me as a human, the desert will change your life and you will love the weather too, if you are from the East!

  10. Pingback: Out of the Pacific Northwest...and Into the Desert | Nomadically InclinedNomadically Inclined

  11. Sounds fun for a vacation but permanently boring. I’ve lived in san diego & fort Wayne Indiana. Yes san Diego is gorgeous but after awhile sounds crazy but same weather anywhere gets old. Midwest weather is the best. The variety & changes can’t be beat. If you ask me. When the seasons roll around it’s like shedding of skin/emotions. Get tired of people not appreciating Some bad weather. Your new to the west so ur excitedabout it. You might end up missing that ohio weather when the newness wears off

    • The high desert has seasons – they’re just not as obnoxious as the midwest seasons. Winter without the need to plan a vacation to escape the weather, spring and autumn to die for and summer that’s hot but bearable.

  12. Hold the phone! Ohio folks don’t imediatley vaporize in the desert?!? AWSOME!!! Maybe it was fate I acccidently bought a ranch off ebay in NV! How do you find drinking water? I moved to OR, than WA, and decided I need snow, and I am not an amphibian. Constant 50 degree F weather is overated, and it rains almost everyday! The ranch is beautiful, I have just been stuck in my Ohio state of mind regarding arid climates. I haven’t spent more than 2 weeks at a time there, mainly because the weather was perfect the whole time and I thought there must be a major storm due.I need to just bite the bullet and move to my ranch eh?

  13. Pingback: Fall in the New Mexican Rockies will blow your mind

  14. I agree wholeheartedly. As someone originally from North Texas, I couldn’t be more pleased with the move to Albuquerque. I do not miss the 70% humidity and unrelenting hot summers. Especially the days of 100+ heat late July through August and the lack of a Fall season.

    I visited after my boyfriend moved out here last year and immediately fell in love with the desert. It may not be what some people are looking for in terms of night life, but the positives far outweigh the negatives for me.

    I love waking up and seeing the Sandias every morning. And watching those beautiful painted sunsets slide below the horizon. I love the multitude of desert colors and wildlife and places to visit. And I never have to go far to enjoy them either on foot or on my bike.

  15. So i spent 25 years living in Detroit, MI… Basically i dreamed my while life of escaping 9 months of cloudy grey skies and snow snow snow and rain and poverty and closed down plazas and just concrete! So about a year ago i took a trip to Cali to see the beaches and all that and found myself close to mountains and that mysterious desert i had never seen. I had to make a trip to see it! I took a trip out to Joshua Tree for hiking with my wife and was overwhelmed by the beauty! Well one thing led to another and i moved to california and the first chance i got i moved out to what is called the high desert (in the winter, which had been freezing cold at night). I have to say i really love it here surrounded by mountains and fresh air… I can actually hear silence here with just birds and wind! Its a powerful place and all i want is more seclusion and more land!

  16. Im from South Africa, love the comments here, one question, i’d love to live in the desert, but how the heck do you survive ? i currently work in a health club but am tired of concrete walls, the plastic lives people live outside and endless roads, cars and the rat race. i can see myself sittin atop a hill each nite watching the beautiful sunset people describe here

  17. I was in Tucson, AZ two days ago and I am fascinated with the temperature/weather. I live in Los Angeles and quite frankly Im tired of this city… I would love to live in AZ (either Phoenix or Tucson).
    I totally agree with you. Being in the desert makes you feel full of life. I had a vivid experience down there.. Felt so connected!!

  18. I’m originally from New Jersey, but have made the green, green, hills of Kentucky my home for almost 30 years. Both my children moved to NM, and I’ve tried to like (Taos included), but it does nothing for me at all. I feel parched all the time, just because of the surroundings, and now that water is becoming such an issue in those states, I’ll take the 53″ of rain here, and all the navigable water any day, over an impromptu picnic, but thanks for the article. :)

  19. I love this! I grew up in the Midwest as well and never would have considered living in the desert. My misconception of the desert was that it was barren and always sweltering. After first visiting (and falling in love with) the desert, I’m now living in the high-desert of Southern California outside of Joshua Tree Nat’l Park. I know that the special energy of the desert will remain with me for the rest of my life. Thank you for sharing the beauty of the desert with others!

    • I just moved from Orange County to Palm Springs. I have to admit to missing PCH but find it both interesting and beautiful here. May be having a little trouble adjusting physically, then again, it could just be exhaustion…Hoping to get to Joshua Tree soon…

  20. O goodness i must do this and never come back, i’m in south africa if only i knew of a way to sustain a living being in the desert, just imagine, no crazies, no cars, no BUILDINGS, breathtaking natural scenery, ooooo i need it ! Any cute girl want to join me (and help me figure out how we’ll survive for say 10 years :D )

  21. You, my beloved stranger, just made me go in the park and enjoy the sky and fresh air.

    And since I am in the United Kingdom, I can not relate at all to what you wrote, but I do know that I must seek happiness outside of my room.

    THANKS!

  22. As someone who has grown up in the Mojave Desert in southern California (near Joshua Tree National Park) I thought that I would add some negatives to this list.. a couple years after it posted, yes, but still relevant.

    1. Heat, lots of it.
    People don’t realize that it is in fact easier to keep warm than it is to keep cool (cheaper at times as well). In the area of the desert I live in we have months in which the temp during the day is constantly around (including above) 110 degrees. Depending on how humid it is, you may get away with using anow evaporative cooler (not overly expensive to use, but requires water and makes your house smell like wet dog) or air conditioning (you may as well file for bankruptcy now if you want to remain comfortable). What is worse is, you probably need both units because humidity will come and go, and each only works depending on humidity.

    2. There are scorpions, sunspiders, and a host of other bugs that are, at the very least, frightening to look at and at most dangerous. They will get inside your house. Mosquitos (especially with the recent Zika outbreaks) can be dangerous (and exist in the desert still, just not in the numbers they do in more tropical areas) but they can also be controlled. There is no real effective way to kill or cut down on the desert bugs.

    3. Yes, the rain is cause for excitement because…
    We seldomly get rain. It doesn’t happen. There is a reason there is a drought. What is worse is, when it does rain prepare for flash flooding. I had to help people drag a man from his car (deceased) because a flash flood up and took his SUV in to a ditch. It isn’t all that uncommon. I will admit, the smell of rain is almost euphoric here due to, what I believe is, the wet sage. It is the smell of heaven but with the cost of hell.

    4. Storms are impressive, and rare, and leads to the flash floods I mentioned before. Also, fires. Dry brush + lighting is a bad mix.

    5. Everything will dry, almost instantly. Shoes and clothing. Any plants you may wish to grow included.

    6. There is humidity. It comes in waves, usually during the summer. Depending on what areas you live in, and the mountains surrounding or lack of, there will be humidity. 115 degree dry weather is bad, if a wave of humidity comes through 115 degree humid weather is much much worse.

    7. Sunsets are beautiful here, and will be some of the only color you will see. There is no color here. No green grass, no fields of colorful flowers, no autumn colors… you have various degrees of tan. The ground, the plants, the trees, the houses, etc.

    8. The cactus (and various spiney bland colored plants that look like relatives of cacti) is your only option. You can’t have a flower bed, an apple tree, you can have numerous plants that will stick to your clothes, shoes, skin, dogs (happens A LOT) and children. Familiarize yourself with tweezers. Cholla!

    9. Rocks. We have plenty of rocks. Come through, look at them, pick one up (do not pick one up, it is where the snakes hang out).

    10. It is NOT beautiful after a few years. It never changes. There are no seasons…. day after day, year after year, it stays the same. It is sad that people who pass through or recently moved to the deseet believe it is so beautiful solely because it is different from what they normally see. Imagine looking out your window at the complete lack of color, the dry dead bush, crooked spined plants… day after day. The sunsets become something you no longer care about, just a signal that you will have some temporary relief to the blinding light and extreme heat for a few hours. Only to repeat the next day… every day… until you move.

    11. Meth. Breaking Bad was very accurate actually. Meth and the desert are like Ice Cream and sprinkles. They use the secluded desert houses as places to cook it. You do not go a day (in public) without seeing multiple jaw moving lizard skinned toothless people.

    I will admit, I have no love for the desert. I have been here for 20 years (I lived in a nice mountain town for a bit as a child). I have seen many different areas of the country. The desert is unpopulated for a reason, eventually no one wants to stay.

    • Love it & so agree, especially #7 & #10….. I came here from KC 5 yrs ago & didn’t take long to turn into the ‘sameness’ in Tucson. Will add one more: in KC u stayed in some of winter from ice/snow; here u stay in from the heat. Traffic is heavy from temp. snowbirds & college students from Aug through March for the seniors; May for the students. Bring $$ with you for housing/rentals (in good areas) expensive, wages low, utilities for swamp coolers/ac & water all is high.

    • I could have written your post only subsitute the “desert” with “pnw”.
      I have lived in Vancouver for 22 years and so sick and tired of the rain, I swear it rains here evry day except for 4 weeks in August and the perpetual 10C is no fun. NI hate spring here because it will be warm and sunny but by the time you packed your picnic, it’s cloudy and raining 15 mins later. I love the desert, I lived in Israel for years before coming here and I visit Vegas regularly in July, I love 105C and sun. Give me sun every day. Don’t care for trees, greenery is overrated, don’t care for gardening. Desert landscaping solves the issue of backyard maintenance. Put a rock and you’re done. Everything here in PNW rots and looks dingy right away from the continuous rain and moisture. Ugh. Your house will start rotting right away, everything looks dingy and gross and wet.
      Oh and bus don’t scare me. As I said – in Israel they have all kinds of these things. Giant flying cockroaches and poisonous snakes galore.

      I will take the sun every day over this green cloudy crap

  23. This article was so inspiring. It inspired me to take a 5 month trip to the desert with my hunny bear. We love the desert and that’s where our first child was born

  24. Thanks for posting this! I am also from Southern Ohio (Cincinnati). We just moved to El Paso, TX this past week. I googled “why would anyone ever want to live in the desert” and you’re blog popped up. It was very helpful and encouraging to read especially coming from a fellow southern Ohio-an!

  25. I love it throughout New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Has to be the most beautiful place in America to me. I’ve been all over and absolutely love it there. I agree with a couple others though. It’s too expensive to live there. Economy is based on snowbirds and college students. There are no descent paying jobs. Hopefully I can retire there in 20 years and live in a camper. If land in the desert is still affordable.

  26. Great article! So many beautiful pictures. I absolutely love living in the desert! I had the pleasure of living in SW New Mexico for a year when I was a teenager and I have been dying to get back ever since. I am currently in FL, so yeah heat, humidity, and bugs. Lots of bugs…

  27. I’m moving to the desert to watch beautiful sunsets in the sunset of my life. Slab City here I come. I’m free at last. It’s party time. ☺

  28. I would like to know about looking at the stars. I can’t seem to do that at the pacific n.w. I am at retirement age and wish to pursue this. I have a new telescope and have not been able to use it yet.

  29. Your postings about the desert are so true. I am from the east as well. Recently I got a wonderful opportunity and spent almost two months (Feb and Mar) around Mesa, AZ. Thing is……. almost every day I got out and hiked various areas of the desert. As you, my preconceived ideas about the desert were entirely incorrect. The majority of the desert in AZ has mountains everywhere, big skys, low humidity, amazing cactus becoming a friend on the hikes and rocks everywhere !! I found myself becoming quite the rock/mineral collector. As you, I found the desert awesome !!!

  30. I like that this article pointed out that your sweat will dry up before it can pool and make you sticky. My friend is from the south and says that humidity can make your hair frizzy and wild. I’ve always lived in a desert area, but I think living in an even dryer part of the desert could really help those out who have greasy or wild hair.

  31. Hey Syd,

    Your ten reasons to live in a desert is absolutely right.Desert can be hotter in the daytime but it’s really cold in the evening.
    desert safari is one of my reason to visit there.Its a fun and thrilling experience.

  32. I grew up in Arizona and I hate the desert. Too hot no trees no natural beauty whatsoever. The only thing good about the desert was the mild winter. But it was always the same no change of seasons. Which was boring. I boiled every summer living in the desert.

    • Ha! “no natural beauty whatsoever.” — in Arizona. The Grand Canyon, Sedona, canyons, mesas, buttes, Saguaro National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, a million mountain ranges…Yup, no natural beauty there.

    • what part of AZ do you come from? The desert is full of fun and all u have to do is travel 4 hours north to see all the trees u can handle.
      have a good life but the desert is a great place to live IMHO

  33. I’ve lived in Buffalo, NY all my life and I’ve always been fascinated by the southwest. I am planning a trip out to the desert very soon, and I have a strong feeling I’m going to find my new home somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona. I love mountains, dry heat, rocks, snakes, hiking..

  34. #10 is the killer for me. there is no beautiful green grass or flourishing trees that change with the seasons. no way, nope no no im not a desert person.

  35. I’ve grown up in Tucson my whole life and I’ve got to say the desert is sorely underrated! It can definitely be hot as balls in the summer, but the open skies full of storms and sunsets can’t be beat. I’m at college in Ohio now, and I have to say I miss the cactus and warm nights of home. Also I figured I’d plug the Sonoran Desert since most of the article was about New Mexico and California. If you ever get a chance to visit Saguaro National Park or Monument Valley I highly recommend it! Also, the no mosquitoes thing isn’t completely true, in the rainy season I’ve had the pleasure of tens of bites at a time. Still no humidity though!

  36. I love the west. I live in eastern Ohio not far from Pittsburgh pa and I take almost yearly vacations to the desert and mountain states. It rains every week here, it’s humid and sticky half the year. I like going to desert cities like Vegas and Phoenix where I can enjoy sunshine, not as much sweat in the summer because there is no humidity there, and the lack of mosquitoes is amazing. Love desert rock formations and mountain ranges. They are awesome and I recommend everyone take at least one trip out west in your lifetime and see what God created. It’s better than rotting here in rain, humidity and bitter cold temps throughout the winter, although the desert does get chilly at night in winter and those mountains do get snow. That is another thing I like. If you get too hot and want to see beautiful mountain ranges with cooler temperatures it’s not a long trip from the desert to the mountain where it can be in the 70s on desert level and snow at the mountain level. The West is my favorite part of America.

  37. I have been moving gradually closer to the desert in the past 3 years..From Baltimore, to Wyoming to Salt Lake (meh…that doesn’t really count) but now my friend and I are looking at property in the Nevada desert..I am 99% sold on this idea except for one thing….snakes…got nothing against them…actually handle the non venomous very wall, but Im pretty sure that the Nevada desert is not full of the gentle ball python…although Im excited about the king snakes, there is the rattler…which TERR IFFFFF IIIIIIIEEEEES SSSSS ME…How do you co exist and avoid these creatures..I love and respect absolutely ever living being from the amoeba to the grizzly that God put on this earth, but so help me, if I am going to be expected to have daily run ins with rattle snakes, momma is gonna have some nice boots for sale.

  38. I
    I live outside of Tucson, AZ and we have mosquitos. Other than that it is quite beautiful here. Sunrise and sunset are the best times of the day and I love the lightening/rain storms. I had to adjust my schedule to hike at dusk after work and play golf at 6:00 AM, but it’s so worth it.

  39. Well, I’m sold. I’m a Washingtonian, and while I love the green of the Pacific, I do have a soft spot for some of the more arid regions of eastern Washington. And you’re right, if you’re prepared, the huge water consumption is well worth being dry.

  40. We are looking forward to moving to Scottsdale, Arizona in 7 yrs after my daughter graduates from HS. Can’t wait to leave overcrowded LA county and nanny-state CA. Did u know that LA county has more people than the whole state of AZ, and here we r in the covid lockdown while the rest on the whole dang country (minus NY and a handful of states) are completely “free”. Because I’m a city girl, I’m not afraid to move to Scottsdale (part of the Sonoran Desert) coz there’s still wonderful culture, nightlife, sports, and I heard lots of tech jobs. Beautiful sunsets, hikes up Pinnacle Peak, and open spaces without LA traffic and masses of people await us. In CA I am at 33.3% combined state and fed taxes, 1/3 of my paycheck gone. I’m about 11 miles from the beach but honestly, I don’t go but once a year. Wow what’s wrong with me? Probably because I feel the sand,crowds, parking fees are a hassle. Dang that sounds bad of me. It’s real cold water, not warm like Hawaii. 100F+ weather: am I afraid? yes I won’t lie! But I’ve lived in the San Fernando area of LA and it was always the same (maybe 90sF), so I will just have to remember life then and it was fine, we managed. Sick of CA nanny state. We could afford to stay, but we hate the politics, lockdown, crowds, traffic. I will miss the weather, it can’t be beat. I went to college here too and that was fun, the amusement parks are close. I will miss family, friends, but the Cons outweigh the pros. Maybe I will change my mind in 7 yrs- but for now, looking forward to leaving.

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