There is something about the Western part of the U.S. that is magical and very different from other parts of the country.
I’ve been lucky enough to live in the West for the past five years.
I lived in Colorado for just over four years and then moved to California earlier this year.
Below are the top reasons why moving west changed my life for the better.
1. The hiking and skiing out west is better than anywhere else in the country
I grew up hiking but wouldn’t consider myself outdoorsy by any means.
Moving west forced me to get out in the wilderness and go seek beautiful places.
I’ve hiked, skied, and explored more in the past five years than any other time in my life.
When you live in the West, you have access to the most beautiful public forests and parks. And research has shown that getting out in nature has some serious benefits including:
- Improved mood
- Increased vitality
- Reduced stress
- Increased creative thinking and cognition
- Increased altruism
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved hormone functioning
The best part of all is that you can score these awesome benefits for free simply by going outside and immersing yourself in nature.
Since the west is also home to a large portion of the national parks in the United States, you have more parks and forests to choose to explore than any other part of the country.
You also have some of the best ski resorts in the country in your backyard.
More importantly, you’re surrounded by other people who love to get outside too.
It’s the perfect combination.
I’ve developed an appreciation for the outdoors that will last throughout my life.
2. Alternative lifestyles are encouraged in the West
From ski bums to entrepreneurs, I’ve met so many people who aren’t afraid to take risks in their lives and careers.
I met people taking time off to travel and others who left corporate jobs to try something new.
In particular, the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the longest trails in the entire U.S. that extends through California, Oregon, and Washington that attracts hikers year-round to explore.
There also seems to be more of a focus on pursuing a dream lifestyle out west. Perhaps it’s all of the natural scenery that encourages people to chase their dreams.
People tend to spend their money on experiences such as travel versus material things out west as well.
I picked up a new hobby while living out West, travel rewards, and it’s allowed me to travel all over the U.S. and the world for free.
I also stumbled upon the idea of early retirement and can thank the West for that.
3. Craft brews are delicious and part of the culture
You won’t see Bud Light or some other generic beer served as readily in the West as other parts of the country.
Craft brews are the alcohol of choice here. As The Pudding shows in this amazing interactive visualization, many of the best microbrew cities in the U.S can be found along the west coast. They even dub Santa Rosa, California to be the “microbrew capital of the U.S.” and refer to the west coast as the “beer mecca” of the country.
And in many places in the West, craft brews are fairly cheap. This is good news for your wallet since it means you have to spend less when you go out on the evenings or weekends.
Going to breweries with friends on weekends is a big thing.
It’s fun to pick out seasonal brews and try new flavors.
I’ll never drink boring beer by choice again.
4. It’s easier to make friends in the West
I have been shocked by how friendly people are in the West.
I met my newest friend on Craigslist (no joke).
We chatted for a bit and then she invited me to a BBQ that day.
We’re now good friends.
Everyone seems to have moved out West from other places.
It’s nice to be somewhere where so many people are looking to make new friends.
It’s not uncommon to be invited in on a weekend ski rental or invited to a social event with people you barely know.
Related: How to Make Friends in a New City
5. The West and West Coast are gorgeous
The rocky mountains and the West Coast are two of the most beautiful places on Earth.
You need to go see them for yourself to truly appreciate their beauty but I’ll try to convey it through pictures.
6. There is strong job growth – particularly in tech
The tech industry is booming out West and you can make good money in tech.
Other industries are growing in the west as well.
The west has led in post-recession job growth.
The West also has many great places with low cost of living.
I can’t say that about parts of California but there are some pockets of the west where you can enjoy a nice salary and low cost of living.
7. Social activities don’t revolve around bars and restaurants
I’ve done the following activities with friends many times.
- camped for the weekend in a free state park
- hiked and brought craft beers to enjoy at the top of the mountain
- went to a dog-friendly brewery and enjoyed a beer while our dogs played
- brought food over to a friend’s house for a potluck dinner
- went in on a ski condo for $30 a person for the weekend
- hosted a BBQ
Admittedly, I’ve gone out to dinner more in California in 6 months than 4 years in Colorado but outdoor social activities are still very much a thing.
It’s a nice change that has made me healthier.
I also spend less money on social activities living out West than I would on the East Coast.
8. Friends and family want to visit for vacation
The only downside to living in the West is that I’m not close to my friends and family.
I miss them so much but I’m lucky because they love coming out to visit me!
I’ve had friends or family members come visit almost every other month since I’ve lived out West.
Everyone seems to love it out here and visit often.
I’ve been lucky!
I’ve made so many great memories and have enjoyed sharing what I love about the West with family and friends.
9. People are healthier and more athletic out West
Being around so many outdoorsy, athletic people has definitely encouraged me to up my game.
I’ve become way more fit and health conscious in the past five years.
I lift weights, hike, spend more time outside, and eat better than I ever did before.
I think the West Coast lifestyle has improved both my physical and mental health. The best part of all is that it’s been fairly effortless since the West Coast environment and lifestyle naturally encourage a healthier lifestyle.
10. The West has a laid-back culture
People are much more relaxed in the West.
I love the laid-back culture.
I have to admit, sometimes I miss the East Coast direct way of speaking and humor.
I also miss the fashion of the East Coast on occasion (although I love that I can dress so casually every day).
Mostly though, I’m glad to be on the West Coast where everyone tries to relax and chill out.
It’s chilled me out a bit too.
11. The West is very dog-friendly
There are so many dog-friendly restaurants and breweries in the West.
It’s not an uncommon occurrence to go to a brewery and see just as many dogs as people.
Hiking trails and parks are also very dog-friendly.
My furry best friend can go more places with me and I love that.
He’s happier and I’m happier.
I’m so glad I spent the last five years out West.
I’m truly changed for the better.
I may move back to the East Coast some day but will always be grateful for my adventures out west.
Have you ever lived in the West? Would you ever consider moving west?
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NZ Muse says
As a Kiwi, I loved California. Visited a few cities and felt the most at home there out of anywhere in the US. While I LOVE New York – and it’s possibly my most favourite city in the world – it’s not somewhere I imagine living forever. If I were to live in the US, it would be somewhere in California. (Or possibly somewhere in the PNW – haven’t been to that region yet, one day!)
I used to LOVE New York City and always wanted to live there. Now, I can’t ever imagine living in New York City. I’m too into the outdoors! I want to go to the PNW too – it’s on my list!
The west coast is truly the best coast. From the natural beauty to the laid back chill vibes to the lucious “greenery” in all 3 west coast states…well the WESTSIDE is the best side! Repping Seattle because alot of the “east coast types” fail to realize that California isn’t the only west coast state out here!
Ms. Rustic Walks says
I grew up in the West, and now that I live on the East Coast. I miss it every day. The scenery, healthy living, and rich culture is something I always took for granted. I chose the East Coast because it feels less spread out – there are so many major cities only hours away. But there’s something special about living somewhere that has so much natural beauty just outside your doorstep. Enjoy every minute of it!
I love the East Coast for access to cities, family, and history (it’s old!) The west coast is certainly beautiful though!
Eastcoast veggies suck says
The west coast has more history actually. Look up oldest building in the United States. Native Americans came over ice land Bridges on the west coast thousands of centuries before the genocidal Europeans came. I always find it interesting that people completely disregard the fact the there was a history here before colonialism. Do we celebrate the holocaust? No! So why would you say your happy a genocide happen just for you to think east coast has more history. Most east coast cities are the same. In the west coast we make all your agriculture (hence the reason why it’s the culinary capital of the USA. Only in japan and New Zealand can you ski and surf in two climates in one day. Hands down California is the most beautiful state. Anyone denies what every single news outlet and human on earth says is obviously jealous. You can keep your segregated east coast.
I agree- I love the West for almost all the reasons above. Too bad climate change is going to burn the whole place down and turn the forests to desert.
Depressing but maybe accurate?
Tania Vaughan says
This was so great to read – we are planning on taking a year out and travelling across the States in a RV. We are going to take our 2 dogs and we were really worried that it wasn’t dog friendly, so many people have said that Americans only have dogs for the yard, they always have to be leashed and are not allowed anywhere! Reading your post was so encouraging. And my hubby is very happy about the craft beer and breweries 🙂
Nope! Super dog-friendly! Just make sure to go when the weather will be nice (which seems to be year-round most places in the West) because dogs aren’t allowed *inside* dog-friendly restaurants per health code. You have to sit on the patio. Breweries don’t have the same restriction it seems.
Gwen @ Fiery Millennials says
Looks amazing! So jealous of the not flat topography you have around you. I’m definitely going to be one of those people visiting you!
Mr. Grumby says
I moved out here 17 years ago, and this is absolutely true. It’s tempting to try to keep it a secret, but why shouldn’t we share the wealth? Great post.
Haha yup! It’s such a great place to live.
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies says
I have never been to the proper west (Cali, Oregon, Washington). But I adore the Southwest. I particularly love Arizona. Sadly, teaching is not great out there, especially in terms of making a shift from Illinois (licenses, pensions, etc.). We are talking about doing a road trip through the Southwest over spring break to hit some National Parks and I’d like to do one this summer or next along the coast.
DO IT! Road tripping through that area is the best!
I love this read.
I just got back to the south to visit family for a few months, since I live in AZ and don’t get to see them often.
I miss the West so much already. The endless possibilities, from careers to entrepreneurship, the vibe, culture.
Here in the South, it seems like a completely different planet! Hardly anyone is aware or cares about financial freedom, the easily obtainable dream lifestyle (even luxury), cleaner roads, easy going lifestyle that the West provides. Total freedom. The South really has not ‘upgraded’ at all.
What section of craigslist did you meet the friend on? 😀
My experience is that it’s not so easy to meet people – one reason I would like to get the heck out, but my favorite people that i have met in California are people who have moved here from somewhere else, also why I’d like to try somewhere else – since it has produced such awesome people. I’d rather be somewhere where those people are the norm rather than the exception.
But I remember your post on the woo girls – so it doesn’t surprise me at all that you’ve been able to make friends- whether in California or anywhere else. 🙂
Yeah LOL it was not casual encounters!
And thanks – I have been working on my woo girl mating call! It seems to be attracting some nice, friendly people.
Amber from Red Two Green says
Ahhh I miss the West! And I competely agree with #1. Its by far the reason I miss the west the most! We just moved to the midwest to pay off debt. If there is one thing the West lacks, it is cheap cost of living. I don’t blame it though. Its a great place to live, it should be expensive.
The Midwest is so affordable! I’m always shocked when I look at prices on Zillow. We were actually thinking of buying rental property there. Good luck with the debt payoff – sounds like the Midwest is a good call to get moving!
Froogal Stoodent says
I’ve had similar experiences going to the West. I’ve also found that some of the things you discuss here (e.g. friendly people, laid-back culture, low cost of living) apply to the Midwest as well.
We’ll see where life takes me, but I’m very reluctant to go back to the East Coast!
True story the midwest is so friendly AND cheap!!
SO TRUE! The weather can be gloomy, but people are waaaay friendlier and more down to earth than in Colorado or other parts of the West. They aren’t trying to impress everyone.
Mustard Seed Money says
I would definitely move out west. Right now all of my wife and my family are here in Virginia. Actually we all live within 20 minutes of each other and I love it. If for some reason that ever changed though I would definitely move out west. I have heard amazing things about Colorado and would love to go there. California I have visited numerous times and while I like didn’t love it like I think I would of a place like Colorado.
Being that close to family sounds amazing! Colorado is pretty cool though.
Dividend Diplomats says
The west is beautiful. I’m from the flat midwest….what are these “mountain” things that you speak of. You can’t grow corn and wheat on rocky terrain. I kid, but having so much to do outdoors would be awesome!
I do disagree on the beer front. Craft beers have taken off here in Cleveland and we have plenty of delicious options outside of old reliable (Bud Light). While some of your points are true for the west, they aren’t exclusive to other parts of the country. Particuarly, I am referring to #3, #4, #7, and #8.
Thanks for the post. I’m glad you are enjoying the west coast lifestyle!
I have heard so many great things about the midwest! My fiancé is from that area and he is always trying to sway me to move there eventually. Glad to know some of my favorite pastimes are popular there too!
Diana serrano says
I live in Chicago and even though we don’t have all the outdoorsy stuff right out of our front door and mountain, a lot of the things you mentioned can be found here: a lot of friendly people, a lot of breweries, a lot easier to travel, easier to get around
I have lived in the Denver area since 1998. We raised our now young adults here. I’m from the Midwest originally.
Now that they are out of the house, I have come to realize I don’t like the Denver area. I live in the suburbs and there is very little to do here, and it’s difficult to meet people unless you sign up for very “specific” things to do. People don’t just casually talk unless you already know them. They look at you as if you are a “nuisance.” Obviously I am GENERALIZING. There are of course nice people, but still, it’s a very disconnected and disjointed city.
Traffic is horrendous, and getting worse, and God help you if you have to travel on practically the only highway around to get to work! (I-25). It’s bumper to bumper with accidents every day!
The City of Denver not only has God awful architecture, (a few exceptions of course) it is much too yuppified for someone my age – (mid 50’s). The bars, restaurants, and nightlife are all geared to 30-something’s. Many people are very pretentious and snobby. They want you to think they are rich, or they are rich. Either way, it’s not my game.
Real estate has gotten insanely high over the last couple of years, driving many people out and wages haven’t kept up! The new houses being built are built super cheaply but are overpriced because of the demand.
Unless you are a doctor/surgeon/I.T., or other highly paid professional, forget Denver! It’s very difficult to earn a decent living here doing much of anything else. For $225,000, you can get a tiny condo like an apartment. As soon as I can retire, I’m outta here.
I do love the mountains IN THE SUMMER ONLY! But that isn’t enough to keep me here year round.
I really have to say that men aren’t “men” here. Seriously, they aren’t very “masculine.” I still find Midwest and East coast men much more attractive and sexy and REAL.
Not sure where I will move, but Denver isn’t on my list, and it’s just getting worse. If you like it, good for you!
Staying here for ONE SEASON that I love just isn’t worth it!
I say NO THANKS!
rv stabilizer jacks canada says
How about living on an rv or a camper. Really fun to do and you can go any location to live on.
Faylinn Byrne says
I found it interesting how you mentioned that you can make friends easier in the West and that everyone seems to have moved out West from other places. My grandpa is a VA and we are wanting him to be able to move to a place where he can enjoy the weather and make some friends. We will have to look around for services to give him a good experience now that he is getting older.