20-Something Californian Shocks Everyone Everywhere, Considers a Move to the Midwest

Although I’m currently based in Europe, there are plenty of places in the good ol’ USA that deserve some love and attention. I’ve partnered with Hipmunk and their #HipmunkCityLove campaign to highlight some fantastic cities in my home country. 

St. Louis Gateway Arch, via Flickr

St. Louis Gateway Arch, via Flickr

The idea of what to do after Spain is terrifying.

At the same time, this blank slate is an incredible feeling.

I always figured I’d end up at a writing job in San Francisco, near friends and family and the town where I grew up. But I’ve been thinking lately. Is any place worth that high a cost of living? There are other cities in the U.S. that aren’t New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles–maybe it’s time to put them on my radar.

To Places Less Traveled

I’ve been tossing around potential cities. Austin calls to me–great barbecue and southern hospitality. Maybe Denver, since it’s supposed to be gorgeous. Seattle, if I learn to put up with the rain.

But what about the middle of the country? It’s a region I’ve never given any prior thought to moving. But who’s to say I couldn’t pack my bags and start a Midwestern life? St. Louis, Missouri could be just the place.

I went to St. Louis once when I was 17 to tour a college (Washington University–they waitlisted me, those fools.) Coming from California, I scoffed at any place far away from the ocean, or decent Mexican food. But much to my surprise, I loved the city, the welcoming people, and the gorgeous riverfront. The parks rivaled New York’s Central or San Francisco’s Golden Gate.

Californians are sometimes guilty of assuming our state has everything. But we don’t have red brick buildings or fall foliage. We just don’t.

What St. Louis Has to Offer

At the time of my St. Louis visit, I was buried in application pamphlets and worrying about SAT scores. But now that I’ve been looking into it recently, I feel like I could love St. Louis all the more upon return.

It’s got a burgeoning restaurant and bar scene, but one where you might not have to dip into your 401K to afford a beer.

It’s got lush parks to break up the concrete jungle.

It’s got plenty of arts and culture events, and festivals to boot. Like the annual Great Forest Park Balloon Race, the most well-attended single-day hot air balloon contest in the U.S.–did I really need more convincing?

great balloon race

Great Forest Park balloon race. Image via Flickr.

St. Louis’ free attractions also appeal to me. As San Francisco becomes a stomping ground for rich techies, St. Louis, in turn, seems to be working hard to become more accessible to normal, working-class people. Say, those of us who aren’t employed by Facebook or Apple, and who eat lentils for dinner in order to fork over 14 bucks for a movie ticket.

St. Louis is home to a sprawling zoo, Science Center, even an outdoor amphitheater with nine rows of free seating–all free or affordable activities to take advantage of on a budget. So if my friends wanted to hang out but I just put down my apartment’s security deposit, I could mention my love of lions and open-air musicals.

It’s all gotten me thinking: I may have been waitlisted from St. Louis when I was 18. But who’s to say I can’t head there when I’m 24?

Have any of you been to St. Louis? Yay or Nay to the prospect of moving there?

  • Crisitna M

    CHICAGO! I am a native Northern California girl (but born in LA), and Chicago was such a great idea after spending 6 years living, going to school, and working in San Francisco. It is clean, affordable, and is still a major US city. I’ve been to St. Louis but from my understanding, what others tell me and what I’ve heard, there are plenty of reasons to make your way up north! It has a “Mid West” mentality at times, but it is amazing even during the cold. I have just applied to two programs in Spain (BEDA and Meddeas) but if I didnt have this urge to go abroad I’d be very happy here!

    • I LOVED Chicago when I visited for the first time this summer. I definitely could see myself living there but I’m honestly not cut out for cold weather (I suffer even in Barcelona’s winter) so I’m not sure I could handle it :'( I suppose the same goes for St. Louis!!

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  • Give it a try! After college I applied for a job that could have placed me pretty much anywhere in the US and promised myself I’d just go. I remember I was terrified when they placed me in New Orleans.. Mostly because I had never considered it before. Turned out to be an amazing experience and I go back to visit every chance I get.

    • Ooooh, New Orleans. That’s actually the #1 place I’m dying to visit in the U.S. So glad it worked out for you!!

      • Glad to hear! I might be biased but think that NOLA should be everyone’s #1 place!! If you need help when you plan your visit let me know! I’m glad to help :)

  • I am a midwesterner and am proud to be! I chose to stay closer to home for school for that very reason, and am looking forward to raising my future Spanamericanos with my Midwest values!

    • From my two short visits to the Midwest (Chicago and St. Louis), I definitely got a feel for those values. I’ve never felt so welcomed anywhere. You guys are great in the middle of the country!! I’m sure those Spanamerican babies will be raised right :)

  • Jenn

    Hi Jenny, I think you will like this Tour the States video! Check it out :)


  • I have never been to St. Louis but I would like to visit. The same goes for Austin and Denver (which actually might be happening next month). I had no idea that St. Louis had a balloon race, I would love to participate in that!

    • It’s crazy how much of my home country I have yet to explore!! Let me know how Denver goes, if you get the chance. I need to start planning future options!