Moving to Lancaster


Big things are happening. A few months ago, I posted my Philly Bucket List — things I wanted to do before leaving Philly. I wasn’t sure what the timeline on that would really be, but it seems to be happening now.

We’ve been in kind of a holding pattern for the past year or so. We felt that it was time for something different, but we didn’t know what. Do we move to a different neighborhood in Philly? Put all our stuff in storage and join Remote Year to travel around the world? Explore other cities in the US? We found ourselves having the same conversation over and over again and it just got too frustrating. We felt stuck with our indecision. So we decided to do something about it and started very casually looking at houses in Lancaster City.

The more we talked about it, the more it made sense. We started to picture what our lives would look like again, instead of being blanketed in the fog of not knowing. It felt good. It feels good. And now I find myself furiously Googling the best restaurants, hangouts, and non-touristy attractions in Lancaster City. It’s a city I’m not sure I’m willing to call a city, especially after living in Philadelphia these last three years. Perhaps that’s snobbery. Maybe I’ll get over it eventually.

Central Market, Lancaster

This all raises a few questions, which I will answer in Q&A style:

Why Lancaster?
It’s been getting harder for me to come back to the city after visiting the farm. I miss the space and the clean air and the cornfields. But Chad loves not having to have a second car and being able to walk or bike everywhere, and I love having access to city things, too — music shows, restaurants, a large concentration of interesting people doing interesting things. I’ve often said that my dream scenario is a big farmhouse right across the street from a bustling, cultural downtown center. I know that doesn’t exist, or if it did, would be outrageously expensive. Lancaster City seems to be as close to what we both want as possible. And it’s still an easy drive or train ride to Philly, New York, and Baltimore.

It’s widely known as Amish country, and my name (Yoder is the Smith of the Amish/Mennonite/Anabaptist world — that awful For Richer or Poorer movie will corroborate if you don’t believe me) will surely give me some kind of pass, even though I’m technically not from there. I’ve got a bunch of family there I don’t really know, some of whom I’m sure I haven’t met yet. (When your Amish/Mennonite grandparents have 12 siblings, it’s easy to have family you’ve never met.) My maternal grandmother is from the area, and I have faint memories of driving to Elizabethtown when I was little for family reunions. I remember being so impressed by the buggy lanes on the road. I’m from a place that is significantly Amish, yet not big enough to have buggy lanes. Lancaster is a more economically flourishing, touristy version of where I grew up, but there’s a real “urban” center, if you can call it that (like I said, I’m not sure I can right now — maybe I’ll get over my snobbery in a couple years), with everything that entails — galleries, restaurants, and adorable coffee shops.

I’ll admit, it is really scary to leave a city where I feel like I know and understand the tech industry and the jobs and opportunities that are available to me there. But it’s 2016, and I’ve wanted to be location independent for awhile now. There’s no point in chaining myself to a place when my ultimate goal is to be able to live and travel wherever I want (as long as there’s a reliable wifi connection). I know those opportunities exist, I just need to track them down for myself.

Lancaster Park

Where will we live?
All that casual looking at houses? We found one. We closed on it yesterday. Our house is right in the “city,” blocks from Central Market, a coworking space, and all the restaurants and galleries downtown. The house is old and undoubtedly needs some work and upgrades. This is our first house, and I’m nervous but excited. It’s been nice to know that we can call up a landlord when something goes wrong or needs to be repaired. It’s been nice to know we could put our stuff in storage back home and travel the world for a few months without paying living expenses back home. So why buy? I see this whole home-buying thing as a way to work towards the lifestyle we want in a more sustainable way. We’re playing the long game. We’ll have a really reasonably priced home base to return to or leverage as an investment that will allow us to travel. And, unlike renting, every time we pay the mortgage our net worth will increase rather than decrease. That will feel great. It’s also significantly less than our rent in West Philly.

To be honest, when I’m in Philly, I’m really sad about leaving it. But as soon as I drive out of the city, I’m fine and I don’t feel like I absolutely need to come back.

Do we still love Philadelphia?

I’ll miss Philly a lot. So much. Right after our offer was accepted, Chad and I both had an “Oh, shit.” moment. This is really happening. We’re really leaving Philly. The next day, that Lonely Planet listicle came out, crowing about how Philly is one of the best places in the country, and it compounded my are-we-really-sure-we-want-to-do-this funk. Philadelphia has given me so much, and I’m convinced it’s exactly where I’ve needed to be for the last few years.

I owe the tech community here so much for how far I’ve come in the last three to four years, and I’m not saying goodbye to that. I’m profoundly grateful to the Philadelphia chapter of Girl Develop It (with which I want to stay involved!) and the greater tech community here. Philly helped me, rather unexpectedly, turn myself into a web developer, something I never dreamed I’d be capable of. I’ve made friends with so many incredible people. I’ve had opportunities I never would have imagined if I’d lived anywhere else. I definitely don’t take any of that for granted and I’m not letting go of that. Philly will always be a part of me, even as I become a smaller part of it. You’ll still see us at meetups and local conferences now and again. And of course the occasional show at Union Transfer. We’ll be renting your AirBnB rooms.

Are you sure you want to do this? What’s the worst case scenario?
We pay less for housing and start building equity, but we hate it there and I can’t find enough remote work. So then we’d move back to Philly or to another city or back to a farm after a couple years. Our house will have hopefully increased in value due to appreciation and the love that we want to put into it to make it ours. The worst case scenario is really not even bad, and I’d hope to still come out ahead either by selling at a profit or keeping it as a rental property. But really, I doubt that this will happen regardless. We’re going to try to fall in love with our new home. But if we don’t, it’s not the end of the world, and we’ll figure out our next adventure.

Lancaster Record Store

I know cool people/places/things in Lancaster! Can I hook you up?
Absolutely! Please do! I’m taking nominations for new friends and people to meet! I have a couple friends out that way, but we really won’t know anyone else. I want to take advantage of my status as a new kid in town to meet a ton of people and try to make friends. So if you know anyone out there who you think I should meet, please set us up on a friend date or send them my way. I’ll be eternally grateful.

Are you going to commute to Philly?

I know of a great remote job or someeone looking for a front-end/WordPress/Shopify/whatever developer. Can I introduce you?
Yes, please do! I’ll also be looking for more remote contract work once we’re settled. Front-end, WordPress, Shopify, and the like. I also want to spend a lot of time learning and building things to leverage into getting my next job. Location independence has been one of my goals for awhile, and I’m prioritizing remote contract or full time opportunities. The only thing better than working in one of the most beautiful offices in the country (I’ve been so spoiled in that regard at Urban Outfitters) is working wherever I want.

Can we hang out before you move?
Yes, I’d love to! I really want to hang out with you. If you’re in Philly, email/tweet/text me! We are keeping our apartment until the end of April, so we’re still around for the next month. I’d love to get coffee, brunch, dinner, drinks, or go for a walk or whatever with you. I’m not going to say a final goodbye, because this is really more of a see-you-later situation.

Can I come visit?
Yes, absolutely! It’s a quaint, relaxing little city with lots of cute coffee shops and good restaurants, and it’s close enough to farmland to drive around and stop at farmstands for produce, homemade root beer, cheese, and baked goods. My secret scheme is to Instagram the crap out of it to lure more of our friends out there. We’re working on putting together a beautiful guest room for new and old friends to stay in and enjoy our new home with us. It’s a quick drive or train ride from Philly, so you’ll have no excuse!

Does Chad have any thoughts on this? 
Yep, he’s got a lot of thoughts on all of this.

Is this an April Fools Joke?
Nope, sorry. This is for real.

  • Corinne

    <3<3 can't wait to hear about all of your fun tales from Lancaster!

    • Lisa

      I can’t wait to share them with you! And then eventually lure you and Mikey out there for a visit 😉

  • I’m so excited for you. I think it’s going to be a great move. I’m excited to invite myself to come visit (and to get to escape the city). And about the food. Look, Philly food is flipping delicious. That said, I’ve found that the smaller towns that I’ve been visiting in Colorado (not that Lancaster is a small town) that there’s a few places, but they’re all damn good. There might not be as many to choose from, but I’m sure you’ll quickly find your favorites – and let’s be honest, those are the ones you’d probably keep going to anyway. That said, I just answered the most important question with a google search. There seem to be three breweries we can go to when I visit. We’re all set. (Clearly my not drinking quite as much thing as failed.)

    • Lisa

      Yes! There are a few breweries and a distillery. The food in Philly is undoubtedly awesome, but it seems like a lot of the best ingredients are actually coming from Lancaster County anyway, so…? Ha! I’m really excited to scope out some delicious things.

  • Congrats on the move, I really love Lancaster “city” (Being from Philly all of my life I don’t like referring to it as a city lol) and Greg’s brother actually lives in Lancaster city, walking distance from central market. I wound up somewhere in between Lancaster and Philadelphia (Downingtown) when I moved late last year.

    I’m sure its crazy exciting and there seems to be sprouting businesses in Lancaster city. I’ve noticed some of the area we visit seems similar to no lib in a sense. Oh and if you haven’t been to the Horse Inn yet you must go!

    Chrissy of crashbeauty

    • Lisa

      Thank you! Downingtown isn’t far at all! Let me know if you’re ever in town and we can meet up for coffee or something! There does seem to be a lot of new interesting stuff popping up. I’m excited! I haven’t been to the Horse Inn, but I will look it up!

      • I will probably be headed that direction more once the weather “officially” starts getting a bit warmer. We’ll be sure to meet up! Seriously though, Horse inn is perfect. You’ll have to let me know how you liked it! 🙂

  • amandajclark

    This is an amazing turn of events, mostly because I’m embarking on my own “move to the burbs” adventure, and Lancaster is the ultimate. I can’t wait to hear about your house, neighborhood and new scene when I (inevitably) cross paths with you next time (!!!!) It’s happening!

    • Lisa

      Well, now I’m gonna try to lure you out to Lancaster! At brunch this weekend, one of my friends called Lancaster the Hudson of Philadelphia. I’m gonna start referring to it that way too! Let me know if/when you’re out that way. I’m excited for what’s next for you, too!!

      • amandajclark

        Will definitely let you know the next time we’re in Lancaster! It might give us a good excuse to come out for the day, so I can get Dylan to open his real estate apps 😉

        • Lisa

          Perfect! There are some seriously cute, seriously affordable places to be had!

  • Davey Rockwell

    It really does seem like the perfect evolution of your journey from rural PA to metro PA to the somewhere-in-between city. And even though it’s perfect, I could totally see you and Chad being happy anywhere. When I heard you might move somewhere overseas if you could, I thought, yeah, I can imagine that being perfect for them too. So good luck. Very excited for you two. And let me know if you need any help with work around the house or moving stuff. I will be traveling from late May to late August, but could possibly be of help sometime before or after that.

    • Lisa

      Thanks, Davey! It’s so good to hear from you. I love this idea so much — that there are several great options and none of them are wrong because they’re all perfect! It’d be great to get together and catch up when things have settled down and you’re able.

  • Congratulations!! So glad you guys made a decision you’re excited about. I just got back from a Lancaster weekend, and the downtown really is so cute. We had the best breakfast ever at a place called Gracie’s on West Main – definitely worth checking out! Hope to see you before you go, congrats again!! xx

    • Lisa

      Thanks! I’ll have to look that up.

      I should see you at The Blog Connect, if not otherwise!

  • Sarah

    Congratulations! What an exciting time, and I can definitely see why you guys choose Lancaster. Cheers to your next adventure!

    P.S. See you at the Blog Connect!

    • Lisa

      Thank you, Sarah. I’m looking forward to seeing you in a couple weeks!

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  • When Chad told me that you two were moving to Lancaster, I was pretty disappointed. And then very happy for you. And slightly jealous. I go to Elizabethtown sporadically because my boyfriend’s family is from there- and even though small towns aren’t my cup of tea, I can get behind Lancaster! It’s such a cute little city! It’s a perfect compromise between city life and the country life I know you have missed.

    Congrats and good luck in your new adventures!

    • Lisa

      Thanks, Gelsey!

  • Thank you for so candidly sharing your thoughts and reflections on this major life decision! I lived and worked in York, PA many many moons ago and truly loved the beauty of central PA. Lancaster city is so vibrant and the surroundings are gorgeous. I imagine you’ll find your new life there very nourishing.

    • Lisa

      Thank you, Tennyson!! I hope so!

  • Hey Lisa –
    Just stumbled on yours and Chad’s posts thanks to the ol’ internet. Wanted to introduce myself as both a proud Lancastrian (who will happily grab a beer and fill you guys in on all the good eats, drinks, coffee, music, etc. this city of ours has to offer) as well as member of the local tech community (to be fair, I’m actually the marketing guy at Industrial Resolution, but again I’m happy to help make introductions to our dev team as well as the TechLancaster community – as well as give you guys a tour of our new tech-working space, Pubforge). Also, as a new-ish homeowner myself, I’ve amassed a small inventory of tools and a smaller inventory of home owning know-how that I’d be happy to lend should you encounter any hurdles.

    So yeah – welcome to town! Hope your settling in is going well. Drop a line (mike AT indrez.com) if’n you’d like to catch up!

    • Lisa

      Thanks so much, Mike! We’d love to catch up. I’ll let you know when we’re finally there full time!