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.