The Simple Life

The Simple Life-words that give us a lot to think about as we consider how and where we may want to spend the rest of our days. In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote of his two-year experiment with living in a woodland cabin, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

While reading various articles, magazines etc I came across this very interesting take on places where living the simple life is an everyday thing. More than 300 metropolitan areas in the U.S. were screened for characteristics including stable home values, low unemployment and cost of living, minimal traffic congestion, availability of cultural activities, outdoor recreation opportunities, and more-17 traits in all that contribute to a no-hassle, low-key lifestyle. After much research here are the top 5 places that live the simple life.

Tucson, Arizona

Vibe: Latin culture embraces Native American spirit, cowboy grit, and Sunbelt growth
Population: 525,500
Median housing price: $155,500
Average commute: 24 minutes
Average number of sunny days: 286 per year
Most relaxing way to spend an afternoon: Enjoying the cool breezes and plentiful hiking in the Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of town
Simple fun for less than $10: Drinking a beer at the Hotel Congress, where famous criminal John Dillinger was nabbed back in 1934
Who knew?: The saguaro cacti that grow all over Tucson have an average life span of 150 years.

It’s hard to pin down residents on what exactly is so mesmerizing about this desert town, just an hour north of the Mexican border. Maybe it’s the beautiful wilderness that rings the city, including about 1.8 million acres of the Coronado National Forest, with its 12 different mountain ranges. Or maybe it’s the sweet smell of pan dulce that drifts from the Mexican bakeries. Or maybe it’s the unique way the city’s Mexican, Native American, and frontier roots have mingled to create a mosaic all its own.

Greenville, South Carolina

Vibe: Family-friendly fun, from “penny candy” to goat-cheese pizza
Population: 59,000
Median housing price: $151,080
Average commute: 19 minutes
Average number of sunny days: 220 per year
Most relaxing way to spend an afternoon: Hiking the pristine mountain woodlands of Jones Gap State Park, just 25 miles outside Greenville
Simple fun for less than $10: Grabbing a cup of coffee or an ice-cream cone at Spill the Beans
Who knew?: Home to companies such as Fluor, BMW, and Michelin, the Greenville area claims one of the highest international-investment-per-capita levels in the nation.

Back in the late 1960s downtown Greenville was withering away, suffering the same fate that wiped out thousands of Main Streets. Now, thanks to 30 years of redevelopment-including a pedestrian-friendly Main Street, a performing arts center, condos, and the stunning Liberty Bridge-what was once a desolate stretch of offices is now a vibrant town center. The genius of Greenville’s reinvention isn’t just its downtown, though, but the way the city’s center is linked to surrounding neighborhoods. Wide, walkable sidewalks make it an easy stroll for many residents, and the city has converted an abandoned rail line into a multiuse trail, linking neighborhoods, parks, and downtown.

Montpelier, Vermont

Vibe: Norman Rockwell, with a twist of politics
Population: 7,800
Median housing price: $159,060
Average commute: 22 minutes
Average number of sunny days: 157 per year
Most relaxing way to spend an afternoon: World-class skiing less than an hour away, at Stowe Simple fun for less than $10: Sampling a pastry at La Brioche Bakery & Café
Who knew?: Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald’s restaurant.

It may be the smallest capital city in the United States-one local official affectionately refers to the intersection of Main Street, home to City Hall, and State Street, with the capitol, as “the corner of ‘Walk’ and ‘Don’t Walk’ “-but there’s plenty to do in Montpelier. First, there’s politics, the local sport, as residents keep track of what’s going on in the legislature. (Insiders say Democrats tend to get their coffee at Capitol Grounds Café, while Republicans favor the Coffee Corner.) Then there’s the city’s active arts scene (locals say the town’s relaxed pace and eclectic crowd fuel creativity). And music festivals abound.

Logan, Utah

Vibe: Pastoral with mountain escapes
Population: 48,000
Median housing price: $143,860
Average commute: 16 minutes
Average number of sunny days: 219 per year
Most relaxing way to spend an afternoon: Wandering among the wildflowers on Riverside Trail in the Logan Valley
Simple fun for less than $10: Heading to the Caffé Ibis, a tiny roasting house, and savoring a custom-blended coffee
Who knew?: Travel writers call Logan’s Bear Lake the Caribbean of the Rockies, because of its bright turquoise color and white-sand beaches.

While Utah usually conjures up pictures of desert and rock, Logan is nestled in the heart of the green Cache Valley, a famous dairy region. It’s never lost its rural Utah appeal, with its old-fashioned Mormon Tabernacle and ultraclean city square. But however much residents may love the town, they are quick to admit they’re here mainly for the view.

Ames, Iowa

Vibe: Wholesome Americana
Population: 55,000
Median housing price: $159,270
Average commute: 17 minutes
Average number of sunny days: 202 per year
Most relaxing way to spend an afternoon: Paddling a canoe in Ada Hayden Heritage Park, where you may spot-besides hundreds of common birds-a short-eared owl or a summer tanager
Simple fun for less than $10: Touring Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University, where $7 ($6 for seniors) buys access to award-winning rose gardens and more
Who knew?: It recently ranked as the sixth-smartest city in the United States.

Ames is a gracious town-with broad lawns, leafy neighborhoods, pretty parks and ponds-and its distinctly rural flavor is the key to its urban charm. With its thrice-weekly farmers’ markets, paddling options on the Skunk River, and 55 miles of city-maintained trails for avid bikers, runners, and walkers, Ames is a place for people who like wide-open spaces.

And thank you for making me Your Orange County Real Estate Connection.

Best regards,

Michael Caruso, Broker ABR ABRM CRB CRS GREEN GRI

2007 President, Orange County Association of Realtors (949) 753-7900


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