Our Top Five Places to Live From our Travels

After traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast in the middle states for four months, we have done our research and ranked our top places to live.   Every state/city has its pros and cons for the weather, jobs, and recreation.  Find out the rankings of our top 5 places to live from our traveling sabbatical.

Places We Visited

When we started our traveling sabbatical, we had a list of cities and states that we wanted to visit as potential places to live.  Some of the places we visited were simply places we had never been to, or we just wanted to see the place.

These are the cities we visited: Hilton Head and Greenville, South Carolina; Lynchburg and Charlottesville, Virginia; Hendersonville and Ashville, North Carolina; Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Tennessee; Huntsville, Alabama; Laurel and Madison, Mississippi; Hot Springs, Little Rock, and Fayetteville, Arkansas; Albuquerque,  Santa Fe, Silver City, and Los Alamos, New Mexico;  Tucson, Cottonwood, Sedona, Prescott, Arizona; Southern and Northern Utah; Boise, Idaho; Sandy and Corvallis, Oregon; and Reno, Nevada. 

Top 10 choices

Our Research

When we returned from out traveling sabbatical my husband researched our top 10 choices from the places above. These were 10 places that stood out in our minds as places we thought we could live.  

He researched in many categories such as weather, employment, housing prices/selection, water recreation, hiking, biking, spiritual climate, population, traffic/road conditions, Bugs/snakes/critters, crime/safety, cost of living/taxes and state/government/politics. 

My husband got most of his information from websites and our personal experience.   He looked up the weather index from Sperling’s best places and almost half of his info from that website.  It’s a good one-stop-shop place to look up information on States and Cities.

Our Top 10 Choices

The top 10 choices he researched were in no exact order but places we decided we could live.  They were Lynchburg, Virginia; Knoxville, Tennessee; Huntsville, Alabama; Hendersonville, North Carolina, Salt Lake City Area, Utah; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Prescott, Arizona; Boise, Idaho, Fayetteville, Arkansas; Reno, Nevada; and Hilo, Hawaii.

All of these 10 places have the weather we could get along with.  I have to say that Hilo got added to the top 10 because they had a dream job and it has the best weather in the world. Why not put it on the list and compare it?

Our Top 5 places to live

Top 5 Choices to Live

From those choices he ranked them all and then came up with our top 5 choices which are:

  • 1. Lynchburg, VA
  • 2.  Knoxville, TN
  • 3. Hendersonville, NC
  • 4. Prescott, AZ
  • 5/6/7/8 all tied with close numbers- Huntsville, AL; Salt Lake City, UT; Boise, ID; and Fayetteville, AR

 These mainly were chosen because they ranked higher in our primary categories such as housing prices, jobs, weather, taxes/cost of living, and recreation.   We dropped Hilo, Hawaii because it seemed impractical with a high cost of living and we would pretty much have to start over. 

Albuquerque was dropped because of the high population. We are looking for a smaller area/population which is a challenge when the jobs you are looking for are usually in larger markets.

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of the Top 5 Places to Live From our Travels

We couldn’t just pick one place and apply for jobs. Now because of COVID, the job opportunities were not as convenient.   We decided we could live in any of these 5 places. 

Finding the perfect place would be a problem unless we could just retire in that community or we were teachers or nurses.  If you are a nurse, teacher, or retired, you can pick where you want to live, considering you can afford to live in that community or cost of living is appropriate.

For example, living in Prescott, AZ would be wonderful, but our first problem would be finding a job in my husband’s Engineering field.  Most of these jobs are in bigger cities. If it works out it would be great.

Lynchburg, VA

#1 Lynchburg, Virginia

We visited this city because a friend of mine told me to tour Liberty University.  I decided that if we lived here this is where I would like to get a job.   It ranked #1 on the list for its lower housing prices, #1 for water recreation, and #1 for good traffic.  The town reminded me of a cross of Rochester, MN, and Dubuque, Iowa. 

Knoxville, TN

#2 Knoxville, Tennessee

We liked this city the best in Tennessee.  This ranked #1 for the cost of living, #1 for politics, and #1 for Biking trails.   We felt like the summer weather and winter weather was also pretty reasonable and the house prices were not bad either. We enjoyed the variety this area offered.

Hendersonville, NC

#3 Hendersonville, North Carolina

Ashville, North Carolina was also factored into this area, too, but we liked the smaller town of Hendersonville.  When we visited Hendersonville, we ran into a guy who retired there from Maple Grove, MN and said he loved the area. 

Hendersonville was ranked #1 for the population.  It was the lowest place in population which is probably why it’s more difficult to find jobs in my husbands’ field. It also ranked #1 for the lowest crime.  We liked Ashville but felt the cost of living was higher than in the smaller town.

Prescott, AZ

#4 Prescott, Arizona

If we don’t find jobs here, we would love to retire here in the future.  Prescott received many #2s on the list and that is why it ranked so high.  It boasts good weather because of its elevation and high points for recreation and a lower population. The center downtown reminded me of a Hallmark Christmas movie or like the downtown of Santa Fe, New Mexico.


#5/6/7/8 Boise, Idaho/ Huntsville, Alabama/ Fayetteville, Arkansas/ Salt Lake City, Utah

These cities were all great options and it’s not like we are ruling them out.  Who knows, we may get jobs in an area we didn’t even rank.  That’s how it goes sometimes.  

Salt Lake ranked #1 for Hiking and had many #2s.  Huntsville ranked #1 for employment, so if other places don’t pan out there are many jobs in the STEM area in this city. It also ranked #1 for the spiritual climate.   Huntsville also had many #2s. 

Boise ranked #1 for bugs, snakes, and critters, meaning a lack of them. This was nice because yuck, I am not too fond of snake states. Finally, Fayetteville ranked with many middle numbers so this is a good moderate place to live too.

13 Categories

Top 3 of Each Category

Weather: 1. Hilo, Hawaii 2. Prescott, AZ 3. Albuquerque, NM

Employment: 1. Huntsville, AL 2. Salt Lake, UT 3. Albuquerque, NM

Housing: 1. Lynchburg, VA 2. Huntsville, AL 3. Knoxville, TN

Cost of Living/taxes: 1. Knoxville, TN 2. Huntsville, AL 3. Lynchburg, VA

Water Recreation: 1. Lynchburg, VA 2. Reno, NV 3. Fayetteville, AR

Hiking: 1. Salt Lake City, UT 2. Prescott, AZ 3. Hendersonville, NC

Biking: 1. Knoxville, TN 2. Salt Lake City, UT 3. Boise, ID

Spiritual: 1. Huntsville, AL 2. Knoxville, TN 3. Fayetteville, AR

Population: 1. Hendersonville, NC 2. Prescott, AZ 3. Hilo, Hawaii

Traffic: 1. Lynchburg, VA 2. Prescott, AZ 3. Salt Lake City, UT

State/Gov/Politics: 1. Knoxville, TN 2. Huntsville, AL 3. Boise, ID

Bugs/snakes/critters: 1. Boise, ID 2. Salt Lake, UT, 3. Prescott, AZ

Crime/safety: 1. Hendersonville, NC 2. Boise, ID 3. Prescott, AZ

Options in our Top Five Places to Live

At this point, we are keeping our options open.  We would have loved to have come home from our travels and say we are moving to this place.  Not so. If we loved a place, then either the cost of living/housing was too high, the job opportunities were very low or it had a lack of recreational activities in the area.   We were open to many options but feel our options are limited in the current economy.


Our Future

My husband is applying for Engineering jobs in these Cities/States and we are waiting for interviews and the right opportunity with open doors for us to enter.  We decided that we may not have our perfect situation/location until we can retire.  Only God knows our future and what he has lined up for us.  We will continue to keep you posted on a moving update when we know.

Our perfect scenario would be to live 7 months in the South and 5 months in Minnesota on a lake.   I don’t see that happening unless I become a famous author or we retire. Retirement won’t happen for another 13 years. We can dream about our future because it’s free!

Hoping you enjoyed the process of how we came up with our top 5 places to live from our traveling sabbatical. Use this as motivation to dream and come up with your own top 5 list of places to live. Dreams have to start someplace.  


Catching Up

If you are just catching up to our story here are some blog links to help you with our traveling sabbatical we started in January 2020. We are on the other end of it now and finding a new place to move and settle. 

Here are the blog links. Planning and packing for our Traveling Sabbatical.  The first 25 days. Days 26-60. Days 91-120- the end.  Days 61-90.  Counting it up- Stats of our travels.

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Our Top 5 places to live