Monday, July 22, 2013

World traveller makes Traverse City home - Guest Blogger - Sakura Raftery

Who wants to live in Traverse City? I didn't know it was me!

On my first flight to Traverse City, MI to meet my future husband’s family, I blurted out, “I’ve never been to the middle!”  Aside from a one-week cross country voyage to New York City for business school and countless layovers at Chicago O’Hare Airport, touching down in the Midwest was a first for me. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, I spent most of my adult life in Boston, New York City and San Francisco. Between that and two passports full of travel across the globe, little did I know that one of the great gems of our country sat in a nook of a giant mit.

Fast forward four years, two kids, and a Great Recession. My husband and I questioned all the reasons why we choose to live in San Francisco, threw out that plan and packed for Traverse City to make a pit stop before our next move. The prospect of leaving city life was absolutely terrifying for me. All the unknowns about rebuilding a community of friends, job prospects, childcare and staying connected to the world converged at once.

The unmistakeable tacos from Roaming Harvest!!!

What I found when we got here was a community on the verge of exploding with creative, young, talented people who wanted to make it the best possible place to live. My husband’s friends from other big cities were moving back, building families and getting creative with their professional careers. From great child care, cost of living, food and wine, a community of friends and family, to the accessibility of outdoor recreation, the reality of living in Traverse City far exceeded my expectations and we decided to stay.

There were three critical elements to making an unplanned move to Traverse City successful for me:

1.     Think about your long-term professional skill set—plan accordingly. Early in my career in corporate finance, I knew that it was just the beginning of the road for me. 6 years into a successful but unsatisfying career on Wall Street, I re-tooled for a career in non-profits by going back to business school and luckily landed a great job at Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan. Staying on top of developing skills only enhances your job prospects as industries change.

2.     Get outside of your comfort zone, often. Part of my personality is driven by seeking different cultures and lifestyles. Every place is a new adventure and mentally preparing yourself to embrace change makes drastic moves fun!

3.     Focus on what is here, not what isn’t. People often ask me, “Do you miss the city?” and truthfully, not really. Yes, having hundreds of restaurants and cultural events on a given night is exciting, but it comes with a lot of strings attached: pollution, high prices, small apartments, crime. Northern Michigan balances big city amenities with the peace of living Up North. Living in TC doesn’t mean you can’t still visit the city every now and then!

Sakura Raftery