Retirement Country vs City Living

The morning after I retired, we loaded up the car and left a big city in a cold, clammy, icy Eastern state and drove 2,000 miles to a small Western city on the edge of a hot, dry desert. That was a good first move, but we weren’t quite sure if it would be our final choice. We rented an apartment near a golf course for a year while we looked around for the best place to put down permanent retirement roots.

At first I favored the beautiful city of San Diego, which I remembered fondly from my Navy days. I was definitely leaning toward retiring in the growing city by the sea. We drove there, waded into the surf, visited the world-famous zoo, walked along the beach at night, caught bad colds, got caught in a freeway commuter jam and drove back to our desert apartment the next day.

Our next where-do-we-retire venture was to Las Vegas, which lured us with its bright lights, world-class entertainment and fine dining. What made it attractive, other than the gambling, was that most of the activities we enjoyed took place within just a couple of blocks on Las Vegas Boulevard, the famous Strip. I also remembered Vegas happily from a visit when I left the Navy after the Korean War and was treated to a free week there, courtesy of a friend who worked at the then brand-new Sands Hotel. However, when we roamed the city almost 50 years later, we found it too crowded, too noisy, too much of a sucker trap and way overpriced. It seemed the Mafia did a better job there in the 50s than the corporate suits did in the 90s.

So, back in our desert apartment, we had to make up our minds. Did we want to spend our retirement in the country or in the city. We pondered, and then made our decision. We did both. We bought a house in the country, at the foot of a beautiful mountain range, within a couple of hundred short steps to the entrance of the Saguaro National Forest. Our front windows give beautiful views of the mountains, and our back yard looks out on limitless growths of saguaros, prickly-pear cactus, ocatillos and teddy-bear chollas, along with some wandering coyotes, roadrunners and wildcats.

Did I mention that the city, which in the 15 years we’ve lived in the area, has grown to a population of nearly a million? It is just a short ten-minute ride to hospitals, theaters, restaurants, supermarkets and a major university. We believe we’ve made the perfect choice to live in the country, but are able to keep the city just a short arm’s length away.