Where Will We Settle After Saying Goodbye to the Army?

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Yesterday I booked an Airbnb for a little family getaway over Veterans Day weekend. Now that our children are older and active in sports, scouts, and school-related activities, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sneak away for a weekend. Add in Clay’s unpredictable schedule and the art of planning a simple weekend retreat rivals a Renaissance masterpiece. We recognize that we’re simply in the season of our life together where the kids’ schedules reign supreme when it comes to planning. And from what our predecessors have told us – it will feel like both the longest and the shortest season yet. Clay and I have been thinking a lot about our long-term goals and where we see ourselves (both professionally and location-wise) in ten years. And now that we’re likely on the downhill slide of Clay’s Army career, we’re often asked by others and ourselves, “Where do you think you’ll end up when this is all over?

While Clay still has about six years until the earliest he can retire from active duty, the idea of retirement no longer feels like a nebulous concept reserved for those older and higher ranking. You know – those who watched the first season of The Real World in real time or identified more with Pretty in Pink than Can’t Hardly Wait. When talking with our fellow downhill-sliders about what’s next, phrases like ‘forever home‘ and ‘military retirement state tax‘ and ‘lucrative job offer‘ are tossed around with ease. I admit that I am tad jealous of my peers who have a definitive idea of where they want to end up. Some want to go back to their hometown or state, others want to go back to their favorite duty station, and a few want to go to a place they have only visited or dreamed about. Meanwhile – Clay and I are like “Uhhhh….not sure. Maybe somewhere with snow?”

That’s not to say that we’re completely lost when it comes to our next chapter. We have learned over the years that flexibility is a large piece of the success pie so like most other areas in our life, we are determined to keep an open mind and not close ourselves off to opportunities that may not even be on our radar yet. A lot of where we end up next is dependent on how old the kids will be when Clay retires. Will we have to factor high school into our decision? Or will they both be off at college when that time arrives? To be honest, I am not sure how much we will factor jobs into our choice. One of the biggest perks of military retirement is that we’ll have a safety net to pursue careers with lower pay but fill our cups in a way that’ll make us feel beyond rich. I’d like to think that we won’t be motivated by money so much that we choose to live in an area we’re not crazy about because of a higher paycheck. That is not exactly how I envision spending the next season.

Okay – so where do we think we’ll end up? Here are a handful of locations we’ve discussed as possible post-Army places to call home…

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Washington DC area. We have been stationed in the Washington DC area twice thus far so it arguably feels the most like home than any other place we’ve lived since embarking on this crazy journey together. Ideally, we’d live closer to the district and not have to worry about school ratings. I’d love a little townhouse in Old Town Alexandria or a condo in Foggy Bottom. I hope wherever we end up, it is in a walkable community. I hate being chained to a car so living in a city or a walkable small town appeals to me so much more than living on multiple acres in the country.

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Maine. A little seaside village or a quaint lake town in Maine sounds pretty darn nice right now. Portland would suffice as would Augusta. The winters would be white and the summers absolutely gorgeous. Clay spent his childhood summers vacationing in Maine and would happily sit beside me on the porch of our shake-shingle cottage. We had such a great trip to Maine last time we were stationed here and looking forward to going back again someday…maybe for good – who knows?

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Northern Arizona. Growing up in Phoenix, I spent a fair amount of time in northern Arizona. When visiting the Grand Canyon during our Spring Break adventure, we commented on how much we love Flagstaff and the surrounding area. Living in a high desert with four seasons totally appeals to us and the art and food scene sounds right up our alley.

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Michigan. The world is divided into two camps. Those who are aware that Lake Michigan has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world and those who have yet to visit the wonder of pure Michigan. Both of my parents are from Michigan and I was born there so I spent many summers vacationing in Glen Arbor and consider myself well-versed in the landscape of the Leelanau Peninsula. Clay loves it just as much as I do and we could totally see ourselves living there someday.

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Colorado. Our time in Colorado has been limited to brief visits but we’ve loved every single second of our time in the Centennial State. We hope to be stationed there someday – if anything to prove that we could totally call Colorado home.

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New York City. While I don’t necessarily see us calling New York City home for the long haul, we both would like to live there for a few years. For as much as I love the outdoors and mountains, there is an energy I get from being in a bustling city that is absolutely intoxicating. As a kid, I always pictured myself living in New York City. And because life has a funny way of working out, I may end up doing so – I’ll just be in my late forties instead of my early twenties!

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St. John, US Virgin Islands. The other week, Clay and I watched a family search for a home in Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI on Beach Hunters. Clay and I fell hard during our visit to St. John four years ago and we’ve dreamed about living there ever since. St. John is definitely the most ‘pipe-dream’ of locations to live post-Army but we refuse to rule it out. Although – just like the family we watched on Beach Hunters, we may be priced out of St. John and have to settle for St. Thomas. Oh darn. Poor us.

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Only time will tell where we end up. Maybe it will be somewhere on this list or maybe in the next few years we will discover a place that feels more like home than any place has ever before. Or perhaps we may choose not to settle anywhere and travel the world a’la Gone with the Wynns until we feel the urge to put down roots.

Do you currently live in your forever place? If not, where do you see yourself long-term? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

15 comments on “Where Will We Settle After Saying Goodbye to the Army?”

  1. I grew up always coming back to NoVa, and I imagine we’ll do the same with our kids. The cost of living and housing is eye-watering, but there are so many great state school options for when college rolls around. I love your idea of NYC for at least a year or two, that’s definitely high on my list of “if I could go anywhere” places, as is near a beach and Europe. I’m not sure where we’ll wind up, we’re civilians so retirement is still a ways off, unless I make millions blogging 😂

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    1. It doesn’t bother me that we don’t have a clear idea of where we will end up yet because half the fun of life is the unpredictability! How boring would it be if we have our lives mapped out in our 30s? You never know…you may end up making millions! 🙂

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  2. Michigan really is such a beautiful place! My Dad was born and raised there and we always loved visiting my grandparents during the summer. We have talked about a few locations for post Army life but it’s so hard to really decide.

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  3. Now I want to visit Lake Michigan! And Maine. You’ve got some great choices for sure. Nick and I have this convo often. While both of our families still live in Houston, we have no desire or pull to retire there. We had no idea where we would end up (and I was a little concerned we would end up back in TX by default) until we came to CO. I think we now know, even though we may still be in the honeymoon phase. I could go on and on about the pros of living here. We are very, very happy as a family and I feel like a different person with a different mindset than before we moved here. Hard to explain, but CO brings out the best in me. However, I can also see myself living the rest of my life in a quaint, modern home in Arlington, VA, probably because we’ve spent so much time (7 years!) in NOVA and it feels a little like home.

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    1. Based on your pictures, it is totally obvious that Colorado suits you. While I do love NOVA, I am not crazy about the competitive nature that is rampant throughout the high schools and sports so I’m not sure if the kids attending high school here would be our top choice. It’s a good thing that we have some time to decide, I suppose. 🙂

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  4. I’m very partial to the east coast so if I was picking off this I’d say Maine or DC area by far. Those are both areas we’ve talked about! Maine is so gorgeous and it’s near all my family is MA.

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  5. Those are all such fabulous ideas for the future! I’ve never been to Maine, and it’s always intrigued me. I would absolutely love to be on an island, though, so St. John’s seems like a great place to retire or at least visit. We have a LONG time before retirement comes, but it is still so much fun to talk about and dream.

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    1. St. John and St. Thomas is up there as one of our favorite vacations ever. We flew around St. Thomas and spent 5 days exploring every square inch of the two islands. The Virgin Islands National Park on St. John provided some of the best hiking we’ve experienced in the world. 🙂

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  6. Being an Army brat, turned Army wife, I don’t call any particular place “home.” The closest I have felt to the “proverbial” home has been Hawaii, and I like to tell people I left my heart in Hawaii. However, we doubt we will go back as our forever home.

    Unfortunately, I dread ending up back in the D.C. area, but that may be a distinct possibility upon my husband’s retirement – we are about 5 years from that decision.

    Choices, choices…

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    1. It’s so funny how some people dread DC and others love it. I get it though – we would not be thrilled with orders back to San Antonio but we know so many people who absolutely love it and want to retire there.

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  7. This is a great list! While my hubby still has some time left, I can’t help but think where we’ll end up. We’re both from Michigan and I love Lake MI. I’m thinking the Mitten is calling you home. 😉

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