Larry Preston

Champion of Endless Optimization (CEO) at Digital Opera & Raceday. Happy stoic, aspirational minimalist, recovered big hair 80’s rock star. Author of “Star Fire Kids – Midnight Blue Express”.

The Move to Arizona

Over a decade ago, I made my mind up to leave Minnesota. But the question was, where?

Building online businesses and the way I have developed my own means that I don’t have to be in any particular place. I had not done an in-person meeting since 2014, and even that one wasn’t necessary. So I started traveling a lot to see if I really could work from anywhere. I did it so much so that the first question I usually get when anyone called me was, “What state are you in now?”

As much as I love a lot of great people in Minnesota, the fact was that I was not enjoying the almost constant cloud cover, the freezing temperatures from November through May, then the mosquitos & humidity in the summer. The net result is I was inside with the windows closed almost all the time. I wouldn’t say I liked it, and I don’t think it was good for my health.

So, where do I go? The world is a huge place, and with infinite possibilities, I had to limit them. Stayin’ in the U.S. was an obvious choice, then I took a look at where I had already been.

Virginia was home for a bit, and I had been to most states on the East Coast and was able to rule all of them out very quickly, just due to how crowded it is.

Los Angeles was home long enough to experience the fires, a flood, the Rodney King riots, the Northridge earthquake, and the insane taxes and regulations. I had also been to San Francisco and San Diego for extended stays and didn’t find much to love, except the weather. California was out.

I’d been to Washington state enough to know it was too cold too often, ditto Montana and Wisconsin, and basically the entire upper Midwest.

Denver was home in the 90s for a while, and I loved it there. On a 2011 vacation, I suddenly had a newfound love for the mountains and hiking. I moved there and started looking for a house shortly thereafter. I love Colorado and always will. But despite having the best real estate help possible to find a place in Colorado, I never saw anything in a house I loved.

By this time, I had developed a solid idea in my head of what the ideal house would be: One level, an impressive office space, master bed and bath on one side, guest quarters on the other, a great room, and a large kitchen, with a large garage, plus lots of space to live outdoors as much as possible. We didn’t find anything like that. I also looked heavily into building a new home and even had a house designed, but the only land I could find was way too far out and may not have acceptable internet access.

During my travels, I rented out my house in Minnesota. It really didn’t take long for me to realize I do not dig being a landlord. I was also finding Colorado be colder than I would have imagined. So after my renter’s lease was up on my Minnesota house, I decided to move back and re-evaluate where I wanted to go.

By now, I had decided on the south or southwestern part of America. But where exactly? I started doing a lot of research on average temperatures, elevation, days of sunshine, things to do, and places to explore in California (perhaps, I thought, the smaller towns were better?), New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Those were the only states that had the temperatures and the best possibilities for being outdoors most of the time.

I created spreadsheets, charts, graphs and read so many web pages, blogs, and books that I thought my eyes would start bleeding. I watched tons of YouTube videos, and for a long time, I contemplated the RV lifestyle. I dug deep into the various real estate markets and figuring out how to pick neighborhoods. I looked at taxes (both personal and business), the overall business climate, and any other conceivable attribute of a particular region.

After ruling out the RV, I started dreaming of that one-level house again. With at least one acre so, I’m not too close to the neighbors, but not so far away that I’m in the middle of nowhere. But where to put it?

The spreadsheets and full boat analysis of America were helpful, but nothing beats experiencing a place first hand. I started taking trips to really check out some areas. I timed the trips with business tasks I needed to do, and I scheduled my time to explore. After analyzing all the available information, I decided to limit the search trips to southwestern Colorado, Southern Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. I spent time in St. George, Utah, Salt Lake City, Los Vegas, Reno, Telluride, and Vail. I also made a point to visit smaller communities around those.

My last trip was a hail mary to avoid being in Minnesota during the winter of 2019-2020. I rented an apartment in Phonix’s very northeastern corner for three months, winterized my Minnesota home, and I was on my way.

My first surprise in Arizona was how much of it has mountains, and I love mountains. These are no Colorado Rockies, mind you, but they are great to look at and create dramatic sunsets and sunrises. Also, the desert in the valley is far greener than I ever imagined. The best part? It was sunny and 70 degrees every single day of December, January, and February. I got in a good walk every day and got a decent hike up to a couple of times a week.

The biggest surprise was how many people I know either had property in Arizona or come down every winter. Dozens of them – from business owners to snowmobile friends, high-school & college peeps, business associates, developers, neighbors from Minnesota… it was crazy how many people I knew in Arizona that I had no idea had property Arizona or lived there now. This was a huge perk of Arizona. I won’t be starting from scratch in developing a social network.

It really didn’t take long, and I was hooked – I love the desert air, the desert itself, and the big open sky. I love being outside as much as I possibly can, and you can darn near live outside all the time in the valleys in Arizona.

So I started to look for houses. Once again, I got lucky and found another of the best real estate agents ever.  Jessica came recommended by one of my nephews, and she was spectacular. One house stood almost identical to the one I had designed when I was considering building in Colorado. I snagged it up and moved as quickly as I could.

I’ve been in the house now for almost three months, and I have a long way to go in decorating it, creating that outdoor living space, and making it mine. But I’m up every morning at the crack of dawn to watch the sun come up over the mountains while I take a long walk. I’m slowly getting to know the neighbors. I can finally drive to most of the common places without the aid of Apple Maps on my phone. I’ve begun to do some weekend hikes and exploring.

I got here in August, and it was hot – like 117 degrees hot. But you know what? I didn’t mind it that much. Sure, you need oven mitts when you get in the car after parking it in front of the grocery store, but everything is air-conditioned, and if it gets horrible, I can be at a much higher elevation in about an hour. For me, that is much better than being cold.

All is well, and right now, it feels like I’m here for the long haul.

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