Telling people where they should live is surprisingly hard.

Recently, a reader named Andy reached out after he finished If You Could Live Anywhere. He and his partner are considering returning to the United States after years living overseas (in the Swiss Alps!). Except they have no idea where they want to move, and he wrote to me for suggestions.

Here’s their fairly bare-bones wish list:

  • They want to be in a neighborhood with restaurants and breweries.

  • They want to be less than 20 minutes from a trail network where they can ride their bikes or hike.

  • They don’t want to be in a big city.

It’s shocking how underqualified I am to be any sort of expert on place. I told Andy to check out Roanoke, Virginia, and Asheville, North Carolina, both decently close to my home in Blacksburg, Virginia . . . and then the limits of my own experience of geography became embarrassingly clear.

So help a guy out. What cool, restaurant-laden, close-to-trails towns and small cities should Andy look at? Email your ideas to me at I’ll let Andy know—and share the answers in my next newsletter.

P.S.—If you’ve read If You Could Live Anywhere too, I’d be grateful if you left an Amazon or Goodreads review. I won’t even make you promise to keep it to five stars.

7 items of interest

  1. What if you lived where the sun didn’t rise in your town for months? And you were happy anyway?

  2. Much has been written about cities offering incentives so people will move there (ahem, MakeMyMove, ahem). Now cities like Tokyo are offering incentives to move away.

  3. “Neighborhoods have the potential to locally respond to the global problems of climate change.” How place attachment fuels climate action.

  4. Does Margaritaville, the Jimmy Buffet-themed development in Florida, appeal as a retirement destination? Or is it your worst nightmare? (Don’t dismiss it too quickly. They have golf carts, my dream transportation of the future.)

  5. Placemaking to fix potholes. I know a street I need this guy to visit.

  6. Geography and upward mobility: a surprising story with data visualization.

  7. Lived/stayed/visited/passed through. Play this game about where you’ve spent time in America and see how many points you get. (I got 202.)

xoxo, Melody

P.S.—As always, random bonus material for reading this far: Movies as vintage books. Is it time to write your stories about place? Toronto before and after. I was marginally interested in tennis till I watched this and now I’m looking up Australian Open stats. Have you heard how Nick Cave is the new Dear Abby? The world’s most wholesome dance videos. Had extra blueberries, made this, can recommend. A favorite recent read about long-distance walking and autism. Making my foodie bucket list now. This made me genuinely LOL.