Retire in Portland

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Meet Wendy

Want to know what it's like to retire in Portland?

I am a 5th-generation, covered-wagon Oregonian.  I started on a dairy farm south of Portland but left the area as a child, living in Washington, California, Germany, and Chicago.  My husband Tom is from rural North Carolina, and we met when he was in grad school in California.  He is a physicist, and has worked in technology his whole career.  I worked in university education and then corporate philanthropy for 25 years.

So Wendy, what about Portland initially appealed to you?

We live on the urban/rural boundary, a foot in both worlds - deer and coyote wandering through our yard, a five minute drive to the nearest award-winning winery, 20 minutes to the center of Portland, 70 minutes to the Pacific Ocean, 90 minutes to Mt. Hood.  We both love the City of Portland - it is just the right size to be human-centered and yet big enough to encompass everything you could want or need.  It is a fascinating and delightful place: quirky, unique, earnest, charming, and quite lovely.  We moved here from Chicago and one of the things I was really taken by was the accessibility of Oregon and its cities politically - unlike the massive machine politics of Chicago and Illinois, Oregon is a place where ordinary people can have a voice and make a difference.  After 6 years in Chicago with its winters and summers (I won't call them brutal, but we survived the coldest, the snowiest, and the hottest years on record while we were there...) Oregon's mild climate was VERY appealing.

What is an aspect of the area that you, or other retirees may dislike?

The thing that drives a lot of people crazy is the rain and the gray skies of the winter.  The total rainfall is only about the same as New York or a lot of other cities around the country, but it is spread out over a lot more time.  Seattle has a lot more gray days and hours, but the lack of sunshine can really weigh a lot of people down.  But that's good.  Otherwise EVERYONE would want to live here... ;-)  Also, Portland has tremendous ethnic diversity in the sense of its international and immigrant communities and populations, but the African-American population is quite small.  I am happy to say that the communities of color have grown since we moved here from Chicago, but boy was it a shocking lack of diversity when we first arrived!

What is an aspect of your daily life in the area that you weren't expecting before you moved?

When we lived in Chicago we really enjoyed the entertaining and potluck dinners and casual dinner parties that were so much a part of the culture.  When we got to Oregon we found that NO ONE entertained in their homes aside from the occasional backyard barbeque.  We decided that everyone was so attuned to the weather that they didn't want to take a chance on tying themselves down to being indoors if the sun decided to come out, so they just didn't make plans to stay inside.  If you wanted to make plans for a hike, to go to the beach, to go boating, or anything outdoors, they were all over it!  Once we got the rhythm of things, we were OK.

If you ever left Portland, what would you miss the most?

Well we never would and never will leave, so that won't be a problem, will it??  I had been away for 30 years when we moved here and Tom hadn't ever been here, but as soon as we arrived, we both heaved a great sigh and said, "This  is home.  Who knew."

What advice would you have for people moving to this community?

Get out and explore - there is so much to see and do and enjoy no matter what age you are or what your tastes might be.  If lack of sunshine is an issue for you, deal with it head on: Get a sun lamp of some kind, they really do work; Spend as much time in the daylight as you can.  Oh, and I didn't even mention that Portland has the best restaurant scene of any city in the US, the best airport in the US, and the best bookstore in the world.  And Portland is a city of neighborhoods - each one has its own character and unique shops and restaurants and architecture and gardens.

For more information ...

... check out Wendy's day in the life.

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