Getting Away

Now that the kids are moved out, graduated, and on their own, my wife and I have an empty nest.  My friend Joanne Wilson has written about what to do with an empty nest.  She and her husband leave the cold of NYC and go to LA. I have never been a big fan of cold weather despite growing up in Chicago.  Locals say it makes you tough, but I detest it.  In my first job with 3M, they asked us where we wanted to get a sales territory and I said, California or the South.  I wound up in Chicago, and then traded here because that’s where you go to trade.

Yesterday a couple of people told me they heard I was leaving Chicago for good.  That’s not true.  But I can foresee a day when I am not here January through March.

Life is sort of weird.  When you are single there are few restrictions.  You can go anywhere.  Then, you find a partner and you have to work with them to decide how to live your life.  If you have kids, you have the responsibility of them.  Once they are gone, it’s back to deciding with your partner what to do.   Technology gives us the flexibility to be able to design our lives a lot of different ways.

My wife and I went to Newport Beach last year.  It was nice.  We have a lot of friends there and it was great to walk in shorts on the sand.  If I could pick one place to live in the US it would probably be somewhere in California.  Except I hate the cost of living and taxes.  The weather is pretty amazing though.  We thought about going there again this year.  Instead, we had to get something out of our system.   We decided to rent a place for a few weeks in Austin, Texas.

We have a fair amount of friends in Austin too.  We have some people in San Antonio and Dallas that we will see for sure too.  One friend of mine is working on a startup in Austin that will revolutionize education as we know it. I am anxious to get face to face with him and learn from him about what he is doing.  Another friend you might know as The Big Red Car.  Can’t wait to get a ride in the car to a breakfast or BBQ joint.  Jeff said he cleared the border for me.  We will be driving through Oklahoma.

We have heard a lot of buzz about Austin, and decided to go check it out for ourselves.  One buddy of mine said we wouldn’t like it because it was Texas.  We are Midwesterners, so it will be interesting to see the difference in culture.  Because we are empty nesters now, we get the chance to try on different cities to see what it’s like.

I first got this idea from my friend Phil Satre.  He and his wife go to a different city every year and spend a significant amount of time there.  When you do that, you get to meet the people and see the city.  You get to really know what it’s like. It also doesn’t limit you.  You can go anywhere in the world for a few weeks, or a couple of months.  Because my wife and I can work from anywhere with an internet connection, it opens up a lot of possibilities.  The one advantage Austin does have is same time zone.

My wife and I are not Florida people.  We have family and a lot of friends moving there.  I am definitely not a boater.  I don’t play tennis, but I do like to golf.  We have done the Florida thing since we were married.  Because of family and friends, there is certainly a pull there but going there feels like I am packing it in.

My wife is going to SXSW.  I am going to my friend Moshe Tammsot’s Conclave.  He organizes a “Monks of Invention“.  I might head out to SXSW too for a day, but it looks so big I don’t know where to start.  If there is someone in Austin I should meet, or something I should absolutely do, let me know in the comments.



  • JLM

    You are not “getting away” — You are ESCAPING to the rest of your life.

    Texas, it’s a whole ‘nother thing!

    Got you cleared for entry. Don’t forget your hat and boots.

    Be 80F today.

    Oh, yeah, SUNSCREEN!


  • Dan Kunze

    I will be in Austin on business next week. Hope to get some good impressions. As far as empty nesting, I have about another 8 years before that happens. I have been working my butt into the ground for 26 years and have, I think another 15 to go before I sell my business and start spending some serious time in Cayman.

    • Ha. My partner in crime is in the Cayman’s right now as we speak.

      • Dan Kunze

        Lucky! The weather there is always 80-85 for a high it is sick. I could get used to it.

  • Seph

    Texas BBQ is the best in the world. Way back when, I took a long road trip with my father through Texas. Our only other companion was the 1997 BBQ review from Texas Monthly. My one distinct memory from the trip was eating epic BBQ every single day.

    Looks like the top 50 has an update since then. If you find one along your route south, it should be well worth the detour. Once you get to Austin, I’m sure that BRC and The Boss will have you covered with choice local spots. Enjoy.

    • I am anxious to try it. @JLM took me to a place the one time I was in Austin. County Line BBQ I think. Looking at the hills was beautiful and the BBQ was pretty good. My favorite is The Germantown Commissary in Memphis, Tennessee. Jack’s Stacks in KC is very good as well. When my daughter went to Davidson, I got to experience some Lexington BBQ in NC, but never found a favorite spot.

  • Ben Wong

    I am a few years away from being empty nesters, so this same topic has been on my mind lately. Like you, my wife and I hate the cold (despite both of us grew up in Wisconsin). We kept asking ourselves on and off how we kept ending up in the north. I felt the same way as you – not Florida people, California’s costs of living is too high. I have been meaning to check out Austin, Seattle, and Portland. Love to hear updates of where you end up!

    • Seattle is a great place. But, it’s a long way from Chicago and as long as my kids stay in Chicago I want to be relatively close. I can hop on a plane from Austin, or do a 2 day drive.

  • Chip Barnett

    Hey Jeff – you and I sat on a couple of Booth personal finance panels about 5 years ago. I moved from Chicago to Austin about 4 years ago and love it here. The business climate, culture, food and music were all easy transitions, and more food and music are added every day. You may want access to a pool from May thru September. I’ve got a few years before empty nesting, but we’re staying put once we get there…

    • We should meet for a beer

      • Chip Barnett

        Let me know next time you’re in town. I know a place or two.