Living in Portland Oregon: The Pros and Cons

Our year in Portland is up! After getting back from Kyrgyzstan last week, we hit the ground running. With less than a week left, we packed our things, moved it over to our cousins’ place temporarily, and now, we’re in Miami speaking at Blogalicious (a blogging conference). Once we get back, we’ll take what we can in our sedan, drive to Atlanta to spend time with family and friends, and then explore NYC for the next year.

For the past 4 years, we’ve explored a new city every year, and moving to each city has felt a little like dating. So far the cities we’ve explored were LA, Vegas, San Diego, and Portland.

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Last Updated: June 2, 2020

The Pros & Cons of Living in Portland Oregon

Each city had its share of pros and cons. Ultimately, though, we haven’t felt like we could settle down with any of these cities. Maybe we’re commitment-phobes and afraid to lay down deep roots in one place. Or maybe we just want to pave our own path that just might not look like everyone else’s. I can’t decide, so I’ll say 50/50.

We’ve been keeping ourselves so busy that I don’t think we’ve had much time to process our move. Not that I’m great at processing breakups or any sort of loss. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I’ve processed moving away from Atlanta over 4 years ago.

Anyhow, I digress. All that to say, it always feels bittersweet to leave because there will always be parts of each city that made our stay worthwhile but also parts that made it a living hell. Let’s start with the negatives and end on a positive note. ;)

The Cons of Living in Portland Oregon

1. The Rain and the Snow Storms

This is the biggest con and negates any of the positives for us. Maybe we’re weaksauce, but we couldn’t handle it. I used to love rain… back when we lived in Atlanta and rain wasn’t the norm. After experiencing a year where I forgot what the sun looked like and several snowstorms that shut down the city, I’m okay with being a visitor during the summer.

Keep in mind this year was apparently not a normal year. I’ve heard a few people say it was the wettest or second wettest winter since the weather has been recorded. Others have said it was the worst they’ve seen in over a decade. Either way, the stats are not good. Take a look below:

2. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a Real Thing

It’s one thing to find rain annoying, but I already knew I would be in for it when it came to the year-round gloomy weather. It was more surprising to find that Jacob, who is very even-keeled, started feeling lethargic on the daily. No wonder they have a huge coffee culture here.

You really need your uppers. And your Vitamin D. And your sunlamps. I managed just fine with Vitamin D and a healthy dose of anti-depressants. ;) If you can get past these two first, you have a shot at surviving and possibly loving it here.

3. The Heat, No A/C, and Fires

It’s not supposed to get that hot in Portland they said. The buildings, therefore, don’t need AC they said. Well, this year, the AC would have come in very handy. Climate change is real, ya’ll. It was one of the wettest rainy seasons and also one of the driest, hottest summers.

That also led to some of the worst fires Oregon has ever seen. There were weeks they said the air quality was worse than Mexico City. We saw ashes flying around the city and it was eerie.

4. Driving and the Drivers

Portland has one of the slowest paced driving out of anywhere we’ve been. Now that we’re so accustomed to it, when we drive in another city, it feels like people are going super fast. I guess it’s really nice that drivers here yield to bikers and pedestrians, but it’s also stressful as a driver.

Portland roads also make no sense. Sometimes just to get to a spot that should be a mile away, it takes 20 minutes because you have to go all the way around. The roads are also very narrow and there are blind turns everywhere.

I’ve been told the city planner had no intention to build it for drivers. It was built for walking. I don’t know if that’s true, but when you’re driving around Portland, it feels like it.

5. The Food is Not That Good

It’s a self-proclaimed foodie town. I suppose we should cut it some slack because it’s not a major city like NYC or SF or LA. I just know we were disappointed almost every time we tried a place people raved about.

Every other city we visited or lived in had a handful of places we will miss. Here, I felt like I could take it or leave it. The two we do recommend every time, though, are Nong’s and PDX Sliders.

6. Outwardly Inclusive but Inwardly Exclusive Attitudes

No, the more is not the merrier! For a city that prides itself on being inclusive and has black lives matter posters everywhere, they sure don’t act like it when it affects their lives. One example is if you’re an out of towner, they really don’t want you here. If you’re from California, keep it on the DL because they especially hate Californians. I’ve also noticed this sense of entitlement to the city if you happened to live just a year or two longer than someone else. They want to keep everything to themselves. “Portland used to be better before XYZ moved in”. It makes me wonder if they think black lives matter, do they even know any? Have they ever tried to build actual bridges and relationships with people that don’t look like themselves? I haven’t seen it yet. Portland isn’t exactly a diverse city. I think they aim to be and it has gotten better over time (or a lot better considering their racist history), but we still get some strange looks around town. If you visit other parts of Oregon, don’t be surprised if you face occasional racism. There are some mean old white ladies out there. P.S. This isn’t every single person in the city. I imagine there are plenty of nice folks that just keep quiet and it’s just the ones that are loud often get noticed more. From our experience as a whole, it doesn’t feel like a welcoming, inclusive city they try to portray.

7. It's Inconvenient to Travel Out of Portland

This only applies to you if you happen to travel a lot, but it’s so hard to get direct flights. Layovers are never fun. Half the time you’re worried you’ll miss your flight and the other half you’re trying to figure out how to keep yourself busy at the airport. The worst is when you’re having to run to your next gate.

The Pros of Living in Portland Oregon

1. Adventure is a Lifestyle not an Activity

If you ever want to feel unadventurous, move to Portland. Living here has pushed us to be more adventurous. Before moving here, hiking was a fun activity, sometimes an item off my bucket list, or what you have to do to get to an amazing photography spot.

People here actually #liveoutdoors. It’s not that fake you-didn’t-camp-here stuff. They can get off a packrafting trip, then go on a climbing trip, then hop onto another backpacking trip. No bigs. I’m going to miss having so many outdoorsy people around me.

This was us on a backpacking trip where we bailed. The fires and smog made all the mountain views hazy, and we didn’t think it was worth it without the epic mountain views. Our other friends said, “it’s going to be smoggy whether I stay inside or go outside and I’d rather be outside.”

2. Everything is so Green

We had friends visit from out of town, and they could not stop talking about the trees and the moss. The trees are beautiful, and on top of that, people really care about the environment. It can be taken to the extreme, but it’s nice to see people care.

3. Proximity to the Outdoors

Our favorite part of living in Portland was how close it was to get outdoors. A half hour drive takes you to amazing hikes, waterfalls, and vistas (although it’s a bit further now because of recent fires). A few hours in either direction takes you to vastly different landscapes.

To the west, you have a dramatic and rocky coast. To the east, you find more desert landscapes and spots that feel like you’re on a different planet.

Though it’s rare to have clear days, I will miss having Hood as our backdrop. We could even see it from our living room window and got excited any time it decided to show itself.

4. Our Church & Community

When we hop from city to city, it’s hard to want to dig in and get involved in a community. Even if the general vibe of the city is unwelcoming, you can always find your people. Some places you need to dig deeper. Luckily we had a couple friends in Portland who introduced us to a church and climbing friends, which made it incredibly easy for us to make friends.

If you ever decide to move to Portland, check out the Groves Church and if you want to give climbing a shot, we’ll also have to introduce you to our friends. We can’t imagine the year without meeting these awesome folks.

5. It's Easy to Get Around

Everything is 10 minutes away. We started thinking anything over 5 minutes was far away. The norm in Atlanta and LA is 30 minutes, and if you add traffic, you could be sitting out there for hours. Even the airport makes going through checkpoints so much easier.

6. No Sales Tax

Not that we do a ton of shopping, but it’s going to feel a little painful shopping for things outside of Oregon when we got so used to paying no sales tax.

7. The Summers Really Are the Best

I know I said this year’s heat was brutal with no A/C, but in comparison to any other places we’ve lived (even SoCal), the summers are nice. It’s so nice, in fact, that it’s easy to forget the pain of winter.

It’s often compared to why people keep having babies because you forget about the pain and sleepless nights. When mid-summer came around for me too, I started thinking maybe I could give Portland another year. Well, if you can last the entire rainy season, you really earned that glorious summer.

P.S Just make sure you get a place with A/C.

Ultimately, we love Portland as a city to visit, and I’m sure the natives will appreciate that we’re not staying for good.

Tell me Would you move to a city like Portland? What are some pros and cons of where you live? 

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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