I lived in Portland, Oregon for a year and a half. And this picture always sums up what I tell people about it:
Real talk: Portland, Oregon might be the furthest you can get from Indiana and stay in the continental United States.
Politics: The super liberal Portland and super conservative Indiana.
Geography: Mountains and ocean versus cornfields
Type: plaid hipster, Gap WASP
Religion: Atheist, Presbyterian. Seriously - Portland is the least-religious city in the US.
That about sums it up. Honestly, I did something dumb with my year on the west coast: dated a boy. Not that that in itself was dumb, but it was the worst kind of relationship to experience a new place. We only did stuff with each other. Occasionally we double dated with one of his friends and his girlfriend, but mostly it was just us. There was a lot of weekends at his place watching Netflix and playing video games. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but if I had known that was my year on the west coast, I would not have wasted it hanging out on a cheap leather couch. I should have done so much more exploring! The beach was less than 2 hours away and I only went when I had visitors. Seattle, anywhere in California... These were easy weekend trips! And I was content watching some dude play Bioshock while I worked on a puzzle or reread Harry Potter. Lame.
29-year-old me cringes at 23-year-old me.
So, besides spending a lot of time at my boyfriend's apartment, what else did I discover about the West Coast?
- Wineries. There are wineries in the Midwest, but they are not good. Oregon grows great pinot grapes. There were literally dozens of great wineries within twenty minutes of my apartment. I did wine tastings several times while I was living there. My favorite, Evolution, I can find at any wine shop in the States. But it was always fun to visit the wineries, see the grapes, have a glass in a fancy setting.
- Food. More specifically, happy hour. Portland is definitely a foody town. There were so many great restaurants. One of my favorite bars anywhere is Pope House. It's a whiskey lounge that has the best grilled cheese I've had in my life. It could get expensive eating out but all the trendy restaurants had great happy hours where you could get a sampler-size of their entrees for just a couple bucks. Many nights after work were spent downtown Portland, trying out three or four restaurants and eating the best food. Also, my favorite Mexican restaurant is in Portland! I have no idea the name of the place but I can tell you how to get there from that place I always parked...
- Saturday Market. The Portland Saturday Market was insane. Every Saturday, you could go to downtown Portland and be entertained for hours. I went so many times and it was required anytime a visitor came. Three city blocks are taken over by booths. Two of the blocks are required to be home made. It's a combination of food, art, jewelry, clothes. The third block is cheap random stuff. Not that I'm complaining - my aunt bought a coat there and I bought a lot of cheap jewelry. The best though - it was all on the waterfront, so gorgeous, and there were food trucks! A third of one of the blocks was taken over by food stalls and food trucks. Outside of Greece itself, the best gyro I've had was out of one of those food trucks. Of course, it wouldn't be Portland without at least one person selling craft beer. There was also usually live music. Your Saturday afternoons were guaranteed in Portland.
- Powells. Powell's is a chain of bookstores but I really only ever went to the main one, located in the trendy part of downtown and taking up an entire city block. Floors of books! It was a great store just to walk around, discover random books, both new and used. My last trip there, I randomly picked up a couple of used Goosebumps books. Spoiler alert: they do not hold up well with age or time.
- It is really hard to get to the Midwest from the West Ocast. The worst part of being in Portland was how difficult it was to get to Indy or St. Louis to go home, whether for holiday or a wedding. I lived there the year after college, so basically everyone I knew was getting married. I flew back to the MIdwest almost once a month, usually just for a weekend. And that meant about 24 hours in an airport... There were always layovers and delays and annoying other passengers. Now, I don't think I would mind it as much since there would be fewer quick weekend trips (most of my Midwest friends are either married or Forever Single).
- When you live somewhere cool, they will come. All of my friends and family live in the Midwest, everyone a couple of hours from everyone else. I was the only one of my group to really go somewhere different. And since my place had beaches and mountains and pretty waterfalls, I had so many visitors! Something to think about for my next move - go somewhere touristy!
- Multnomah Falls. They really are that beautiful. And that's that.
- Everyone is from somewhere else. This I really miss. Maybe it was just the company culture, but everyone I worked with was from somewhere else. We're in Oregon but my colleagues included another Illinoisan, a Texan, and Michiganer. And in general we were all younger. So, instead of built-in friends from college and home or a wife and kids at home, we all just hung out together. That also meant we were always gathering together for holidays and weekends and after work get togethers. An older dude and his wife even had an 'orphan' Thanksgiving. I went, the food and conversation was great. They had cats that I played with!
Germany reminds me a little of Portland. Primarily, the weather. Everything is green and pretty here. It's gray and rain during most of the winter, but I'll take that over snow and freezing. I definitely miss the weather the most from Portland. It never got crazy hot or crazy cold. I didn't even need an air conditioner! Sure it rained, but it was always a sprinkle that you could go for a run in without getting soaked. It didn't get humid and there weren't any mosquitos. Like in Germany, the bugs aren't crazy so screens are not required. Open windows for everyone!