I am presently engaged in one of the most pleasurable activities known to a young professional: apartment hunting.
In a city as large as Washington DC there are a lot of options. Almost too many, in fact, and to find an apartment in any reasonable amount of time you have to start adding constraints to your search. Length of the commute, proximity to the metro, parking, nearby social activities, general safeness of the area, etc. A laundry list of requirements, minimizations and maximizations, so long that by the end of it you’ve eliminated every single apartment in the East Coast.
I don’t know who to give credit for the following, but as usual I’m inclined to give myself more credit than is probably fair. The following lists two broad philosophies regarding where you should live.
Live where you Work
Living close to your place of work gives you a shorter commute time, meaning less time in the car and more time at home with family, friends and the television. The downside is that social activities (think bars, clubs, museums, knitting circles) are farther away and require some travel.
Live where you Play
Living close to where you play (think drinking, dancing, knitting) means a longer commute, but hey, everybody has to go to work. You’re not going to NOT go to work, so after you’re done complaining you’ll realize that the bar is just down the block.
When I arrived in Washington I had just finished a summer internship with a 40 minute commute each way. Adding a full hour and a half to each work day added up, and I got tired of spending so much time in transit. My DC roommates and I opted for an apartment with less than a 10 minute walk to work. Though at first it seemed ideal, over the next six months I experienced a complete change of heart.
In Cleveland I lived in Coventry, which to the uninitiated is filled with bars. Bars have people, and people are fun to be around.
In Washington I live by 495, which to the uninitiated is filled with cars. And surrounded by office buildings. While they may also be filled with people, neither are much fun to be around.
The lesson I learned was simple: Live where you Play. You spend a little more time in transit, but when you remove the barriers to adventure and social activity you make it much more a part of your everyday life. If playtime requires a long metro ride, taxi or finding parking spaces, you just don’t end up going as often as you’d like.
Living further away from work means you’ll have less free time, but I find you don’t tend to mind when you’re happy.