A happy place

February 24, 2010

From time to time people ask why I like northern California so much. Sometimes it’s hard to explain.

This week, the news has been full of “where’s the happiest place to live?” stories. On one survey, my new town, Sunnyvale, ranks #1.

On a survey I saw yesterday, Boulder holds the top spot and the South Bay area, California (where I live) ranks #7. Here’s how they did the study:

A new study reveals the happiest metro areas in the United States, ranking 187 cities on six categories: life evaluation, emotional health, work experience, physical behaviors and basic access [to food, shelter and health care]. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, based on random, phone interviews with more than 350,000 Americans in 2009, asked questions ranging from “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?” to “Do you have a personal doctor?”

See this for how San Jose/Sunnyvale ranked:


So, you might point out, real estate is hugely expensive, here. The economy, largely dependent on tech, is pretty much tanked. Unemployment is high. So why top marks?

The weather here is largely ideal. It’s cool in the winter (highs in the 50s) and gorgeously moderate in spring, summer and fall. The South Bay area and peninsula are chock-full of bars, clubs, theatre and even a few good museums. Parks, hiking, bike trails.

You want something more exotic to do? Get in the car. The world-class city of San Francisco is 45 miles away. Parking’s expensive and a pain. But you can hop the train, as we do, and partake of fabulous restaurants, museums, theatre or just atmosphere.

Santa Cruz beaches are half hour away.

The wine country or Big Sur are a two-hour drive. But you can taste in lots of places closer: Santa Cruz mountains, Carmel Valley, the East Bay.

Monterey? a little over an hour. Carmel is an hour and a half. Ski Tahoe in just four hours. Same for a visit to Yosemite. Raft, swim, bike, hike–it’s all here, and in humidity-free weather.

Major league sports like football. Professional baseball. It’s here.

Eat on the patio in the sunshine 10 months a year–without mosquitoes or sweat. Yes, a couple months of rain in the winter. But spring comes quickly.

The quality of life here is high: intellectual, social, athletic. You just don’t sit home here. You go and do.

Did I say access to world-class medical care? Something more important as we age.

So we pay the price to get this kind of lifestyle. And, although this IS a fabulous place to live, I suspect, the price we pay is one reason why we report such happiness.

If we’re willing to pay it, it MUST be good.

Thankfully, it IS good.

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