About three years ago, my husband said to me, “Hey, wanna move to Arkansas?” His nice, stable bank in Ohio had been unexpectedly acquired and we knew that a move was inevitable. My husband had been looking at jobs in Pennsylvania and California. Arkansas sounded far away and much less glamourous.
I tell people that I had to Google where Arkansas was located and they laugh like I am joking… I’m not.
Except for a six month study abroad experience, I had lived in Ohio my entire life. My husband escaped to Chicago for two years, but even he had spent the rest of his time within forty miles of his birthplace. We Ohioans don’t venture far. All the snow makes travel difficult. Just kidding…..actually, I’m not.
Our family of four took a leap a faith. We left behind grandparents, schools and careers we loved. We moved 876 miles from Akron, Ohio to Bentonville, Arkansas.
Maybe you clicked on this post because someone recently said to you “Hey, Wanna to move to Arkansas?” or maybe you’ve lived in Arkansas your whole life…Either way, I’d love to tell you about being a transplant in a region that I recently heard described as a “hidden pot of gold in the middle of the Ozarks.”
The people make all the difference.
We have heard from multiple friends who made a move similar to ours. They say things like “The place is ok, but it’s sort of hard to make friends.” People tell us that it seems like the locals in their new cities have lived there forever and already have all the friends they need. They tell us that they find their new neighbors or co-workers to be nice, but not overly friendly.
We find that people here go out of their way to get to know us. Our first day at the neighborhood pool, a family invited us over for dinner! People at the ice cream parlor on the square will strike up a conversation and invite you to wherever they are going next. Once, I pulled into a gas station and the lady at the pump in front of me waved. I thought she knew me from somewhere, but it turns out she was just being friendly. Sometimes I think I’m too rude to live here!
Northwest Arkansas (The region made up of the cities Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Bella Vista) is home to The University of Arkansas and major companies like Walmart, JB Hunt and Tyson chicken. People move here from all over the world and many of those people leave their entire tribe behind, just like us. Most people are looking to rebuild a network of close friends that they can relax with and count on in times of need.
This is NOT small-town America….Well, not really.
We feel that NWA combines the best of small-town living and a growing big-city vibe. You won’t be in Northwest Arkansas too long before you hear “You should have seen it here twenty years ago!”
There is a small-town atmosphere here, and if you want picturesque town squares and farmers markets, we’ve got them. But, we also have Broadway series theatre, music and art festivals, a thriving foodie and craft brewery scene, a World-class museum of American Art and the super hip Bentonville Film festival.
The presence of a major university and corporate giants means that Northwest Arkansas is a dynamic and growing area. By “dynamic and growing” I mean that corporations and the people who run them are willing to invest their money in cool things for the region, and the people who live here are willing to come out and enjoy those cool things. We will often be out on a weeknight, enjoying craft beer and live music and realize that there are no empty seats in the place. We comment “It’s Wednesday, what are all these people doing out?,” but they are out, every night of the week.
The weather does not suck.
Have you ever been to Ohio? The weather is terrible. I like to tell the story of a friend who noticed some color in a snow drift by her mailbox in March and realized it was her mums from the previous Halloween that the trash people had not picked up. In the Northeast it is totally realistic to not see grass for five months out of the year.
Here in Arkansas it does snow and people keep promising me that it can snow A LOT, but I’m still waiting. I walked to the bus stop throughout the entire winter and my friend wore her flip-flops everyday, but she’s from Canada.
Even if low winter temps in Arkansas can be in the 20’s or 30’s, we find that you get about two extra months of nice weather compared to up north, and you see that sun almost EVERY DAY. Do you know what seeing the sun so much does to your mood?!? I’m basically a different person now!
This is a nature-lover’s paradise.
I’m not going to try to fool you. I am NOT a nature lover. I have never been camping and have no plans to go, but even I am awed by the natural beauty of this state. Northwest Arkansas is part of the Ozark mountain region. State and local parks offer tons of opportunities for camping and hiking. There are fantastic lakes for boating and fishing.
If you like cycling, this is the place for you! Northwest Arkansas is home to the Razorback Regional Greenway, a 36 mile paved bike trail that runs from Bella Vista to Fayetteville. The trails are easy to access for families and adults of all ages. Local cities and the Walton Family Foundation have invested millions of dollars into mountain bike courses. Currently there are 20 and 40 mile courses that are rated “Epic” by the International Mountain Biking Association. Plans are in the works for another 228-acre park near Fayetteville.
You never realize how BORING your comfort zone really is
In Ohio, we had our group of friends. We had jobs and our 5 favorite restaurants. When we were bored, we went to same 3 places over and over again (usually a nice, indoor place since the weather usually sucked!). We were happy and didn’t realize how stuck in a rut we actually were.
An unforeseen benefit of uprooting your entire life, is that you are forced out of your comfort zone fast. You meet a big variety of great new people. You try new things and eat new food. You learn new things about yourself. Hey, I even realized that maybe I like nature…just a little bit.
Whether you move frequently and Arkansas is your next stop, or, like us, you are considering a first-ever leap of faith, let me reassure you: Northwest Arkansas is a great place to live. We say on a weekly basis, “Did you ever think that moving to Arkansas would be the best decision we ever made?”
My husband asked me recently, “What would you do if I got a really good job offer back in Ohio?”
I said, “I’d miss you!”