Much has been said in praise of the simple life—words that give us a lot to think about as we consider how and where we may want to spend the rest of our days. In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote of his two-year experiment with living in a woodland cabin, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”
Much earlier, Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” But closer to our own time Albert Einstein remarked, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
We’re with Einstein, at least when it comes to identifying places where a simple life can most easily be attained. Working with Best Places guru Bert Sperling, we defined criteria for just what it may take. We screened more than 300 metropolitan areas in the U.S. for characteristics including stable home values, low unemployment and cost of living, minimal traffic congestion, availability of cultural activities, outdoor recreation opportunities, and more—17 traits in all that contribute to a no-hassle, low-key lifestyle. Here are our top five picks.
Vibe: Latin culture embraces Native American spirit, cowboy grit, and Sunbelt growth
Median housing price: $155,500
Average commute: 24 minutes
Average number of sunny days: 286 per year
Most relaxing way to spend an afternoon: Enjoying the cool breezes and plentiful hiking in the Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of town
Simple fun for less than $10: Drinking a beer at the Hotel Congress, where famous criminal John Dillinger was nabbed back in 1934
Who knew?: The saguaro cacti that grow all over Tucson have an average life span of 150 years.
It’s hard to pin down residents on what exactly is so mesmerizing about this desert town, just an hour north of the Mexican border. Maybe it’s the beautiful wilderness that rings the city, including about 1.8 million acres of the Coronado National Forest, with its 12 different mountain ranges. Or maybe it’s the sweet smell of pan dulce that drifts from the Mexican bakeries. Or maybe it’s the unique way the city’s Mexican, Native American, and frontier roots have mingled to create a mosaic all its own. "This atmosphere just doesn’t exist anywhere else—the people, the natural beauty, the cultural mix," says Elizabeth Rodriguez Miller, 55, who retired last year from her job as assistant city manager. "I feel lucky to live in a place where people can move so graciously from one culture to another." She and her husband, Marc, 57, also like the buzz of downtown—with its plentiful restaurants (a favorite is Casa Vicente), funky Fourth Avenue arts district, and world-renowned annual Mariachi Conference. And for simple pleasures, there’s incomparable hiking and camping.
To view the original article, or to see the other cities on the list, click here.