In Searching for a Perfect Small Mountain Town

In light of the desperate desire to convince Mr. CodeJunkie to move to Colorado, we made a week long trip out there in January to see what it’s like to live next to the mountains. I have conducted a very caveman style experiment of comparing living expenses in Colorado vs. Bentonville.

I visited two grocery stores while in Colorado. One in Estes Park outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, and one in Colorado Springs (Old Colorado City King Sooper). Below are the results.

NW ArkansasEstes Park,
Coconut Milk$1.98$4.99152.02%
Jasmine Rice$17.48$27.9860.07%
Seltzer Water$3.38$4.9947.63%
Chicken Thighs$8.65$22.06154.96%
Ground Beef$13.97$10.83-22.51%
Shin Noodles$6.76$7.297.84%

Estes Park was noticeably higher than Bentonville (by 52% to be exact). We noticed it even before walking out of the store because a bag of groceries usually costing us about $50 at home were $105 that night. The only thing on this list that was cheaper than Bentonville was the ground beef, which actually isn’t very true because in Estes Park we only found 80% lean beef while we usually eat 93% lean at home (more expensive beef). 

NW ArkansasColorado Springs,
Dark Chocolate$3.18$2.99-5.97%
Barilla Pasta$1.28$1.4916.41%
Coconut Milk$1.98$2.3920.71%
Jasmine Rice$17.48$19.9914.36%

Colorado Springs was a lot more friendlier to my wallet than Estes Park. Some of the items are even cheaper than Bentonville, which is surprising considering Walmart pride themselves to be “the lowest price retailer.” 

Even though Colorado Springs is quite comparable to Northwest Arkansas in terms of groceries, real estate is a slightly different story. A 3 bedroom 2 bath usually costs about 220k in Bentonville will cost at least 300k in Colorado Springs. This alone will set us back for a good 80k (which is about 1.5 years) behind on our early retirement calculation. However, the impeccable location near the mountains, rock climbing areas, and many impressive hiking spots makes Colorado Springs an easy decision.

Colorado Springs is a great next-step city in the next 2 years. In the meantime, we plan on visiting Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, and Washington in hoping to find similar small economical mountain towns not too far away from a good airport. Comment below if you have any suggestions!

Exploration for the Soul

Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash

In 2006, I got accepted by a small liberal art college in America. I bought a one-way ticket flew from China to the U. S. with two biggest check-in suitcases the airline allowed, and settled in the Mid-West for four years.

The first trip is for adventure, a new life. Along the way, I learned the American culture, religions (mostly Christianity, some Muslim, Mormon, Buddhism). I earned dual degrees in Accounting and Philosophy (mainly because I couldn’t decide to either go with my passion or have a secure job).

I was hungry to learn every aspect of being an American, and what the American Dream really means to an immigrant. I made a lot of friends, who taught me how to drink, what ‘formal’ is, kept me on track with homework, and how to find a summer job.

Years later, I took a month to visit Europe. I packed everything I needed for a month in a backpack and visited London, Edinburgh, Paris, Florence, and Venice.

I was going through some emotional pains in my life and feeling some turmoils from my career. I decided to quit my job and say goodbye to my marriage. After the two big pillars of my life, marriage and career, crumbled to the ground, I wanted to put my own needs first. I didn’t know exactly what I need, but I thought it’d be cool to see Europe. I realized for the first time that I have been rather harsh with myself in the past, holding myself up to a ridiculous standard trying to be a great worker and a fantastic wife. As it turns out, I should care less about what others perceived of me, and treated myself with more kindness.

This trip taught me to look at myself from a loving friend’s perspective. In turn, I am more patient and understanding of other people’s turmoils in life, and I understood more on the importance of mental health. I learned to enjoy being alone with myself.

Over time, looking back on all the travels I have done, I have grown tired of visiting the famous sightseeings / instagram spots of the world. I started to appreciate the smaller things in life, the way people live in different parts of the world, sometimes by choice, sometimes in their own circumstances and limitations. In Japan and Europe, people living with minimal possessions, with more intentions; in Lesotho (Africa), people trying to survive only on eating local fruits and grains while struggling to find clean water; in China, people submerged in capitalism while desperately looking for the purpose of life; and in New Zealand, people who touches every tree, every patch of grass, completely immersed in nature. It is mind blowing to see that one culture’s taboo is another culture’s treasure.

We can choose to live however we want despite the society and the people around us. It is hard when you are the abnormal one in comparison, but it’s a choice you make. Do you design the life you want to live, or let others tell you what a perfect life is suppose to look like? What is the way you want to live?

For me, the exploration of different ways to live a life never stops.