Costs of living vary greatly depending on where you choose to live.
Living in LA is very expensive. You can barely step out your front door without paying a Jackson for the privilege.
Living in Kolkata is incredibly cheap. You can live in a huge apartment in one of the nicer complexes in one of the nicer buildings in the city for a fraction of what you’d pay for a run-down one-bedroom flat in Los Angeles.
There is a spectrum of such costs — living in Missouri is more expensive than living in India, for example, but costs far less than shacking up in Los Angeles — but there is also a quality of life spectrum to take into consideration when deciding where to put down roots.
There’s a lot going on in a place like LA: plenty of culture and opportunity and work. There are millions of locals doing interesting things, and the weather is perfect to an almost ridiculous degree. There are beaches. There are aesthetically beautiful people.
Kolkata also has a lot going on, but it’s on a very different part of the spectrum than Los Angeles. There’s plenty of culture, but the quality of opportunity leaves something to be desired. The weather is atrocious, and the infrastructure is dilapidated. It’s an unhealthy-feeling place with some wonderful people living in it.
All costs, be they monetary, cultural, geographical, culinary, must be taken into account when deciding where to spend your time.
The goal is to find a place that suits you and your needs. A home where the exchange rate of money for quality of life fits your capacity to earn, and your desire for culture, business opportunities, security, and anything else that’s important for your lifestyle.
Be warned: the math of this equation can change over the years.
For a very long time I opted to spend gobs of money on rent and cope with big-city difficulties because the tradeoff was worthwhile for me and what I wanted from my life. But every year I find myself with a greater appreciation for cities of around 100,000 people: a place with a few universities and lots of creative locals. With fewer people you have less variety, but thanks to the internet and connections I’m able to make while traveling, that is one downside that matters less with each passing day.
On the other hand, I know many people who have iterated in the opposite direction: they always wanted the smaller-town lifestyle, but came to enjoy the perks of living in a city with millions of people in residence.
Your environment isn’t the most important aspect of your life, but it is important. Take the time to figure out what kind of place fits you best — take some road trips or vacations overseas, outside the tourist circuit — and see what options are available.
Changing where you spend your money makes all the difference in how much happiness and fulfillment you get for it.
Update: April 4, 2017
As I write this update, I’m living in an apartment in Wichita, Kansas. This is not where I pictured myself, much less pictured enjoying myself, and yet, strangely, here I am.
If I would have told 2013-era Colin that this is where I’d be four years down the line, I would have laughed at the clearly insane future version of me, but asked him for stock tips, regardless.