Charleston is the Best Place for Starting Over

Normally I don’t post links to ‘best of’ lists, because everyone else in town does and honestly, how many times do you need to see the same story?? But this one in particular caught my eye. Among all the accolades Charleston receives, and all the Top 10 Best lists we land on – most friendly, best city in the world, best looking, most drunk (yes, that is real) – none is as true as this one – Charleston is the #1 Best Small City for Starting Over.

That title caught me because that is exactly what I did – I quit my six figure New York City job to come here and start over because I was DONE and ready for brand new. But here’s what’s so odd. I know countless people – acquaintances, friends, clients, family – who all did the exact same thing.

So why Charleston? What is it that draws people here to start anew? The company that created this Top 10 list, CreditDonkey, says it’s because Charleston is charming and well-rounded, has low unemployment and high income growth, among other things…True. All of it.

But here are the real reasons – ones that you can’t put on a chart or prove with a statistic.

There’s just something about this Lowcountry that offers up her big mamma arms to embrace you, to fold you into a safe and inspiring place that feels really, really good.

Her languorous pace gives you the space to be still with yourself while her a-liveliness ignites you. She heals you. She gives you the wings to be better than you ever imagined.

It’s not that your life is perfect or that nothing bad ever happens to you once you move here. It’s just that when you wander through this human-scaled city you see homes and lives that have survived and thrived more than 300 years – in the face of wars and earthquakes, hurricanes and fires, slavery and poverty. And you know what? You gain a little perspective.

And when you wake up to a sunrise over the harbor, or squish the sand in your toes while you listen to the ocean’s lullaby, or come face-to-face with a dolphin as he skims alongside your boat, or draw in the scent of pluff mud by a cracklin’ hot bonfire on a river in a blue-skied November, you just know it’s all gonna be fine. Really.

So if you are out there considering a brand new start, for whatever reason, in whatever stage of life you might be, come on down and join the rest of us survivors and thrivers. Mamma Lowcountry’s arms are big enough for you too.


14 Responses to “Charleston is the Best Place for Starting Over

  • Marian Yildiz
    11 years ago

    Kristen it is early in the morning here in Seattle and as I read this recent post it seemed like it was tailor made for me. As I mentioned earlier my husband and I are looking at Charleston as a possible place for us to relocate and this post is very heartwarming and encouraging. We are not at the retirement age or the retirement income level yet but have been searching for a soul home. I’m also a New Yorker and since I left there many years ago I’ve lived in many exciting and beautiful cities all over the world but have not found the home I yearn for. So, maybe Charleston is the one if there is going to be one.
    So glad I connected with you and your blog!

    • Thanks so much for your comment Marian! I am glad my post spoke to you. I too have lived all over and in cities of many different sizes – but none captured my heart and my wandering feet like this one.

  • Kristen,
    Great post as usual. My wife Diane and I relocated here 17 years ago with 4 children in tow form NJ. Our friends thought we were crazy. You, originally a Buffalo Boy, moving to that Southern City. You will never be accepted. Wrong ! Wrong! Wrong!
    We were accepted with open arms by everyone and now a number of our friends are looking at the area themselves. Diane has a flourishing Art Gallery on Wentworth Street, my business as a foodservice headhunter couldn’t be better and our children, now all grown, are all remaining here because they absolutely love it !

    • Gary thanks for sharing your story!! Your experience is great and am happy you guys felt as welcomed as I did. I am not surprised your kids want to stay around – Charleston gets under your skin!

  • We first visited a little over a year and a half ago. Everyone said good morning and there was no ice on the ground. Perfect. Since we moved here, I go for a walk every day and smile like an idiot as I say good morning to those I pass. I can’t say I started over completely, but close enough. Thanks for your help in getting us here!

    • Kim I am so happy you guys love it here!! It makes me smile every time I see your family from afar on King Street or out and about. Charleston suits all of you perfectly.

  • Dawn Bounds
    11 years ago

    Hi, I am inspired by these comments. My husband and I are looking for a place to retire. I’ve lived in MN, IA, SD…and Dallas, TX for most of that time, which I really did NOT like at all. I’m back in MN now. I’m looking for things like access to beaches and mountains. I’ve been looking at the Mount Pleasant area. I also have had a very hard time during my life finding a place to really call home. Any comments or suggestions are welcome!

  • Tanesha Davis
    10 years ago


    This article is precisely what I needed. I’m 21, single, and after losing 2 very important people in my life and realizing that the man I thought was my soulmate isn’t who I’m supposed to be with, I’ve been considering a change. I’m from Ohio, and I’ve always known that I wanted to move south; my father’s side of the family all happen to live around Charleston, and I’ve been in love with the city ever since I was a little girl. Reading your article makes me all the more confident that Charleston really is the right place for me, and I’m hoping to make the move at the end of the year!

  • Anne Wiesman
    10 years ago

    I loved reading this! This is exactly what my husband and I intend to do! I grew up in California, he grew up in New England. We fell in love with Charleston and can’t wait to start over there:)

  • Barb Boessl
    10 years ago

    I am really liking Charleston, especially reading about the lowcountry’s welcoming arms.
    I am definitely in need of new wings, some igniting and healing. My story is lengthy and at times just incredible (in the I don’t believe it kind of way)!! So, I’ll just go to the part about needing/wanting to move south and coastal. I lived in Kauai a couple of times, last time for 14 months, but it is just too far from family. I started looking at Charleston because of location and size. So far everything that I have seen is very inviting and fits what I am looking for. I am looking to move to the area in a year from now. I am currently going to school for Medical Coding (at the age of 57, yikes, talk about starting over) and my son is getting married in May 2015, so I am staying put to complete school and be around for all the planning, etc. for the wedding. I live in Madison, WI but originally I am from Syracuse, NY. I have also lived in Kauai (as I mentioned) and Florida. Thanks for the blog. It will be really helpful in getting to know Charleston.

  • Lauren Taylor
    10 years ago

    I am moving to Charleston Sunday to do exactly this! I am 22 and have grown up calling both Michigan and Nebraska home. I have only heard good things about the city so I made it my dream and my goal to graduate college and move down there. As it is quickly approaching, I am getting more and more nervous. I have been wondering how I will make friends and meet people along with being so far away from family and current friends. This post was very encouraging and has me feeling better about the move and even excited again! Thanks for sharing!

    • Lauren congrats on your big adventure!! Charleston is an easy place to make friends and get involved so hopefully you’ll find her welcoming. 🙂

  • Courtney
    9 years ago

    This is exactly what I needed to read this afternoon. I’m looking forward to those Big Mamma Arms!

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