It was a warm Sunday afternoon in July and I was driving home from the city. I had lived in San Francisco for 10 years but resignedly moved to the North Bay. I missed the city terribly, but I was divorced with a young daughter and couldn’t afford more than a tiny studio, so we had to leave. A retired ballet dancer, I was working full time in insurance and was also the executive director of Dance Theatre of San Francisco, a contemporary ballet company I founded in 2013. I telecommuted mostly, so living in the North Bay and going to the city occasionally was doable. But I didn’t like it.
After taking a ballet class with some friends and attending a short work meeting I headed back home. I coasted along easily until I reached Novato, the northernmost town in Marin County. At that point the four-lane freeway bottlenecks to two lanes and causes a terrible traffic back up all the time – yes, even on Sundays. It had been a problem for as long as I could remember, at least 20 years. But the state had never invested in adding another lane there – despite several campaigns begging for “three lanes all the way.”
I sat there in traffic for at least half an hour, my clutch leg starting to cramp up, and out my window I saw the new “Smart Train” go by, with no one in it. There was never anyone in it. The ironically named “Smart Train” was a dumb democrat pet project that diverted hundreds of millions of tax dollars away from widening the freeway and into a commuter train that didn’t actually go to the city. It ended at a bus station north of the bay where passengers then have to take a bus, that takes them to a ferryboat, which takes them to the city, where they have to take another bus to get to wherever they are going in the city. It was an idiotic idea and nobody used it. But it made the politicians and climate activists feel good, so that’s where the money went. Naturally.
In that moment, as I sat there in the Sunday afternoon traffic, looking at that ridiculous train, I decided that I had had enough. I was fed up with the traffic, the stupid laws, the wasted tax dollars, the taxes that increased every year, the high cost of everything, the crumbling roads, the horrible schools, and the constant virtue-signaling of people around me.
I went to my parents’ house to pick up my daughter. As soon as I got out of the car I pulled out my phone and Googled “most libertarian state.” I figured it must be some flat red state in the middle of country, or maybe in the sweltering South. I waited for the results to load…
New Hampshire? My eyes widened as it sunk in. New England! I could live there, I thought. Then I saw a website for “The Free State Project.” How had I never heard of this before? I was ecstatic as I read the mission statement. That night I watched the film 101 Reasons Liberty Lives in New Hampshire. After that, I was obsessed. I started reading everything I could find about New Hampshire and the Free State Project. I knew I had to see it for myself, but I had to wait until after my dance company’s Fall Program was over. I booked a short trip for the week following the show, in the middle of October. The most beautiful time of year!
My daughter and I stayed in Manchester and took day trips to the Seacoast and the White Mountains, we visited two schools, and I even took a ballet class in Bedford. We tried to get a feel for how life would be and we were impressed everywhere we went. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture and the landscapes. I was surprised by how genuine people seemed; there was none of that sickening phony niceness you get in California. We went to Taproom Tuesday and a porcupine potluck in Littleton. What a welcoming, funny, engaging group of people! The conversations we had were so interesting and it was refreshing to talk freely with people that I had just met. I felt completely at ease in their company.
So I left New Hampshire with stars in my eyes, but I knew I had to come back in the winter. By January I was dedicated to moving as soon as possible. I started making plans to run my ballet company from New Hampshire. I decided I could telecommute and leave everything else to my capable company manager and newly hired artistic director. The company was on a year-long hiatus because we were waiting on our new director’s work visa, so it was the perfect time to go.
I confessed my intentions to my parents and they were happy for me, mostly. They decided to help me with a down payment so I could buy a house, which is something I could never do in the Bay Area. (I could barely survive as a renter there, shelling out more than half my income for rent, thanks to a “housing crisis” that was aggravated by ridiculous building restrictions enacted by unopposed democrats, drunk with power.)
Looking for properties in the Manchester area was incredibly fun, especially since I have a “thing” for old buildings. Never in my life had I been able to afford to be picky about a home. There were so many possibilities: I could get a Victorian in the city, or a cool warehouse condo, or a rural farmhouse! With the help of Mark Warden, I compiled a list of properties to see and booked a trip with my kid and both of my parents. The frigid January air did not damper my affection for New Hampshire. I could not wait to live here.
I fell in love with a quirky two-family Victorian on the east side of Manchester. It was a fixer-upper, trashed by years of renters, but we got a good deal on it and the income potential was great. I knew it was going to be a tough project but I felt a kinship with the house; like I needed it, and it needed me. So we made an offer. Mark was awesome and guided me through the whole buying process as I simultaneously packed up my life and shipped it across the country. We moved in March, just in time to see the last snow of the season.
I have never felt so alive as these first few months here in New Hampshire. Every single day is an adventure for my daughter and me. I have never lived anywhere but the SF Bay Area, but I always had an adventurous spirit and desire to leave. Life never quite allowed for it, though – until now. This place means freedom for us in so many different ways. I have financial freedom, educational freedom for my kid, freedom to move around without traffic jams, and a cool group of friends who don’t mind if I criticize the government. No, they don’t mind much at all!
Now we live on the second floor of a beautiful Victorian house on Hanover Hill with fantastic views of downtown Manchester. The house isn’t done yet but I hired a bunch of Free-Staters to help me restore it to its former glory, and soon I will be able to rent the lower unit to, yes, more Free-Staters.
So as it turns out, the stupid Smart Train in California did take me somewhere after all. It drove me into a rage that led me to magnificent New Hampshire and my life has never been better!
Since moving to New Hampshire Annie has been featured in the Bay Area news –
Chris has served as the Mover Coordinator for the FSP Team since 2012. An early mover in 2004, she uses her knowledge of the state and the liberty community to help visitors and movers network and build new lives here.