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The Debate about City Size: Why I Like Grand Rapids, Michigan #thinkingoutloud

Let the transition back to reality begin. Alex’s vacation is over, we both must return to work, and my computer charger doesn’t work, which bodes really well for the blogging conference I’m going to on Saturday…. GREAT. Today, we return to Chicago and likely to a pile of cat vomit (Zoe graced us with a great deal of it when we returned from Virginia Beach, so I’m expecting this to be no different). Bitch slapped by reality.

Also, apparently you can’t have sumptuous meals with multiple craft beers and libations multiple times throughout the day. Which brings me to this post covering what I have loved about our visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the impact that this trip has had on my thoughts regarding our future city/location.

I think today’s Thinking Out Loud post will give you a bit of insight into the mental battle that Alex and I are going through as we try to figure out where we are going (literally, where we will be moving) with our lives. 

We really do like living in Chicago: there are fun events, I can run to my heart’s content on the Lakefront Trail, there is excellent food, top medical programs and physicians. Bloggers are a dime a dozen. Events and activities (SO MANY ACTIVITIES) are a dime a dozen, and there will be, in probably another 2 weeks, 3 grocery stores within 2 blocks of my apartment and delicious fast casual, date night and more dining options within 3 blocks. Alex and I walk to work. The city is clean, vibrant, and fun. Some of my best friends live here. 

Soulcycle with my ladies!

Soulcycle with my ladies!

But Chicago, well, I don’t think I’ve every really felt at home here. Which is interesting, considering how much I loved it at first. But I think it really was infatuation. Like I talked about in my post on home, Chicago is the cute guy at the bar… that you set your friend up with because you think he’s fun, you have a great time with him, but you are already taken and aren’t about to dabble. (The problem, in this case, is that we don’t really know who/where we are “taken” with!)

please forgive me puss in boots cat meme

As Alex and I get further into his residency and closer to chief year and fellowship, we realize more and more how badly we need to think about where we are moving permanently. As a result, every time we travel, we instantly are on the lookout for what we like about places, what strikes us, what is really important to us when choosing a long term, build-a-family-here home?

I will be flat out with you, and I don’t think I will be surprising anyone here, I am totally taken with Grand Rapids. If it wasn’t just as far from our families (maybe even farther, as it has an airport but not a major hub) and in the snow belt aka as cold as balls as Chicago but with more snow, I would tell Alex that we are moving in. But what is it about GR that is making me feel this homey vibe? Here are my thoughts:

  • I refuse to live in the suburbs–I am not an “Outside the Perimeter” person, and if you are from Atlanta, you will understand what that means. For myself, if you don’t want to live in the city, go to a smaller city. I have no desire to live 15 miles from my “city center.” I understand that such a choice might not work for everyone, but for me, if you live in the city, live there. I don’t want to live a place and have never actually gone downtown. 
    • Why I like Grand Rapids: We stayed at The Lafayette House Bed and Breakfast in Heritage Hill. Downtown was decent walking distance. I like neighborhoods, not suburbs. I love how medium (and larger) cities have these neighborhoods that have their own main drags but still are a part of the larger whole. And there is a nice blend of drivability and walkability. And parking. SO MHCH PARKING. 

Heritage Hill Grand Rapids Michigan is filled with Victorian Queen Anne masterpiece houses. If you love architecture, take a vacation to Grand Rapid Michigan! Find out about our healthy, fun, and craft beer filled vacation at!

  • I realize this is a blanket statement, and that many of the downtown buildings and such of the past century (particularly early on) were speculative developments in much the same way that suburbs were. Hello, I studied Architectural History. But that is just the thing: these speculative developments tell a history. A story. Through their very being as well as through their spatial concepts. I don’t want a huge Victorian mansion like the gorgeous Lafayette House that we are staying in–first off, I’d be cold all the time!–but I want to be surrounded by a sense that a place has existed before me, will go on existing after me. The true definition of sustainability.
    • Why I like Grand Rapids: History and the present coexist rather peaceably here. I am incredibly impressed by how (and remember, this is my gut read!) the citizens of Grand Rapids have embraced their history and are trying to preserve and nurture it. And with a sense of humor! I love the colors and vibrancy of the neighborhoods, the energy that you feel, but also the sense of safety. 

The Heritage Hill neighborhood of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is gorgeous! Historic, quaint, and walkable, stay at thr Lafayette House diring yout visit! Find out more at

  • If you have been a reader of my blog for very long, you know how much I value small businesses and buying/shopping local. In medium cities, I feel like that is a much greater priority because they are able to support both having the larger stores in the city center as well as have the smaller, more boutique stores in the neighborhoods. 
  • You are not anonymous enough to truly hide in a medium city. I’m not saying that sometimes you don’t want to have a little escape, but I would hope that people would realize if you are having a bad day! In large cities, often people are very wrapped up in their own business, or they are tourists looking up up up and never seeing what is around them. 
    • Why I like Grand Rapids: I got so many waves as I was running the other day! The people in Grand Rapids are very secure in themselves; they don’t seem to worry about getting the boot all the time! Like grrrrrr interlopers. 
  • NATURE. Oh, trees, changing leaves, how I have missed you! In Chicago, the seasons are planted. I grew up in a wooded lot in Atlanta. Sure, raking leaves could be annoying, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Scenes of gorgeous falling leaves on my morning run in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Go in October, when the fall color is at its peak! Fins iut more fun things to do during your Grand Rapids Vacation at! 

  • Why I like Grand Rapids: The world is on fire here (sorry, California, poor reference). Colors even I have never seen, and that pictures that I take could never do justice (remember, I have my big camera, but my laptop won’t charge!). I miss four seasons, the evolution of the year. I love the fact that I can discover this beauty 5 minutes from the city center, not 5 miles or more. 

I am a city girl at heart, but I grew up with a perfect balance between neighborhood and inner city. We knew the place that we lived–from the city core to where we lived (about 5 miles). I grew up with a clear view of who I was in relation to the city, and how it formed me. So I think that this is all to say that we will likely be looking for a medium sized city, when we do look. When it is time. And I will be ready. But for now, I am going to enjoy the fact that my favorite restaurants, my doctors, all my grocery stores, and my traffic-free running path are all within 30 seconds of my back door. I am going to try to soak up the opportunities that are made available to me. 

But when the time comes, I will be ready. But not yet. 

Where do you call home? Final Thoughts on Grand Rapids #vacation #fitfluential #chicago Click To Tweet

Do you find that your vacations and travel give you a new perspective on where you live? How has travel changed your thoughts?

Describe “home.”

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