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Bye California: 7 people who fled the state share the culture shocks they've experienced and why they have no regrets

Manseen Logan   

Bye California: 7 people who fled the state share the culture shocks they've experienced and why they have no regrets
  • Over 800,000 people left California between 2021 and 2022, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Insider spoke with seven former California residents who left the state.

California is making headlines as its residents leave in droves. Over 800,000 people left the Golden State and moved to other parts of the country between 2021 and 2022, according to the Census Bureau.

The reasons Californians are moving vary from person to person, but many people cited rising crime rates and the high cost of living as factors. Also, the states they're relocating to are just as diverse.

Insider spoke with seven former Cali residents who have relocated to Memphis, Missouri, North Dakota, and Texas, which appears to be the most popular transplant destination. They each shared the reasons they're trading in palm trees and beaches for greener, and sometimes colder, pastures.

1. Calli Edington and her family left Northern California for a safer town in South Georgia

Homeownership, safety, and affordability seem to be three of the most popular reasons for leaving California. These issues motivated Calli Edington to leave Magalia, California, and move to Douglas, Georgia, with her family.

"There were things about California that I enjoyed," Edington told Insider. "But due to the high cost of living and the increase of crime in our local area, we decided it was time to leave for good."

Edington said she's still getting used to the uncomfortable humidity in Georgia, but she was able to buy a house on two acres of land for $300,000 and loves living in her new state.

Read more: I left California and I'm never going back. I was finally able to afford a home in Georgia and it's shocking how polite people are here.

2. Jackie Burse left ultraliberal California for a more conservative San Antonio

Jackie Burse was born and raised in California, but she left Orange County in 2021. "I'm a conservative and I feel like it's difficult to have any opinions in California other than liberal," Burse told Insider. "Especially when you're living in the cities."

As a person of faith, Burse said she feels free to express her beliefs in Texas. The newly divorced grandmother also shared that staying in California as a single woman was more difficult because of the higher cost of living.

Since moving to San Antonio, Burse told Insider she spends less on gas and groceries and feels more comfortable sharing her opinions. "For now, I don't have any plans to leave Texas anytime soon. I've found a great church, made many friends, and feel safe here."

Read more: I left California for Texas to begin my new life as a divorcée. It's more affordable as a single woman, and I feel free to express my political and religious beliefs.

4. Davrick Hayes left the traffic of LA for a less congested Bismarck, North Dakota

The high cost of living and the long commute to work drove Davrick Hayes away from California. "I left Los Angeles in 2020 because it was killing me," Hayes told Insider. "My office commute was almost two hours one way, even though my job was just 15 miles from my home."

Hayes, who grew up in Downey, California, decided to look for a new home in a smaller city than LA. He ended up in Bismarck, North Dakota, though he said the cold weather and the lack of diversity are reasons he doesn't plan to stay for good.

But Hayes was finally able to purchase a home and told Insider he enjoys the cleaner air and clearer skies. "It even feels different to breathe here; the air smells different because there's less smog."

Read more: I left California for North Dakota. It's obscenely cheap and there's so much to love about small-town life.

3. Janelle Crossan left an apartment in Southern California for a 3-bedroom home in New Braunfels, Texas

When Janelle Crossan left Costa Mesa, California, she paid $1,750 a month in rent for a "crappy" little apartment. "I never felt safe in my area," Crossan told Insider. "I felt like a prisoner in my apartment."

Like other Californians, Crossan expressed concern about homelessness in her city, among other issues. In 2020, she and her young son moved to New Braunfels, Texas, one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. She describes the town as a scene out of a Hallmark film. Since moving, she's found a higher-paying job and purchased a three-bedroom home, which she said costs a total of $1,800 a month — with property taxes included.

Though she misses the California weather and isn't a fan of Texas' lax gun laws, Crossan said moving to Texas changed her life for the better. "Something as simple as moving across the country has made my life go in such a different direction."

Read more: I moved from California to Texas and had to take a train to visit for the first time because I couldn't afford a flight. Now I own a home.

5. Elisabeth Wykert moved her family back to Missouri after 8 years of living in Orange County

Leaving California for Missouri seemed like an easy decision for Elisabeth Wykert. She told Insider she and her husband both grew up in the Kansas City area, but she moved to California for her acting career. "The rental cost of living was wild," Wykert said. "And to even think of purchasing a home was more wild."

When she and her husband were ready to own a home, Wykert said they left Brea, California, with their young daughter and 15-year-old dog and returned to Missouri. They bought a house in St. Joseph without even seeing it in person. "Buying a house sight unseen is the most absurd thing I've ever done," Wykert said.

Wykert told Insider she's happy with her decision to move back to Missouri, but she said there's not much in the way of entertainment in St. Joseph. That's one reason they don't plan on staying there for the long term.

Read more: I bought a house sight unseen and moved my family from California to Missouri. As a first-time buyer, it was the best decision I could've made.

6. Pengyu Cheng and his wife left business-focused San Francisco for family-friendly Austin

Pengyu Cheng said the homelessness crisis in San Francisco made it an unbearable place to live. "No one is really tackling the problem or communicating what can be done to help those in need," Cheng told Insider.

The high cost of living was another reason he decided to leave California. Cheng said he knew the Bay Area wouldn't be affordable once he decided to expand his family — even though both he and his wife earned good salaries.

In 2021, the couple moved to Austin. They fell in love with the city and had their first child in 2022. "My wife and I plan on living in Austin for a long time," Cheng said. " Unless we absolutely have to relocate for work, I don't see our family ever moving back to California."

Read more: My wife and I left San Francisco for Austin to start a family. We love it because people talk less about their careers and more about their kids.

7. Vered DeLeeuw and her husband left Palo Alto, California, for friendlier Memphis

Food blogger Vered DeLeeuw moved to Palo Alto, California in 1999 with her husband. She enjoyed her life in Silicon Valley, but after 20 years there, the couple relocated to Memphis, Tennessee.

"My husband was offered a new job as the managing director of the Memphis hub of Alchemist, a startup accelerator," DeLeeuw told Insider.

After living in the Southern state for nine months, DeLeeuw said she found the people to be kinder and more welcoming than Californians, but she was initially uncomfortable with the slower pace of life.

"At first, this drove me crazy, but now I don't feel like it's such a bad way to live."

Read more: I moved from California to Tennessee for my husband's job. We can finally save money, but it's been a major culture shock.

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