I talked to 3 millennials who gave up big-city lives in California to save money and find a better work-life balance in Boise - here's how they feel about adjusting to small-town life

I talked to 3 millennials who gave up big-city lives in California to save money and find a better work-life balance in Boise - here's how they feel about adjusting to small-town life
boise idaho

Katie Warren/Business Insider


Millennials are ditching large coastal cities in favor of more affordable places, like Boise, Idaho.

Forget New York City and San Francisco.

Millennials are increasingly moving away from big coastal cities because of skyrocketing housing costs, Business Insider's Hillary Hoffower recently reported.

Many of those millennials are apparently moving to Boise, Idaho, where they find relatively affordable prices and a slower, more balanced pace of living.


The mid-sized Western city has been called the best place for millennials to live in the US. It was also the fastest-growing city in the US in 2018, according to Forbes. And of the almost 80,000 people who moved to Idaho in 2018, about 26% were from California, according to US Census data.

On a recent four-day trip to Boise for Business Insider, I spoke to three millennials who gave up their big-city lives in California to move to Boise. Here's what they told me.

Ryan Miller says she never would've been able to afford to buy a home in her 20s in Los Angeles

Ryan Miller, a 28-year-old originally from the Los Angeles area, first came to Boise for college, spending her last two years of undergrad at Boise State University. After graduating, she moved back to Los Angeles and got a job as a marketing manager.

She moved back to Los Angeles because she missed California, but once she got there, she almost immediately wished she were back in Boise.

ryan miller jelli

Katie Warren/Business Insider


28-year-old Ryan Miller went from living paycheck-to-paycheck in Los Angeles to buying a home in Boise.

"In 2015 in California, I had a really good job, I had really good roommates, but still everything was just paycheck to paycheck," Miller said, adding that she felt like she practically lived in her car because "commutes were so crazy."

She moved back to Boise in 2016 and now works as the marketing manager for Jelli, a Silicon Valley radio ad-tech company that opened an office in Boise in 2017.

"I feel like I get paid more for what I do here," Miller said. "Everyone in California does marketing ... Here, I was able to specialize a little bit and find my way into tech."

jelli boise

Katie Warren/Business Insider


About 15 people work in Jelli's Boise office.

Boise has a burgeoning tech scene, with some Silicon Valley tech companies - including Jelli - opening offices there to escape skyrocketing costs in the Bay Area. Jelli's CEO, Michael Dougherty, told me they chose to open an office in Boise when they visited and "realized there was an opportunity for us to participate in a tech scene there that was growing and we could actually, in some cases, be a leader in."

Working at Jelli in Boise allowed Miller to buy her first home with her husband in March 2019.

"Being in my late 20s and owning a house wouldn't have happened in California - ever," Miller said.

The median home price in Boise is about $350,000, compared with $850,000 in Los Angeles and $1.3 million in San Francisco. But while Boise prices may seem like a bargain to transplants from cities like Los Angeles, some longtime residents no longer find it affordable. Housing prices in the Boise-Nampa metro area rose faster than in any other city in the US between 2018 and 2019, according to an August report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and wages haven't kept up.


Miller says she's had to learn to slow down her pace of life since moving to Boise.

"The California culture is you wake up, you work, you work your ass off all day, and you go home and then you do it again," she said. "So I've had to learn how to just like take a step back and chill a little bit ... Everyone kind of just slows down here and takes time for things, and I've had to learn how to do that cause I didn't grow up in an environment where that was the case."

For Josh Carter, Boise's work-life balance is a vast improvement from that in Los Angeles or San Diego

Josh Carter, a 37-year-old product manager at Jelli who grew up in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, moved to Boise from San Diego with his wife and newborn baby in 2015.

Before that, they had tried to buy a house in San Diego.

"We got outbid on 40 offers - 40 houses," said Carter, who was commuting at least an hour-and-a-half each way to work in Irvine.

josh carter jelli

Katie Warren/Business Insider

Josh Carter, 37, moved to Boise with his wife and newborn baby in 2015.

So they decided to move, and they had five cities in mind: Austin, Denver, Portland, Seattle, and Boise. During their search, Carter applied and was hired at Bodybuilding.com, a Boise-based online retailer of nutrition and weightlifting supplements. So he and his wife packed up everything in their Toyota Prius and made the move to Idaho.

Carter said he finds the work-life culture in Boise to be a huge step up - and particularly ideal for seasoned tech workers.

"Take an engineer who's been at it for five-plus years: They have a family, they're commuting two to four hours a day, and they're just getting burned out," Carter said. "OK, well, you come to Boise, and you no longer have that huge separation from your family. It's a much more realistic work-life balance culture."


Instead of working 60 hours a week, you work 40 to 45 hours a week and gain even more hours back from the commute, he said.

boise idaho greenbelt

Katie Warren/Business Insider

"It's a much more realistic work-life balance culture," Carter says of life in Boise.

"So now you can spend it with your family and do stuff with your kids," Carter said. "You can get outside and go hiking and fishing and hunting."

That's not to say that adjusting to life in Boise is without its drawbacks. There's less diversity and fewer facilities and cultural events than in many major cities, Carter said.


But the tradeoff is that he sometimes goes fishing on his lunch break, he says. And if he and his wife want to go on a weekend getaway, they can easily drive into the mountains to go camping or backpacking, or drive to Portland or Seattle to visit friends and family.

Lucas Marshall says moving to Boise allowed him and his wife to buy a home and invest in their future

Lucas Marshall, 29, and his wife moved to Boise from Los Angeles in 2018. Later that same year, they were able to buy a home.

While it was "a huge adjustment" moving to Boise - which has a population of about 228,000 as compared to Los Angeles' nearly four million - Boise has far surpassed his expectations in terms of quality of life, Marshall told me.

Lucas Marshall boiseCourtesy of Lucas Marshall

"What turned me on the most was the fact that at 29 years old, I was able to afford a home and invest in my future," Marshall said. "It gave me and my wife the opportunity to start a family and sustain a comfortable lifestyle. What took me six months to do here would have taken me at least 5 to 10 years in Los Angeles."


In the fall of 2019, Marshall opened a pop-up shop, Marshall Goods, which sells men's clothing and other goods right next to Goldy's Breakfast Bistro, a beloved local breakfast spot. He's considering opening up a permanent store.

"Personally for me, living in big city most of my life, I was more inclined to slow it down and sink my energy into a smaller, yet thriving place like Boise," Marshall said. "It gave me the platform to introduce my work and passions to the community, which is a tough task in other cities with saturated markets."

Generation Z from Business Insider Intelligence

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