For the 3rd time in last 4 years, I had to prepare myself for another move (Leaving SCE, Leaving Los Angeles). Leaving a place behind always brings about mixed emotions. On one hand, it is disheartening to leave familiar surroundings & good friends behind; On the other hand, more often than not, a move always signals progress towards better things in life. Despite the reason for the move it is always a painful process to leave a place behind.
When I moved to Houston a little over 2 years ago, I was dejected. It took me months, if not a year, to overcome the pangs of separation from Los Angeles. I hated the city and the views of the people. In absence of beautiful mountains and ocean, the locals talked about church and food all the time. I yearned for the weather and the scenery of California and wished I would move out of this town as soon as possible. My liberal views were pitted against the ultra conservative views of this Republican Heartland. At most times, I kept my views to myself, lest I get shot in this NRA's paradise.
But political views aside, Houston began to grow on me. Coming from LA, the thing which appealed to me the most was the cost of living. I paid less than half the rent I paid in Los Angeles and still got a much bigger apartment in a much better neighbourhood. I even joked to my friends in LA that 'why should I pay and park when I can valet for free'. The gas is cheap, the food is cheaper and the drinks are the cheapest of all major cities. Unlike other big cities, there are no cover charges in the upscale clubs and lounges. In short, Houston offers all the comforts and attractions of a big city, but at half the price. In presence of the booming Energy and Medical industry, the city is super wealthy too. It boasts of some great landscaped neighborhoods and houses the size of mansions. Despite my hatred for the republican government, I couldn't stop liking the Texas style of governance. With zero state income taxes, the state boasts of one of the best infrastructure in the country. The wide open lanes of Katy Freeway were a farcry from the traffic logged congested lanes of 405 in West LA.
After living in the east coast and west coast, the gulf coast wrought in a totally new culture and lifestyle. Texas has a unique culture and the virtues of this culture could be understood and endeared only by experiencing it. The people in South are nice and never too busy to engage in a conversation with an outsider. The legendary "Southern Hospitality" can truly be experienced in Houston. Words like howdy, bubba, gumbo, bayou, crawfish boil, y'all would never have meant much to me if I had not lived in Houston....and its these words, the stories behind them and their experiences which have enriched my life and helped me add new dimensions to my personality.
Part of my Houston experience was shaped by my work. Houston boasts of some great restaurants and the perks of my job profile allowed me to make the most of these nice restaurants. Houston location as Continental Airline's hub coupled with my incessant travelling for work and pleasure earned me many upgrades and ensured that I would travel as an elite member for atleast a while. Also, the cheap cost of living in Houston helped me save enough to plan my vacations internationally!
I leave Houston today with a very heavy heart. Houston gave me some great friends - many of them, I hope to stay in touch for the rest of my life. With my bent towards a career in Energy Industry, I definitely hope to return to this city in the future.