I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. I even went to university here.
I’ve always wondered what it’s like to live in different cities.
My parents were refugees from Vietnam. Eventually, they decided to move to Atlanta because one of my Dad’s cousins was out here. When you’re in a new country without any money and you don’t speak the language, that one connection can make the difference.
So that’s how I ended up in Atlanta.
It’s crazy to think I could have a different personality if my parents decided to settle in Vancouver, Los Angeles, or France instead.
One of the best parts about being an affiliate marketer is that you can work anywhere you want.
As long as you have great wifi, then the world’s your oyster.
If you’ve been following me for a long time, then you should know that the Four Hour Work Week and Tim Ferriss has made an impact on me.
One part I’ve always loved is the concept of long-term travel. I’m not talking about constantly vacationing.
I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of living in completely different cities with completely different cultures.
You can only scratch the surface of a city on a vacation.
So ten years ago I decided to leave Atlanta and go exploring. I had no idea how long I’d be traveling for—I just knew I needed to scratch this itch before I settled down one day.
That decision has led me to spend several years living in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Miami, and finally New York City.
You can imagine that it has been a pain in the ass moving every two years, but the amount of life experience and perspective I’ve gained is priceless.
I spent a lot of time the past few years in New York City. It’s always been a dream of mine to live there.
Last week I left NYC to move back home to Atlanta, GA, for the foreseeable future.
As soon as I made this announcement on my Facebook page, I got a ton of questions from people.
What was it like living in New York City? Why am I moving to Atlanta, GA?
So that’s what this post is about.
If you’ve ever been curious what it’s like to live in New York, or if you’re wondering what it’s like to move to a different city, this post will give you some insights.
Coming to New York City
I’ve always loved New York City.
I remember growing up and seeing all the television shows and movies based in NYC.
It seemed like the center of the universe.
If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
I came here for the first time when I was 20 years old. It was spring break.
Me and my friends did a grueling 15-hour road trip to come here.
I loved pizza. But up until that point all I ate was Pizza Hut, Dominos, and school cafeteria pizza. The first time I had NYC pizza I thought to myself, ”Holy crap, I’ve been living a lie my entire life. THIS IS AWESOME!”
It seemed like no matter how much we did on that trip, there was always more and more to do.
I felt sad when I left because I knew that we had scratched less than 1% of things to do in the city.
And on top of that, there was only so much I could do as a broke college student.
I told myself that if I had enough money one day, I’d move here to really explore the city.
Once I reached my early 30’s, I realized that the window was starting to close to live in New York City. Technically, I could live here at any point of my life, but I wanted to be here before I had kids.
It’s one of those things where I felt if I never lived in NYC, I’d always regret it.
So with that in mind, I came here in 2017 and moved to Chelsea, Manhattan.
I’m going to share with you some of the things I enjoyed about living in NYC, along with some of the things I didn’t.
What I Loved About New York City
We gotta start with food. If I could only eat in one city for the rest of my life, it would be NYC. (Second place? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
What I love is that everything’s here.
Name an underrated ethnic cuisine. Polish, Himalayan, Bangladesh, Ethiopian, etc. It doesn’t matter—you can find it in NYC.
Want world-class fine dining? There’s Eleven Madison Park and Per Se.
Want cheap food? There’s great $1 pizza everywhere and Chinatown.
Everyone hustles here. There’s no beach to chill and go surfing around here.
Rent’s fucking expensive so everyone’s on their A game.
I wouldn’t say that NYC is the best place if you’re specifically looking to network with internet marketers or affiliate marketers.
Southern California’s probably better in that regards.
But just being in the city you end up meeting a lot of people from different cities at the top of their game.
One interesting thing is that people are always visiting the city.
Sometimes I’ll meet someone interesting at a mastermind or at a conference. It could be years before we see each other again.
But I’ve had a lot of those scenarios where the person just happens to visit NYC for business or for fun, and they’ll hit me up to hang out.
Just a warning: friends will be asking to stay at your place a lot if you live in NYC.
My advice is to only let people stay a maximum or three days—unless it’s family.
And man you definitely need to set some boundaries on your time or else you’re always going to be playing tour guide.
There’s only so many times you can give the Times Square tour before you go insane.
Something else I realized about myself is that I hate networking. I LOVE spending quality time with friends or people I know. But meeting a stranger and picking each other brains? Nah. Going to a “meet up” and hoping something comes out from me? Rather stay home and watch Netflix.
You Save a LOT of Time
You guys know that time is my most valuable resource. You can always make more money, but you can’t get back your time.
I worked at home.
My next main commute was my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu School, which was a 5 minute walk.
I lived next door to Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s was a 5 minute walk away.
Massage was a 5 minute walk. There were maybe 50 restaurants within a 5 minute walk.
You get the point.
If you live in the right part of NYC, you save a TON of time in NYC.
Compared to the average person in the suburbs, I think I saved 20+ hours a week of commuting with my “set up.”
That’s one of my secrets to getting so much done. What could you do with an extra 20+ hrs a week not stuck in traffic?
And on top of that, everyone has this sense of urgency.
Everyone walks fast.
If I ask for the check, it’s on my table within a minute of me asking.
I remember visiting an island in the Caribbean and it took 30 minutes just to get the check!
There’s Always Something To Do
I was never, ever bored living in the city.
There was always a new restaurant opening up.
Is that artist you like going on tour? Guaranteed they’re stopping by NYC.
There’s also the opportunity to do so many things that just aren’t in other cities.
I saw 15+ broadway shows and visited 10+ different museums. I just can’t do that in any other city except London.
Every day I woke up feeling like it was a sense of adventure. No day is exactly the same.
You just can’t be bored living in this city.
One thing to think about is that there are OPTIONS for everything. Most major cities tend to have one football team, one major museum, and one major zoo for example. In NYC, you have options.
What I Didn’t Like About NYC
Alright, so I shared with you some of the things I liked about NYC. Obviously it’s not perfect or else I’d stay there forever.
Here are some of the things that bothered me about the city.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
Want an apartment? Most people don’t realize you need to hire a broker to help you find a place.
And the broker fee? 15% of the annual rent. (That’s a $5,400 fee assuming you’re renting a $3,000 a month place.)
The average two bedroom condo in my area costs $6,000 USD a month. The equivalent in Atlanta would be around $2,000.
Everything’s more expensive here since businesses have to pay rent.
Unless you’re eating fast food, it’s hard to have a sit down meal for two for less than $40.
There are some ways NYC can be cheaper.
You don’t need a car. I spent around $100 a month on subways and Ubers while I’m here.
Much cheaper than a car payment, insurance, and gas. I’m guessing you save around $500+ a month at least without a car.
Most people save money by getting roommates and living further away from the city.
Instead of shopping at Whole Foods, you can head over to Chinatown for cheaper groceries.
It’s just a matter of money vs time.
Besides NYC is so expensive, there’s a lot of homeless people. Gentrification is a big problem. In the area I stayed at, there were Starbucks and Banks everywhere. The local mom and pop stores left over a decade again.
It definitely made me feel guilty because people like me are part of the Gentrification problem.
The weather here sucks, and it drains you.
I wake up around 6am each morning. So it sucks to wake up and see complete darkness. There’s no sunshine for several hours.
And damn it gets cold. When it’s freezing outside, it’s easy to just stay home everyday and call Seamless or UberEats!
NYC is beautiful in the Spring and Summer, but when it’s cold, it sucks the motivation out of you.
There’s No Grass
I was so confused the first time I took my dog Romeo for a walk. I thought to myself, “Where’s the grass?”
The city is nothing but concrete.
I really believe that there’s power in being around nature. You have energy and you get creative ideas.
Living in a space without nature wears you down over time.
I’ve been in Atlanta for a week and a half. I can’t tell you how much energy I have doing my 30 minute walk each morning.
The sun is up and I’m surrounded by grass and trees. This feeling is so underrated.
Is NYC Worth it?
I’ve seen a lot of people dream about moving to NYC.
Living in NYC is rough. The weather sucks, and it’s expensive.
For most people, I’m going to say that living in NYC isn’t worth it. You’re going to have to make a lot of sacrifices one way or another to live here.
I think it’s worth trying to come here if you’re in one of NYC’s major industries: restaurants, finance, fashion, etc.
For me, I had to ask myself if living in the city was worth an extra $50,000 a year compared to somewhere like Atlanta.
For my future kids, I’d definitely encourage them to try to go to school up here or come here immediately after graduation to see if they like it.
Moving to Atlanta, Georgia
At this point I had to figure out where I wanted to move to next. I realized that the past ten years was about me exploring.
I’m 34 now and I’m ready to settle down and start a family with my girlfriend.
Now the question became, where would be the best place for me to raise kids.
That was simple to answer.
I’d go back home to Atlanta, GA. I can get a lot of support from my family. My future kids can see my parents more than once a year for Christmas.
And my parents are in their 60s. I want to spent as much time with them while they’re alive.
The decision was easy because Atlanta is growing as a city, and I love living here. Definitely a lot easier decision for me compared to if they lived in North Dakota.
Other Random Questions
- Have I found a Brazilian Jiujitsu school yet?
I’m surprised how many people have asked about this.
I need to find a home first. After that I’ll try out different schools in the area and see where I fit in the best.
The most important thing is a reasonable commute. I don’t want to be stuck in rush hour trying to get to class.
- What area of Atlanta am I considered staying in?
We’re looking at homes in Sandy Springs or Brookhaven.
I definitely want to live closer to the city for the next few years. We can move north to the suburbs once we have kids.
- Is Your Girlfriend Moving to Atlanta Too? What Does She Think?
Yep, she’s already in Atlanta with me and pretty happy with the city.
She appreciates the slow pace, and it’s cheaper to live here.
- What About Your Employees?
My team has been 100% remote for the past several years.
We still meet on Slack, Wrike, and Zoom everyday.
Time is a Flat Circle
Someone found it ironic that I spent so many years traveling, only to end up back where I started.
Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have unless you go out and explore.
If I stayed in Atlanta for the past ten years, I would’ve always had this feeling of regret. I would’ve always had this sense of shame that I didn’t explore and push my comfort zone.
The amount of growth I’ve experienced by living in different cities and countries is priceless.
Those were the right decisions for that stage of my life.
If you ever have the opportunity to leave your hometown, do it. Your home is always going to be there, but the opportunity won’t.
I can spend the rest of my life in Atlanta without any feeling of regret. If I end up marrying my girlfriend, I’ll have zero regrets what’s “out there” because I dated a bit in my 20’s.
The more you explore, the less you regret.
By the way, I put together a spreadsheet of my favorite places to eat in NYC and some recommended things to do
Charles Ngo NYC Recommendations
Featured Image by UTBP