It was my dream to move to Portland, Oregon for about five years before I actually had the chance to finally make the move. I think to many people, myself included, Portland is a perfect pipe dream of freedom, amazing food, kind people, cozy weather, and great beer.
After living in Portland for about three years, I can say that Portland really is everything I hoped it would be. But as with any city, Portland comes with amazing things and with challenges.
So before you decide to make the big move to Portland, allow me to tell you what it is really like to live there… the good and the bad.
Portland is a beautiful city. From the gorgeous Willamette River, to the countless bridges and tree covered hills, to Mt. Hood watching over the city, to the street art on every corner, Portland is as beautiful as all the pictures make it look. I can’t even tell you how many times I went for my evening run around the waterfront and pinched myself for being so lucky to call this place home.
For a big city, Portland feels more like a small town. You are likely to run in to people you know when you are out and about and people genuinely are quite kind, especially for a city.
The food and drink scene in Portland is truly exceptional. Not only is the variety and quality of food and drink amazing, but it all comes at an affordable cost. Portland is a very laid back city and you will get weird looks if you try to dress up to go out to dinner… and we like it that way.
Portland is a very livable city, due in part to the incredible public transit system. In Portland you have the option to take the MAX (light rail), the Streetcar, or the bus, all of which will take you anywhere you need to go in the city or through the suburbs. Portland is also very walkable and quite safe for walkers (as with any city, there are areas where you should keep your guard up, but overall Portland is much safer than many other major cities).
Even though the weather is going to make “the bad” cut as well, it is worth noting that Portland has very mild winters and summers. It very rarely snows or gets far below freezing in winter and very, very rarely goes over 90 degrees in the summer. If you can get past the rain, the weather is pretty amazing.
Probably the best thing about Portland is how accessible the outdoors are. Whether you are going snowboarding or skiing on Mt. Hood, riding mountain bikes in Central Oregon, paddle boarding one of the many rivers, or just hiking or camping, everything is in your backyard. Mt. Hood is a quick 45 minutes to hour drive from Downtown and the rest of Oregon is on your doorstep as well. There is a reason why Portland is known as an outdoor enthusiasts paradise!
The “dream” of Portland is really that now.. a dream. The cost of living in Portland has risen exponentially over the past 5-10 years and only just now seems to be tapering off a bit. If you want to live in a central location, don’t expect to pay less than $1,200 for a studio or $1,500 for a one bedroom. Even though Portland is now on par with other big cities in terms of cost of living, you will hear locals complain about the cost of living to no end. Portland was never supposed to be as crowded or expensive as it is and that doesn’t sit well with people.
And on the note of the crowds, the traffic in Portland is a nightmare. At one point, I had an 18 mile commute to work that took me an hour… if I was lucky. When I moved in to the city, I purposely chose a place that was a bit pricier but within walking distance to work. Unfortunately, rush hour lasts from about 2:00pm to 7:00pm, and being on the road during those hours is pure torture, made worse by the fact that Oregon drivers… well, they aren’t great.
Because of course no one can talk about Portland without talking about the weather, let’s cut to it: it rains a lot. I’m not going to sugar coat it… in Portland it is very dark and very wet for about 8 months out of the year. In the winter it gets dark by 4pm and, coupled with the non-stop rain, it is no wonder people have severe seasonal effective disorder by March.
While Portland is quite safe by big city standards, Portland welcomes homeless people with open arms. This means that homelessness and drug use are not only rampant, but very visible. While I have never really felt unsafe in Portland, I have also seen people shooting up drugs on the streets Downtown. Most people doing this aren’t threatening to passerby’s, but it does feel quite sketchy having this happening around you.