- Software company CEO Ravi Bhatt moved his family from Chicago to Bloomington, Indiana in 2021.
- Bhatt said living in the mid-sized college town has improved his family’s quality of life.
- His children have more and more appointments and he weaves more personal ties.
Jhis as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ravi Bhatt, 44, about his experience moving from Chicago to Bloomington, indiana, in 2021. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
My wife and I spent almost 20 years in Chicago. But like many people during COVID, we started thinking more broadly about where we wanted to live.
In Chicago, we and our two children lived in a 1,700 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bath condo in Lincoln Park, an affluent North Side community just a 12 minute drive from downtown Chicago.
My wife and I questioned our long-term planning – “what will life be like in 10 years or in 20 years?” We wondered if living in Chicago would allow us to retire early, if we had a strong sense of community, and if our children were thriving in the city or not.
We decided to leave Chicago. It’s an idea made possible by remote work.
I’m the CEO of software company Folia. In 2021, when the company was launched, we made the decision to allow everyone to work 100% remotely. My wife, who is a civil rights attorney for a nonprofit, also shared this flexibility.
We wanted to move to somewhere that was above its weight class – somewhere small and intimate but still had all the qualities we loved about living in a big city. Because of our jobs, my wife and I thought college towns had a nice appeal.
In the spring of 2021, my family and I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, a Midwestern city of 85,000, home to Indiana University Bloomington. It’s about 55 miles south of Indianapolis and nearly four hours from Chicago.
Why I chose Bloomington
My wife and I attended undergrad in Bloomington, so we already had some familiarity with it. The city is certainly not Chicago or New York, but it is much better than an average city of 80,000 to 100,000 inhabitants.
What made the area attractive to us was that Indiana University Bloomington is a large research university. I have a background in artificial intelligence and the city is one of the major places to pursue this type of research.
Moving to Bloomington also comes with other intangibles when it comes to business, like working closely with the university and building connections. Another cool thing about city life is that a lot of people have a bachelor’s degree or higher, so you’re surrounded by a lot of educated people and professionals.
How our life has changed
Our family home is a bit in the woods. When you look into the backyard, you don’t see skyscrapers, but rather hills and lots of trees.
While we pay more for our house in Bloomington than in Chicago, we moved to a more spacious place. If we talk about the square footage, the new house – a six bed and six bath – is a quarter of the cost and has enough space for grandparents to visit.
In terms of work, moving hasn’t made anything easier professionally.
Many people are stressed from work and think life will get easier once they leave the big city. However, most people will end up working remotely for their same employers. So you’ll still need the same hustle, just in a different place.
That being said, we live in a time of human history where we have access to most resources, information, education and technology. This is the time when we can be geographically flexible if we want to, and I encourage people to explore.
Our quality of life has improved
There’s been a lot of talk about this idea that people just move for the cost. I think that masks a few other factors.
Has my quality of life improved in Bloomington? Well, yes and no. It has certainly improved the quality of life for the children — I think it’s a huge improvement.
In a city like Chicago, when you’re trying to pick up the kids and go on a play date, the logistics of moving a car around town are never easy. It’s nice to be able to leave your home and be directly in an urban environment. My kids are having a friendlier time in Bloomington.
For adults, we occasionally think about what we miss in the big city. However, we have to remember that when we lived in Chicago, we didn’t actually appreciate all the things the city had to offer due to the convenience factor – like having a 30-40 minute commute, even for something that is a mile and a half away.
Although there is a little less of an abstract point of view, living in Bloomington is absolutely more flexible. And while it might seem like the biggest cliche in the world, you form more personal connections in a small town than in a big city.
A week after we moved in, there was a heavy snowfall and we were snowed in for almost a foot. We didn’t own a snow shovel, because until now, lawn care was just an academic exercise that we had never been able to do ourselves. Our neighbor—whom we didn’t even know—just arrived with his plow and cleared our driveway.
In Bloomington there is a natural difference in how you interact with people and that also determines the quality of life. It makes you feel like you’re more part of the community.