[Note: This piece is from A.J. Ratani, the former CTO of Red Ventures, who decided to leave his job and travel the world. He’s currently an angel investor and advisor to early-stage companies.]
Last July, my wife, Natasha, and I along with our two-year-old son set off from our home here in Charlotte for an 8.5-month trip around the world. I had just left my full-time job as CTO at Red Ventures and this was a trip we’d talked about doing for years.
During the trip we visited 31 countries across six continents. Some countries we’d seen before; but most were entirely new to our family.
When we returned to Charlotte this April, a friend asked me, “Doesn’t it make your skin crawl to come back to Charlotte?” What he meant to say was this – ‘You’ve seen the world, and now you’re coming back to Charlotte. That’s GOT to be a let down.’
I wholeheartedly disagreed with him because we’ve seen the world. And we realized that for us Charlotte is one of the best cities in the world. Here are five reasons why.
(1) Charlotte’s cost of living is more manageable
Let’s start with the affordable cost of living. As we all know, there are a lot of expensive cities to live in the world – the NYCs, the SFs, the Londons. Charlotte is affordable.
It is not only manageable to live here, but also to have a tremendously independent lifestyle here with good food and good shopping, culture and personality. And that money – your money – goes much further here than other places. You’re not commuting hours twice a day to and from work. You’re not living with two or three strangers and scraping by.
You can start and build a life here which can be an empowering feeling as you’re starting or growing your career.
You can also build a business here. There are a lot of hidden startups here with decent revenue, 10-15 employees, a growing, social footprint. You might have never heard of them, but they’re doing well.
The cost to run a business here is significantly less, and the networks – and the general friendliness of the community – means growth is a strong possibility early on.
(2) Charlotte is well-positioned on the world map
We sometimes forget that to get from one place to another can take forever – as in hours upon hours. Cape Town, South Africa, is a relatively small city with natural beauty and lots of culture – but it’s hard to get to.
We don’t appreciate how amazing Charlotte’s location is. We can get to the beaches and to the mountains in only a couple of hours. Our airport means we can fly direct to a lot of cities inside the U.S. as well as places like Europe, South America, or the Caribbean. And – as much as we complain about it – Charlotte’s traffic isn’t as bad as it is in most cities in the world.
(3) Charlotte is a very friendly city to outsiders
This isn’t a reality in all – maybe even in most – cities around the world. It’s not even a reality in other places within the U.S.
With the number of people moving to Charlotte – on now a daily basis – it’s rare to meet native Charlotteans. Where that counts is in how receptive people here are to outsiders – we are warm and welcoming.
People in Charlotte are generally happy to talk to you and get to know you or make new friends. We underestimate how friendly we are as respective people and as a culture as well as what that friendliness fosters from personal friendships to professional relationships.
(4) Charlotte is growing fast – and you can feel that energy, too
Charlotte’s fresh energy is unique and special for a lot of reasons, but mainly because of what it creates and fosters here – a young, thriving spirit of possibility here.
It’s that spirit that’s supported the number of new restaurant concepts and breweries; it’s that spirit that’s fostered the creativity of innovative chefs, street artists, entrepreneurs; it’s that spirit that’s created the space for more corporate headquarters, jobs, opportunities.
Some of the world’s most beautiful, historic, classic cities can’t claim a spirit or energy with that air of possibility and potential.
(5) Charlotte’s got four seasons
And finally – the weather is just amazing. Charlotte touts four beautiful, well-balanced seasons.
Yes, the summers are hot, but the winters are mild.
There are a lot of places in the world that are bitterly cold or excruciatingly hot and humid. Having grown up in Dubai, and then visited there on our trip, that reality hit fast – and hot.
In those 8.5 months we spent traveling the world, we spent a lot of time in places that reminded us of Charlotte. Lima Peru is a growing city with fresh energy; Vancouver’s vibrancy and mild weather felt like Charlotte; Zagreb Croatia, which felt like a similar size city to Charlotte, is friendly and has an innovative, up-and-coming food scene.
But nothing was quite like Charlotte.
Did returning to Charlotte make my skin crawl? Far from it. Experiencing all these other cities in the world made that even clearer to me.