I've been in the Greater Tampa Bay Area now for several years, and I get asked a lot -- why Tampa? Why not Miami, or Orlando, or any of the other great cities and towns?
My reactions are always a little mixed. While mainly it's because it was affordable and on the coast, it was also slightly because I didn't know any better.
With the knowledge I have now from living here, I would probably choose somewhere farther north to live, like Ocala, and there are a few personal reasons why -- but I will get to that later.
Before I can answer "why Tampa?" I should probably address why Florida?
Florida had a lot of appeal to me; from the year-round warm weather and beaches, to the lower taxes and plenty of things to do, it seemed like a great candidate for settling down in.
I knew from a young age that Northeastern USA just wasn't where I wanted to spend my entire life. My mind was made up in high school that I wanted to live somewhere south for the warm weather, and after graduation I settled on Florida because I was slightly familiar with it from family vacations.
I just had to figure out where in Florida, and it was a seriously painstaking process.
I considered most areas of the state before finally committing to a move, including Pensacola, Orlando, and even The Keys.
Initially I thought I would probably end up in Pensacola, since it is perhaps the cheapest coastal city -- but, unfortunately, between the job market and housing arrangements I couldn't find at the time, I was forced to look elsewhere.
I prioritized the other major cities and their surrounding towns because of jobs, however, Miami (and anywhere south of that) was way out of my budget, Orlando was too far from the ocean for my liking, and since I didn't really want to be on the Atlantic Coast because I prefered the warm Gulf waters, all signs started to point to Tampa.
So after about 2 months of checking jobs, housing and crime maps I finally took some time off to interview for some positions in Tampa and explore the area.
I fell in love with the beaches, nightlife, and most of all -- the warmth. I knew it was where I wanted to be.
Once I was offered a decent job, I decided it was an appropriate time to jump head first into the move and I put a downpayment on a rental unit in a nice neighborhood only 5 minutes from the beach. To me, it was paradise.
Really the reason why I chose this location was because at the time, it ended up being the only place I could find matching most of my criteria for comfortable living standards: affordability, good job market, beaches, colleges, tolerable traffic & heat.
But now that I have been here for the better half of 5 years, I have learned a lot about not only the area but also myself; which is why I say I would perhaps reconsider living in this area in the future once my lease is up.
While I like the coastal beaches and being in a central location of the state, I think there are nicer rural areas farther north to live in (the Hudson - Ocala region) where you can get more for your money -- without being too far from the city amenities.
Not to mention, many of the states beautiful blue springs are north of Tampa (Weeki Wachee, Rainbow River, etc) and I have discovered that I actually prefer swimming at these spots than the beach.
Plus, missing out on city traffic is never something to complain about.
The only downside with being farther from the city is the lack of jobs, but with COVID-19 making remote work the newest trend, that might not be such an issue anymore.
So there you have it, the condensed version of why I chose Tampa; and why I will probably move away from its central city life in the future