The Great Exodus: Millennials Find Peace And Prosperity Outside DC
As I write this, Jessica Guzik is sitting inside Dulles Airport waiting to board a flight that will take her to a new city and new life. After 5 years in Washington, DC Guzik is moving to Berlin– a city with a storied past and progressive present.
Guzik hopes to immerse herself in Berlin’s buzzing startup scene, food, nightlife, and price point. For the past few years, she’s spent her time building her event planning business, Curated Table, in Washington, DC.
But although Guzik has no clients in Berlin, she believes the low cost of living (nearly 40% cheaper than DC) will help her fare well.
“I’m hoping to either work full-time for a German employer or resume freelancing,” says Guzik.
On a phone call with her as she waits for her flight, I ask if she will regret leaving.
“I could possibly return so I certainly won’t regret leaving,” she says. “I love that so many people in DC are passionate about their work. I love DC’s mild winters, La Colombe draft lattes, and the patio at Le Diplomate on a sunny day. I love complaining about the metro and picnicking at Meridian Hill Park. But I hate how expensive DC is.”
“I’m unemployed. I don’t speak German. And I know as many people in Berlin as I have fingers– on one hand. So I don’t expect this to be an easy transition. Even so, I’m looking forward to this adventure.”
“I credit the city with providing the building blocks to help me position myself in my career. But there are new journeys to be had and new trails to blaze.”
Amanda Spann— a tech entrepreneur and marketing professional– arrived in DC in 2011 and left in 2015.
“I left to free up capital to launch my app startup studio,” says Spann. “I was able to work remotely so I returned to my home state, Florida, for a year and lived for a fraction of the cost and free of state taxes. I saved enough to launch my first app within a few months of leaving.”
Spann, like many young DC professionals, credits Washington for launching her career.
“DC treated me well,” says Spann. “I credit the city with providing the building blocks to help me position myself in my career. DC was really the right place and time for me to create the career I wanted for myself. It was such a great pool of accessible talent and resources.”
“But there are new journeys to be had and new trails to blaze.”
Spann now lives in Chicago where she’s helping entrepreneurs build and accelerate their brands.
“I thought I would regret leaving the city but I left and didn’t look back. I often miss my friends and the social scene there, but they’re only a plane ride away.”
“Nowhere else in the world will you find such a passionate and diverse group of intelligent, young professionals setting the tone for the future. But DC can carry an air of pretentiousness. It’s a very ‘what do you do’ and ‘who do you know’ type of town.”
Is Anyone Still Moving to Washington?
Known for our transient population, perhaps DC has left a bad taste in many mouths.
In his book “This Town” New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich paints Washington as a backstabbing, guest list envious town place with would-be socialites obsessed with self-branding.
And with the new Administration bringing instability to long-steady government jobs, those who once hesitated to leave now see no reason to stay.
After a solid 8 years in Washington, I’m even beginning to envy friends and colleagues who have left for better jobs, more adventure, and to build real roots in a real place.
But is the grass really greener on the other side?
Photos provided by Amanda Spann and Jessica Guzik.