I'm finishing my graduate programs (MBA and MS in Geology) in December and am trying to figure out what I want to do next. I love the West and miss living near national parks and mountains but all my friends have moved to Cincinnati. So trying to decide if people + travel is better than just being a few minutes away from the places I want to hike. If I can cheaply get West when I want then the COL in Cincinnati might make it worthwhile.
It was nice to meet you Monday night Cheaphiker! My .02 cents is that it doesn't have to be one or the other. I think it mostly depends on where you are in your life-cycle. For Vindicated, it makes sense for he and his wife to be close to family so they can take advantage of childcare, holidays, etc. But if you aren't married with kids, why not spend a few years living in amazing places (not saying this area isn't great, but I, too, love the West), maybe waiting to meet someone special or having kids, before moving back to be close to friends and family.
Our neighbors took this approach and loved their carefree, after college, Chicago days, but once child #2 joined the pack, moved back here to a cheaper COL and lots of family support (childcare, home improvement projects, dog care while traveling). Bonus, our neighbor now telecommutes to his "old" job in Chicago, which makes the move that much less painful. He still has to travel up there occasionally, but it really isn't that big a deal because they have family close by to help out on those weeks. It has become increasingly easier to move to lower COL areas and maintain existing jobs.
Quality of life is something that just can't be cheaply purchased, so decide what matters most to you right now and build your plan around that. If year-around hiking is important, move to where that is a reality-->if your priorities change, you can always move again.