2. I am open to moving to a place that has a low cost of living and that may be considered un-hip. Somewhere like a small city in Wyoming or Idaho or South Dakota or Iowa.
3. One compromise might be a sort of suburban or even rural small-town situation. Somewhere close enough to a city to maintain ties there. But far enough out that we aren't in the Expensive Hip Vortex.
My experience moving to mountainous, rural flyover country in the western US has been extremely positive, but as a racially-mixed family, we did pick our landing place with care. Overall, Iíve seen much less racism in the rural Intermountain West than was apparent in places Iíve lived in the Midwest and the South, perhaps due to a lack of historical tensions, but also due to the rugged, colorblind meritocracy inherent in society here. People with radically different political perspectives also tend to be pretty neighborly here, outside of social media.
We did our homework and then drove around a lot to get a feel for different regions and towns. While we never experienced any overt unpleasantness, there were definitely towns where the vibe was less friendly ó not hostile, but stand-offish ó so we concentrated on the friendly places.
There are some pretty vibrant small-to-medium-sized towns out here, with rich, diverse communities and plenty of extracurricular activities for our kidsÖ and thatís in addition to 4-H, FFA, high school football, hunting, and the rodeo.
I wonít name specific small towns here, since you would have to do what we did - homework plus a tour to check out the high points - to find a place that fits you. But if youíre looking for what passes for a bigger town or city around here, with a modicum of big city culture and amenities, you might check out places like Boise, Coeur díAlene, Missoula, or Bozeman (MT, not MO :D). (And if you happen to like exercise in the great outdoors, all of these towns have spectacular, accessible wilderness areas right in their backyards.)
We ended up in a rural area with several towns within a 30 minute drive, and itís struck a nice balance for our familyís needs. I work from home, but we still put a lot of miles on the vehicle. Not very Mustachian, I know - but itís the price we choose to pay to live in a great, semi-rural community that we wouldnít trade for anywhere else.