I moved to Denver, Colorado and regretted it. Making friends is expensive and difficult.

I moved to Denver, Colorado and regretted it.  Making friends is expensive and difficult.

Eric Michels in Spain.
Eric Michaels.

  • Eric Michels moved from Atlanta to Denver in 2021.
  • He was excited for more opportunities to be in nature, but he hated Denver’s unpredictable weather.
  • Michels then moved to Spain and found it easier to make friends.

This article is based on a conversation with Eric Michels, a 51-year-old former resident of Denver, Colorado, about his experience living in Denver. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I moved to Denver, Colorado in May 2021 from Atlanta, Georgia due to a job decision. I have a wife and two kids in their 20s and we all moved in together.

I was excited to move to a place with more outdoor activities and more opportunities to be in nature. In Denver you can hike, mountain run, snowboard, and mountain bike. We had high expectations for Colorado, and while I can’t deny that the Colorado landscape is truly beautiful, I think I was naive and didn’t do enough research properly.

The first and biggest problem we found was the weather

The weather is really unpredictable in Colorado. It can be very cold early in the morning, but by 10am it is very hot.

Winter was especially terrible for us. I remember our apartment complex telling me that the temperature would drop below minus 5 degrees for three days in a row and to be prepared in case of a power outage.

We have two dogs who are 11 and 12 years old, and having to walk them three times a day was a problem – they didn’t want to be outside.

During our first snow storm, our dog was at the vet and they kept us waiting all day to pick him up. By the time they finally said to come, it was snowing hard. I had a Toyota Prius, and because Denver was so hilly, the car couldn’t make it; It was very slippery. We ended up calling a friend who had a pickup truck, and even his all-terrain vehicle had problems getting to the vet.

Making friends was also a challenge in Colorado

Although people are generally friendly, it is difficult to make real friends.

Of all the relationships I tried to build in Denver, no one asked me for my phone number or invited me to meet; I was always reaching out to see if we could sit down and talk. In Atlanta, I was able to meet and talk with people who shared their struggles and lives with me—as much as I shared theirs with them.

Even at church, people in Denver seemed less engaged and didn’t really invite us into their lives. I remember that after I left one church I visited, no one spoke to me or followed me. After I emailed my pastor and inquired about a men’s Bible group, I was put in touch with a man who runs it and we met for coffee. We had what I thought was a great conversation, and he said he would invite me to various men’s activities. But he never did, and he never contacted him again, and neither did I.

We tried inviting people to visit every three to four weeks, but people were always busy or tired. While I’ve always believed that churches should be the most welcoming places to generate community and friendships, I also tried joining a hiking group, to see if joining a group that did weekly activities would generate deeper relationships.

In the two years we lived in Denver, only four couples invited us into their homes, which is a very low percentage. In Atlanta, people practice Southern hospitality — friendliness, inclusiveness, inviting us to barbecues or church events — and it makes you feel more welcome.

Cost of living is another big issue in Colorado

Denver is a very expensive city and has one of the highest average rents in the United States. I lived in Lakewood, which is about a 20 minute drive from Denver. Housing prices are ridiculous, and rents there are rising faster than in other cities.

Many of the houses and apartments in Denver are old, and due to the high demand for them, it seemed as if no one cared to renovate them. We rented an old 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment in a decent area that went for $2,300 — but as of May 2023, the price has risen to $2,800.

Another way I saw the cost of living in Denver: During the winter, I volunteered at a severe weather shelter where homeless people could spend the night somewhere warm. I spoke with many homeless people and discovered that many of them had lost their jobs or struggled financially and were unable to pay rent or save a deposit to move somewhere.

We have since moved from Colorado to live in Malaga, Spain

I’m in my early 50s, and I think the US is where you live to work – and I don’t want that for the rest of my life. I want to have more free time and be in much better weather.

We had a consensus in our family that we should move to another country.

Moving to Spain was not easy, we sold all our furniture and our car. Traveling with 10 bags between us and three pets was quite a challenge for the airline.

I was able to obtain a Digital Nomad visa, which you can apply for within 90 days of your arrival in Spain.

Spain is a more relaxed country and money goes a long way

I live here seven minutes from the beach, and the weather is great. It’s as dry as Colorado but there’s always a breeze from the ocean that makes the hot weather bearable.

We rented a two-story apartment with four bedrooms and two bathrooms for $1,400. Internet is about $60 a month. Some things are more expensive here – for example cars and technology – but by the day it is much cheaper.

Health care is also better here. In Spain, we pay $50 a month for insurance, which gives us access to free health and dental care. This is very convenient.

In the technology sector, during the summer, a lot of people here only work six hours a day. They can go home at 3pm, be with their families, and even enjoy their time at the beach or pool. They make up those hours during the fall, spring and winter by working more than 40 hours a week the rest of the year.

People also take naps seriously, many businesses close at 1pm and open again at 3 or 4pm, and I take a nap every day and unplug for at least an hour.

In Spain, people interact with you on a deeper level

Another really cool thing we noticed here is that when we go out to eat, no one is looking at their phones. Everyone engages with each other at the table and enjoys a meal together.

People are interested in knowing information about you, where you come from, how you cope, your family, and your situation. We are fluent in Spanish and English, which helps. You can freely knock on a neighbor’s door and ask for butter or wine, and it happens both ways – they come to your door and want help if they need it.

If you have moved to another country and would like to share your story, email Jenna Gyimesi at jgyimesi@insider.com.

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