Now We Live in Maine

It may come as a surprise to you, but we moved again. Yes, yes, I know. We had just gotten to Burlington this past January, so why a sudden move to Portland, Maine? More to the point, why do we move so much in the first place? Well, there are several reasons. But the main one is chasing a better job. I’ve had lots of questions about this, so I’ll try to explain why we’ve been so many places in such a short time.

Moving often is actually quite common for web developers, especially when the economy is bad. Unless you’re in a big city, there aren’t many jobs available. If you’re not willing to relocate, you tend to end up in one of three positions:

  1. First and best, you could be one of the lucky few who land a nice job with upward mobility and career options. (That’s everyone’s end-goal.)
  2. Second, you could find something that’s kind of paying the bills and loosely involves your skills, but which has no possibility of upward movement. Your pay will never really go up, and you’re also likely to be working for people who don’t understand the internet. Take a job like this for any length of time, and your skills will atrophy while the rest of the world moves on.
  3. Lastly, you could go Freelance. This means that you try your best to find clients while working some other job to pay the bills. You can’t just be a web developer to pull this off, however. You also need to be a salesman. Some folks are successful with this, but most of the time “freelance” just means that you’re loading trucks or something and doing web stuff in the evenings.

I’ve done all of these. When I moved to Burlington, VT the first time, I just worked in a copy shop to pay the bills. I tried some web work, but the locals wanted a full content management system for around $200. (Try asking a mechanic to build you a new engine for that amount, and see what he says.) When the economy went bad, my girlfriend (now my wife) lost her job and mine was going nowhere. We needed to change things before the savings ran out, so we moved to Boston. I found a four-month contract job, and the pattern began. I would work a contract until it was over, and find a new one. It’s kind of like when a construction crew finishes a house and then has to find another house to work on. Again, this is even more common when the economy is bad. Jobs don’t just magically float to you. You have to go to them.

The goal of a contract is to learn things and improve your skills so you can make more money on the next one. This is how lots of developers improve their careers. The next contract is often in another city, so we move there. If we get a chance to renew or go permanent, we check to see if we’re about to land a real career job. If not… we move on.

This is how I’ve spent the past few years. They weren’t all contracts, however. I left my most recent job because it just didn’t have a future for me. The people were wonderful, but the company works like 2002 instead of 2012. Burlington is a small place with very few opportunities, so our lives were pretty much frozen in place.  Since we wanted to keep moving forward, Cara and I chose to move again, hopefully for the last time.

We targeted Portland because it has more opportunities for both of us, and because we like the place. Downtown Portland is several times larger than Burlington’s, and it’s a real downtown. (For Burlington, “downtown” essentially means Church Street.) Portland is completely walkable, and the commute to Freeport is just 16 miles on a solid stretch of well-maintained highway. That last bit is important, since my new job is at L.L. Bean.

I have a six-month contract with them, which will hopefully go permanent when it’s done. L.L. Bean is a place where a person can have a solid career, which is why most of the employees have been there for years. In any case, Cara and I are ready to put some roots down.

First Run in Portland, Maine

So after getting all moved in, settled and mostly unpacked, I decided to take a little running tour of downtown. It’s hard to get lost on a small peninsula, so I had only general sort of plan: counter-clockwise around the whole place. I headed out at about 10:40am yesterday.

Ocean Behind Me

To say the very least, it was beautiful. I could smell salt in the air again, see some real shipping along with pleasure craft, and get a good look at the city while I was at it.

After running through the city a bit, I finally hit the coast. I purposefully avoided the shops on Commercial Avenue so I wouldn’t have to worry about bumping into shoppers and tourists. Even so, there were several places downtown where the sidewalk was just wide enough for a door to open and a person to come out of a building. There was no extra room for runners, so I had a couple of close calls. As I become more familiar with Portland, I’ll adjust my route to stay clear of these places. They’re meant for shoppers anyway, and I don’t want to be that jerk who comes crashing by when you’re trying to leave a store.

Once I got past the shops, however, I found some trails and beaches. That part of town definitely was built for runners! There were bunches of places for photo ops, and plenty of room for runners and bicyclists. It won’t be hard to figure out a nice loop in this town.

Doggie on the Rocks
See that blue stuff back there, behind the happy little dog? That’s not a lake. That’s the OCEAN.

I stuck with the peninsula, but I could have gone north of Portland if I had wanted to. The trails were marked and named, so I’ll check on those and figure out a route. That pulled muscle in my left foot was just fine throughout the run, but today it’s a bit sore. I think 5 miles was a bit too much. I should train it up from shorter runs until it’s right again.

So I guess I can close on a positive note. We still love Burlington, but Portland seems to be a better permanent home. If all goes as planned, we’ll be settling in for good.  🙂