Our mania for relying on prepared lists

People on the beach at Sunset
Emerald Isle, NC Oct. 10, 2010

Late last week I got a call from someone headed to North Carolina to check out retirement options.

Apparently the lady had read a list of the top one hundred places to retire, and this North Carolina spot which shall remain nameless was on the list.

Long ago I learned not to say negative things about the competition, but this destination made me struggle to find the right words.

I finally said, “I don’t think you’ll find what you are looking for there,” and left it at that.

She did not find what she wanted there, and the next morning she called me and arranged for a visit to the area where we live.  I wondered how many people had been led astray by that particular list.

While struggling to fall back to sleep tonight, I searched a few lists of top retirement places.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in retirement, and some friends would even accuse me of being a failure at retiring since I keep working, but I do know a fair amount about cities in North Carolina and Virginia since they were in the heart of my territory when I worked for Apple Computer.  Also I was born in North Carolina, and I lived in Virginia for over twenty years.

Most of the cities and towns on the top ten list of places to retire were probably okay, but a couple on the list would cause me to question the methodology of the list.  I seriously doubt that any of lists that I saw this evening were based on a survey of retired people living in an area.

Having lived in three different places in Canada in addition to North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, I feel that I can evaluate an area for my own needs fairly quickly.  Perhaps that is why we never bothered to look at any lists before we started our own research in 2003 about where to move after my career at Apple ended.

I do admit that the wanderlust that is in my genes might make me a little better at doing research on towns.  Of course having traveled for business reasons for over 25 years might also play a role.

We planned several vacations around destinations that my travels had hinted might be of interest.  I was also able to eliminate lots of potential places because I had seen some of them at their worst.  Business travel usually happens no matter what the weather so the odds of being in place when their weather is at its best are slim.

Our travels finally gave us our own short list, and we eventually moved to the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina after three or four years of looking for the right spot.  It has turned out to be a nice place for us.  There are not many places where you can walk along the beaches in October and still enjoy warm water on your feet.

There is a list of reasons why where we live  has met our needs as a place to live, but I know this place is not for everyone, and the list is one specifically made for my wife and myself.

There are plenty of other lists out there besides ones of retirement cities.  There are the inevitable lists of top colleges, best cars, and top companies for jobs.

I don’t doubt that some research went into all of these lists.  What I do doubt is whether or not  they have any real value to people reading them.

Are we so lazy that we cannot make up our own lists of places to go or colleges or even places to retire?

After all, there is very little information that cannot be had easily on your computer screen these days.

I would think there is some value in finding your own destinations whether it is college, retirement, or the best beach.

It is a little like recipes and a great cook.  While my mother, who was an amazing lady and a great cook,  followed a few recipes in her day, her most delicious meals were ones where she had created her own recipes.  When I go searching for a hush puppy recipe or one for fried chicken, it is hers that I am trying to find not one on some website.

I will remember that the next time I read a list for the best jobs or the greatest places to start a new business.

Author: ocracokewaves

An escapee from the world of selling technology, now living on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks where life revolves around sun, sand, and water. I work at WideOpen Networks helping communities get fiber to their homes. In my spare time I am a photographer, writer, boater, fisherman, kayaker, swimmer, and walker of the beaches.

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