The 7 Stages of Living in Austin

Austin is one of the best places to live, find a job, and own that single-lady lifestyle (hey-o!). But that doesn’t mean life is one constant, barbecue-sauce-glazed dream come true from the moment you touch down and purchase your first pair of cowboy boots. Whether you immigrated to join a band (read: bartend), take up tech since it’s way cheaper than Silicon Valley, or simply because you paid $10 for Tinder Plus and were pleased with the remote swiping results, you’re destined to experience the same incredible highs and undeniable "I hate everything" lows as every other new Austinite. We’ve taken these moments and categorized them into seven inevitable chronological stages.

GSPhotography /

Stage one: the honeymoon phase

Where you’re living: A shiny new apartment complex or condo that wasn’t there a week and a half ago
Where you’re going out: Sixth St, you just don’t know any better
Your mantra: “This is AWESOME!”
Go-to activity: Everything on your “Austin Bucket List!” Google doc you made before moving here

After experiencing Austin vicariously through Snapchat stories, repeated Dazed and Confused screenings, and that ’05 season of Real World, you've arrived eager and excited and immediately thrown yourself into every activity imaginable.

You’re playing on a sand volleyball team at Zilker once a week and taking improv classes; you’re the proud owner of both tie-dye and burnt-orange apparel; and your trivia team -- My Affliction Is True Religion -- regularly scores in the top five at your favorite weekly Geeks Who Drink event. You’ve seen someone throw up on Dirty Sixth, you survived (and actually enjoyed!) your first SXSW, and you’ve already started looking for future houses on Zillow because WHY WOULD ANYONE EVER LEAVE THIS MAGICAL PLACE?! You’ve even made the trek to Hippie Hollow, and have some sufficiently awkward sunburns to show for it. 

Stock up on aloe vera and savor these glorious golden days... they won’t last forever.  

Stage two: the wannabe phase

Where you’re living: A slightly less shiny and slightly new apartment complex (you maverick!)
Where you’re going out: You met some “hipsters” and you’ve been following them around to all these “hipster” bars on the East Side
Your mantra: “Keep Austin weird”
Go-to activity: Trying to convince everyone that you’re a local

After living here for about six months, you feel like you’ve put down some roots and are on your way to becoming a real Austinite. You brag about your high cholesterol being a badge of honor signifying your significant queso consumption, you frequently reference Leslie and Liberty Lunch in conversation to demonstrate your depth of Austin knowledge. You make it a point to check in at every show so your friends from back home are constantly aware of how much fun you’re having in the Live Music Capital. You even erased the photo of you and your friends posing in front of the “I love you so much” mural for fear you’ll come off as a poser and jeopardize your hard-earned -- self-proclaimed-- local status.

Sure, you may still have a California license plate, but you’ve mastered the correct pronunciation of “Manchaca,” and that’s what really counts, right?

Family in backyard

Stage three: the legit-local phase

Where you’re living: You and your friends found an actual house! With an actual backyard! And actual neighbors! (And possibly termites and/or asbestos... it was a really, really good deal) 
Where you’re going out: You’ve developed a healthy hatred for Dirty Sixth, West Sixth, and the greater Downtown area entirely, and have expanded your imbibing horizons to include dive bars and long-established watering holes... as long as you can bike there
Your mantra: “I’m not driving”
Go-to activity: Given the fact you spent all your moving-to-Austin savings on festival tickets and Whole Foods trips during the first two phases, pretty much anything that’s free

Fun fact: when you finally stopped boasting about being a local, you basically became one.
You’re considerably calmer than you were during the first two phases and and have settled into a more laid-back lifestyle and go-with-the-flow existence... aka averaging 4.9 nights out per week instead of 6. You’ve learned to bypass claustrophobia-inducing events like Blues On the Green in favor of more under-the-radar affairs, and you’ve finally stopped Instagramming every single Barton Springs trip and Matthew McConaughey or Elijah Wood sighting. You’ve even acquired a Wheatsville Co-op membership and adopted a few chickens because, screw it, why not.

Basically, you’ve realized that true Austinite status is about more than just a 512 area-code and somewhat questionable facial hair. It’s a mindset. Plus a lot of other things.

Man in car
Olaf Speier/Shutterstock

Stage four: the "constantly complaining about everything" phase 

Where you’re living: The same spot you were in during stage three (after moving in August multiple times, you’ve decided you’d rather just die here...which you might, given the aforementioned asbestos)
Where you’re going out: One of the few places left that meets your requirements for being punk/organic/artisanal/established/local/whatever enough
Your mantra: “Ugh”
Go-to activity: Actively judging everyone who moved here after you and pretending you were never part of the problem

The rose-colored glasses you wore throughout the first three stages disappeared at some point, and Austin has officially lost its luster. It’s not that 104 degrees is really any hotter than it was last summer, that you’ve been bombarded by that many more Facebook ads for new craft cocktail bars, or that I-35 is that much more of a tire fire. Nothing’s that different, and nothing’s really worse than it was six, 18, 24 months ago. It’s just that at some point you reached a personal tipping point, and your life outlook shifted from Shiner Bock half-full to Shiner Bock half-empty. (Maybe when the lake went from full to empty.)

Your once-good-natured griping has escalated into bona fide bitching, and -- as happens to all seasoned Austinites -- you’ve been swept up in a self-fulfilling whirlwind of totally cliché complaints. Even your social media posts are pissy, with updates consisting entirely of listicles outlining the ways Austin has changed, statuses lamenting the excessive amount of EDM on the ACL lineup, and memes about how people should move to Dallas instead.

So, you spend the majority of your time doing some seriously first-world whining. But hey, you’ve had to deal with A TON of traffic to earn that right, OK?

Man frustrated in living room

Stage five: the Austinite mid-life crisis

Where you’re living: Somewhere with some dude from Craigslist because all your roommates moved away or got married
Where you’re going out: One of the few remaining establishments where you haven’t hooked up with a bartender (yet)... which at this point is pretty much just Applebee’s
Your mantra: “What am I DOING with my life?!”
Go-to activity: Party, spiral, repeat

You’ve somehow out-partied the rest of the population, and your once occasional "my life is a mess" meltdowns have become a regular weekly occurrence. After all, c’mon, a person can only eat so much barbecue and spend so many weekends at swimming holes, and attend so many festivals. (Seriously -- how is there always a festival?!) Plus you’ve already dated every person in Austin, you’ve put on at least 10lbs in taco weight, and what if there's nothing more to life than partying and music and shows and sunshine and biking and brunch AND THEN IT'S 40 YEARS LATER AND YOU'RE OLD AND ALONE WITH YOUR SHELTER ANIMALS IN A STUDIO APARTMENT THAT SMELLS LIKE OLD BRISKET AND SHATTERED DREAMS?!

At least those are the thoughts that haunt you on the rougher mornings, which is most mornings. Your friends might actually take your threats to leave Austin seriously if you didn’t text them that you’re “seriously leaving.” Every. Single. Sunday.

Stage six: the "whoa you actually left" phase

Where you’re living: Anywhere but Austin... maybe Detroit? Hell, Jack White has a record store in the city, right? And you can certainly afford a house THERE.
Where you’re going out: You’re currently working your way down the list of best bars that
Thrillist has without a doubt published for your new city of residence, it’s all you’ve got
Your mantra: “I think I’ve made a terrible mistake”
Go-to activity: Second-guessing this decision, primarily

Congrats! After complaining for countless weeks/months/years/ about how Austin has totally changed, you finally snapped. Whether the final straw appeared in the form of an outrageous rent hike, a parking ticket on a street that didn’t even have meters the day before, or the fact that your favorite dive bar lost its lease to an LA restaurateur with a boutique burrito concept, man, you actually did it: you left!

Sure, once summer hits, you experience a case of crippling FOMO triggered by photos of
your friends lounging at Sculpture Falls and laughing on boats and seeing shows at Stubb’s and eating Tacodeli and always, always, always drinking margaritas. (Seriously -- it’s 2:15pm on a Tuesday and they’re all drinking margaritas.) But, hey! Your new hood is up-and-coming, the scene is fresh, and everything is the reeeeal deeeeal and hasn’t been corrupted by big business and gentrification -- or at least that’s what you try and tell yourself after getting carjacked... again.

Person diving
Nathan B Dappen/Shutterstock

Stage seven: the "Honey, I’m home" phase

Where you’re living: Anywhere that’s still affordable
Where you’re going out: All of the bars that were built in your absence, it’s a whole new world
Your mantra: “Well, it’s better than Dallas”
Go-to activity: Eating everything you missed when you were gone

After your hiatus -- a rumspringa of sorts -- you snapped to your senses, realized there’s no place like home, and made your triumphant return to the promised land... which now has a shockingly different skyline. Sure, housing prices have continued to increase, limiting your living options to the outskirts of Austin (known by Google maps and, um, actual zip codes as Cedar Park and Buda). And yeah, the cool startup where you were previously working has been acquired by a corporate giant that’s corrupted the hoodie-and-craft-beer culture with pantsuits and actual HR policies. And OK, fine, at least six of your former favorite bars have been shuttered in your absence.

But, hey, you’re back, your friend with a boat still lives here, and you’re ready to start all over again at stage one. Because while Austin may be a total pain in the ass, whatever other city you escaped to was equally intolerable -- just for other reasons entirely.

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Sam Sumpter is an Austin-based writer who’s currently making her way through this cycle for the 14th time. For magical moments and margarita-induced meltdowns, find her on Instagram: @Sam_Sumpta.