Why I Live in Iowa (part 2)

Okay, I’m going to take another shot at writing about “why I live in Iowa.”

Iowa doesn’t always get a lot of respect in the national media. We’re not the setting for a lot of movies and TV shows. Iowa doesn’t have a dominant image that immediately comes to mind for most Americans who aren’t already familiar with the Midwest – some of my college friends from the East Coast didn’t even know where Iowa was. (“It’s near Chicago, right?”)

Iowa is a small, predominantly rural state. The largest city (Des Moines) has around 200,000 people (although I think our “Metro Statistical Area” population is around 500,000, but I’m not sure if that really counts).

So why do I live here?

I live in Iowa because life is easy here.

If you live in Iowa, you don’t have to put up with all the hassles and traffic and inconveniences that you have to deal with in a larger city. You can afford a nice house in a good neighborhood without having to commute an hour each way and live like a work-a-holic. And there still are plenty of things to do. Back before we had a baby, my wife and I used to do all sorts of things – go to concerts, plays, bars, great restaurants. Just  because Des Moines is a small city doesn’t mean it’s boring and devoid of culture – far from it.

I like living in Iowa because of the friendly, community-oriented culture. It sounds simple, but it’s true – people are just really “nice” here. I think it goes back in some ways to Iowa’s history as a farm state – at one point in time, most people in Iowa lived on farms, in a community of equals. They weren’t really competing “against” each other, they were all selling their products to the market – so if one family had a good year, everyone had a good year. I’ve always felt a quiet sense of stability and abundance in Iowa – of course, there is poverty here, just like anywhere, but Iowa has always seemed to have a larger middle class than a lot of other parts of the country.

People in Iowa tend to be unpretentious and egalitarian. I don’t see nearly the kind of social pressure to go to the “right” school, the “right” country club, etc. that you always hear about in the big cities. There just isn’t that kind of extreme gap between the richest and the rest of us – and people aren’t as concerned about clawing their way up the social ladder. You can graduate from public high school and go to a state university and go on to have a good life.

Iowa is a great place for families. I remember one of my friends that I met in Japan telling me about his experience living in San Diego. He said, “San Diego is an adult playground. But I would NEVER raise a child there.” I don’t mean to pick on San Diego, but it’s a good contrast – Iowa would probably never be described as an adult playground. But it’s a generally clean, safe, stable, wholesome place for kids to grow up. (And if you live in Iowa, you don’t have to spend so much time commuting and scrambling to pay the mortgage, so you can actually spend time with your kids.)

The older I get, the more I realize that what I really want out of life is control over my time. I want to spend lots and lots of time with my wife and our child, with my family and our friends. I don’t want “work/life balance” or “quality time,” I want “quantity time.” And I can get it in Iowa – Iowa gives you time.

More than anything else, that’s why I live in Iowa.


  1. I disagree that you think Iowa is a predominantly Rural state. Its Urban by population. The vast majority of our citizens live in cities, 4 or 5 metro areas (Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Ames, Iowa City, Cedar Falls, Davenport).

    We think of ourselves, and tell those east coast no nothings that we are rural, but we aren’t and haven’t been for the better part of a century.

    However, if by rural you mean 24 million acres of rowcrop agriculture…then you are right.

    Congrats Ben! You are One Hell of a Guy!

  2. Great blog, Ben. Found it via Tim Ferris’ tweet.

    One thing that really bugs me is the coastal elitism in this country that assumes everybody in “the middle” is stupid, lazy, politically backward, and a host of other pejoratives.

    The fact that you even have to defend Iowa against all the smarmy coastals is an indication of their uninformed prejudice.

    Anyway, great job. Interested to continue following your work!

  3. Thanks for the note, Kate! This has been so fun getting to read all of these comments from readers – prior to winning the Elance “New Way to Work” contest, I hadn’t been doing much blogging. Now I feel that I need to keep it up!

    Iowa is great except for the winters. We got 15 inches of snow a couple weeks ago. There are times when I want to move somewhere warmer and sunnier, like the South of France. (Of course, then we’d have a language barrier.)

    Best wishes to you!
    – Ben

  4. Hi Ben
    I came across your blog purely by random inquiry. I was looking at a map of the US and chose Iowa as a search for my question, “How do people in Iowa live?” and your blog came up. I really enjoyed reading what you had to say about life in Iowa. I live in a crowded, busy, noisy city and often dream of a life like the one you described.

    Thanks for sharing.
    KW -in DC