Goin’ goin’, back back, to DETROIT?

Posted in: Life at H-I

“Wait, you moved back to Detroit?"

"You mean... you left, went somewhere else, and then chose to return?"

Guilty as charged.

Technically speaking, I didn’t grow up in Detroit. I grew up in a suburb nearby. After I graduated from Michigan State University in 2006, I had an itch I needed to scratch. I wanted to leave my predictable Michigander life and spread my wings.

So, I embarked on one of the riskiest things I’ve ever done. I packed everything I could fit into two suitcases, and flew across the country to the Sunshine State.

Now let me tell you, Santa Barbara, California is pretty damn close to paradise for me. I mean, who wouldn’t want perfect weather, the ocean to their right and mountains to their left... everyday?

But after a while, the easy west coast life I was living was becoming less and less glamorous. I’m not trying to talk crap about paradise, but I realized that it was causing me to forget my roots. I noticed myself slowly becoming a weather snob. I took the beach for granted. And I started to lose touch with the people and beliefs that made me, “me”.  So, after three and a half years I knew it was time to move home...

That’s when I made  the second “riskiest” decision of my lifetime.

Not only was I moving back from California to Michigan, I was moving to Detroit (heaven forbid)! When I’m asked why I decided to move here, I have a number of go-to responses:  I wanted a change, I missed my family, and yes, generally speaking those are the reasons that I moved back to Michigan.

But why Detroit?!

First, let me just say this. I am not a hipster, I didn’t move downtown Detroit in some state of rebellion. I’m just not that cool. And believe me, everyone has an argument against my decision, whether it’s safety, taxes, or car insurance. And I don’t necessarily disagree.

I’m not saying Detroit is “paradise”, but you can’t deny that there’s something enthralling about this city, so much so that it pulled me back in from  2,370 miles away. So here it goes... here is why I made the big move back to my city.



#1: Detroit will never be New York or Los Angeles

And I don’t want it to be. Detroit has a unique spirit, stemming from an even more unique history. I’m big on character and Detroit has plenty of it. While I love to visit the “coastal hubs,” those places just aren’t home. In fact, of my seven best friends growing up, three of us have moved back to Michigan from other “big cities”. Three never left, and one, who currently lives in New York, is dying to return. There’s just something that draws people back into Detroit that is hard to explain. But the bottom line is this: I am just not an Angeleno or a New Yorker, I’m a Michigander by birth, and a Detroiter by choice.

#2: You can’t beat Detroit pride

We love our sports teams even when they suck and we defend our city even when it might not deserve it. If you are a fair weather fan then you do not belong in Detroit. Because let’s face it, most of our “weather” is not very fair anyways.

#3: We actually have four seasons

If you’ve never enjoyed the luxury of a snow day (or four in a row, which I’ve experienced on more than one occasion), then it might be hard to see the beauty in three feet of snow. And yes, we pretty much get six months of winter, but it makes us appreciate those 90 degree summer days (with 80% humidity) while everyone else is complaining about them. And there is nothing more enjoyable than a Michigan summer day, partying on the lake with your best friends. There’s definitely something to be said about Detroit’s “eclectic” weather patterns. You never know what’s coming your way.

#4: Detroit hustles harder

It may be overplayed, but it’s true! Do you know the best compliment I ever received was while I was in California? A co-worker once told me “Wow, I should hire people from the Midwest more often, I’ve never had any employee work as hard as you do.” I never really put much thought into it before, to me working hard is second nature, but I guess that’s just my upbringing. I’m used to people taking charge, rolling up their sleeves and doing what they need to do to get the job done.

#5: Nothing’s more inspiring than a blank slate

Not only do I see what Detroit once was and what it has the potential to be, but I see what it is now, in the present. Everyone talks about what Detroit might be in five or ten years, but I thrive on the building process - living in the uncharted and the unknown. It’s not about what other cities have and we don’t. It’s seeing what other cities have, and having the ability to start from scratch to make our city even better.

#6: Land of opportunity

Detroit has long been synonymous with unemployment. Even I was nervous for the job hunt. But what I found was an amazing network of both established companies and startups vying for the best talent and pushing to put more jobs back into the city. A number of companies even offer benefits to employees who move the city of Detroit! I may be biased - after all, I’m young(ish) and have a skillset that may be more relevant than the manufacturing workforce. But Detroit recognized this gap and instead of losing steam, we’ve created more opportunity with skilled training organizations like Grand Circus and Green Works or entrepreneurial training via Bizdom and D:hive.

#7: Reaching new heights in Detroit

I thought I was spreading my wings by moving to California, but in the end it turns out I can fly much higher in Detroit. I’ve come home to a place where businesses are growing, people work hard, innovation is infectious, and plus, it’s just plain fun!

So what do you think? Has anyone else had a similar experience of leaving and returning to Detroit? Or have I persuaded you to make the move?! I’d love to hear your stories in our comments section below.

Oh and if you are thinking about making a move like mine...

Check out our Careers Page. We are always hiring innovative humans who are passionate about our amazing city!


  • Avatar Bob Marsh
    October 3, 2013

    How’s this “life trip”…

    – Born / raised Michigander, Detroit “area” (a.k.a. suburbs).
    – Moved to Buffalo, NY for great career opportunity… now there’s a risk (loved it because we embraced it). If life gives you blizzards… strap on the skis!
    – Started my own business and moved back home to Detroit “area” after several years in Buffalo (family was the driver)… and said: “have to dynamite us out of Michigan”… hmmm, dynamite arrived in 2000
    – Recruited for dotcom and moved to San Francisco to grab the brass ring. (Does the year 2000 ring a bell for dotcom businesses?)
    – Back to Michigan – once again… family and friends were the reasons
    – Done lot’s of cool stuff since, but can’t wait to find the right culture that loves maverick’s, and best of all… make it happen in my home town.

    • krystalpenrose krystalpenrose
      October 7, 2013

      Bob, thanks for sharing your story with us! Sounds like you’ve experienced quite the journey, but we’re definitely glad to have you back in the D 🙂

  • Avatar Jim Peacock
    November 1, 2013

    I moved to Michigan with the military many years ago when I was still wet behind the ears. I was stationed up north and although access to sporting events was limited, I fell in love with the people, culture and overall feeling of being apart of a family.

    Since then, like many, I moved – To Niagara Falls, NYC, back to Michigan (Detroit and Lansing), the west coast and back east – where I grew up. Without question, my favorite place was Detroit. Many, well maybe most, people who have never been have no idea of the greatness that resides in the D. It resides not only in the heart of the city, but in the hearts of the surrounding communities, the suburbs, the business, the sports teams and the drive to continue forward – head and heart strong.

    I have met the most amazing people and kept some of the best friendships in all my journeys in the D.

    In my undying quest to return to Detroit, I actually applied to a position today with your outstanding company before I came across this post. It says so much about how I feel.

  • Avatar Drew Leahy
    December 4, 2013

    Hey man! I live in LA now, grew up in Brighton, and went to University of Michigan. I definitely have the itch, thanks for the great article.

  • Avatar Bob
    December 17, 2013

    Born East side, , (Phillip and Jefferson).. family moved to nothern burbs late 50’s, grew up in Richmond, Michigan (32 mile and Gratiot ).. escaped from the farm country in late 70’s,, lived in Ft. Lauderdale for a few years, Knoxville Tn., Denver and Washington DC. started having kids came back to Michigan so kids would know grandparents, aunts uncles and cousins… fast forward 20+ years.. divorce. last child graduated high school in St. Clair County… Moved to Detroit 6 weeks later.. been here in Corktown for over a year.. Detroit is a place where we never take anything for granted, we do not care what the rest of the country thinks about us AND it is a city that will, as the motto states, will rise from the ashes..

  • Avatar Lori
    December 19, 2013

    Grew up on the west side (Warren-Southfield). Moved to Ann Arbor for school and settled here. In 2010 my husband of 26 years passed away. I am now in the midst of planning Phase Two in Detroit. I’ve got a great loft in Midtown and look forward to rediscovering my city again for all of the reasons listed here and more. Many of my creative friends in NY and LA are lamenting that they can’t afford to live in those cities and the cost of living is stifling creativity. This is another reason why Detroit is going to flourish. Thanks for the great article and welcome home!

  • Avatar Dave D
    December 20, 2013

    Did the similar trek. I grew up in the Flint-area and always loved coming down to Detroit as a kid, but back in the 80’s, my folks avoided it. I lived and worked in Lansing most of my life, but after while I needed to explore. So I went off to grad school in New York (upstate, but still visited NYC a lot). Upon graduation, I moved out to LA with nothing more than a hope and a lot of debt. Eventually found a great job in my field, but was still missing something…Home.

    After a year of “making it” out there, an opportunity brought me back to Michigan, particularly Michigan State University. Had a great job for 5 years, but I was still yearning for more. So when I got a chance to take a job with an established company in the city of Detroit, I jumped at it.

    Being down here during this great time of change has been nothing but exciting. I love the fact that I can step outside of my office and partake in the revival of a great American city.

    From the sports/entertainment to the culture and business this city has to offer, Detroit is the place to be. I have even opened the eyes of my folks and friends to greatness of this city. My dad particular loves to come down and check out the bars and restaurants. It is a city, come next November, where I will start the biggest journey of my life when I get married down in Greektown.

    I am proud be an ambassador for the Motor City.

  • Avatar Josh LePage
    December 20, 2013

    Wow, couldn’t agree more.

    I had a very similar experience. Graduated from MSU, moved to Dallas, Texas and took a job for GM in May. It has been amazing to be back! Texas is Texas, but nothing compares to Midwest Michigan people.

    Couldn’t agree more on “Detroit’s Clean Slate” so much opportunity and comfort of living level, LA and NY can have their 2 million dollar 1,000 square feet homes, I will take a 7 bedroom mini mansion newly updated with a pool for 400K, that’s my answer when people give me crap about moving back to Detroit, boom!

    Comeback Detroit Comeback America! Love this place!

  • Avatar Patrick
    December 23, 2013

    Great minds think alike! I can’t pinpoint which I like most, but I absolutely love the line “Michigander by birth, and a Detroiter by choice”. Couldn’t be said any better.

    I recently recalled the “9 lessons I’ve learned by living in Detroit for 12 months”. Take a look! http://bit.ly/1gA1cEh

  • krystalpenrose krystalpenrose
    January 7, 2014

    Hi everyone, thanks for sharing your amazing stories! I think we’re on to something here… the D is where is it at, 100%! I’m interested to see this trend increasing even more in the future, too!

  • Avatar katie
    January 22, 2014

    Same story and funny enough, I also went to Santa Barbara! I was there for 2 years and the backlash I received when I told everyone I was moving back to Michigan was incredible – no one really understood “Why would you ever leave paradise?!!!” The thing is, Detroit is my paradise. It’s more than a place to me, its a feeling. Thanks for the story – just what I needed to hear today!

  • Avatar Juanita H.
    March 31, 2014

    LOVED reading this blog post! Military moved us out of Michigan and brought us to Texas 8 years ago and we are itching bad to get back to Detroit. Miss our family, our friends and the 4 seasons. While Texas has great HOT weather all year round, there is just something about Michigan that makes us yearn every summer. I am hoping that Detroit comes back to life. It’s going to take a lot but the commitment of all the Michiganders showing their pride and their drive to bring the city back alive is AMAZING!

  • Avatar bronson
    August 5, 2014

    FYI, Florida is the Sunshine State

  • Avatar Shana
    August 20, 2017

    Great blog! Totally relate. Thanks for posting.

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