Couple Left California for Iowa to Save Money… Returns to CA in Less Than 2 Years

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Mar 30, 2024

For years now, stories of people leaving California for a better, cheaper life in another state have filled mainstream news. The California exodus has allowed analysts to take a look at a migration movement in the modern day.

However, now that we’re a few years past the beginning of this movement, new stories are coming out about the California exodus — as some people are moving back to California. 

Wendy And Kurt Meyer

Wendy and Kurt Meyer are one couple who decided to leave California in 2022. Anticipating a better life where they could save more money, the couple moved to Washington, Iowa.

The silhouette of a couple in Mission Viejo, California during a sunset that has made the sky red, pink, and purple.

Source: Travis Grossen/Unsplash

The duo had family ties in Iowa, so they thought they would have a grand time in this new phase of their life. However, within two years, the couple was back in Mission Viejo, their California home city.


The Meyers’ California Ties

Wendy and Kurt told Business Insider about their history — and ultimately why they felt they had to leave California in 2022. Wendy was born in Los Angeles, though her parents moved her back to their native Iowa when she was in high school.

A green pasture seen with green trees in the daytime in Orange County, California.

Source: Dave Lowe/Unsplash

In Iowa, Wendy met her first husband and started a family. After having two children and getting divorced, she moved back to California. Upon returning, she met Kurt, her future spouse. 

Living in Mission Viejo

Kurt, meanwhile, was born in Germany. In 2001, he was sent by his job to Long Beach, where he met Wendy. The two married and lived in California together for decades.

An aerial view of a beach in California, with many buildings by the beach.

Source: Derek Liang/Unsplash

They’ve now been married for 22 years. Living together in Mission Viejo, Wendy and Kurt loved their lives. They loved the weather, their community, their work, everything. According to Kurt, the only thing they didn’t like about sunny California was the traffic

Thinking of Moving

So, if they loved California so much, why did they decide to move? For family. In 2021, Wendy’s daughter traveled back to her home in Iowa with her husband and children. She loved it so much that, when she came back to California, she told her mother she was moving her whole family there.

Palm trees on a beach in California during sunset.

Source: Dillon Pena/Unsplash

Wendy’s son also ended up moving back to Iowa after retiring from the Air Force. Even though Wendy and Kurt were sad to see them go, they didn’t think they would also move to Iowa. However, things changed once her kids were truly gone and living in another state.

Moving to Iowa

So, in October 2021, Wendy and Kurt started to prepare the move to Iowa to be closer to family. Though Wendy loved living in California, she had begun to get a bit homesick for life in Iowa.

An old barn seen in a field of green crops in the daytime in Iowa.

Source: Kelcy Gatson/Unsplash

This ultimately led to the couple moving to Washington, Iowa, a small town half an hour outside of Iowa City.   


Retirement in Iowa

Kurt and Wendy planned to fully retire once they moved to Iowa. However, the couple soon found themselves getting restless. Kurt was bored. Both ended up getting jobs once again when they were settled in.

An up-close look at yellow crops in Iowa in the daytime.

Source: Joel Drzycimski/Unsplash

The duo bought a ranch-style home on half an acre and truly enjoyed their life in Iowa. They were able to find a spot in the community and had no issues. They loved the new lives they created in another state.


Iowa Wasn’t the Right Fit

However, something was missing. Though Wendy and Kurt couldn’t find anything to complain about their new lives in Iowa, they missed what they’d had in California. 

The sunrise over a green field in Iowa.

Source: Davis Patton/Unsplash

They’d moved to be closer to their family and grandchildren, but didn’t end up seeing the kids as much as they thought they would, as they lived about half an hour away. They had their own lives that kept them busy, which the couple understood.


Iowa Wasn’t Cheaper

Before Wendy and Kurt left California, they thought it would be nice to live in a state where everything was cheaper. However, they soon found this wasn’t the case. Iowa wasn’t cheaper to live in than California.

A large field of wheat crops surrounding an old building in Iowa.

Source: Austin Goode/Unsplash

While the cost of a home is cheaper by far, the couple explained that their utilities weren’t more affordable. Their property taxes were also about twice what they paid in the Golden State. 


A Return to California

The couple simply couldn’t find out why they couldn’t manage to love their new lives. Everything changed when Wendy’s old boss reached out to her and said she could always come back to work in California.

An aerial view of a California beach with homes near it.

Source: Derek Liang/Unsplash

This offer allowed Wendy and Kurt to realize they could return to their home in California if they wanted to. Sure enough, they chose to return to their home neighborhood in Mission Viejo only 20 months after moving to Iowa.


Picking Back Up

According to Wendy, the couple was able to essentially pick their lives right back up once they relocated to Mission Viejo. Now, they live only two miles from where they used to. Wendy is back to work at a part-time job.

A view of a town in Orange County in front of distant mountains.

Source: Spencer DeMera/Unsplash

“We’ve been very blessed,” Wendy explained when talking about the duo’s ability to return to California. It’s almost like they never left. 


Wendy and Kurt Are Staying in California

Though they do miss their kids and grandchildren, Wendy and Kurt make sure to Zoom with them. They also visit them in Iowa, while the kids visit them in California when they can.

A bird’s eye view of mountains, green hills, and buildings in Orange County.

Source: Spencer DeMera/Unsplash

Now that they’ve come back to their home in Mission Viejo, the couple has realized they’ll never leave California again. They’re there to stay for good. They also see the Golden State with new eyes, now that they’ve left — and returned.