An Offbeat Dude in an Offbeat Town – Vagobond in Austin, Texas
Austin is the fastest growing city in the United States – and it has been such since 2010. This rapid growth creates a dynamic environment that provides opportunities and more than a little griping by the ever elusive Austinites – those who were born and raised in this once quiet state capital. Austin is home to the University of Texas at Austin with more than 50,000 students and is one of the largest universities in the USA. Austin has the highest internet usage by residents in the entire USA! That fact alone should tell you that something is happening here.
Austin, Texas is cooler in every sense than I expected it to be – and I really expected it to be cool. Bottom line is that if I were single and in my 20s or 30s – I would pack up my stuff and move here. I’ve never been in an American city that was more oriented towards this demographic. (more below the gallery)
I was here during the second week of South by Southwest, the iconic tech, music, film, and now NFT conference/festival . It was the first time the festival was held since covid clouded all of our lives. Yes, the city was filled with attendees – but it was equally filled with people who have moved here from all over the US and the world to be a part of what is growing here in Austin.
In many ways Austin feels like Silicon Valley with trendy eateries and electric hire scooters zipping by. I saw regional headquarters for Google, IBM, Oracle, Meta (Facebook), Whole Foods and much more but then you’ve got the Colorado River winding through filled with paddle boarders and kayakers. Austin is a super bicycle friendly city and there are copious green areas, parks, outdoor hangout spaces, and of course the cafes, bars, music venues, and clubs. I mean… there are hundreds of clubs and several different nightlife districts. East and West 6th Street each offer a unique flavor, there are upscale hotel bars and restaurants on the other numbered streets, Rainey Street is a whole different flavor with having once been a neighborhood filled with Bungalows next to the Colorado River which flows right through the heart of Austin – but those bungalows all got renovated and turned into bars. It’s like nothing else I’ve experienced – a historic neighborhood turned into a bar district.
A word of warning, Texans like to drink – so either practice saying ‘I’m good’ or get ready for a heavy head on the morning after going out in these neighborhoods.
The thing with Austin is that the whole city feels new. It feels like a purposely constructed playground made for tech, music, and art – but there is a lot of money here. And this is a problem – Austin is a city that those who aren’t financially successful will have a hard time surviving in – the proof of that is in the sprawling homeless camps and the ever-present homeless in the streets, alleys, and doorways.
The huge public library with a rooftop garden, a sort of child’s discovery center on one floor, and even a cafe and book shop is a huge delight. There are quirky shops and bars like the Toy Museum, Bar, & Arcade and the Museum of the Weird. My suspicion is that there are a wide variety of neighborhoods that have their own quirky vibes and flavors – I wasn’t really in the neighborhoods on this trip- but hopefully when I come back that can be on the menu.
The Texas State Capital building is a huge and impressive structure that dominates from nearly every side. Equally noteworthy is the Congress Street Bridge from which hordes of Mexican bats come out at dusk. Awe inspiring sites to behold.
Austin is a pretty amazing town. The food, the architecture, the music, the art, and over everything else – the people make this a special place. I can’t wait to visit again – but as far as living here – I have to admit straight away I’d be too old in years and mentality to really get the most out of it and I’m not wealthy enough to enjoy the good life that I’m sure exists here for those with extreme means. For me, the bottom line about Austin comes down to being glad it exists. I’m grateful that I finally got the chance to visit and if the opportunity presents, I’ll definitely be back. .