We moved from California to Utah for financial freedom to start our own business, but it wasn't as affordable as we thought.  After 3 years we are ready to go back home.

Ian Hughes and Jai-Yu Fu pose for a photo while hiking in Utah.

Ian Hughes and Jai-Yu Fu moved from Santa Rosa, California to Salt Lake City, Utah in July 2020.Presented by Jai-Yu Fu

  • Ian Hughes and Jai-Yu Fu moved from California to Utah in 2020 to seek new experiences and opportunities.

  • Because of Hughes’ work, they settled in Salt Lake City and have since started their own business.

  • The city is not as affordable as they thought and the couple will be moving back to California next month.

This article is based on a July 2020 conversation with couple Ian Hughes and 30-year-old Jai-Yu Fu, who were traveling from Santa Rosa, California to Salt Lake City, Utah. Getting ready to go back to the West Coast next month. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Ian: I was born and raised in California and went to design school in San Francisco 10 years ago. We just celebrated our six year wedding anniversary.

Jai-Yu: I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. I spent half my life in Taiwan and then here in America. So, I have such a foreign narrative.

Before moving to Utah we lived in Santa Rosa, California. Current rent –

Ian: It was $2,300 plus utilities.

My background is in the outdoor industry; Jai-Yu’s background is in architectural design. Right when I got out of school, there were a lot more outsourcing companies in the Bay Area, but they all started leaving to go to Denver or Salt Lake City. There’s more of an outdoor vibe, I think. And I knew that was happening and I wanted to stay with that crowd.

Jay-UWe were at a point in our lives where we didn’t want to be tied down.

Ian: We were also ready to try something new.

I got an offer for this job in March or April 2020 in Salt Lake City. We are very pleased.

Jai-Yu: At the same time, we dreamed of starting our own business.

We were thinking: can we go to chase this dream? It includes our own investments in pursuit of that dream. We had to spend our own money to start our own company.

Ian: One of the reasons I wanted to work with this startup was that I thought I could learn a lot and then apply it to our own business.

We also know that living in Salt Lake City is a little expensive, so we’re excited to be in a position to save a little more.

Jai-Yu: Well, that’s what we thought.

Part of the reason we left Santa Rosa was because we felt that Salt Lake City should have been more affordable.

But since there is a lot of in-migration, it definitely affects Salt Lake City’s density and housing prices. So, the last three years that we’ve been here, the rates we’ve been seeing are the same as in Santa Rosa.

Photo of mountain range.

Hughes and Fu said they will miss Utah’s majestic mountains and the access to hiking the state offers after returning to California.Presented by Jai-Yu Fu

The couple moved in July 2020 Just in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic

Ian: It was definitely a strange time to move.

Jai-Yu: I didn’t really like it because when we first arrived it was a ghost town. Covid is still going on and we haven’t been able to explore or meet people as much as we would like. There wasn’t much of a social life. We basically always worked alone.

Ian: Most of the people we have met have gone through our jobs here. And for the most part, everyone was really nice and friendly. We’re not that good at making friends outside of work, but whenever we do meet strangers, everyone is usually nice and respectful.

People here definitely assume that because we’re from California, we’re automatically safer.

But we rented it full time. When we got here we lived in a small bedroom. Then in the last couple of years, we’ve been in a bigger place, one plus bedroom.

Both were around $1,600. I think it’s a little bit more affordable.

Jai-Yu: Not all options in Salt Lake City are cheap, as they have a wide range of rental prices compared to the Bay Area.

It depends on where you want to live. The neighborhood we live in is less dense, because that’s where we find the most affordable space. The neighborhood we want to live in is closer to downtown and closer to walkable neighborhoods than our current suburban location.

Personally, I prefer a walkable urban neighborhood just because I grew up in Taipei, a city of 2.6 million people. And Salt Lake City is 200,000.

One of the first impressions is that the stores here are very spread out. If I want to visit a boutique, I have to drive 20 minutes and jump around different parts of the city.

But what I love most about Salt Lake City is that there are fewer cars on the road and less angry, crazy drivers than the Bay Area. Although I have to drive 20 minutes to go to the Chinatown store because I want an Asian grocery store.

Ian: There’s definitely diversity, but it’s more diluted or limited to the downtown Salt Lake City area, I’d say.

Jai-Yu: I didn’t see any other people walking around except Caucasians. I get upset because when you reduce diversity, that means diversity in restaurant choices and grocery choices.

Going out to eat at a restaurant is the same as when we lived in Santa Rosa. You can easily go out and spend $60 on food. So we try to cook from home.

Hughes and Fu quit their jobs last year to focus full-time on starting their own business, Parapak, which makes lightweight, outdoor headwear.

Hughes and Fu quit their jobs last year to focus full-time on starting their own business, Parapak, which makes lightweight, outdoor headwear.Presented by Jai-Yu Fu

The couple quit their jobs last summer to focus full time on starting their own business.

Jai-Yu: We were not staying in Salt Lake City. It was temporary.

Ian: We were looking for a way to gain some industry experience and then apply it to the business we wanted to start.

Jai-Yu: Last year we started thinking about going back. So that’s when we took turns and left our jobs. We started working full time. Parapak

Ian: We are currently working on lightweight headwear. we have A product Basically out, but We have others planned.

We definitely learned a lot, which is what we wanted to dive into when we started.

We had to come here to be able to start our own business. I don’t think we can do it that fast in California.

Jai-Yu: It was a great opportunity to push ourselves out of our familiar bubble. Being out here on our own was a great lesson in just chasing our dreams and looking at our surroundings from a different perspective.

In a month we will be back in Pacifica, California.

Ian: We ended up meeting a family and are going to rent a temporary in-law from them.

Jai-Yu: They’re giving us a great deal, and we’ll both be getting part-time jobs. It’s the combination of this that helps us understand – to go back and have a life and dream of starting our own company.

Ian: We are excited to be back and closer to family. We definitely miss the hiking and outdoor activities you can easily do here.

Jai-Yu: One of the best things about Salt Lake City is the majestic Wasatch Mountain Range. It just leaves you speechless. That’s something San Francisco can’t beat.

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