Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Columbia or Sumter; The Great Debate...

In case you weren't aware, we are headed to Shaw AFB in Sumter, SC. As soon as I got notified that I'd gotten the job I started my online research about the area and, most importantly, where we might want to live. Admittedly I'm not familiar with the area and I know I can't really make a completely informed decision until we get on ground and look upon each area with our own eyes but I would be remiss if I didn't take full advantage of this new fangled invention called "the internet" that the kids are raving about these days in order to do as much leg work as possible before we arrive back in the good ole US of A.

At the moment we have two main contenders in the battle of "where will we live?"; Columbia and Sumter. Both places seem to have their positives and negatives and I find myself vacillating between the two. Let's go to the tale of the tape...


The main advantage to living in Sumter of course would be that the base is there which means an easy commute - no small thing for me as I abhor commuting. A quick online search shows that Sumter seems to be a nice little city/big town with some old world charm, good restaurants, decent shopping (yes, they have a Walmart Superstore), close to Route 95 (for easier road trips to Myrtle Beach, Charleston, DC, etc.) and some other stuff that make it attractive. On the negative side, it is smaller than we would like and the public transportation options seem to be limited which is important because Virginia doesn't drive and it may be a couple years before she gets her license. On one hand it seems like a great place to live and raise a family, full of southern charm and all that stuff but on the other hand I wonder if we would find ourselves a bit bored there. Columbia is only a 45 minute drive away which helps. Speaking of Columbia...


Columbia is the state capital of course and as such offers many advantages. It's a somewhat sizable city which would offer far more amenities than Sumter such as shopping, restaurants, public transportation, sporting events and the like. Were all things equal, I would choose to live in Columbia in a heartbeat. However, I am having trouble getting past the daily commute it would require. Several people have told me that you can live in the east part of Columbia and the commute to Shaw would only be about 30 minutes but just looking on Google maps makes me skeptical about that. The University of South Carolina (Their nickname is "The Gamecocks". Seriously.) is in Columbia which usually means more cultural opportunities as well as better medical facilities. Still, even living in Sumter, Columbia isn't a far drive. The public transportation would probably be much better which means Virginia can get around easier and not be stuck home bored. All things considered, I think we would enjoy Columbia much more than Sumter but I still have trouble getting past the commuting issue. A 30-40 minute commute may not seem like a big deal to some people but when you do it every day, twice a day, it starts wearing on you. I also consider the fact that I may be working late some nights and will probably be going to the gym or running errands after work at least a couple nights a week which means I could be getting home after 7pm and, to put it in South Carolina parlance, that dog just won't hunt.

As you can see, we've got a big decision to make. If you ask me today, I'd tell you that I'm leaning towards living in Sumter, assuming we can find a place close to downtown. But, if you were to ask me again tomorrow I would most assuredly tell you I've changed my mind and would prefer to live in Columbia, commute be damned. That's really how torn I am. I've been told that our household goods will take two months to arrive there once they're picked up here so I probably have until sometime around late May/early June before we can move in anywhere anyway.

If anyone has any thoughts, advice, knowledge of the area(s) or anything else to contribute please feel free...



  1. For what it is worth, Frank is commuting 43 miles each way to Quantico. He does Books on Tape during his commute. I don't think he enjoys the drive, but since we already had our house, we were not going to move. There are advantages to a big city, but I dare say, given the option, he would say, no. He lived in Sumter when he was at Shaw.

  2. Since you have time, stay in a hotel at each place for week and then decide. You will get a feel for the commute and whether the city is good or not.

  3. Hey man being from the area my whole life and being to both cities several times i personally would choose sumter...not a big fan of columbia, its kind of dirty overall and the crime rate is pretty bad. Sumter is a neat little town, alot of history and you would be closer to charleston and the beach. Hope this helps and cant wait to show you around myrtle!

  4. For what it's worth... I lived in a college town and HATED it. Most 'townies' do. The students destroy neighborhoods on their way to get plastered, and the crime rates spike, which might partly explain why Columbia's crime rates are all above the US averages. That alone would have me choose Sumpter.