Joel Wilson: ‘I couldn’t afford a mailbox in LA’

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Joel Wilson in his new hometown.

Joel Wilson, B entonville, Arkansas

“This is boom town I feel like I’m on you know the gold rush. There is construction going on all over the place.”

Joel Wilson lived in Long Beach most of his life, but finally packed up and moved to rural Arkansas to be closer to his daughter and her family. “I actually thought I was going to live and die there,” Wilson said of Long Beach.

Bentonville is booming, according to Joel, in part due to Walmart, which has its headquarters there. (In 2011 Walmart heir, Alice Walton, built a massive American art museum in the town). “I’ve just never seen so many buildings get built and construction going on and everybody going everywhere.”

Joel and daughter
Joel and his daughter both love the outdoors. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

An avid hiker, Joel said he loved the access he had to the San Gabriel Mountains in California. But he has been struck by the beauty of his new state. “I’ve been here in the spring and summer and fall and you know I’ve gotta ride this out another month and we’ll be in glory land it’s just so pretty around here.”

What are some of the biggest differences between Northwestern Arkansas and L.A.?

It’s exponentially more rural. There are borders in between towns that consist of a forest or country. You don’t just cross the street and then you’re in Santa Monica and then you’re in Marina Del Rey or then you’re in Manhattan Beach, you have to actually most of the time you go to another town, it actually consists of some space in between. To me that’s interesting.

I went out this morning there was snow on my car. It’s not Chicago snow that’s piled up ten feet, but it’s sunny out that snow is melting and it trees all the leaves have fallen off. So now it’s kind of it looks like it’s kind of dreary actually, but I know I’m really excited about the spring time.

Has your cost of living changed?   

I can easily live here on two thirds of what I earned in LA. I couldn’t afford a mailbox in L.A. I’ll buy a nice three bedroom house with two bathrooms and it will be less than the rent I was paying in Los Angeles

Has anything about you changed since you moved?

I’m learning to be a little bit more patient and slow down a little bit. Nothing happens around here really fast.

This is part of a series looking at why people are choosing to move out of Los Angeles. Are you leaving Southern California? Share your story!