Either place is a good place to be- as long as you have the means to get away when you want to.
In 1900, the world population was 3% urban. Now it is 50%.
By 2050 when we hit 9 billion people we will be 80% urban, and that is a good thing. The per capita energy efficiencies that come from cities are one of the primary ways we will preserve the natural environment. New York City is the greenest city in the US.
Santa Cruz is perfect for me...somewhere in the middle. I can run to the beach in the morning, yet my home tucks up against the Santa Cruz mountains. In the afternoon I have access to the best road and mountain bike venues. Every knd of yoga options you could imagine, and health food stores on every corner. A decent climbing gym, a wonderful university and reasonable drives to Yosemite or ski areas. When coming home from some adventure I'm always happy to be here.
And bestest.....we have so many open spaces for dogs, mountain hikes, beach, awesome dog parks too!
SC seagoat, I love Santa Cruz too, but your traffic is beserko.
When I drove thru two years ago couldn't believe it was the same place I honeymooned at in in the late 60's. We saw the famous guy from India plucking his Indian guitar (forget it's name) he was famous and he had his daughter with him playing too.
When I live in a city I can generally walk or ride my bike everywhere. I miss that. Unfortunately most "towns" in the west are not set up for that... everyone wants their own little private piece of land... which destroys any sense of community. I miss wandering down to the coffee shop and running into people I haven't seen for years.
I grew up in a town of 2,000, and for a while my family lived with one other family in a big hilltop house with nothing for miles around. Now I'm rolling dense in Los Angeles.
Keys for me are quick access to wilderness, access to quality food, and healthcare/education. I like having space between neighbors, enough privacy to be naked in my back yard or balcony, but it's nice if someone is close enough to help in emergencies.
I guess I'm a townie who can tolerate city life and enjoy the good parts of it.
I love small towns but feel like I'd lose my privacy in them too quickly. Everyone seems to know everyone's business, whether you want to or not. I had a friend who couldn't wait to get out when he hit his late teens because everyone still viewed him as the 10 yr. punk who broke someone's window rather than the person he grew into.
I'm with those who prefer the city but with quick access to the outdoors. I think my favorite days are when I can do something like climb at Horse Flats or bike up Mt. Wilson and then hit the Hollywood Bowl in the evening. Perfect.
The suburb I live in is kind of a good mix of big/little town. You see your neighbors and their kids at the supermarket, riding bikes around the neighborhood, etc. Makes an otherwise big town feel much more familiar and intimate.
Anonymity is a blessing if you're not social, I guess. My town knows that I'm a weirdo who lived in California and spends time in Central America. This is a huge black mark to my credibility. They find it strange and tell me so when I see them in the grocery store. Fact is, I don't really care. Let them think what they want, it amuses me.
I sleep with the sound of a river behind my house. I find that preferable to cars.