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I Never Thought I Was the Dancing Type... Until I Moved to Tulsa

Living abroad for a huge chunk of your adult life has a lot of perks. Endless learning opportunities, a deeper understanding of the world we share, a daily sense of adventure, and more.

But if you’re anything like me, there’s also one little question lurking in the back of your mind: Does this go on forever? And if not, how will I cope with moving “home”? Will I be bored? Stifled? Restless?

That little lurking question was shoved straight to center stage when, in 2020, my 10-year stint in China came to a sudden end, and I found myself dropped back in the USA with no preparation and no idea what to do next. I thought the party was over, that life was about to get a lot more monotonous. Little did I know Tulsa and Tulsa Remote had been designing the perfect community for me all along. A new adventure was just beginning.

I didn’t get straight to the adventure, though. First, I did the worst thing I could’ve done: I spent a year in my tiny Texas hometown. After a decade of living in megacities of 20+ million people, going cold turkey into a town of 25 thousand was the worst-case scenario for readjusting to the USA.

I knew I had to find a better place to build a new life in this country. I needed to find a city that was accessible and affordable but not boring or isolating, a comfortable environment that also had opportunities for growth, exploration, and connection.

Even after deciding to apply to the Tulsa Remote program, my expectations for the city were low. I'd spent most of my adult life living in culturally rich megacities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and I loved feeling like I could go out and experience something new any day of the week. I was sure there was no way little Tulsa could compare.

My first visit to the city floored me. There was high-quality live music everywhere, every night of the week. There were enough cultural events and award-winning breweries and surprising pop-up restaurants to keep my calendar full.

I know what you’re thinking: after a year stuck in a tiny town, any medium-sized city would feel exciting. But during that year, I visited friends in Brooklyn, Nashville, and Seattle. Back in the early aughts, I went to university in Austin! I know what a fun city is like, and Tulsa holds its own.

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A glimpse at my former life: performing at a temple concert in Guangzhou, China. Image provided by Joshua Ogden Davis.

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A group of friends and I enjoying an evening on one of our favorite downtown patios at Fassler Hall. Image provided by Joshua Ogden Davis. 

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Experiencing Tulsa Tough, the annual three-day cycling festival known as Tulsa's "party on wheels." Image provided by Joshua Ogden Davis.  

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Since moving to Tulsa, one of the many things I've started doing is volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tulsa. Image provided by Joshua Ogden Davis.

I’ve been in Tulsa for a year and a half, and there’s never been a dull moment. I used to be a wallflower, but now I go two-stepping and swing dancing every week. I’ve gone hiking and camping, joined an improv comedy troupe, volunteered in the community, seen all kinds of wild live music and art, joined two professional organizations, and even joined a community orchestra. The great mix of people here, combined with Tulsa's focus on building community, makes it a great place to explore and enjoy life.

One thing I definitely didn’t expect to find here is a whole community of people who have that “adventurer” mindset. If you’ve lived abroad for a while, I’m sure you know what I mean: the constant appetite for new information, new experiences, new connections, and new personal development. That’s the mindset that led many of us to live abroad, and that’s the mindset that Tulsa Remote continues to attract.

My third New Year’s resolution for 2024 (after running a half marathon and playing music in public again) is to buy a house here. As someone who spent most of his adult life drifting and exploring, the thought of putting down roots is a bit intimidating - but by now, I know there’s no better place for me to spend the next few years (at least!) of this wild and crazy life.

If you’re Tulsa-curious, I definitely recommend coming to see it for yourself! At the very least, check out some of the local events and keep an eye on all the new programs coming out of Experience Tulsa. If you want to cut a rug, meet me at the monthly Tulsey Town two-step or every other week at The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS). 

If you’re at all curious about Tulsa, definitely take a moment to reach out to Tulsa Remote and get any questions answered. And if you do move here, your first drink (or, if you don’t drink, your first dumpling at Et Al.’s divine dumpling night  is on me! I’d love to hear your story.

Joshua Ogden-Davis
Joshua Ogden-Davis
Tulsa Remote alum Joshua Ogden Davis moved to Tulsa from China by way of his small hometown in Texas. He now works remotely as a data analyst and has a background as a musician, teacher, media host, and Mandarin Chinese interpreter. Since coming to Tulsa, Joshua has enjoyed focusing on building community, exploring the city and trying new things.

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