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Why Boise beats L.A., at least for this visitor

Travelers wait at the security check area of the Boise Airport in September 2016.
Travelers wait at the security check area of the Boise Airport in September 2016.

It’s always gratifying when your hunch pans out, even if it takes years. And when that hunch makes your hometown look good, it’s even better.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog about visiting Los Angeles and coming home exhausted. One of the biggest a-ha moments was feeling that L.A. offered too much stimulation. I felt sapped from shifting cultures — languages, sights and sounds — just by changing neighborhoods, which happened every few miles. I was surrounded by people — in museums, in a mall, on sidewalks. Waiting hours to get into a restaurant seemed to be the norm.

I know that creativity comes from being stimulated and having new experiences, and I’m all for that. But I just felt drained.

Returning to Boise, with our access to the outdoors and quiet places when we want them, seemed like a guilty pleasure.

So I felt a bit justified when I read that, indeed, it is possible to have too much stimulation. A Financial Times column by Simon Kuper cites a study that suggests cities between 500,000 and 1 million people, all over the world, are becoming more popular for several reasons.

Huge cities, such as L.A., London or Tokyo, abound in art, experiences and buzz. But they have their drawbacks. They are too expensive, especially for young people. Second, terrorism is disruptive anywhere, but in big cities, more people are affected. Searches on public transit and security checks at stadiums or concert halls take more time, making life more complicated.

That’s why midsize cities like ours are coming into their own. We have “stimulation by choice.” We can choose when to be around new experiences, and when to get away. The Boise Balance. Hope we keep it.

Nancy Napier is distinguished professor, Boise State University;