Thida Sam and Andrew Bell left NYC for a new city — and found their “forever home”
Thida Sam spent 10 years in Manhattan, including five on the Upper East Side and five in Greenwich Village, close to NYU where her husband Andrew Bell taught. While they loved the city and their bustling neighborhood, when Andrew received an offer from Boston University, Thida knew they needed to explore their options — and make a big decision one way or the other.
“We knew it was time to settle into our ‘forever home,’” Thida says. “We thought it would be in New York but, with this new offer, we suddenly had to rethink things. Would that ‘forever’ be in New York or Boston?”
Adding to the back-and-forth, Thida says she’d never even visited Boston when the offer came through. Andrew had been up a few times but was far from a local expert.
“We immediately planned a trip — but then COVID-19 shutdowns started and we had to cancel.”
Understanding the ins and outs of a brand new city
While Thida explored Boston virtually, she stayed focused on Manhattan qualities the family hoped to maintain in a new community — an amazing food scene, walkability, culture, and a sense of community, for starters.
“I was worried we wouldn’t find those qualities somewhere else — even in another city,” she says. “The more we spoke to friends and friends of friends, though, the more different Boston neighborhoods started to stand out — places that could be good fits for us. That’s when we connected with Suburban Jungle and our Strategist Barbara Hirsch.”
During their first call, Thida says, Barbara shared insights about a number of communities that seemed in sync with the Sam-Bells’ objectives and next steps.
“We focused on Thida’s priorities,” Barbara says. “At the beginning that meant walkability, a sense of community, and an easy commute for her husband, who needed to get to BU every day. They also wanted lots of outdoor space — not necessarily a big backyard, but plenty of places to be outside and active with their family.”
Making a move — site relatively unseen
After narrowing their search — and leaning into the idea of Boston as a permanent move — Thida and Andrew continued to explore…from Manhattan. With young kids, the four-hour drive, and the pandemic restrictions, it wasn’t possible to come up every time a new home hit the market, so the Sam-Bells spent a lot of time exploring online and talking through options with Barbara.
“We loved Melrose,” Thida says. “We kept coming back to that area. Then Barbara connected us with the Suburban Jungle agent in the northern suburbs, and things really picked up. We had a great relationship with our team, and that helped so much.”
In fall 2020, Thida headed up to Boston to tour several houses, with her husband following along via Facetime. Three weeks later they had an accepted offer on a Victorian home in Melrose. The family closed right before the holidays and moved in early January 2021.
Settling into their “forever home”
Now, months in, Thida and her family are loving life in the Boston ‘burbs.
“Melrose is a tight-knit community — we just love it,” she says. “Even with the COVID shutdowns, we got to know our neighbors very quickly. We also love how active and close-knit the town is. It’s easy to get involved and there’s lots to do.”
In addition to activities and amenities in town, the Sam-Bells are a short drive from the Middlesex Fells Reservation, which has quickly become a weekend go-to.
“My husband is a professor of environmental science, so he’s a very outdoorsy person,” Thida says. “In Manhattan, we were kind of stuck — we didn’t have a car so getting out and into nature was hard. Now, though, we have tons of access to everything from beaches to hiking and biking trails to parks — everything.”
Their kids are also adjusting to suburban living. They love visiting the aquarium and several museums, and they’re enrolled in a local Spanish immersion preschool.
“This was the right move,” Thida says. “It’s great to feel like we’re part of a small really tight-knit community, but also being so close to Boston and everything it has to offer.”
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