When the orders for Monterey, Calif., arrive, you will rejoice because you get to live at one of the most picturesque places in the world. Then you will calculate the cost of living in Monterey and thank the military that you will only live there for a short period of time. Monterey’s cost of living is 68 percent higher than the U.S. average.
Monterey was our No. 1 choice for Navy orders. Actually it was our dream location. We have been in Monterey for 11 months and are scheduled to move before the end of the year. This is our fifth duty station and it’s above and beyond my favorite location. I love the relaxed atmosphere of the community, the availability of fresh produce yearround and the Mediterranean climate. It’s the first place we’ve been stationed at where I feel I could live here for the rest of my life. I won’t discuss leaving Monterey. I’m completely in denial.
Service members who find themselves in Monterey are either students or instructors. More than 3,500 soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and DOD employers attend the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey. Hundreds of service members arrive straight from boot camp to become proficient in a variety of languages ranging from French to Farsi.
Less than 4 miles away is the Naval Postgraduate School, a fully accredited research university operated by the Navy since 1954. At this university, military officers from the United States and 48 other countries earn master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. Notable graduates include Admiral Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Michael W. Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Monterey, located nearly 120 miles south of San Francisco along the Pacific Coast, is a location where you want spend every day exploring locally owned shops, sipping wine at the tasting rooms in Carmel, tasting farm-to-table restaurants, or kayaking in the bay. But as a military spouse be prepared to make friends quickly because for either DLI or NPS students, the curriculum is intensive and your soldier will find himself studying more than 8 hours a day and on the weekends. We thought my husband would have tons of free time when we moved here. He doesn’t have weekend and evening duty, which is a blessing, but he does spend a lot more time in classroom then we expected.
The majority of military families live in military housing. There are two main options. Families live either at The Parks of Monterey Bay, a privatized housing area managed by Pinnacle or the Ord Military Community, which is located on the former Fort Ord. Both housing areas have indoor pools, childcare facilities and elementary schools. The commissary, exchange and gas station are located at the Ord Military Community.
If you are moving to Monterey, get your name on the waiting list for military housing as soon as you have orders. There is always a waiting list for housing in Monterey. The same can be said for daycare.
Is Monterey an ideal location? Not for everyone. The weather is foggy, damp and chilly. The beaches are breathtaking, but don’t expect to wear your bikini in Monterey. The average high temperature is 72 degrees in the summer months. Some military spouses miss the heat and humidity. Not this spouse. I got my abundance of heat when we were stationed in Yuma, Ariz., and Okinawa, Japan in the past. I love the clouds and don’t mind wearing a jacket in June.
Monterey is also a “buy local” city so if you love certain national chain restaurants, such as Olive Garden, you will complain about Monterey. If you buy all your craft supplies at Hobby Lobby, you will complain about Monterey. If you want drive-thru fast food, you will complain about Monterey.
If you like locally-owned cafes where they only accept cash, you will love Monterey. If you like buying locally-grown produce, you will have the option of a farmers market every day of the week. If you like the sounds of seals barking in the water to the loud music of nightclubs, you will enjoy your time in Monterey. If you don’t mind battling tourists for a view at the Monterey Bay Aquarium or a camping spot in Big Sur, you will love your time in Monterey.
I am a fan of Monterey and recommend it. I just hope I don’t go broke loving my life in Monterey.
Freelance writer Michelle Volkmann is a Navy spouse and mother to 2 Disney-obsessed daughters. She has worked for newspapers and magazines around the world. She survives on bacon and coffee and hates washing dishes. She is scheduled to move in December, but she doesn’t know where the Navy is sending her family. Please stop asking.